DIY Herbal Bug Spray Without Essential Oils

Summer is nearly here, and with it comes the inevitable annoyance of pesky mosquitoes and other insects hindering the fun at backyard barbecues and forest hikes. While commercial bug sprays can be effective in keeping bugs at bay, many contain harsh chemicals that some people may wish to avoid (Hi, It’s Me). Fortunately, there are plenty of natural alternatives, including homemade bug repellent.

Making your own DIY bug spray can be a cost-effective and safe way to protect yourself from mosquito bites without the use of harsh chemicals. In this post, I will share a recipe for a natural, herbal-infused witch hazel extract bug spray that you can make at home for use during those warm weather months.

cobalt blue bottle of bug spray sitting on table with rusted tin top

Note: This homemade mosquito repellent is specifically formulated to deter mosquitos. It may also deter black flies. To deter other bugs, check out this information from Almanac.com on specific deterrents for different bugs.

herbal bug spray ingredients labeled- lavender, rosemary, lemon balm, basil, peppermint

Herbal Bug Spray Recipe

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  • 1/4 cup basil
  • 1/4 cup lemon balm
  • 1/4 cup peppermint
  • 1/4 cup rosemary
  • 1/4 cup lavender
  • 2 cups witch hazel extract

Optional Herbs: Citronella, yarrow, clove, lemongrass, catnip

Using Fresh vs. Dried Herbs

This recipe is best with fresh herbs from your garden, but that is not always possible! You can see here, I had to use dried lavender. If you prefer, you can use herbs you already dried at home, or purchase dried herbs. My favorite place to purchase dried herbs online is Starwest Botanicals.

Citronella is likely the best option for this recipe, but I simply did not have it on hand. I wanted to create something that was easy to make with more common household plants.

A note on essential oils: 

Essential oils can be a great addition to a homemade bug spray recipe, as many have natural insect-repelling properties. However, some essential oils can be very potent and may cause skin irritation or other adverse effects if not properly diluted. Additionally, essential oils can be expensive and are often not sustainable, as you need to harvest a large amount of the given plant in order to make 1 ounce of essential oil. I am choosing to no longer purchase essential oils for my own home, but, you do you!


  1. Measuring cup
  2. Fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth
  3. Funnel (optional)
  4. Plastic or Glass Spray bottle (8-10 oz spray bottle is best). I chose these pretty blue plastic spray bottles so they do not break with outside use.
  5. Cutting board and knife (if using fresh herbs)
  6. Glass jar (I prefer a mason jar)


  1. If using fresh herbs, finely chop.

2. Pack the herbs into a mason jar.

3. Top with witch hazel. Be sure to cover the herbs completely.

pouring witch hazel over herbs

4. Stir or shake to combine.

herbal bug spray steeping in glass mason jar- hit by the sun and glowing

5. Seal the jar tightly and let it sit for 2-3 weeks in a cool, dark place, shaking it once or twice a day.

straining bug spray into blue bottle

6. After 2-3 weeks, strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth and discard the solids.

7. Pour the mixture into a clean spray bottle and label it. Witch hazel is not very safe to ingest, so label well.

hand holding cobalt blue spray bottle full of bug spray

Storage and Use:

To use, give the bottle a good shake and spray onto your skin, clothes, and surroundings to repel bugs. If any irritation occurs, discontinue use.

Note: Keep this spray in a cool, dark place, and it should last for up to six months.

Herbal Benefits of this Bug Spray

  1. Basil: Basil has strong oils that mosquitoes don’t like and has been proven effective against mosquitos. The scent of basil can help to mask the scent of humans and make it harder for mosquitoes to locate us.
  2. Lemon Balm: Lemon balm is a member of the mint family and has a strong lemony scent that mosquitoes don’t like. It contains a compound called citronellal which is also found in citronella, a common mosquito repellent.
  3. Peppermint: Peppermint has a strong, refreshing scent that can mask the scent of humans and make it harder for mosquitoes to locate us. The menthol in peppermint can also help to cool and soothe bug bites.
  4. Rosemary: Rosemary contains oils that have a strong scent and can help to repel mosquitoes.
  5. Lavender: Research has shown that lavender oil can be effective in repelling mosquitoes, but honestly, it works better when in essential oil form.
cobalt blue bottle of bug spray sitting on table with rosemary with rusted tin top


  1. Avoidance of chemicals: Many commercial insect repellents contain chemicals such as DEET, which some people may wish to avoid due to concerns about potential health risks or skin irritation.
  2. Environmental concerns: The use of chemical insecticides can have negative impacts on the environment, including polluting water sources and harming non-target species such as bees and butterflies.
  3. Cost-effectiveness: Making your own natural bug spray can be more cost-effective than purchasing commercial products, as many of the ingredients can be found at a lower cost or may even be grown in a home garden.
  4. Personal preference: Some people simply prefer to use natural remedies and may find them to be more effective or enjoyable to use.

Citronella: Citronella oil is derived from the lemongrass plant and is a popular natural insect repellent. It can be found in candles, sprays, and other products.

Neem oil: Neem oil is a natural oil extracted from the seeds of the neem tree. It has insecticidal properties and can be effective against a variety of insects.

Garlic: Garlic has been shown to repel mosquitoes and other insects. Eating garlic regularly or rubbing a garlic clove on the skin may help keep insects away.

The effectiveness of this bug spray will depend on a number of factors, including the specific ingredients used, the concentration of those ingredients, and individual sensitivity to insect bites. While some people may find this natural bug spray to be as effective as commercial alternatives, others may require a stronger solution.

The duration of protection provided by this bug spray will vary depending on factors such as the humidity and temperature of the environment, as well as individual factors such as sweating. It’s recommended to reapply the bug spray every 1-2 hours, or more frequently if sweating heavily or swimming.

This bug spray can be used on both skin and clothing. When using on clothing, it’s recommended to test a small area first to make sure there are no adverse effects on the fabric.

This bug spray should be stored in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight and heat sources.

While the ingredients in this bug spray are generally considered safe, some people may experience skin irritation or allergic reactions. It’s recommended to do a patch test on a small area of skin before using the spray more extensively.

Yes, this bug spray can be customized with different herbs and essential oils. However, it’s important to research the safety and effectiveness of any new ingredients before adding them to the spray.

The cost of making this bug spray will depend on the cost of the ingredients, which can vary depending on factors such as location and availability. However, making your own bug spray can be more cost-effective than purchasing a commercial alternative.

  1. When using this bug spray around children or pets, it’s important to exercise caution and seek advice from a healthcare provider or veterinarian. Children may be more sensitive to the effects of essential oils, and some herbs can be toxic to pets. Additionally, it’s recommended to avoid using bug spray on a child’s hands, since they may touch their mouth or eyes.  While the herbs used in this herbal infused witch hazel extract bug spray are generally considered safe for human use, some of them may not be safe for pets. Catnip, for example, is safe for cats to eat, but can cause an adverse reaction in dogs and other animals. Additionally, some essential oils and other compounds found in these herbs can be toxic to pets, especially when used in large quantities or applied directly to the skin.
    If you have pets, it’s recommended to consult with a veterinarian before using any type of insect repellent or essential oils around them. Some pets may be more sensitive to these compounds than others, and certain breeds may be more susceptible to adverse reactions.
    As a general rule, it’s best to avoid using any type of insect repellent directly on pets, and to keep them away from treated areas until the spray has dried completely. If you notice any signs of illness or discomfort in your pet after using an insect repellent, contact your veterinarian immediately.
  2. While the ingredients in this herbal-infused witch hazel extract bug spray are generally considered safe, it’s important to exercise caution when using any type of insect repellent on young children. Children may be more sensitive to the effects of essential oils and other ingredients, and some studies have linked the use of certain chemicals in insect repellents to health risks in children.

Make this DIY Herbal Bug Spray Today!

Making your own homemade insect repellent using natural ingredients is a safe and effective way to protect yourself from pesky insects without the use of harmful chemicals. This homemade bug spray recipe we provided is an excellent option that combines several safe ingredients known for their insect-repelling properties. The good news is that all of the ingredients can be easily found at your local grocery store or even grown in your garden.

By making your own bug spray, you can have peace of mind knowing exactly what you are putting on your skin and can tailor the recipe to your personal needs. Not only is this a safer option, but it can also be more cost-effective than purchasing commercial bug sprays. So next time you venture outdoors, consider trying out this homemade bug spray recipe for a natural and effective solution to pesky insect bites.

Pin Herbal Bug Spray to Make Later

herbal bug spray pinterest pin- mason jar of herbs with text that reads: super easy to make herbal bug spray with fresh herbs from the garden

Interested in herbal DIYs? Check out the following recipes for more herbal goodness!

About the Author:

I’m Brittany, totally modern and mainstream turned crunchy mama!

Read more here about how I went from a totally incompetent cook and hyper-consumer to striving to live a more meaningful life from scratch.

I can’t wait to share my modern homesteading journey with you and I hope I inspire you to join along!


It’s worth noting that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates insect repellents, and any product that claims to repel insects must be registered with the agency. However, the EPA does not regulate homemade or DIY bug sprays made with natural ingredients for personal use, as these are not considered commercial products. It’s important to keep in mind that while natural ingredients can be effective at repelling insects, they may not have undergone the same rigorous testing and evaluation as commercial bug sprays.

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  1. We’re having a terrible mosquito problem this year ???? and I try to avoid chemical bug sprays at all costs. So I can not wait to try this!!

  2. I’m excited to try this out. You know I love all your herbal recipes! And mosquitos seem to have a particular like for my children… probably all the sugar in their blood. HA!

  3. Thanks for sharing this recipe! I want to stay away from essential oils for the reasons you wrote in your blog post and hate mosquitoes. So I’m sure this recipe will come in handy this summer!

  4. Brittany – You have the best DIY stuff, just in time for summer too! Will have to make this for when my granddaughter and I go to the beach. Thanks!

  5. This is wonderful! My son was wondering if there is a faster way to blend the plants with the witch hazel, versus shaking/soaking for 2 weeks. Do you happen to know?

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