Gotta admit, this is a new one for me. I live in an area where mosquitoes dare not tread, and ants basically mind their manners. Buncha moths, but I’m not afraid of them biting me much – the cat takes care of them before they get that far.
However, I’m off to the muggy depths of Kansas City all next week, where mosquitoes drain humans like renegade Nazi werewolves drain gentleman vampires (Sorry. I can’t think of a metaphor that doesn’t reference True Blood. Little obsessed here.)
I’m also going to see my two absolutely adorable, sweet, and perfectly behaved (right, sister?) nephews. If you want, you can see them here and here. They are precious. I want to give them fun things, like aunts are wont to do.
So in thinking about the Crunchy Kids this week, I went through a litany of options of cool, exciting gifts to bring and ended up with … bug spray. They are going to love their Aunt Betty this time. What a dumb boring let’s go play with trains FANTASTIC present!
Because I procrastinated in my decision, I’m going to give the recipe for the insect repellent I made them. You may not, however, want to make this. You may decide it’s not worth it to buy the essential oils. I could spend 1000 words trying to convince you otherwise; instead, I’ll just direct you to the link on the left to Mountain Rose Herbs and let you decide for yourself.
This does use three different essential oils that you might not just have lying around, so I’m going to end this post with a few other less intensive tips that might work for you instead.
Shoo! Spray Insect Repellent
- 1/8 c. apple cider vinegar
- 1/8 c. rubbing alcohol or (yes, I’m going there) vodka
- 1/8 c. distilled water
- 25 drops eucalyptus essential oil (1/4 tsp.)
- 25 drops citronella essential oil (1/4 tsp.)
- 50 drops peppermint essential oil (1/2 tsp.)
- Smallish spray bottle
Not a lot of directions here. Pour everything in your spray bottle and shake well. Shake well, again, before spritzing. This doesn’t need to be refrigerated, though it may feel good if you do. It should keep well for several months in a cool, dark place.
Notes: This isn’t just for kids. Go ahead. You can use it, too. However, after reading several recipes on the web (and ultimately adapting this A LOT from the Mother Earth News recipe), I decided that because I was making it for small children, I was going to go a little easier on the citronella and eucalyptus oils, mainly because sensitivities can happen to both of these, and I wanted to make sure I didn’t overkill at all. If they’re not sensitive to it, they can always spray more. If you’re making this just for grown-ups or older kids, you can go a little heavier on all of the oils.
But this is VERY IMPORTANT: Eucalyptus oil, in particular, should not be swallowed. It’s known, in high quantities (and it would take quite a bit to cause major issues) to cause toxicity. If you get some, keep it out of the reach of your children.
Lastly, peppermint oil is known to be very effective against mosquitoes and other winged critters. As a bonus, kids love the smell – and it offers a distinct cooling sensation, perfect for hot, sweaty weather.
Other Natural Insect Repellent Options
Before I list of some of these, maybe we should talk about DEET for a second. That’s the biggest reason I’m doing this. Although my sister is a very crunchy mom, and likely doesn’t use anything with DEET on her kids already, I figured this was a great option. Why? Because DEET is very bad. Very, very bad. (Bad like Maryann the maenad last season on True Blood. Toldya.)
Instead of going on a tirade here (which would include pointing out that it may cause brain cancer, should never be used on infants, and is a potential cause of migraines), I’ll direct you to this informative article at Quantum Health if you want to read more and be appalled.
So that is why you may not want to use a conventional insect repellent. Good news is, there are plenty of alternatives.
- Catnip has been shown to be 10 TIMES more effective than DEET in keeping away mosquitoes. If I’d have had the time, I would have concocted more of an oily insect repellent. I was going to steep catnip in a soybean oil (which apparently bugs hate, too) for 2 weeks. Procrastination happened instead. In any case, you can find catnip essential oil in many places (including MRH and possibly Whole Foods) and apply a dab or two to your ankles and wrists while you’re outside. You could also add it to the recipe above, for a more potent bug spray.
- In India, many people rub juicy lemongrass stalks and leaves on their bodies – and mosquitoes hate it. Citronella actually smells a lot like lemongrass (they’re in the same family), so this makes a lot of sense. If you want to go completely crunchy with your insect repelling, this is the way to do it. If you try it, let me know how it works!
- Peppermint essential oil, alone, is another option for a quick and easy bug repellent. On my quest to do this the last two days, I ended up across the street at my favorite store ever – one that sells herbs, salves, and all things MEGA crunchy. I spoke to the woman running the store about her recommendations, and she swore by plain old peppermint oil, dabbed on the ankles, wrists, and under the chin. Said she hasn’t been bit in years. Again, we live in a very mosquito-less part of Colorado. (Though she did look like the traveling type.)
- If you’re camping, try boiling a few lemons (or stalks of lemongrass) over the campfire. Word is, this keeps the insects far away from you. Cheaper than a citronella candle, I guess.
- Neem, basil, and rosemary essential oils also have reputations in these parts. Neem, especially, is a great insect repellent. But basil and rosemary you can easily purchase fresh and rub a little on your pulse points.
- Carry marigolds with you wherever you go. Okay. This may not be feasible, but I like to imagine all of you prancing about with marigolds. Nonetheless, mosquitoes don’t like ’em. Even if you don’t want to carry them, you can plant some in strategic, often-used places in your yard.
And that concludes this episode of Crunchy Kids.
Got any homemade insect repellent tips, ideas, or recipes?
You kids stay uneaten now, y’hear?
In love and squishy crunch!
I love this webpage(blog?)…. I just love it.
You may consider using pine needle oil. very effective stuff right there, but some might comment you “smell like pinesol” and you might be tempted to smack them. It works as a great combination with cedar, eucalyptus, and citronella though, maybe a bit of lemongrass?? I have this huge 8 oz bottle of neem oil that I’m thinking of combining in to give it a little kick. I did make some last year with olive oil as a base, but I wanted to make a less oily version this year with witch hazel, so I’m worried the neem won’t mix in very well. Oh well, trial and error has been the best learning tool so far.
I have used Vodka (cheap Vodka) to make my bug spray! It really works!!
Jonathan Andrew Fowler
If you look at the ingredients of most “natural bug sprays” citronella is a small amount of the active ingredient. The majority is lemon eucalyptus, a special kind of eucalyptus, it is far more effective than citronella, but citronella has name recognition, so that is what you see on the label. I am growing lemon eucalyptus bush I bought off ebay (seeds). I rub a leaf on me when I go outside in super mosquito infested areas, and they leave me alone for hours. I used to be a magnet for them, works great!
I just started reading your blog when I found it a couple of weeks ago. One thing that I just can’t figure out no matter how hard I think about it is…..what is the ‘crunchy’ for? What does it mean or refer to?
Jess @ Crunchy Hot Mama
Crunchy is often liken to ‘crunchy granola’ which is what people think ‘treehuggers’ eat. And treehuggers are usually associated to being ‘natural, green, free, etc.’ So when you hear of someone as being crunchy, they are likely trying to find a better alternative to products & methods out there-using what mother nature provides. A lot of the time it saves you $ and has a better impact on the person and planet by doing things ‘crunchy.’ Does that help?
We are surrounded by mosquitos right now, so much that we’ve just been staying inside. I refuse to spray DEET on my young children. I gathered all the supplies and made this homemade spray with much hope of success! Well, I’m quite disappointed. I sprayed myself liberally, then went outside in the middle of the day to water my garden. I was swarmed and attacked and came inside after 15 minutes with about 6-8 new bites. Back inside we go and will stay. 🙁
Hm, so far I have a spray bottle of plain water with added equal drops of lavender and tea tree oil. No reason for it, just what I had on hand. Watched fireworks without probs the other night but perhaps the bugs weren’t as bad as usual. I’ll say mine was def easier with less ingredients but like I said, I had no rhyme or reason for it and am not sure if the solution will remain so in plain water after a few days.
I’m excited to try this out! I was curious what’s your process of steeping your catnip in soybean oil? I looked to buy catnip essential oil and it’s pretty pricey, but I have the herb growing, so I was trying to find a better option.
I made this with peppermint, eucalyptus, Rosemary and rose Geranium. It smelled alright till I added the ACV. I didn’t see too many mosquitoes this past weekend so I don’t know how effective it is at repelling bugs but my friends weren’t shy about telling me they kept their distance from me because of the smell. What exactly does the ACV here do? I found other recipes online without it.
Just made this but used lemongrass oil instead of citronella since that is what I had on hand. Now to wait for mosquito season to test it out:)
I want to know where the cool looking beetle is from!!
I love all your tips..Thank you so much for having this blog!!
Ok, I’ve loved several of your blog posts on random crunchy things. But when you referenced True Blood, you had me at “gentleman vampire”! LOL Love your tips! Quick question… On another similar recipe they said you had to use a metal or glass container. Do you know anything about this?
Well I find that 91% rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle works. Anything with an exoskeleton will go crunchy within 30 seconds. Spray and watch (watching optional). anything 70% or higher works. but for a 20 second or less terminator, alcohol works. It kills, disinfects, and it’s cheaper than buying oils. although the oils may smell nicer…
oh forgot to say this isnt for skin, it’s just a cheap alternative to killing the bug… 🙂
Jess @ Crunchy Hot Mama
Good to know! The alcohol is also great for deodorant…just add a few drops of pepperment oil and spray on pits twice daily-if need be.
Jonathan Andrew Fowler
and it gets exciting for the smoker in the area who ignites these highly flammable vapors! (highly dependent on delivery system)
Rose Geranium oil is great for repelling ticks.
I am going to have to try the bug spray recipe. We have been having a horrible time with mosquitoes here lately. The wet humid weather has been wonderful and created a bumper crop of those nasty blood suckers. But I really do not like using the chemically laden sprays, I also don’t like all the bug bites so hopefully this will be the perfect solution.
One thing I forgot to mention – lavender essential oil. If you have any of that, you could try it, too. I’m in Kansas City at this very moment, and I have to say, I forgot how good we have it in Colorado. No humidity, and no mosquitoes. My poor nephew – it’s like he was one big mosquito bite before we got here. Now, hopefully no more! At least, no more yet.
Let me know how it works for you if you try it! I’d love to hear.
Great info for bug repelling without checmicals! FOund you at redhead riters blog!
Yep. Fiance even says it smells like bugspray, but just knowing it doesn’t have anything yucky in it makes me feel SO much better about both using it and putting it on my precious little nephews!
We’ve got lavender, rosemary, and citronella and several types of mint growing in our backyard and it really does keep the mosquitos at bay. I need to make some of your bug spray.
I seriously love your site!
You are so, so lucky! All you people with all this awesome stuff just growing willy-nilly all around you. I’m moving in. Period.
I have kids and in Australia Mozzies are part and parcel of life. Less so in Winter so I have a few months to make up this spray but I love the sound of it. Much nicer than the expensive and foul smelling aerogard that every family keeps in their car and house here. Better for you too I am thinking!
This actually smells a little like bug spray (not sure what aerogard smells like), just not as “chemical-y.” Fiance keeps walking in and going “Who’s wearing the bug spray?” He never remembers …
WOW! Awesome post! I’m in Texas with a toddler who must be filet mignon to skeeters!
Sorry for the delay in reply. I just learned a VERY important lesson from Akismet – sometimes it stinks at weeding out spam, because lovely comments like yours get trapped somewhere. Fixed and lesson learned.
I just tried it on my nephew a while ago, and it seemed to really, really work. Or, the horrible sauna-weather here in Kansas City has the mosquitoes too lazy to move. I’m not sure which.
Let me know what you think if you try it!
I see Pavithra’s India and raise her one Northern-ish Canada.
It’s on! LOL
Knew most of these, but catnip? wow. cool!
Great post!! Living in India means a mortal combat with mosquitos 🙂 Trying this right away!
So interesting! I read several people mention the lemongrass thing, to the point I just assumed it was something everyone did in India. You’ll have to let me know if it works!
LOL..Not all Indians practice that 😀 We use easier methods like the liquidator mosquito repellant 🙂 But yes, there are quite a few unique and superb Indian ways of dealing with bugs. Must write a post about it some time soon!
I just need the citronella oil and I’ll be set to make your secret formula. It’s good to know about the peppermint oil too.
We don’t have too many mosquitos here in AZ, but when I visited Maine and the Bahamas, I was eaten alive.
I say we take a trip to Maine and the Bahamas right now, yeah? I mean, we do need to really test it out.
LOL! That’s not fair. I snorted and something flew out of my nose!
Great Post!! I can’t wait to try this out. I haven’t made a new order from Mountain Rose yet, but I have some of the ingredients, I might just use the Citronella or Peppermint. Thanks!
That’s my favorite part about making your own stuff. You can pick and choose what you have, buy what you decide is worth it, and figure out your own stuff! Took me a LONG time to be comfortable with it, but once I kept trying random things that worked (!), I realized it’s just not that big of a deal …
Glad you liked it. Definitely let me know if they work. I’d especially like a non-Colorado opinion on plain ole peppermint oil!
SO I thought I had essential oil Eucalyptus and Peppermint, but its actually just the leaves. Do you think I can try to steep them overnight and use the water? hmm, lol, I think I need to improvise.
I have visions of neighborhood cats following me around and nipping at my catnip oil-dabbed ankles! Seriously, when I mentioned the catnip oil to my husband, he said “I bet rosemary or lavender would work too then”. I scrolled down and there was the rosemary! He’s so proud of himself right now. Thank you for this post! Very very useful stuff. I was just thinking the other day about making citronella candles for the patio… this sounds way easier!
I hear tell lavender DOES work, too (your hubby’s so smart). I left it out because I keep droning on and on about lavender. Thought I’d give it a rest for a while. Or at least until the next blog post. Heh.
I’ve never made my own candles. You should try it (with citronella essential oil) and blog it. I know it’s not food, but I wanna see how you did it!
My family is from Haiti. And my great aunt told me that, they used to burn the citronella leaves to keep bugs away. So making a candle probably would definitely work.
@Lisa… That is really good to know! Now I’m definitely going to put it on my (so very) long list of Summer projects. Thanks!