DIY Mosquito Repellent That Really Works 63

It’s that outside time of year. Which means that we humans must do battle with public enemy number one. That’s right; the mighty mosquito. You’ll want a good mosquito repellent.

Not all homemade bug repellents are created equal. This one? It WORKS.

Prepping for a work day in Waipi‘o Valley, we were warned about the mosquito population and strongly encouraged to bring mosquito repellent. While I know the commercial bug repellents work, I’m not exactly a fan of rubbing DEET and other chemicals on my skin. So I did what any self-respecting do-it-yourselfer would do: I made my own. It was risky, taking an unproven mosquito repellent right into mosquito central. But guess what? It worked. And it worked beautifully. Even people who frequent the valley and do battle with mosquitoes on a regular basis were raving about it.

I’ve made my own mosquito repellent before with limited success. This time, though, I added neem seed oil, which is known to have pest repellent properties. It made all the difference. Those of us who used it came home with few — if any — bites.

DIY Natural Mosquito Repellent

  • 2 tablespoons neem seed oil (like this)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 10-15 drops of citronella essential oil (like this)

If necessary, melt coconut oil. Mix together all ingredients and store in a small jar with an eye dropper top. To use, rub sparingly onto exposed skin.

Note: You should not use neem seed oil if you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant, as it is an abortifacient. 

I’m quite happy with this mixture since it worked so well for me, but not every body is the same. If you want to experiment with other recipes, check these out:

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63 thoughts on “DIY Mosquito Repellent That Really Works

  • heather

    thank you thank you thank you!!  I needed something for my son this weekend for his backpacking trip!  this will be awesome!!!!

  • Sandra

    My daughter is allergic to coconut and coconut oil.  Do you have a recommendation for another successful carrier oil?
    Thank you! 

    • Kris Bordessa Post author

      OH, I think you could very easily substitute olive oil for the coconut oil. Shouldn’t impact the bug repelling properties at all.

    • Rebecca

      Try soybean oil. It’s supposed to have insect repelling properties. 

      • Kris Bordessa Post author

        I didn’t know that. I wonder if you can get non-GMO soybean oil?

      • Lauri

        I know they do not like tea tree oil, I ran out of off, and mixed up water and tea tree oil, used that and it worked great. Had to respray in couple hours but could substitue that instead of coconut oil… just a thought 🙂

        • Kris Bordessa Post author

          Tea tree oil is another strong smell – good to know that worked for you.

    • Anita Smith

      i use the citronella in witch hazel and spray it on- you don’t need the oils- though Neem is a good repellent , too 🙂 i want to try this one and put it in a roller bottle !

      • Gillian

        What is the amount for both? Witch hazel & citronella.
        Thank you.

  • Kristin

    I love the simplicity of this recipe. The mosquitoes have been really bad in our backyard, so I’ll be making this ASAP for my family. Thank you.

  • Wendy

    I’ve been having short term luck with lavender and peppermint eo mixed with water in a spray bottle. My dogs have even cone to accept being sprayed because they notice results. 

    • Pamellia Smith

      Please be careful using EOs with K-9s and felines. Check with your vet or poison control. Thanks!!

  • catlin

    Trying This Asap. Any Suggestions On A Repellent For The Yard? Whether It’s Something You Burn Like A Candle Or Torch Or A Natural Alternative To Spray?

    • Rick

      Catlin, For treating your yard try this formula:
      3 dark beers (flat)
      2 cups Epsome salt
      32 oz mint mouth wash.

      Mix and spray. Not harmful to plants or animals, but mosquitoes don’t like it.

  • Holly @ Your Gardening Friend

    I’d really like to try this. (I have a homemade concoction I make with vanilla extract, but it does require multiple applications. It smells wonderful though! :)) Do you need to apply this repellent to all exposed skin or just dab areas like you would cologne or perfume? Typically all exposed skin needs an application, but with it being an essential oil I wasn’t sure if it’s potency made that not necessary.

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  • joanna n.

    should another oil/ingredient be used in place of neem seed oil for pregnant women, or is it as effective w/o it?

    • Kris Bordessa Post author

      You could substitute another oil, but I think it will end up being lots less effective. I’ve done a basic citronella/oil repellent in the past and while it worked, not *nearly so well as this stuff did.

      • Patricia Hall

        I’ve used Sandalwood oil or sandalwood soap as a bug repellent and it has been the best thing we’ve tried. Works incredibly well and smells great.

        • Marybeth

          Hi Patricia.
          Do you use the Sandalwood in combination with anything else? How did you apply it?

        • Pamellia Smith

          Sandlewood EO is so expensive!! Good that it works, however.

  • liz

    Does the neem oil make it unbearable to smell? I use neem & coconut oil before bed ….and I know it’s potent…..

    • Kris Bordessa Post author

      I don’t think so! The neem oil I’m using is made locally and I think a cosmetic grade. (?) I don’t find it overly strong at all — just nice and earthy.

    • Wendy Alexander

      Neem oil would repel anything, I think. I have used it in the past when my child came home with lice that she caught in school. I used the traditional shampoos….it seemed to make it worse. So I did some research and found out that lice were rampant in India and they would use neem oil. I put together my own recipe which was very similar to this one. The smell was horrible. But effective.

  • Emily

    This looks great! I’m on the hunt for something that will hopefully hold up for the Central/South American jungles. Totally not keen on dousing DEET all over me, so I think I’ll be bundling up on a few of these sneaky supplies…

    • Kris Bordessa Post author

      Oh, you’ll have to report back!

  • Christi

    This is a very limited repellent. We use Shoo bug spray from alma naturals. It has many essential oils to repel many types of bugs. And the spray is easy and safe. 

  • Me

    Note: Neem can also be very dangerous to cats, so if you have felines make sure you don’t put this on and go snuggle them.

  • Lori

    I just bought neem oil at Whole foods and it smells so bad! I’m afraid to use this much in a recipe. Does anyone have a problem with theirs smelling really bad?

    • Kris Bordessa Post author

      It smells “earthy” to me, but not bad.

  • Tom

    Topical use of small amounts Neem oil will not cause a miscarriage. It has caused reversible sterility in rats when orally consumed in high doses because it has spermicidal qualities. In baboons, it took 6ml of oil, taken 6 days in a row, to cause an abortion. But there is no research to support that external use would have any effect on fetuses or breastfeeding women. Especially in small amounts, such as would be used in this recipe, there is zero cause for concern. When non-medical people make such inaccurate statements it is really frustrating. My wife sees things like this and freaks out until I can calm her down and give her accurate info. Please stop spreading misinformation.

    • Kris Bordessa Post author

      My intention was not to spread misinformation. The neem oil I use comes with that warning; I feel as though I’d be remiss in not passing that along.

  • Nance

    Beware of the neem oil!! I found it to be really strong and downright putrid! You know how some smells are different for different people? If you had this on and we were hanging out, I’d have to leave or ask you to wash it off! And I’ve met others with the same reaction. Just a head’s up… 🙂

    • Kris Bordessa Post author

      So it’s like cilantro? People either love it or hate it? (Personally, I *like the smell of the Neem!)

    • Pamellia Smith

      I can’t handle Neem oil. But I was thinking of spraying it on some outdoor plants to discourage insects.

  • Ani

    i use a mix of coconut and peppermint oil. Peppermint oil is easier to find near me and it works well.

  • Kim

    One substitute if anyone is allergic is Tea Tree oil.
    I have used that for a yr or so and it works just fine

  • Jaime

    Tom, you beat me to the statement 🙂
    Nice to see other readers knowing thier stuff.
    I do understand though why she provided the warning. If she hadn’t, there would have been 50 comments screaming at her for not.
    I look forward to trying this one. FYI that “neem smell” is one of the reason’s I believe this just might work. I am highly allergic to mosquito bites, and I’m also extremly prone to being bitten. So I try natural mixes, from time to time. I hate being the 35 year old “poster child” of DEET use. But it seems to sadly be the only thing that works on *me*. But I plan to keep searching. My family still benifits, bc they’re the ones that end up with my failed blends and they all seem to work to some degree on them. 😉 Thank you for posting this.

  • Dottie

    Can you make neem oil from neem powder? If so how?

    • Carol

      Essential oils must come from the fresh product (leaf, flower, etc). Once dried, all of the oils present in the fresh product have been dried out. So, no, you can’t make an essential oil from any dried product. You could make either an infusion (like tea) or a decoction (dried material, water, heat let sit then strain) from the dried material, it just wouldn’t be nearly as potent.

  • Julia

    This looks wonderful and I have already made up a batch for my family. But, do you have any recommendations for biting black fly repellant? We just moved to Maine and are being swarmed.

    • Kris Bordessa Post author

      I don’t! I wouldn’t hesitate to see if this helps, though.

    • Michele

      For Black Flies, we use Z’off by Mountain Martha (in the Adirondack Mountains in NY State). I swear by it. It is essential oils, etc. It’s a strong smell, but not obnoxious esp. when the flies stay away. Saturday while gardening I noticed the black flies were out. They were not biting yet but will be soon. Our worst time is between Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day. Good luck.

  • Danielle

    I use witch hazel, vodka, and grape seed oil because straight oil can be hard to spray, and essential oils dont mix with water. they need an emulsifier like the vodka. Plus, with the witch hazel and vodka, it helps it to dry quickly and not leave your skin feeling greasy.

    I mix in Rose Geranium for repelling ticks, Catnip essential oil because it has been proven to be WAY more effective than DEET at repelling mosquitos, Citronella essential oil, and Lemon Eucalyptus essential oil.

    • Paula

      Danielle, your recipe sounds really good. What amount of each oil do you use?

    • Pamellia Smith

      Nice recipe, Danielle. I will use this one.

  • Julie

    We prefer to make our own horse fly spray. Does anyone know if this would be safe to use on horses as a spray or not? Or have any suggestions what we could use instead of Neem oil? We have tried geranium, tea tree, orange, lemon, peppermint, spearmint, eucalyptus, rosemary, clove, vanilla extract, etc. Have not come up with a winning combination but we need it to combat not just mosquitos but all biting bugs. My daughter’s horse is very sensitive to a lot of the commercial products out there. The only fly spray we found to work was an all natural one and the local tractor supply quit carrying it. SO this would be great to know. If neem oil would work we would give this a try.

    • Kris Bordessa Post author

      I can’t give you a thumbs up on that; I just don’t know. Maybe someone else will chime in? And I’ll ask over on the Facebook page!

    • Carol

      Often when things have been discontinued, I try to locate it online and find the ingredients. You wouldn’t necessarily know the ratios, but knowing what is in it is more than half the battle. Just experiment with ratios, knowing that the list of ingredients lists them mostly in order of amounts used.

  • Stephanie

    Aside from the neem oil, I use a mixture like this one for my family (except my husband uses OFF while he walks at night, just in case). My home recipe for repellent consists of coconut, cedarwood, peppermint, and citronella oils. It works well for my bub with sensitive skin, and I do like to add the cedarwood for scent. I will definitely share this around because it is a great and simple recipe. I am curious about the neem oil; I wonder how much more effective mine would be with that addition.

  • Janice

    Is this safe to spray on animals? I have dogs, cat and chickens

    • Kris Bordessa Post author

      Sorry – I missed this! You know, I can’t say. I’d ask your veterinarian. I know I’ve heard that essential oils aren’t good for cats.

  • adam

    Tried this last year, did not work well at all, I live in NC.

  • Lars

    Where do you get the Citronella oil in concentrate? Thanks. Lars.

    • Kris Bordessa Post author

      There’s a link in the ingredients list.

  • Cindy

    I plan on giving this a chance I am tired of these bug whelps!!! I thought I would get away with just having citronella plant on my porch but they seem to be immune to it here.