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DIY Natural Insect Repellent – for babies, children and adults

With just a handful of ingredients, you can easily make your own natural insect repellent against mosquitoes and ticks. Protect babies, children, and adults organically and effectively.

DIY Natural Insect Repellent - for babies, children and adults 2

With your finger ready to hit the button, you enjoy that peaceful moment with a perfect holiday picture ready to be captured. SWAT! One of those annoying little critters lands on your arm and the picturesque moment is over, while the camera almost drops to the floor in the heat of the battle.

You don’t even have to be on a dream holiday to have your enjoyment of summer dampened by mosquitoes, ticks, and other insects. The most beautiful afternoon in the park, garden or out on the patio loses its charm for me if I constantly have to swat at things around me and the kids.

Now, there are enough remedies available for sale. But products like Off! and Cutter are not only incredibly pricey, they also smell so unpleasantly artificial that I really only want to use them in an emergency – like, if I can’t get out of going on a camping holiday in a marshland or something…

How to make your own natural insect repellent

Fortunately, it’s very easy to make your own Off! substitute – but with completely natural ingredients. The secret is in essential oils, the scent of which is generally perceived as fairly pleasant. It’s certainly ten times more pleasing to my nose than its commercial counterpart!

Insects and even ticks, on the other hand, find a number of these oils extremely repulsive, which makes them a wonderful natural alternative to Off!. I have chosen a mixture of oils that when combined are not only effective against mosquitoes and flies but also keep ticks at bay.

Essential oils do not dissolve in water, though. Therefore, the naturally skin-soothing witch hazel is the carrier substance of choice, paired with a teaspoon of vodka for better mixing. Witch hazel is available in two varieties. The more common and less expensive version is an alcohol extract, much like its vanilla cousin.

The higher quality form of witch hazel is a distillate (using steam) and therefore more gentle on your skin. But even with the alcohol-based extract, it’s much more natural and harmless than the list of ingredients of a classic mosquito spray, don’t you think?

Insect repellent spray for adults

Since essential oils contain active plant substances in a highly concentrated form, there are a number of things to consider when using them. For example, most may not be used at all for babies under the age of six months and only be used as dilution for older children and adults.

The oil most effective against mosquitoes is lemon eucalyptus. In addition, lavender, peppermint, rosemary and tea tree oil strengthen the effect against flies, mosquitoes. Most effective against ticks is geranium oil.

For adults and children from 10 years of age the following recipe works best:

  • 1/4 cup (60 ml – 4 tablespoons) witch hazel
  • lemon eucalyptus essential oil – 10 drops
  • thyme essential oil – 10 drops
  • lavender essential oil – 10 drops
  • peppermint essential oil – 10 drops
  • tea tree essential oil – 10 drops
  • geranium essential oil – 10 drops (optional, if ticks aren’t a major concern)
  • 1 tsp (5 ml) vodka or rubbing alcohol
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml – 4 tbsp) boiled water

Please note: Essential oils should be used with caution during pregnancy. There are some that can be used as natural medicine, but this should only be done in consultation with your midwife and/or doctor. You should also skip peppermint oil when you are breastfeeding. Peppermint is great for weaning, but before you reach this phase, it might have a negative effect on your milk supply (and thus on your nights…).

Natural mosquito repellent for children

With only half the amount of essential oils, this mixture becomes a homemade mosquito spray for children from 6 years of age:

  • 1/4 cup (60 ml – 4 tablespoons) witch hazel
  • lemon eucalyptus essential oil – 5 drops
  • rosemary essential oil – 5 drops
  • lavender essential oil – 5 drops
  • peppermint essential oil – 5 drops
  • tea tree essential oil – 5 drops
  • geranium essential oil – 5 drops (optional, if ticks are not a concern)
  • 1 tsp (5 ml) vodka or rubbing alcohol
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml – 4 tbsp) boiled water

Mix all ingredients in the order that they were listed and fill into one or more spray bottles, preferably made of dark glass. To use, simply spray on all exposed areas of skin and distribute evenly with your hands. Do not spray in the direction of the face. Shake well before use.

For children of 3 years and up, you can use this recipe by substituting thyme for the rosemary. It is a little less effective against mosquitoes, but combining it with the other oils allows for margin. (Pin this article here.)

Organic mosquito spray for babies and toddlers

Fortunately, there is also a version for mosquito protection which can be used for babies from 6 months in appropriate dilution. With citronella and lavender oil, you can easily produce an organic insect spray for small children and babies from 6 months.

Make sure to choose alcohol-free witch hazel, if possible. For this to be certified organic, also look for the organic seal when ordering essential oils and witch hazel, although I am not sure whether you’ll be able to track down organic vodka or rubbing alcohol… 😉

  • 1/4 cup (60 ml or 4 tablespoons) witch hazel (alcohol-free distillate, optionally organic)
  • lavender oil – 10 drops
  • citronella oil – 10 drops
  • 1 tsp vodka or rubbing alcohol
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml or 4 tbsp) boiled water

Mix all ingredients as listed and fill into one or more spray bottles, preferably made of dark glass. If necessary, spray onto exposed skin and gently distribute evenly. Instead of vodka, you can also use rubbing alcohol. Shake well before use.

For babies, it’s been recommended to apply the mosquito repellent to clothing rather than skin and, of course, to avoid spraying it on their faces.

Further variations of the DIY insect spray against mosquitoes and ticks

If you can’t stand certain oils used in the recipe, there are plenty of ways to make your own blend. You can also use the essential oils of sage, lemongrass, lemon, lime, spearmint, clove, cinnamon, basil, patchouli or cedar wood for your very own insect repellent mixture.

These oils can be used in the appropriate dilution from three years of age, but are effective against mosquitoes and ticks to varying degrees. Some are also called “hot oils” (like cinnamon) which makes them less suitable for skin contact. Eucalyptus is also very effective, but should only be used from the age of ten or in adults.

Although lemon oil is effective against mosquitoes, I would refrain from using it in mosquito repellent as it makes the skin sensitive to light for 12-24 hours. Since insect protection is normally needed outside, this effect is not very helpful.

Practical Tip #1

Sufficiently large glass spray bottles are quite expensive and not that easy to find. Alternatively, I recommend filling one or more small glass spray bottles and storing the rest in a clean glass bottle with a screw cap. Be on the lookout to recycle any dark empty glas bottles that might fit one of your spray tops.

Practical Tip #2

If you want to make this spray for several age groups in your family, then use the recipe that’s suitable for the youngest family member and use it on all of your children under the age of 10. This way, you only have two different sprays and don’t need to keep track of up to four insect sprays.

Easy alternatives to spray-on mosquito repellent

If you don’t like to use a spray at all, you can use the base compound of the DIY anti-itch balm to create an anti-mosquito balm with the essential oils listed here. The oil quantities are adjusted as follows:

  • For adults, each essential oil is reduced from 10 to 7 drops.
  • The formula for children over 3 years is adjusted to 3 drops per oil (instead of 5).
  • For the baby mosquito spray, you use 7 drops (instead of 10) of each oil.

Cooling down

If all you need is a cooling spray, you don’t need all of the ingredients that repel insects. Look up my homemade cooling body spray for recipes that can get you through the heat when A/C is not an option.

The Simple Balance Tip

If you don’t have the energy to mix this spray, let alone make the balm, I’ve got you covered with the perfect lazy version: essential oil based bracelets. Not only are they ideal for kids who hate having something sprayed on their skin, but also for parents who tend to forget to spray… (Don’t ask me how I know…)

They fit around wrists or ankles and work for up to 72 hours. You can then simply refresh them with this essential oil mixture yourself. Since there is no direct skin contact, there is no need for dilution.

If you want them to last longer, use double or triple the amount of pure essential oils as given in the recipes above and mix them in a small roller bottle. When a bracelet needs refreshing, simply roll over the outer side a few times.

As you can see, with simple and inexpensive methods you can prevent critters from ruining your experience of summer. Whether you are in your garden or smack bam in the middle of a holiday paradise, this homemade insect repellent protects you and your family effectively and naturally.

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insect repellent Pinterest image


Sunday 28th of June 2020

this is wonderful thank you so much.


Sunday 7th of June 2020

Hi! In regards to witch hazel, is it like the facial toner? Or is there a more pure version?


Monday 8th of June 2020

Hi, this is explained in the article - many facial toners would be the alcohol based extract, which is fine to use, but using a steam destillate is even better.


Sunday 7th of June 2020

Hello I am a bit confused. children over three can have 5 drops per oil whereas babies can have 10 drops in the mixture. How come? Please explain. Could be a typing mistake?


Sunday 7th of June 2020

Hi, if you look closely, you will see that fewer oils are used for the baby mixture. That's why you use ten drops each, whereas the mix for older children has five drops each of more different oils.


Thursday 25th of July 2019

I’m a crafter so I made a key ring with some craft thread and dipped the thread in my mosquito mixture :). Awesome for those of us who tend to forget our keys when we leave. It can be put on a carabiner and clipped to backpacks, belt loops, shoe laces, tank top straps...i did this last Thursday or Friday and the smell is still quite strong.

Heidi Rabbach

Friday 26th of July 2019

Hey Robin,

That's such a great idea! Thank you for sharing and inspiring :)

Have a lovely mosquito-free day! Heidi


Monday 15th of July 2019

When you mention 'vodka', is that the drinking alcohol kind or is it something else? I'm confused. Thanks!

Heidi Rabbach

Monday 15th of July 2019

Hi Debbie, Yes - I know it sounds strange but it's just any cheap drinking vodka. It helps dispense the essential oils within the liquid. If you feel uncomfortable about it, simply substitute with rubbing alcohol. I hope this will help you! Heidi

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