Victoria is a stay-at-home mom, author, educator, and blogger at Healthy at Home. She currently lives in Colorado with her family.
With so many bug spray options at the grocery store, and so many bugs to protect yourself and your little ones from, how do you know which one to choose? Unfortunately, you have dangerous chemicals, harmful toxins and more bad options to choose from. There aren’t too many healthy, natural bug spray options that you don’t have to worry about what they are doing to your system once they get absorbed into your skin.
Of course they work great on killing bugs, but what does that mean for you and your skin? And unfortunately they all also smell really bad and leave some kind of sticky or oily residue on your skin. I always felt gross when applying bug spray to my skin, and knew I was going to need a really good shower when I got home. It was hardly worth the way you were going to smell after applying it. I was almost willing to put up with the big bites.
Then I had kids, and it wasn’t just me that I needed to worry about anymore. I’m so careful about what I feed my kids and put into their little systems, that I just couldn’t spray that awful stuff all over them. The natural solutions that I found at Sprouts still stunk and made my skin feel the same way. Even worse, I didn’t feel like the spray even worked all that well, regardless of if it was natural or not.
But nature is full of all sorts of wonderful bug repellents that we simply have to reach out and take advantage of. And it’s so easy and inexpensive to create your own bug spray; you’ll wonder why you never thought of it before. Many homemade bug spray recipes are complicated and include so many ingredients that you don’t even know where you would find; it’s easy to assume that bug spray is just bad and you have to deal with it. Never again!!
I’m going to give you some super, ridiculously easy bug spray options that you can make at home, and you’ll never again have to spend big money on the toxic ones at the store that don’t work and make you smell and feel awful. Now it’s your turn!
Apple Cider Vinegar and Herbs
Apple cider vinegar has a variety of benefits for your skin, hair, and body. This is one of those all-around ingredients that can be used for just about any need you may have. Acne? Apple cider vinegar, mixed with some water is great for drying up acne and minimizing the pores on your face. Dandruff? An apple cider rinse in the shower is an anti-fungal and can not only clear up your dandruff but can work to help prevent it from coming back.
This will get rid of the itch from bug bites, provide relief for sunburned skin and will even restore your skin to its former beauty if used in a bathtub of warm water. Apple cider vinegar can even reduce the oiliness on your face, help to reduce wrinkles and protect your skin from any future damage if used every day. This makes it a great base for bug spray, and safe for every member of your family. Just make sure not to get it into your eyes. Did I just give you a bug spray that’s going to improve your skin and get rid of wrinkles?!
- 28oz organic apple cider vinegar
- 8-10 tablespoons dried herbs (See below for natural insect repelling herbs)
- You can either dump 4oz out of a big 32oz bottle (and use it in your Sloppy Joe recipe) and add your various herbs straight into the big bottle, or you can add your herbs to a couple of 16oz jars and fill each to the brim with apple cider vinegar.
- I’ve tried both methods, and the two 16oz jars just seem easier. There are plenty of ways to use apple cider vinegar that the remainder won’t go to waste, or you can simply use a third jar.
- You’ll want to let your apple cider bug spray steep in a sunny window for 2-3 weeks, shaking every day.
- When you’re ready to use it, mix it half and half with water in a spray bottle.
- It can be sprayed directly on your skin. It will be strong smelling at first, but the smell will dissipate quickly.
Witch Hazel and Herbs
Witch hazel has tons of beneficial properties itself as well. Used in many health and beauty products, it is “known to help speed healing, prevent signs of aging, stop cellular damage that can lead to skin cancer and eradicate bacteria that lives within the pores of the skin.” Witch hazel is a well-known anti-oxidant, astringent and anti-inflammatory that simply grows as a plant. This makes it one of those items, like apple cider vinegar, that you could also make at home on your own. You just need a witch hazel plant, and then no more buying it from the store.
Also like apple cider vinegar, it can help relieve sunburns, relieve the itchiness from bug bites, soothe dry or cracked skin and get rid of acne. It can also soothe razor burn and speed the recovery of bruises on your body. You simply can’t go wrong using witch hazel in your bug spray recipe, not only to give your bug spray a great base, but for all of the benefits it has for your skin.
- 1 cup boiling water
- 3-4 tablespoons dried herbs (See below for natural insect repelling herbs)
- 1 cup witch hazel
- Boil 1 cup of water with your choice of dried herbs from below for about 5 minutes.
- Take off the stove, cover and let cool down naturally.
- Add 1 cup witch hazel and store in sealed spray bottles.
You may strain out the herbs if you’d like, but I enjoy leaving them in the bottles. I found my 8oz spray bottles online for cheap, but you can easily find them at Walmart or Target. The other ingredients can be found at the same place, but I preferred to get my witch hazel and initial herbs from Sprouts for the better quality and lack of pesticides.
I have also planted my own herbs in the back yard to use for cooking and homemade cleaning, bath and household recipes as well. This way I can be assured to have inexpensive, healthy herbs without chemicals anytime I want right from my back yard.
Water and Vanilla Extract
You’d be really surprised at the various benefits of all of these herbs and other natural substances that can be made with plants. This is how people used to care for their bodies before all of these chemical, man-made beauty treatments came into existence. Natural vanilla is also an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-bacterial. “Vanilla also contains B vitamins, including niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B6, and pantothenic acid. All of which help to maintain healthy looking skin.”
You can definitely make vanilla extract at home, and I do, but the vanilla beans can be pricey, and the cheap vanilla at the grocery store is mostly chemicals. So this one is definitely easy to make and will make you smell great, but I would use it sparingly.
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon water (or witch hazel)
- Mix together in a small container.
- Apply often with a cotton ball.
Apple Cider Vinegar, Witch Hazel and Herbs
I think it’s obvious that if these ingredients work in the other recipes separately, they would work well together. The sheer variety of herbs that can be used for repelling insects is large. See Below a great listing of all available herbs to use for this purpose.
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup witch hazel
- 2 tablespoons of your favorite bug repelling herbs
- Mix ingredients together and let steep in a sunny window for 2-3 weeks, shaking often.
- When ready to use, pour into a spray bottle (straining the herbs is optional), and spray all over your body.
Beneficial Herbs for Bug Repellent
By just growing a variety of these herbs in your backyard, you can keep most insects far, far away from your home and outdoor lounging areas and won’t need bug spray. Then you have some fantastic herbs to also use in your homemade concoctions for when you're away from home. Many of these are even great in your recipes. That’s more than a double whammy!
By taking advantage of some of these great herbs in your home, you get the health benefits, you keep bugs away in and out of your home and off your body, and many of them taste great as well. Let’s look at what some of these are.
- Rose geraniums repel ticks and are great for keeping bugs away from your vegetables too!
- Lavender repels moths, mosquitoes, fleas, and biting flies. It’s also great for making your house smell good, making a great sleepytime tea, and as an ingredient in a variety of homemade recipes.
- Citronella repels mosquitoes, biting flies, no-see-ums, and gnats. This great plant is 10x as strong as the citronella candles or sprays that you can buy from the store.
- Thyme repels mosquitoes and tastes great on fish and pork. I use this herb in many of my Italian dishes as well.
- Cedarwood repels ticks and is great for making your house smell amazing.
- Eucalyptus repels all biting and stinging bugs. It’s also great for preventing illness if ingested.
- Peppermint repels ants and mosquitoes. It also tastes great in brownies, fudge, and hot cocoa.
- Basil repels mosquitoes and biting flies. Plant bushes of it right outside your door for a wonderful welcoming smell and easy access to lots of yummy basil for your pasta sauce.
- Cloves repel mosquitoes and make a great scent for your home or flavor in your pumpkin dishes.
This is only the beginning of the vast array of herbs at your disposal. For your recipes just find what you have in the pantry. I used basil, thyme, rosemary, sage, and mint in mine because that’s what I had on hand. There’s no need to go out and buy a bunch of expensive herbs. You can use dried herbs or fresh. Just make sure to use herbs from the mint family for the best results.
Have fun and good luck!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2018 Victoria Van Ness
Victoria Van Ness (author) from Fountain, CO on August 27, 2018:
I'm glad you like it Dianna. I love getting to use my own homemade items. It's very satisfying, and I find, much more efficient.
Dianna Mendez on August 22, 2018:
I have never thought of making my own bug spray. I used to buy a natural House & Garden spray but it seems it's off the market now. Your suggestions are simple. I will be making a few for use. Thank you.
Victoria Van Ness (author) from Fountain, CO on July 31, 2018:
No kidding. Hope to hear from you when you get back. :)
Victoria Van Ness (author) from Fountain, CO on July 31, 2018:
:) I love making all of my own products. And I love even more that my children are making them with me! They are learning that you don't need store-bought items filled with chemicals. Good luck!!
Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on July 31, 2018:
Far out. Down here in the desert flying biting creatures are really rare. Isn't that weird? I am going to run this by my doc and see if he will sign off for trips to Vietnam where bites can literally be fatal.
I might just need to buy a whole case of Braggs ACV.
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on July 31, 2018:
Wow! I never considered making my own bug spray. You have researched this very well. I seldom use bug spray, and the fly swatter has been my line of defense. i am going to study your suggestions again