For a family in mosquito country, needing to use mosquito repellents throughout the Summer is just a fact of life. The thing is, the main ingredient in the most popular products is DEET, which has recently been called into question as potentially damaging to children’s developing nervous systems — and potentially harmful to adults as well. Yes, there’s evidence to the contrary as well, but is it worth the chance? Anything you put on your skin is immediately absorbed in to the bloodstream. The folks making it known that DEET might be dangerous don’t have a grudge against the DEET makers — they have no reason to make an issue unless the potential for harm was there. Given that, did you know that making your own natural formula is totally easy? And that there’s natural ingredients that have been shown to be 10 times more effective than DEET? You can make gallons at a time if you want! So here’s a primer on making your own effective insect repellent formulas at home, and even how to use these same ingredients to repel the buggers from the space around you as well.
Essential oils, and aromatics in general, have been used throughout the ages to repel mosquitoes and other biting bugs. In all over the counter “natural” formulas, you’ll find one or more essential oils as the “active ingredients”. Making your own formulation is truly easy to do, and can be cost effective if you’re going to go through a significant amount over the year. Making a lotion or spray is as simple as measuring essential oils by the drop into your base, be it an organic cream, or liquid such as witch hazel. One of the coolest thing about making your own is you have the ability to control all the ingredients, and make a completely organic formula if you like!
What you might find especially interesting is that you can use these same oils in an aromatherapy diffuser to repel insects from your living room, or even your bedroom as you sleep. Just set the diffuser on low and fill your room with one of the oils, or a great smelling blend of oils and maybe you (or your kids) won’t have to worry about getting bitten all night.
Ready to make your own formula? First decide whether you’d like a spray or lotion. A spray needs something to “hold” the essential oils in the liquid, otherwise they’ll quickly float to the top ever time they’re mixed. You can use one of the following as your base liquid for a spray: Rubbing alcohol, vodka, or witch hazel are excellent. The general rule of thumb for the concentration is anywhere between 5 and 10% essential oil in the base. So if you’re making 4 ounces of spray, that’s 120 milliliters. Five percent of that is 6 milliliters, which is 120 drops (if you don’t have a measuring pipette). Obviously if you’d like to make a 10% concentration, just double the amount of essential oil — just keep an eye out for any skin irritation.
Some common essential oils to repel mosquitoes are Rose Geranium, Citronella, Lemongrass and Peppermint (for children, use Spearmint). You can blend all these together to make up your 10%, and its likely that a combination of oils will work better than any oil alone. If you do blend the oils, keep the mint at only 1-2%. You only need a tiny bit to make that little “effervescence” the buggers won’t like. Also, Cedarwood is considered helpful, especially in combination with the Geranium, to repel ticks in addition to mosquitoes. Also, interestingly, the latest scientific research indicates that Catnip essential oil is actually the single most potent mosquito repelling essential oil, though it is a good bit more costly that the oils already mentioned. But if you’re looking for the most potent blend, find some catnip to include!
Here’s an example recipe: fill a 4 ounce spray bottle with 1/3rd each vodka, water, and witch hazel. To this add 120 drops Rose Geranium, 80 drops Lemongrass and 20 drops Peppermint. Shake well and apply. You can spray this on the outside of your clothing if you like, and of course, directly on your skin. For children under 12, be sure to substitute Spearmint for Peppermint, and the Peppermint can be to intense for the young ones. You can make precisely the same recipe in a lotion: just find an unscented, preferably organic natural lotion and add this same amount to the lotion base.
These same oils can be used in a diffuser to disperse the oil around your home. A nebulizing diffuser is best, as they output higher concentrations of the oils. As in making the topical formula, Catnip essential oil will probably be most effective — at the same time, you may or may not find your own nose likes Catnip! In this case, concoct your own recipe from the oils already discussed. How much to diffuse? Experiment for your space and your needs — the idea is to use the least amount of essential oil necessary to do the job, so see what works for you and your family.
So, as you see, it’s that easy to make your own totally natural insect repellent formula for your family, and to repel those pesky critters all through the night if you so desire. These essential oils are all readily available online (you may not find Catnip at your local stores), and can be found at low cost in bulk — this can be the best choice for families, where repelling mosquitoes is a full time job this time of year!

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