Inexpensive, Effective, Mosquito Repellents

After having been bit by mosquitoes far too many times, I am always searching for an inexpensive, effective, and ecology-friendly mosquito repellent. Most of the time, there isn’t much of a problem where I live with mosquitoes, but at certain times of the year, the mosquitoes come out in full force. After conducting many homemade repellent tests, I have found several that work well. As with practically every household item, natural insect repellents can be made inexpensively and naturally at home.

Note: As humans can be allergic to a wide variety of natural substances, these repellents should be tested on a small area of skin before applying to larger areas of the body. If you begin to see any redness, swelling or other irritation, wash the area with soap and water immediately. If the irritation continues you should see a doctor immediately. Also, do not apply or spray into or near your eyes. And of course, do not touch your eyes with your hand or fingers that have the concoction on them.

Warning about Deet Products

One of the most widely used ingredients in store-bought conventional bug sprays for personal use is N,N-Diethyl-m-toluamide, or DEET, as it’s commonly known. DEET, which is designed to repel, rather than kill, insects. DEET is used by an estimated one-third of the world population each year.

Although DEET is approved by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), it is a known eye irritant and can cause rashes, soreness, or blistering when applied to the skin. Additionally, DEET has been linked to neurological problems; according to the EPA, at least 18 different cases of children suffering adverse neurological effects, as well as the deaths of two adults, have been associated with DEET. Researchers at Duke University Medical Center have found that DEET causes diffuse brain cell death and behavioral changes in rats.

DEET has been shown to have a negative impact on wildlife and water sources in production and during use. DEET is toxic to birds and aquatic life.

Garden Plants

If you prefer to not use a spray or topical ointment on your skin or clothing, you may want to consider planting insect repelling herbs in your yard. You can grow lavender, thyme, mint and citronella near your garden terrace as mosquito repellents.

Mosquito Repelling Plants

BasilOcimum americanum – has essential oils that can be extracted and used as a spray to repel mosquitoes. It has also been an effective repellent when grown nearby.

Bee BalmMonarda – is a beautiful flowering plant that attracts hummingbirds and, of course, bees. It is also very effective used as a mosquito repellent, when allowing the fragrant oils to be released when the leaves are crushed.

Cadaga TreeEucalyptus torelliana – can repel mosquitoes simply by being planted in an area where mosquitoes are not wanted. The scent from the tree acts as a barrier to repel mosquitoes.

CatmintNepeta faassenii – is very effective at keeping mosquitoes away. It is even better than commercial bug sprays at keeping the pests away. Simply, cut off the flowers and boil them to make a spray.

CatnipNepeta cataria – is an effective mosquito repellent. One of its main active ingredients, nepetalactone, was found to be 10X stronger than even DEET in a recent study. It is a good non-toxic alternative to traditional chemical sprays.

CedarsThuja species – Many repellent products contain cedar oil as one of its active ingredients to repel mosquitoes as well as other insect pests.

Citronella GrassCymbopogon nardus – is a plant which, when crushed, releases an oil. This oil can be placed directly on the skin to act as a mosquito repellent, or mixed with other oils and liquids to make repellants.

CloveSyzygium aromaticum – a natural mosquito repellent plant you can use as a planting around the yard or use the oil from the clove to repel mosquitoes quickly.

Floss FlowerAgeratum – Coumarin, which is secreted by ageratum, is found extensively in the manufacture mosquito repellents. Mosquitoes find the odor offensive. Growing well in partial or full sun with requiring rich soil.

Garlic – Allium sativum – is a natural way to repel mosquitoes. One way to use it is to cut up garlic and sprinkle it around your outdoor living areas. A yard spray can also be made. Garlic can even be mixed with natural aromatic oils in order to create a mosquito repelling body spray.

LavenderLavandula angustifolia – Even though lavender is a smell often enjoyed by humans, lavender repels mosquitoes because mosquitoes dislike the scent lavender gives off. It can be planted in gardens or made into oil and applied to the skin or mixed with other oils to keep mosquitoes away.

Lemon BalmMelissa officinalis – Lemon balm is a herb in the mint family that has a variety of uses like in flavoring in herbal teas. Make a quick mosquito repellent, by crushing a handful of leaves and rubbing on your exposed skin. Grow them in the garden for easy access when you need them.

Lemon GrassCymbopogon citrates – containing citronella, a natural oil that repels mosquitoes. Lemon grass is used in Southeast Asia to flavor things such as chicken. In India, it is used as an anti-inflammatory medicine. Lemongrass has a wonderful aroma so that it is often used in perfumes and other toiletries.

Lemon Scented GeraniumPelargonium crispum – can be added to your landscape to allow you access to a natural mosquito repellent. When the leaves are crushed, they emit a strong lemony smell. The crushed leaves can be spread around your living area to keep mosquitoes at bay.

Lemon Thyme – Thymus vulgaris – repels mosquitoes naturally. Mosquitoes tend to hate their citrus smell. Crush a few parts of this plant and rub on the body to keep these harmful bugs away. Make sure that your skin can tolerate the oil before applying to larger areas of the body.

Lemon VerbenaAloysia triphylla – can be planted in your garden, doorways, and windows in order to repel mosquitoes. It has an aromatic, fresh lemon scent. The plant’s oils can also be applied to the body to ward off bugs.

Mexican MarigoldTagetes lucida – the scent of marigolds is offensive to most people and mosquitoes. You can grow it in your yard or cut the flowers off and keep them around the house to keep mosquitoes from visiting.

Eucalyptus – Natural oil from the eucalyptus tree repels insects such as mosquitoes, sandflies, ticks, midges, stable flies and more. Formulas are made to be gentle to the skin.

Nodding OnionAllium cernuum – Juices can be extracted from allium cernuum via grinding or blending. This juice is highly proficient in repelling mosquitoes and can be directly applied on to the skin. The allium cernuum is not an irritant and is not known for any sort of reaction.

MintMentha – usually grown in gardens to flavor tea. However, mint also repels mosquitoes and you can make your own repellent with mint! All species of mint, both wild and cultivated, contain aromatic properties repulsive to insects.

Pineapple weed – Matricaria matricarioides – the aroma of pineapple. The weed can be dried or used fresh to prepare an interesting tea. Matricaria matricariodes’ buds can be used to add an interesting twist to salads.

Pitcher Plant – Nepenthes alata – it is actually a carnivorous plant that is similar to a Venus Fly Trap. Except this little beauty gobbles up mosquitoes. Simply, plant this in your yard and watch it work.

WormwoodArtemisia – strong but natural way to ward away mosquitoes. Crush up wormwood leaves and distribute around your outdoor living ways in order to effectively keep these nasty insects away.

RosemaryRosmarinus officinalis – can be planted in your garden in order to control mosquito infestation. It can also be mixed into various formulas and lotions to act as a mosquito repellent for the body.

Snowbrush – Ceonothus velutinus – is a plant that can be used in your landscape in order to keep mosquitoes away but considered a weed in most areas.

Sweet FernComptonia peregrina – is a natural herb that has many uses. To fight mosquitoes away you can place some Sweetfern into a fire to keep the little bugs away from the fire and the surrounding area. Also can be used as an essential oil spray.

TansyTanacetum vulgare – used for a variety of health problems, as it helps increase blood and saliva flow. Tansy can be used as a bug repellent around your home.

Tea TreeMelaleuca – Tea Tree oil has been used for a variety of issues but the number one is that most insects do not like the scent and turn away. It is great and natural! But toxic, so be careful.

Vanilla LeafAchlys triphylla – used by native tribes as an insect repellant. First crush and apply by rubbing mosquito-repellent plants like vanilla leaf on your skin.

Wild BergamotMondarda fistulosa – can be used to repel mosquitoes but it must first be diluted with water because the plant itself can irritate the skin. Also you should test the plant on your skin in small amounts first to test for allergic reactions.

Stone rootCollinsonia canadensis – a tall plant that is similar to mint, in fact it is in the same family. It is easy to grow and can be made into a mosquito repellent when crushed and boiled.

EPA Suggested Mosquito Repellent

I found this one online at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and like you probably will be, I was shocked that the repellent was readily available in my home, and I had been throwing it out with the garbage. The answer was simply coffee grounds.

That’s right, according to the EPA, dry coffee grounds make an inexpensive, effective and eco-friendly mosquito repellent. As it turns out, studies have shown that mosquitoes and other insects dislike the smell of dried coffee grounds. And, if you do not drink coffee, you can get the used grounds free from any local coffee shop for the asking.

Here is what the EPA recommends for using coffee grounds as a mosquito and insect repellent:

  1. Collect old coffee grounds and put them in a dry, dark area until they are completely dry.
  2. Once dry, place a candle wick in the center of can or candle holder, and pack the coffee grounds around the wick.
  3. Light the wick, which will allow the coffee grounds to burn and smoke, which will repel mosquitoes and insects.

You can also use coffee grounds to keep bugs away from your plants. Simply sprinkle coffee grounds around the ground at the bottom of your plants to keep many of the bugs from moving up into the plant. Coffee grounds sprinkled outside of your house will help keep bugs from coming inside.

Skin Ointments

1. Essential Oils

Essential oils such as Lavender, Tea tree oil and Citronella from the stone root, Collinsonia canadensis can be worn by most people directly on the skin and in hair to effectively keep mosquitoes away. It is best to dilute these powerful essential oils in a little olive oil.

Pennyroyal has also been used throughout history to repel insects. However, the oil of Pennyroyal is extremely toxic and should only be used by certified herbalist.

2. Southern Mexico Mosquito Repellent

In the warmer tropical parts of Mexico the mosquitoes can be particularly annoying, especially since more of the body is exposed to keep cooler. In Oaxaca, I ran across this easily made mosquito repellent. I was spending the night in a very small village and sought a room in a private home as there were no hotels. As I was preparing for bed, there was knock on the door and I was greeted by the grandmother who must have been close to 100 years old. She handed me a small vial of a milky liquid and told me to shake it well and then rub into on my skin to avoid the mosquitoes.  Although the room was full of them when I turned out the light, I enjoyed a night without one mosquito bite.

At breakfast the next morning, I asked what was in the bottle. I was told it contained mescal and peppermint I asked about the use of mescal and the grandmother explained that sometimes when the money was available they would use rubbing alcohol, but since mescal was made by many in the village it was basically free. The mescal served as a base, while the active ingredient was the peppermint. The mix was 10 parts of mescal to 4 parts peppermint.

I have since adapted the repellent using rubbing alcohol as it is less expensive than mescal and the next morning I don’t smell like I spent the night in cantina. For larger amounts I use 10 parts of rubbing alcohol to 4 parts of peppermint oil and 1 part of vitamin E oil, and then I add 1 part of vitamin E oil to counter the alcohol on my skin. It works great for repelling mosquitoes.

3. Chomomile and Elder

If insects such as mosquitoes have already become a problem many herbs can be used directly on the skin as repellents. Infusions of 50% Chomomile and 50% Elder leaves dubbed on skin are effective for up to 20 minutes. Infusions are much like making tea, boiling water is poured over the herb and the herb/water mixture is then left to steep for 10 to 15 minutes. The remaining liquid is strained and used as the repellent.

4. Lavender and Geranium Oil

This one came from a gardener who has a vast amount of lavender and geraniums growing in his garden terrace and swore that he doesn’t have any problems with mosquitoes on his terrace, but they are in abundance if you step off of the terrace.

Since both lavender oil and geranium oil are readily available and inexpensive. I mixed the two together in equal amounts and after rubbing the concoction on my arms and neck went to sit on the terrace. Sure enough, they landed and bit through my socks, but never bit my arms or neck.

There is a nice smell, and there is an oily substance on the skin which is not too bad, all things considered.

5. Listerine, Witch Hazel and Tea Tree Oil

The mix is 500ml of Listerine, 500 ml of Witch Hazel and 1 tablespoon of Tea Tree Oil. One ingredient of Listerine is eucalyptol, a derivative of eucalyptus oil, which in turn is commonly used in botanical insect repellents. According to various clinical studies it actually does repel mosquitoes. The Tea Tree Oil is often used for taking the sting out of mosquito bites.

An astringent lotion made from the bark and leaves of Witch Hazel has been used for thousands of years as a topical ointment and even taken by mouth for internal health problems. Witch Hazel contains tannins, which have many uses when applied directly to the skin. The tannins help reduce swelling, itching, insect bites, pain and swelling (inflammation), and help repair other skin injuries.

Place the three ingredients in a large spray bottle and shake well to mix thoroughly. The trick here is to apply the concoction quite liberally to your clothing and skin. If you only spray lightly the concoction will not be effective for longer than 10 or 20 minutes. The concoction will dry on your skin, but will still be effective for a few hours, at which time you can reapply.

6. Non-Toxic Mosquito Repellent

This recipe provides a safe, non-toxic mosquito repellent made with easy to find ingredients. Mix 1/4 cup of witch hazel, two dollops of aloe vera, four drops of tea tree oil, 4 drops of eucaliptus oil, 4 drops of Geranium Rose oil and 1/3 cup of water to dilute. Stir until all ingredients are combined. There is a pleasant pine scent to the mixture. You can either rub the mixture onto your exposed skin, or place in a spray bottle and spray your body and clothing with mixture. It works quite well to repel mosquitoes and other insects.

7. Indian Mosquito Repellent

I learned of this mosquito repellent while spending several months in the south of India. I noted that most people had a coconut scent and asked a native friend about this. He explained that coconut oil was the base ingredient of a popular native mosquito repellent. The next day, he brought me a liter of the spray and I used it. It worked extremely well and I continue to use it when I travel to India.

The active ingredient is Neem Oil, which is not available in some parts of the world, but can be ordered from most Indian stores or online. Neem oil is very effective as a home remedy for mosquitoes. This homemade mosquito repellent does not have any skin irritants and can be used by both children and adults. This homemade mosquito repellent has been proven to be very effective in a research done by the Malaria Research Center of India.

Mix 100 ml of coconut oil, 1 teaspoon of Neem Oil, and add 10 drops of an essential oil to alter the scent somewhat. I prefer peppermint, however Citronella, Lavender, Cloves or Eucalyptus essential oil or almost any essential oil will work. Place in a small bottle with a mister and carry with you until needed. If you make large amounts you should refrigerate until needed. It will last for several months when refrigerated.

Another friend who travels to northern India told me about a different version which uses 100 ml of Vegetable Glycerin as the base, with a teaspoon of Neem Oil, to which a few drops of Tea Tree Oil, and Geranium Oil are added. Different scent, but works just as well.

8. ESSBL Repellent

The ELB stands for Epson Salts, Stale Beer and Listerine, which has been wide used worldwide as an effective mosquito repellent. The three ingredients are mixed in equal amounts and placed in a garden sprayer, which is used to wet everything in the garden. It does not seem to harm flowers, bushes, trees, or grass. In fact, Epson Salts contain magnesium which is acts as a fertilizer that is healthy for plants. While it is not harmful to the garden plants it does a great job of repelling mosquitoes and other insects.

A single heavy application can last the entire mosquito season or until it rains, which will rinse the concoction away. And, before you ask, any beer will do the trick.

9. Fresh Parsley and Apple Cider Vinegar

To make a small amount of this repellent, place 1 teaspoon of fresh or dried Parsley and 4 ounces of Apple Cider Vinegar into a mortar and pestle, which is enough to fill a small 4-ounce spray bottle. Use the pestle to macerate the Parsley into the Apple Cider Vinegar. When complete mixed, let set overnight to infuse the ingredients. Next, pour the mixture through a strainer to remove any parsley that was not macerated.

If you want to make larger amounts, you can put 32 teaspoons of Parsley (there are 128 ounces in a U.S. gallon) into a gallon jar and then fill with the remainder with Apple Cider Vinegar. You will not need to macerate the parsley as the infusion process will be longer. Place this in the refrigerator and after 24 hours, you can strain off small amounts as needed for your use.

It does not have a vinegar smell once it drys on the skin. You can spray this onto your hair and on your skin. If fact it is quite beneficial to your skin other than being a great mosquito repellent. If you wish you can add an essential oil, such as Peppermint as a scent. Do not use a citrus oil as this can be harmful to your skin in the sunlight and may even blister it.

Itch Relief

In the event mosquitoes were not repelled effectively and you are bitten, many herbs can be used to relieve the itching from bites. Wash insect bites with a Tea tree oil based soap and rinse with witch hazel. Next, dab freshly washed bites and lemon juice or cider vinegar. Before bedtime, apply lavender oil or cinnamon oil by rubbing on the affected area. As well as helping repel mosquitoes these oils also take away itching from bites.

About G. William Hood

G. William Hood is a writer, fine arts painter, educator and world traveler. He lives in Cuernavaca with his pet cockatiel, Pepe.
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