Buzz Kill: Making Non-Toxic Bug Repellent

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this is an older post. for updated information
& GD Meg’s awesome DIY non-toxic
bug repellent recipe… click > HERE!


Heat, Haze and Humidity – just what bugs love

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I can honestly say, I really try not to “kill” anything. I do have several exceptions based on this premise – what’s their purpose? Flies, fleas, ticks and mosquitos do not stand a chance in my house.

Now that summer is in full swing with its Triple-H threat, outdoors there’s a flurry of creepy  crawly and flying blood suckers (save for the flies – they don’t discriminate, sucking on anything they land on!) Drug store bug sprays work, they ALL do because of the chemical DEET. While it has been approved for use as an insect repellant for children as well as adults, DEET is still a chemical.

Which is worse, bug bites or bug repellent?

UPDATE: Read “To DEET or not to DEET” which offers a new perspective on DEET from EWG that may surprise you.

Where the Environmental Working Group (EWG) is concerned, choosing the right bug repellent can make a hike, picnic or outdoor event a pleasure instead of a painful, itchy experience that may have serious consequences. As always, they’ve done the research! The site goes on to say no repellent is right every time, followed by 3 choices: ADULTS, KIDS and PREGNANT WOMEN. Clicking one of the links takes you to a page where specific applications are outlined for specific concerns. It’s definitely worth taking a look. See what EWG says about DEET, it might surprise you . . .

EPAHere’s what the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) says:

  • DEET (chemical name, N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) is the active ingredient in many insect repellent products.          It is used to repel biting pests such as mosquitoes and ticks, including ticks that may carry Lyme disease. Every year, approximately one-third of the U.S. population is expected to use DEET. Products containing DEET currently are available to the public in a variety of liquids, lotions, sprays, and impregnated materials (e.g., wrist bands). Formulations registered for direct application to human skin contain from 4 to 100% DEET. Except for a few veterinary uses, DEET  is registered for use by consumers, and it is not used on food.

And then there’s this: the FIRST thing written on one of the most popular brands and highlighted in yellow is PRECAUTIONARY STATEMENTS: HAZARDS TO HUMANS-WARNING. Well, no thank you!

Plus, those repellents stink … I mean, they smell awful! At least I think so.

Homemade (not so stinky) Non-Toxic Bug Repellent

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2 cups of alcohol – you can also use triple distilled vodka which is all natural and will not hurt your skin
  • 3 – 4 ounces of whole cloves
  • 6 tablespoons of a base oil – baby oil, sesame oil, almond, fennel, basil, the list goes on!
  • 10 – 15 drops of your favorite essential oils (I used lavender)

Bug StuffHere’s how-to:

1. Put the cloves in the alcohol to soak. Leave them soaking 4 days, stirring 2 – 3 times a day.

Soaking Cloves

Lavender Oil

2. Once your “concoction” has brewed 4 days, add the oil.

Done. Really, it’s that easy. For me the hardest part is trying to turn up a small plastic spray bottle. Actually, it can be stored without a spray attachment as all you have to do is rub a few drops onto your skin.

From what I’ve read, this stuff works! which is really good for Antonio and my daughter Antares who seem to have what those mosquitoes really like. If my hand is the one on the left and theirs is the hand on the right, this is what would happen:

Antonio & AntaresBug handsActually, this is to demonstrate how your natural, homemade bug repellent should work. You can even spray it on your pets.

There are also recipes using witch hazel if you prefer,  instead of alcohol or vodka.


Please check out our YouTube channel to see our short, funny and useful 1 GD Minute videos with recipes and DIY tutorials. Here’s a recent one…

And if you want to learn more about the content of this video, please read the corresponding post!


Conscious Consumer, Green Divas DIY, Healthy Living, Natural Beauty, Pets Going Green

About the author / 

Green Diva Mizar'

Green Diva Mizar is a former co-host of the GD show. GD Mizar is also dedicated to providing safe, clean water to all through her company Pur2o Water Filtration & Purification.

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    Lois Keel July 21, 2013 at 9:30 pm -  Reply

    Thank you! I’m making it and will check back when I know more.
    I’ve tried the Skin So Soft without much success and really need a safe effective repellent. I seem to be allergic to DEET. In desperation I’ve used it for short times and then do a quick shower to get it off.

    Chris July 22, 2013 at 9:43 pm -  Reply

    This looks good. I like the demo.

    I have been using a product called Sweetly Citron I found on Amazon and it works great.

    Pat August 2, 2013 at 2:14 pm -  Reply

    can you use regular cooking oil

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