Natural Mosquito Repellents: Safe & Effective Solutions to Enjoy a Bite-Free Summer

June 10, 2024

Traditional chemical-based repellents can be effective, but many people are seeking natural alternatives to keep mosquitoes at bay.


Natural mosquito repellents

Summer is a time for outdoor adventures, picnics, and enjoying the warm weather. However, one unwelcome guest that often crashes the party is the pesky mosquito. These tiny insects can quickly turn a pleasant evening into an itchy nightmare. Fortunately, nature provides a wealth of options for creating safe, eco-friendly mosquito repellents that can help you enjoy the great outdoors without the constant swatting and scratching.

We'll explore the science behind why certain natural ingredients repel mosquitoes, provide DIY recipes for making your own repellents, and discuss how to incorporate mosquito-repellent plants into your garden. Whether you're looking for a temporary solution for a weekend camping trip or a long-term strategy for mosquito control, this guide will equip you with knowledge and options.

The Science Behind Natural Mosquito Repellents

Understanding How Natural Repellents Work

Natural mosquito repellents leverage the power of plant-derived compounds to deter mosquitoes. Key ingredients like citronella, eucalyptus, and clove oil contain active compounds such as eugenol, eucalyptol, and citronellal. These compounds are believed to interfere with the olfactory receptors of mosquitoes, making it difficult for them to locate their target. Recent studies have shown that citronellal can activate olfactory neurons in mosquitoes with high potency, directly influencing their behavior and making them less likely to bite.

The Difference Between Chemical and Natural Repellents

  • Safety and Accessibility: Natural repellents are often considered safer and more environmentally friendly than their chemical counterparts. They are derived from readily available plant sources and are less likely to cause adverse effects on human health and the environment.
  • Mechanism of Action: Natural ingredients tend to have a more direct impact, activating specific channels that deter mosquitoes. This difference in action highlights the unique way natural repellents work.
  • Duration of Effectiveness: Natural repellents generally have a shorter efficacy period. This necessitates more frequent application when relying solely on natural solutions for mosquito control.

Effectiveness of Natural Ingredients Against Mosquitoes

The effectiveness of natural mosquito repellents can vary significantly based on the concentration and blend of ingredients. For instance, a 10% emulsion of clove oil or cinnamon oil has been shown to offer protection from mosquito bites and tick crossings for more than one hour. This shows the potential of natural ingredients to serve as effective mosquito repellents, although their protection time may be shorter compared to synthetic alternatives.

Top Natural Ingredients That Repel Mosquitoes

Lemon Eucalyptus Oil

Lemon eucalyptus oil is recognized by the Centers of Disease Control as a powerful natural mosquito repellent. Studies indicate that a 32% solution of this oil can provide over 95% protection against mosquitoes for up to three hours. To create your own repellent, mix one part lemon eucalyptus oil with ten parts sunflower oil or witch hazel. However, it is advised not to use this mixture on children under three years of age.

Cinnamon Oil

Cinnamon oil, derived from cinnamon bark, is effective not only in culinary applications but also as a mosquito repellent. Research shows that it can destroy mosquito eggs and repel adult mosquitoes, particularly the Asian tiger mosquito. For home use, a 1% diluted solution can be prepared by mixing 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon oil with four ounces of water, which can then be sprayed on skin, clothing, or around the home.


Crushed lavender flowers emit a scent and oil that naturally repel mosquitoes. Lavender also possesses analgesic, antifungal, and antiseptic properties, which can soothe and calm the skin irritated by mosquito bites. Field studies have shown that lavender oil is effective at repelling adult mosquitoes.

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is known for its antiseptic and antimicrobial qualities, and recent studies suggest it is also an effective insect repellent. Mixing tea tree oil with a carrier like sunflower oil can enhance its efficacy against mosquitoes, bush flies, and biting midges.

Neem Oil

Neem oil has shown promise in studies, offering more than 70% protection against mosquitoes for up to three hours. However, due to its potential to cause skin irritation, it is not approved as a topical repellent.


The strong aroma of garlic is not only a culinary delight but also a natural deterrent for mosquitos. Crush a few cloves of garlic and mix them with water or carrier oil to create a potent repellent spray.

DIY Natural Mosquito Repellent Recipes

Preparing Your Own Mosquito Repellents at Home

Creating your own mosquito repellent is not only cost-effective but also allows you to customize scents and ingredients according to your preferences and needs. Start by selecting essential oils known for their mosquito-repelling properties, such as eucalyptus, lavender, and citronella. A simple recipe involves mixing these oils with a carrier like coconut oil or witch hazel. For instance, blend 10 drops of lavender oil with 30 ml of witch hazel for a quick and easy spray. Always use a clean spray bottle to store the mixture and shake well before each use.

Safety Measures and Correct Proportions

Although they are natural, essential oils are also potent and must be used with care. Never apply undiluted essential oils directly to the skin as they can cause irritation or allergic reactions. It's advisable to perform a patch test before widespread use. For children and those with sensitive skin, dilute the oils further. As a general guideline, use a 1% dilution rate for children, which equates to one drop of essential oil per teaspoon of carrier oil.

How to Store and Use Homemade Repellents

Proper storage is crucial to maintain the effectiveness of homemade mosquito repellents. Store your repellent in a dark, cool place to prevent the degradation of essential oils. A refrigerator is ideal but a cool cupboard away from direct sunlight works too. Homemade repellents should be used within three months for best results. Remember to reapply frequently, especially if you are sweating or have been in water.

Incorporating Mosquito-Repellent Plants into Your Garden

Best Plants for Repelling Mosquitoes

To naturally keep mosquitoes at bay, consider incorporating plants known for their repellent properties into your garden. Lavender is not only drought-resistant but also emits a fragrance from its essential oils that may hinder mosquitoes' ability to smell. Marigolds, easily grown in pots, release a scent that deters mosquitoes and can be strategically placed near entryways or patios. Citronella grass, recognized for its mosquito-repelling capabilities, thrives in sunny areas and is most effective when planted directly in the ground in warmer climates. Additionally, catnip, can be a robust addition, though it may spread aggressively.

Care and Maintenance Tips for These Plants

  • Lavender: Requires full sun and good drainage, thriving in warmer climates.
  • Marigolds: Prefer sunny spots and can also help repel other pests like aphids and whiteflies when planted in vegetable gardens.
  • Citronella Grass: Best in large planters as it cannot withstand frost; needs a sunny location.
  • Catnip: While catnip may be irresistible to felines, it has the opposite effect on mosquitoes. The nepetalactone compound in catnip is a natural insect repellent, and you can use dried catnip or catnip essential oil to keep mosquitoes at bay. Catnip is easy to care for but may require containment strategies to prevent it from overtaking other garden areas.
  • Basil: The strong aroma of basil is another natural mosquito deterrent. Grow basil plants near your outdoor living spaces or make a basil-infused repellent spray by steeping fresh basil leaves in water or vinegar.
  • Citrus Fruits: The refreshing scents of lemons, limes, and oranges are not only pleasing to us but also repellent to mosquitos.

Designing a Mosquito-Repellent Landscape

When designing your garden, placement of these plants is crucial. Position them where you and your guests spend most of the time, such as around seating areas or near doorways. For a comprehensive approach, integrate a variety of these plants to create a more effective barrier against mosquitoes. Additionally, ensure good water management to prevent stagnant water, which is a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Consider using mosquito rings in water features to kill larvae and supplement your plant-based repellent strategy with natural products like citronella candles for enhanced protection.

Safety and Precautions When Using Natural Repellents

Understanding Potential Skin Reactions

Natural mosquito repellents, often made from essential oils, can cause skin reactions in some individuals. It's crucial to perform a patch test before using these products extensively. Avoid applying repellents on cuts, wounds, or irritated skin to prevent adverse reactions. If a reaction occurs, such as a rash or irritation, discontinue use immediately and wash the affected area with soap and water.

Correct Application Methods to Maximize Efficiency

To ensure the effectiveness of natural mosquito repellents while minimizing risks:

  • Apply to Exposed Skin and Clothing: Focus on exposed areas and clothing but avoid under-clothing application.
  • Avoid Sensitive Areas: Steer clear of eyes, mouth, and ears. Use your hands to apply the repellent to your face.
  • Use as Directed: Follow the label instructions carefully, especially regarding reapplication and dosage.
  • Storage and Handling: Store repellents out of reach of children and in a locked cabinet. Never allow children to apply repellent themselves.

Children and Pet Safety with Natural Repellents

When using natural repellents around children and pets, extra precautions are necessary:

  • Children: Do not apply repellent to children's hands and avoid overuse. For babies and young children, consult a pediatrician before use, especially concerning products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus.
  • Pets: Never use repellents intended for humans on pets. Certain essential oils, like tea tree oil, can be toxic to pets. Always consult your veterinarian before trying new repellents on your pets, and consider alternative methods like placing oils on collars instead of direct application.

Alternatives to Repellents for Mosquito Control

Physical Barriers and Their Effectiveness

Physical barriers play a crucial role in keeping mosquitoes at bay. Installing tight-fitting screens on windows and doors prevents these pests from entering homes. Additionally, covering all gaps in walls, doors, and windows enhances this protection. For personal safety, especially in areas prone to mosquito-borne diseases, using netting over beds and baby carriers provides an extra layer of defense. These measures are particularly effective against Aedes mosquitoes, which are known to bite indoors.

Environmental Modifications to Reduce Mosquito Breeding

Mosquitoes breed in standing water, so eliminating these water sources is essential for control. Regular maintenance tasks like cleaning gutters, emptying containers that hold water, and ensuring proper drainage can significantly reduce mosquito populations. For areas with larger bodies of water, introducing fish that feed on mosquito larvae, such as mosquitofish or minnows, can be an effective biological control method. Additionally, planting native vegetation that attracts natural mosquito predators like dragonflies can further help in reducing their numbers.

Adopting natural mosquito repellents is not just about making an individual choice; it's about contributing to a larger environmental ethos that values sustainability and health. While these natural methods may require more frequent application than their chemical counterparts, the benefits they offer in terms of safety and ecological impact are substantial.


Natural mosquito repellents

by Shane Butzow

About the Author

Shane Butzow is Brand Strategist at Germania Insurance.

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