You had to know the DIY insect repellent post was coming.
In the past, we’ve used DEET, and I’m sure we will again in the future. However for our daily insect repellent, I did some research and found this great study.
I also researched the active ingredients and percentages of them in the most popular brands of essential oil based commercial insect repellents because I figured they have huge R&D departments and budgets and I don’t. Why not see where things overlap between it all?
Lemon Eucalyptus, Citronella, Clove, Cedar, all overlapped. My personal preference for lemongrass, catnip and pennyroyal, as well as mint, geranium, and lavender were documented as being possibly beneficial but not to the level of lemon eucalyptus and citronella. In the end, I used the following recipe:
15 g citronella
15 g lemon eucalyptus
7 g tea tree
7 g lemongrass
7 g clove
5 g cedar
5 g pennyroyal
5 g wintergreen
5 g lavender
5 g geranium
10g catnip extract (alcohol based: catnip essential oil was cost prohibitive while the extract was more affordable so I thought I would try it. If you have catnip essential oil, I would use 5 g).
Equal volume-not weight, but eyeball the volume-of red turkey oil as essential oils (optional: its purpose is to evenly disperse oils into alcohol and water. Without it, be sure to shake very well before each use.)
25 g 90% rubbing alcohol, high proof ethanol (Bicardi 151, Ever clear, moonshine) or for sensitive skin, use witch hazel. See note about preservatives!
190 g distilled water
2 g broad spectrum preservative
Why do I use preservatives? Because otherwise there could be moldy water before this is all used up and that’s gross. I don’t see to spray my kids with moldy water. I use a preservative that is paraben free and has an excellent EWG safety rating (name brand Optiphen). If you choose to forgo the preservative please consider making sure you go with a greater ratio of high proof alcohol to water (maybe 50/50), and skip using witch hazel, to extend the shelf life. Also consider storing in your fridge and check often for mold or weird odors.
I’ve used this once and gotten great results but I’m a horrible test subject as insects rarely bite me. I need to douse the hubs and kids in it now that we’ve had so much rain, because the mosquitoes will certainly be following soon.
There are warnings not to use lemon eucalyptus on children under age 3 but I have been unable to find any “why” or lists of substantial risks associated with the use. In addition, pennyroyal is very toxic if ingested. As a result, we will be exceptionally cautious when using this spray on the baby and making sure she doesn’t ingest it on her hands or skin, or on a toy or article of clothing. You have to decide what’s more toxic: the essential oil or the DEET, over long periods of time. Which builds up in the body. Which has been studied. I’m sure there will be situations where we use DEET (it’s convenient to mix a few drops of 100% DEET into sun block for outdoor sunny events where mosquitoes or ticks are present).
You have the burden of researching the different essential oils and their potential risks. Most of them are generally regarded as safe, but not all are considered safe by all experts for children and infants so you have to decide if protection against ticks and mosquitoes is worth any potential risk, if you’re willing to spray just their clothing, etc. If DEET is a better answer.
Make educated decisions.