bug spray in a spray bottle.

It’s infuriating how a tiny little vampiric insect can ruin one’s experiences in the outdoors — whether a hike through the woods or a backyard BBQ. To ward off ‘squitos and other annoying bugs, folks typically reach for a store-bought can of repellent and spray themselves in a cloud of it.

That can certainly do the trick, but you can also avail yourself to more organic alternatives. Homemade insect repellents drawn from the environment have existed for thousands of years, and can be whipped up easily by the modern man as well. Here’s how to fight nature with nature. 

Few Benefits of Natural Bug Spray (And Does It Actually Work?)

Here are a few reasons you might consider concocting your own natural insect repellent:

Smells better. DEET-filled spray has a distinct chemically smell that may be a little nostalgic, but certainly isn’t pleasant. The natural oils used in the DIY variety smell far better. Isn’t full of chemicals. DEET is the chemical in bug spray that you’ve most likely heard of, and there may be other harmful chemicals present as well, especially in aerosol form. In general, do you want chemicals lingering on your skin, and more than that, absorbing into your body (which some of these chemicals are shown to do)? Feels better. Commercial bug sprays always leave me feeling like I’ve been coated in a light film of chemical yuckiness which requires a shower at the end of the night. I hate it. The natural stuff feels much better on the skin; you don’t even notice it after a few minutes. To me, this is actually one of the primary benefits of the DIY route. 

Of course, all the advantages in the world are meaningless if something doesn’t work. So is natural DIY bug spray actually effective?

Believe it or not, this stuff really does keep bugs away. All the ingredients listed below have been proven to be effective in warding off mosquitoes and other biting bugs, especially lemon eucalyptus oil, which works 95% as well as DEET. DIY spray isn’t perfect, and requires re-spraying every 1-2 hours, but it’s certainly effective enough — along with those other benefits — to make it worth it. 

One final note: If you’re worried about disease-carrying insects, using DEET is in fact your best bet. If your primary concern is avoiding itchy and annoying bug bites, go all natural. 

Gathering Your Ingredients + Starting Costs

natural bug spray ingredients on a table.

Given the fact that DIY bug spray is made with things like essential oils and apple cider vinegar, you might think you’re delving into the world of kookie tinctures and earthy granola types. Well, you are. It’s okay — accept it and move on. You can get the ingredients at most natural grocers and/or pharmacies, or