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BUG OFF! Best DIY Natural Repellents for Moms, Kids, Pets, and the Rest of the World

The warmer weather is upon us, and with it comes quite possibly one of its only drawbacks: BUGS. While some bugs are fun for kids to catch and are pretty to look at, like fireflies and ladybugs, others are just down-right nuisances, especially mosquitoes and ticks. So what’s the best way to keep these critters away without harming your family’s health? It’s not with that can of DEET-laden bug spray.

According to Duke University Medical Center pharmacologist Mohammed Abou Donia, DEET should never be used on an infant because “their skin is too thin to provide an adequate barrier against absorption, and their systems cannot metabolize drugs and chemicals as well as an older child or an adult.” Abou Donia further warns that DEET-containing products should never be used with medications even something as common as an antihistamine because of the risk of toxic and long-term side effects, like destruction of brain cells, muscle coordination, memory loss, and joint pain. YIKES!

So skip the chemicals this season and try making one of these very simple, natural, and safe bug repellents. All you need is a kitchen, a few ingredients from the store, and a couple of minutes to make these oh-so easy bugs-be-gone potions. I even included a few plants to add to your yard that help keep the bugs at bay and your family
bite-free.


  • Citrus tick repellent 1 of 15
    Citrus tick repellent
    Oh, delicious summer citrus, how we love thee... To make a citrus tick repellent, boil 2 cups of water and add the slices of 2 citrus fruits whatever you prefer or have in the kitchen. Lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruits are detested by ticks, so any will work for this mixture. After it has boiled for a few minutes, let it simmer for about an hour. Strain the liquid and pour into a spray bottle. It can be used on your skin and on your pet!
    Read more here
    Photo: 123RF Stock Photos
  • Lemongrass oil mosquito repellent 2 of 15
    Lemongrass oil mosquito repellent
    Combine 25 drops of lemongrass essential oil with olive oil, sunflower oil (which are called "carrier oils" for this purpose), or witch hazel to yield a 1-to-10 parts ratio. This natural tincture repels mosquitoes and can be applied to the skin, especially on the wrists, behind the ears, and at the ankles. Lemongrass oil can be purchased at health food stores, food co-ops, and some grocery stores.
    Read more here
    Photo: 123RF Stock Photos
  • Clove oil mosquito repellent 3 of 15
    Clove oil mosquito repellent
    Oh, the delicious smell of cloves! Who ever would have thought that these sweet bits keep the skeeters away? The 1-to-10 parts ratio applies to the making of this deliciously natural mosquito repellent, as well. So mix 25 drops with the carrier oil of your choice, apply to your skin, and enjoy a bug-free day. It can also be mixed with distilled water and used as a spray.
    Read more here
    Photo: 123RF Stock Photos
  • Rosemary oil mosquito repellent 4 of 15
    Rosemary oil mosquito repellent
    While not as sweet smelling as the clove or citrus tincture, this natural rosemary oil mosquito repellent is equally as effective. Mix 1 part rosemary oil with 10 parts witch hazel to create an effective solution that can be sprayed on clothing, skin, and pets.
    Read more here
    Photo: 123RF Stock Photos
  • Cedar oil mosquito and tick repellent 5 of 15
    Cedar oil mosquito and tick repellent
    If you're going to be in the great outdoors, why not smell like it AND keep the bugs away? A study released earlier this year revealed that cedar essential oil is "toxic to ticks and highly effective" as a natural pesticide. Mix it with your choice of carrier oil and you're ready to hit the hiking trails.
    Read more here
    Photo: cbb4104
  • Geranium oil mosquito and tick repellent 6 of 15
    Geranium oil mosquito and tick repellent
    Who doesn't love the smell of geraniums? Well, apparently mosquitoes and ticks don't. To make this sweet-smelling repellent, mix 4 tablespoons of whichever carrier oil you want and 2 tablespoons of aloe vera gel with 30-40 drops of geranium essential oil, which can be purchased online or at some health food stores in the cosmetics section. This one is also safe for pets!
    Read more here
    Photo: Colin-47
  • Lavender oil tick repellent 7 of 15
    Lavender oil tick repellent
    This one might be perfect to use if you're hoping to put your little one down for a nap soon, since lavender is also known for its calming effects. Add 30-40 drops to 4 tablespoons of the carrier oil of your choice and 2 tablespoons of aloe vera gel and you have a delightful way to keep the bugs off your baby and yourself!
    Read more here
    Photo: KitAy
  • Apple cider vinegar tick repellent spray 8 of 15
    Apple cider vinegar tick repellent spray
    Apple cider vinegar can be mixed with lavender or geranium oil or both! to use as a bug spray repellent that's safe for skin, clothes, pets, and your lawn. You could even create a barrier around a blanket for baby (and hopefully, you!) to take a tick-free nap. Combine 1 cup of water, 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar, and 10 drops of lavender or geranium oil, pour into a spray bottle, and spritz away.
    Read more here
    Photo: AndyRobertsPhotos
  • Peppermint oil mosquito and tick repellent 9 of 15
    Peppermint oil mosquito and tick repellent
    What's fresher than an ice-cold mojito on a hot summer day? Oh wait, wrong blog entry. But while we're talking about mint: Peppermint is a great mosquito and tick repellent! It can also be made into a spray. Combine 16 ounces of water with 25 drops of peppermint essential oil and you've got a natural bug repellent that's sure to be fresh.
    Read more here
    Photo: 123RF Stock Photos
  • Cinnamon oil mosquito repellent 10 of 15
    Cinnamon oil mosquito repellent
    Prefer a warmer scent? Mix 1 part cinnamon essential oil with 10 parts carrier oil of your choice (already forget what a carrier oil is? Olive or sunflower oil). Not only will you keep the mosquitoes away, but you can trick your kids into thinking you're sweeter than you are.
    Read more here
    Photo: 123RF Stock Photos
  • Citronella grass for your yard 11 of 15
    Citronella grass for your yard
    Why not help keep the mosquitoes out of your yard? While most of the plants previously mentioned can be included in your landscape, these next few work best. Citronella grass is a "clumping" grass that grows between 5 and 6 feet tall, so it makes a great border for any property line or works well as an accent in gardens. And since it's the stuff that store-bought citronella candles are mimicked after (careful, though, because those often don't have any actual citronella in them, but instead are citronella "scented"), why not go with the real deal?
    Read more here
    Photo: citronellaoil.net
  • Flossflowers (aka Ageratum) for your yard 12 of 15
    Flossflowers (aka Ageratum) for your yard
    Who knew keeping mosquitoes away could be so pretty? Flossflowers are great for full or partial-sun yards and emit a smell that those little blood-sucking bugs just do not like. It's called coumarin, and it's often used in store-bought repellents. Growing your own is an easy and attractive way to keep the skeeters away.
    Read more here
    Photo: Carl E Lewis
  • Horsemint (aka Beebalm) for your yard 13 of 15
    Horsemint (aka Beebalm) for your yard
    Horesmint works much the same way as all the plants that annoy mosquitoes do: by giving off a scent they do not like. Unlike flossflowers, which are low-growing plants that do best in the sun, horsemint can grow up to 3 feet and does best in shadier lawns. But be careful of this one if you or your kids have a bee allergy, as horsemint attracts bees (and butterflies!).
    Read more here
    Photo: goldenecho
  • Marigolds for your yard 14 of 15
    Marigolds for your yard
    Certainly not the sweetest smelling flower, and many a-gardener can't tolerate their scent, but marigolds work well as a garden border to keep mosquitoes away. And while they don't directly repel ticks, deer are not fond of marigolds and since deer are carriers of ticks, having marigolds around means less ticks near you. So this ehh-smelling flower packs a double punch against pests.
    Read more here
    Photo: 123RF Stock Photos
  • Catnip for your yard 15 of 15
    Catnip for your yard
    Iowa State University reported recently to the American Chemical Society that catnip is "ten times more effective than DEET." It may not be the prettiest plant, but it's easy to grow, mainly because, yes, it's a weed. The thought of planting weeds may go against everything you were taught about gardening, but this weed may just be worth it. (Potential side effects may include more cat visitors)
    Read more here
    Read Iowa State University's findings here
    Photo: cygnus921

Don’t have the time (every moment is precious!) to make your own chemical-free bug repellent, but still want to keep DEET away from the little ones? Not to worry, check out these safer alternatives that you can pick up ready-for-use at the store or online.

Link to Duke University Medical Center source

Main Photo: 123RF Stock Photos

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