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Natural Mosquito Repellent That Really Works to Save Your Skin

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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. This easy homemade mosquito repellent really works, and it’s a natural bug repellent, too! 

Be sure to check out these five ways to reduce the mosquito population in your backyard!

mosquito repellent in a brown dropper bottle

Easy natural mosquito repellent that works

Prepping for a work day in Waipi‘o Valley, we were warned about the mosquito population and strongly encouraged to bring mosquito repellent. Nobody likes mosquito bites! While I know the commercial bug repellents work, I’m not exactly a fan of rubbing DEET and other chemicals on my skin. I’m always looking for a natural alternative and this was no exception! I did what any self-respecting do-it-yourselfer would do: I made my own natural mosquito repellent.

It was risky, taking an unproven natural mosquito repellent right into mosquito central. But guess what? It worked beautifully to repel mosquitos. Even people who frequent the valley and do battle with mosquitoes on a regular basis were raving about my homemade mosquito repellent.

I’ve made my own homemade bug 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. (You should not use neem seed oil if you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant, as it is considered an abortifacient. )

Those of us who used this homemade mosquito repellent came home with few — if any — bites.

While I can’t control the mosquito population in the wild, using this homemade blend to keep them at bay means I can stay DEET free.

Making this homemade bug repellent

Making this repellent is a matter of mixing a few ingredients together. While some are common in many households — it uses coconut oil and olive oil as the carrier oil — you may need to track down the neem oil (you can order it here) and make sure you have citronella essential oil on hand. Store this bug repellent in a dark bottle; one with a dropper makes it easy to apply when you need protection from mosquitos.

Related: Natural Bug Bite Relief to Soothe the Itchy Skin Blues

Natural bug repellent in a brown dropper bottle

★ Did you make this natural mosquito repellent? Don’t forget to give it a star rating below! ★

Natural Homemade Mosquito Repellent

Natural Homemade Mosquito Repellent

This homemade mosquito repellent works in Hawaii's jungle -- surely it will keep the bugs at bay at your place, too!

Ingredients

Instructions

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

Notes

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

Nutrition Information:
Serving Size: 1 grams
Amount Per Serving: Unsaturated Fat: 0g

Did you make this recipe?

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Originally published May, 2014, this post has been updated.

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Meet the Author

Kris Bordessa

Kris Bordessa founded Attainable Sustainable as a resource for revitalizing vintage skills. Her book, Attainable Sustainable: The Lost Art of Self-Reliant Living (National Geographic) offers a collection of projects and recipes to help readers who are working their way to a more fulfilling DIY lifestyle.

72 comments… add one
  • heather May 28, 2014, 9:30 am

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

    • Kris Bordessa May 28, 2014, 4:56 pm

      😉

      • lana Apr 15, 2016, 4:56 pm

        Just wondering if you have a resource on Organic oils to purchase?

      • marcel fasching Mar 9, 2019, 7:51 am

        Kris, Going to Canada this Summer for a fishing trip. Need a good mosquito recipe

  • Sandra May 28, 2014, 4:53 pm

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

    • Kris Bordessa May 28, 2014, 4:56 pm

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

    • Rebecca Jul 4, 2014, 12:53 pm

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

      • Kris Bordessa Jul 13, 2014, 10:34 am

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

      • Lauri May 17, 2015, 3:35 am

        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 May 19, 2015, 9:37 am

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

    • Anita Smith Aug 30, 2014, 9:46 am

      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 Jul 28, 2015, 2:36 am

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

  • Kristin May 29, 2014, 4:21 am

    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 May 29, 2014, 6:22 am

    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 Jun 14, 2017, 10:20 pm

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

  • catlin May 29, 2014, 10:51 am

    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?

    • Kris Bordessa May 31, 2014, 10:22 am

      Stay tuned… 😉

    • Rick Jul 5, 2016, 5:35 pm

      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 May 29, 2014, 5:32 pm

    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.

  • joanna n. May 31, 2014, 9:45 am

    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 May 31, 2014, 10:21 am

      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 Dec 13, 2014, 11:26 pm

        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 May 29, 2017, 5:14 am

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

        • Pamellia Smith Jun 14, 2017, 10:23 pm

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

          • Judy Stambaugh May 27, 2019, 7:38 am

            Pamellia, I know some oils are expensive, but when you consider how little of the oil you use in a recipe, how much you can make with it, all the various benefits and different ways you can use a bottle of essential oil, it seems to even out the cost for me.

    • Judy Stambaugh May 27, 2019, 7:43 am

      Please research what oils can and can not be used when pregnant! Many are not recommended if pregnant or try to become prefnant! Safety first!

  • liz May 31, 2014, 3:19 pm

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

    • Kris Bordessa Jun 1, 2014, 8:00 am

      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 May 13, 2015, 2:40 pm

      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 Jun 4, 2014, 7:42 am

    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 Jun 4, 2014, 7:55 am

      Oh, you’ll have to report back!

  • Christi Jun 20, 2014, 5:06 pm

    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 Oct 27, 2014, 1:56 am

    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 Oct 27, 2014, 7:25 am

    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 Nov 1, 2014, 8:18 am

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

  • Tom Apr 15, 2015, 9:32 am

    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 Apr 24, 2015, 8:21 am

      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 Apr 15, 2015, 9:36 am

    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 Apr 24, 2015, 8:19 am

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

      • Judy Stambaugh May 27, 2019, 7:48 am

        And patchouli! I love it! My hubby, not so much! I had it on one day, hubby came home and thought I’d been cleaning! Said I smelled like lysol!

        • Kris Bordessa May 28, 2019, 1:49 pm

          😉 I love patchouli, too.

    • Pamellia Smith Jun 14, 2017, 10:17 pm

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

  • Ani Apr 15, 2015, 10:21 am

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

  • Kim Apr 25, 2015, 5:21 am

    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 May 1, 2015, 4:38 am

    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 May 7, 2015, 6:28 am

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

    • Kris Bordessa May 19, 2015, 9:39 am

      I don’t know. Sorry!

    • Carol Jan 4, 2016, 10:18 am

      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 May 17, 2015, 1:08 pm

    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 May 19, 2015, 9:36 am

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

    • Michele May 1, 2016, 2:53 pm

      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 May 22, 2015, 6:29 am

    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 May 28, 2015, 3:37 am

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

    • Pamellia Smith Jun 14, 2017, 10:36 pm

      Nice recipe, Danielle. I will use this one.

  • Julie Jul 8, 2015, 6:28 am

    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 Jul 11, 2015, 7:34 am

      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 Jan 4, 2016, 10:21 am

      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 Jul 12, 2015, 10:53 am

    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 Mar 28, 2016, 3:58 am

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

    • Kris Bordessa Apr 26, 2016, 7:58 am

      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 May 2, 2016, 2:07 pm

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

  • Lars Sep 10, 2016, 6:54 am

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

    • Kris Bordessa Sep 10, 2016, 7:15 am

      There’s a link in the ingredients list.

  • Lily Jan 14, 2017, 11:37 pm

    This Works Great! Thanks!

  • Cindy Jun 13, 2017, 4:38 pm

    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.

  • Diane Apr 7, 2019, 10:16 am

    If you have koi, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly before feeding the fish or putting your hands in the water. I lost all my koi last summer – all at once – and the only thing I can think of is that there was a tiny amount of spray drift of neem oil from my rose spraying (even though I’m awfully careful about that). Neem oil is generally very safe, but koi and tilapia are sensitive to it.
    I will definitely try this potion this summer, though I’ve found a sprig of lavender rubbed on my exposed skin usually works.

  • Diane Apr 7, 2019, 10:28 am

    Caution with yard sprays! There are some on the market that are natural, organic, safe for mammals birds and fish, but are broad-spectrum pesticides with a fairly long residual (3-4 weeks). These block an invertebrate’s neurotransmitter causing a breakdown of the central nervous system and death. Made of highly concentrated oils of plants like rosemary, thyme, and others, the will kill bees, flies & wasps (including the tiny ones that are beneficial), caterpillars, butterflies, beetles, spiders, as well as mosquitoes and ticks. The labels are, in my opinion, somewhat misleading to the consumer. Before purchasing, or contracting with an applicator, do your research and/or ask about the effects on non-target organisms. Many stores and applicators are playing upon our fear of insect-borne diseases to push these products.

  • Cecile Fusco Apr 22, 2019, 12:46 pm

    Hi Kris. So glad I found you. We have a tiny micro itty bitty homestead in Austin. No amimals, just a veggie garden and a homesteader frame of mind. I’ve made a homemade mosquito repellant for years with essential oils but have never heard of using neem oil. I use it in the garden but never thought to use it on myself! I’m excited to try this. It seems like the mosquitos held off until Easter but yesterday I got my first bites. I just followed you on IG. My tag is @homesteadcrush. Looking forward to all the knowledge you have to share! Happy Homesteading, Cecile

  • Nicola Jul 5, 2019, 3:06 pm

    Where do you source your neem seed oil? I’m usually the one in the crowd that the little suckers seem to seek out first, and sometimes I get some wicked bites, like a huge allergic wheal. But I don’t have any neem oil, nor do I know where to get any.
    The link in your recipe goes to: https://tidd.ly/45fd75a2 , which seems to be a broken link (I got the message: “This site can’t be reached | tidd.ly refused to connect.) but in answer to a comment above (in June 2014) you wrote: “The neem oil I’m using is made locally….” Do you know if ‘your’ local outlet sells out of their area? Or where else I can go to pick some up?

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