When I first moved to the Sunshine State, I was excited about the temperate weather all year long. Spending time outdoors under the Florida sun is a great way to relax and enjoy most afternoons.
Unfortunately, it’s not only us who enjoy this weather. Mosquitoes thrive in our climate and we all know how a swarm of these pesky bugs can send us running in our homes. Good thing that there are many ways you can get rid of these mosquitoes and one of the most popular methods is using a DEET-based chemical repellent.
But not everyone wants to use DEET products since it has the potential to harm their health and the environment. That’s why some people opt for natural methods. Aside from being safer for you and your surroundings, it is also inexpensive to make.
Continue reading to find out if they really work, what ingredients mosquitoes hate, and learn how to create natural mosquito repellents.
Do natural repellents really work?
Yes...but it depends.
Entomologist Water Leal of the University of California, Davis mentioned that natural mosquito repellents work but there is one major problem. This type of repellent doesn’t last long enough. It doesn’t have a complete protection time, meaning it only works for a short period.
Compared to DEET, which is a common chemical found in the most effective repellents, DEET products will work effectively and for a longer time. It’s great at repelling mosquitoes as this chemical prevents them from smelling our breath and sweat, which is attractive to these pesky bugs.
So if you don’t reapply natural mosquito produce frequently, then it won’t be effective. But the good news is that if you will only be outside for a short time, you can use citronella repellent and other natural products with citral, eugenol, geraniol, and linalool. If you will stay outdoors for more than one hour, then you should opt for a DEET product.
Another time you should apply DEET products is when you’re visiting a place or country that contains mosquitoes carrying any disease. This means if there’s a high risk of contracting mosquito-borne diseases like West Nile Virus and Zika, it’s best to use DEET mosquito repellents.
But if you’re going to relax outdoors, go on a camping trip, or take a hike, then you can use natural mosquito repellents - as long as you re-apply often! It’s also safer for those who are sensitive to chemicals found in some products.
Note: You will probably need to experiment with natural mosquito repellents that will work best against the species found in your home as the effectiveness of certain ingredients varies between species.
Natural ingredients that mosquitoes hate
There are some chemicals found in bug sprays that can get rid of mosquitoes, but unfortunately, natural ingredients won’t be effective in this area. We may not be able to kill mosquitoes using chemical-free products but we can repel them with these natural ingredients:
You’re probably already familiar with this ingredient as it is one of the most commonly found ingredients in natural mosquito repellents. When mixed with herbs, this essential oil is effective against mosquitoes. If it is not formulated correctly, it won’t be effective as it will evaporate quickly. You will need the right formulation for this to be as effective as DEET and provide protection for up to two hours. You may also use citronella candles but they only offer 50% protection.
This an ingredient derived from plant oils like lemongrass, rose, and citronella. It is a type of alcohol also used to add flavor and fragrance. It is an effective mosquito repellent but it depends on the species. Unlike other natural ingredients, this one should be avoided by people with sensitive skin and kept away the eyes as it may cause skin and eye irritation.
If you happen to have lavender flowers, crushing these will produce a fragrance that mosquitoes hate. One study shows adult mosquitoes didn’t feast on hairless mice that have lavender oil on them. This also shows that even the product is safe to use for animals. It’s also great for calming and soothing the skin since lavender has antifungal, antiseptic, and analgesic properties.
Tea Tree Oil
Also called melaleuca oil, this is a popular ingredient that originated from Australia. Similar to lavender, it also has antiseptic qualities, as well as anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial. Recently, they found that tea tree oil can also be used to repel mosquitoes. It is also effective against biting midges and bush flies.
Lemon Eucalyptus Oil
This one is a popular ingredient found in natural mosquito repellents and has been used since the 1940s. It contains an active ingredient called Menthoglycol, which is comparable to the effectiveness of DEET. Despite the name, this is not a blend of eucalyptus oil and lemon but an ingredient extracted from the Corymbia citriodora tree.
Lemon eucalyptus oil is also considered effective by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A study shows that a repellent containing 32% of this ingredient provides more than 95% protection for three hours.
You don’t have to look for this ingredient because chances are, you have cinnamon in your home. Who doesn’t love to top their desserts or snacks with cinnamon? Mosquitoes, specifically Asian tiger mosquitoes, hate this ingredient. There was also a Taiwanese study that shows cinnamon oil can be used to kill mosquito eggs. It’s time to kill these pests at the source!
Another effective ingredient against mosquitoes, even malarial ones, is thyme oil. One study shows that after applying 5% of this ingredient on hairless mice, it resulted in a 91% protection rate. Aside from a direct application on the skin, you can also burn thyme leaves as it can provide 85% protection for an hour up to an hour and a half.
If you know the organic insect repeller Bite Blocker For Kids, this product contains 2% soybean oil. Based on a study from the University of Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory, repellents containing soybean oil can protect us from mosquitoes for a long time.
Greek Catnip Oil
Mint is great at warding off mosquitoes. One member of the mint family that is effective at repelling is Nepeta parnassica, the source of greek catnip oil. This white and pink flower is related to catnip and can grow up to 18 inches. To make use of it, you need to extract the oil from its bruised leaves. Research shows that this oil is effective against mosquitoes for two to three hours. There’s also a study conducted by researchers at Iowa State University who found that catnip is 10 times more effective than DEET.
This natural ingredient can also be used to repel but the results aren’t consistent. One study showed that it only provided 70% protection for three hours in Ethiopia. Mosquito repellents with neem oil aren’t approved to be used on the skin as it may cause irritation.
Before using natural mosquito repellents:
Creating natural mosquito repellents
After understanding the capabilities of natural mosquito repellents and the ingredients you can use to repel mosquitoes, here are some bug sprays you can create to protect yourself from these pests.
Lavender, Citronella, and Lemongrass
What you will need:
Step 1. Add 1/3 cup of Witch Hazel to the 4 oz spray bottle.
Step 2. Add 5 drops of Lemongrass, 5 drops of Lavender, and 5 drops of Citronella.
Note: Since there are no chemical binders, the ingredient may separate. Shake well before applying on your skin and clothes.
Lemon Eucalyptus Oil and Vanilla
What you will need:
Step 1. Add 30 drops of Lemon Eucalyptus Oil.
Step 2. Mix in 1 teaspoon of Vanilla Extract but it’s optional. This will help blend the oil and water as well as make it more fragrant.
Step 3. Add 4 ounces of witch hazel (or rubbing alcohol, cooking oil, vodka, whichever you prefer).
Step 4. Blend it well that there are only a few bits of oil floating on top. The color looks similar to thin gravy.
Step 5. Shape the foil into a small funnel to transfer the mixture into a spray bottle.
Essential Oils Bugspray
What you will need:
Step 1. Fill the glass spray bottle with about 90% of water.
Step 2. Add 10 drops of Lemon Eucalyptus Oil.
Step 3. Mix in 5 drops of Lavender Essential Oil or Tea Tree Oil.
Similar to Step 1 above.
Step 2. Add 15 drops of Lemon Eucalyptus Oil.
Step 3. Add 5 drops of Lemon, Lemongrass, or Citronella.
Note: If the mixture settles, the oil will float on top. Shake well before spraying.
Citronella, Tea Tree Oil, and Lemongrass
What you will need:
Step 1. Pour the Witch Hazel into the large container.
Step 2. Add 15 drops of Citronella and 15 drops of Lemongrass.
Step 3. Mix 10 to 12 drops of Tea Tree Oil.
Step 4. Close the lid of the large container and shake until it becomes cloudy.
Step 5. Transfer the mixture using the funnel into the spray bottle.
Note: Store the large container with the mixture in a cool, dry place.
Neem Seed Oil and Citronella
What you will need:
Step 1. Mix 2 tablespoons of Neem Seem Oil, 1 tablespoon of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and 10 to 15 drops of Citronella Essential Oil in an eyedropper top bottle.
Step 2. Add 1 tablespoon of Coconut Oil but you may need to melt this ingredient, if necessary.
Bonus: 2-Ingredient Spray - Fresh Parsley and Apple Cider Vinegar
What you will need:
Step 1. Place 1 teaspoon of Fresh Parsley and 4 ounces of Apple Cider Vinegar in the mortar.
Step 2. Macerate the Fresh Parsley into the Apple Cider Vinegar using the pestle.
Step 3. Let the mixture sit for an hour or overnight if possible.
Step 4. Transfer the contents into a different container through a strainer.
Step 5. Fill the spray bottle with the liquid mixture.
Note: It won’t smell like vinegar when it dries on your skin.