All Natural Bug Spray Recipe

by Andrea on June 11, 2008

natural bug spray recipeFight Bugs Naturally and Smell Good Doing It!

As spring rolls into summer, bugs are often people’s number one complaint. Mosquitoes and other biters are a nuisance in just about every region. They can really put a damper on summertime fun.

Until recently, the solution has been obvious: buy bug spray, and spray it on thick! But these days, we’re becoming more conscious of chemicals in the products we rely on every day. When it comes to the aerosols and lotions you slather on your and your children’s skin, ingredients really do matter.

Thankfully, you can use all natural bug spray.

Yes, natural bug spray really works! It smells better, and it’s safer for you and your family. Best of all, you’ll know exactly what you’re using, because you made it yourself!

Follow our basic recipe, or make your own tweaks if you’re experienced with essential oil safety.

You’ll need a few ingredients:

8 drops Cedarwood Essential Oil — Juniperus virginiana
3 drops Juniper Berry Essential Oil — Juniperus communis
8 drops Patchouli Essential Oil — Pogostemom cablin
5 drops Spikenard Essential Oil — Nardostachys jatamansi
Just under 4 oz (120 ml) Organic Frankincense Hydrosol — Distilled from Boswellia carterii
4 ml Solubol dispersant
4 oz (120 ml) Spray Bottle

Make sure you’re buying pure essential oils and hydrosols. They may be a little pricier than what you’ll find on the grocery store shelves, but spring for the good stuff. Pure essential oils don’t contain additives or synthetic fragrances–which can trigger headaches and skin reactions. On top of that . . . synthetics rarely work!

Don’t hesitate to contact the company you are purchasing from. They should be able to supply evidence of the quality of their oils.

PET plastic is the best container to work with. It’s known as a non-reactive plastic that doesn’t leach. I usually prefer glass when working with essential oils but in cases where glass isn’t ideal, such as when kids might drop the bottle, PET plastic is a good choice. Have fun with the bottle! If you have kids, give them some office labels and markers and let them design their own brand of bug spray!

Once you have your materials, it’s time to start blending!

  • Add the hydrosol to your plastic bottle first.
  • Carefully add the appropriate number of drops of each essential oil. This recipe is crafted with a safe dilution of essential oils, so be sure not to use more than are listed.

Essential oils are highly concentrated, so the bottles are generally topped with orifice reducers to ensure they don’t spill. Tip your essential oil bottle gently until the drops fall out slowly enough to be counted.

  • Add the Solubol dispersant.
  • When you’ve added all the drops, seal the spray container and shake gently.
  • Spray freely on your skin and clothes before heading outdoors, and after swimming. Because essential oils, even in a blend, shouldn’t come in contact with your eyes, avoid spraying directly onto the face.

Make a few bottles of natural bug spray to start out with and stash them in easy-to-grab places, like a basket in your entryway and in your bathroom. Remember not to leave your spray bottle out in the sun or in your car for long periods of time. Heat may weaken the strength of your blend. I recommend making this product fresh every few weeks, as it does not have a preservative in it.

Next step? Enjoy your summer!

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Owner/Instructor at Aromahead Institute
Aromahead Institute, owned by Andrea Butje, is a premier resource for online aromatherapy classes. Andrea offers her inspired approach to online aromatherapy certification through essential oil videos and original education materials. Check out her book, Essential Living: Aromatherapy Recipes for Health and Home, on Amazon!

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{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

Naomi June 21, 2017 at 5:51 am

Hello, I am wondering what can be used to replace soluble dispersant, as I do not have this product at hand.


Andrea Butje June 21, 2017 at 10:57 am

Hi Naomi!
There is a concern with oil and water not mixing and with a body spray such as this bug spray, there would be tiny droplets of neat essential oil on our skin. So for body sprays we suggest soluble to be extra protective for the skin. You could use Aloe Vera gel in place of soluble dispersant. Add a few ‘blobs’ aloe, shake before using and you’ll notice the oil with attach to the aloe vera for that added skin protection.

Aromatics International sells a natural soluble dispersant – here’s a direct link:


Tara May 31, 2017 at 4:55 pm

Are undiluted hydrosols safe for young children under 5? Would hydrosols be effective in helping deter biting bugs (mosquitos, ticks, etc.)? I’m wondering more specifically if it would be safe and effective to use hydrosols of catnip, geranium, and lemon eucalyptus on a 1 year old. And could I create a hydrosol blend?
Thank you so much for all the helpful information you share!!!


Andrea Butje June 6, 2017 at 1:05 pm

Hi Tara!
There are various approaches to what age to start using oils with babies and kids. Our guideline, the Aromahead Approach, leans toward the cautious side. In most cases when you’re doing a topical application for kids under five years old, rather than using essential oil, we suggest using hydrosols. Catnip hydrosol sprayed around the space of where the 1 year old is can help to deter mosquitos.


Cynthia F May 26, 2016 at 1:30 am

I am wondering why there is no carrier oil in this? It is supposed to be a family recipe, I believe. The oils along with the hydrosol (aromatic water) would only penetrate the oils deeper into the skin. Can you please explain? I have been researching and am confused why many insect repellent recipes that include essential oils (on the internet) do not have a carrier oil and people are using on children (and adults). There is more likely to be a problem with skin sensitivity without some carrier oil. Thank you so much for your help! 🙂 I am always interested in learning more.


Andrea Butje May 26, 2016 at 10:13 am

Great question Cynthia! Carriers come in many forms – in addition to carrier oils, a few others include butters, aloe vera gel, and hydrosols. In this All Natural Bug Spray the Frankincense Hydrosol is the carrier.

I teach about all the various carriers and making blends with them in our Aromatherapy for Natural Living class. If you would like to gain a better understanding of using oils with children, I would recommend our Natural Living class – we discuss in detail how best to use the oils for children of various ages. You will also learn about natural remedies for everyday living, for skin care and for common ailments, and how to reduce your exposure to chemical products.

Here’s a link where you can find more information about this course:

Love to have you join me for this class!


Cindy Jackelen July 19, 2015 at 8:03 pm

I was helping my sister to use oils for knee pain – and the very next morning, in my inbox, was a recipe for Knee Pain Relief Gel! I mixed it up and love the warming feeling on the knee. Thank you!


Andrea Butje July 21, 2015 at 3:10 pm

So wonderful to hear that the blend is working Cindy! Hopefully your sister’s knee heals quickly 🙂


Connie May 30, 2015 at 11:48 pm

Hi Andrea, I am excited to find a bug repellent recipe that doesn’t use witch hazel, which is 14% alcohol which I don’t want to use on the kids skin. But can I ask you, is there a witch hazel made without the alcohol? I understand that alcohol is a medium and used to extract constituents from the plants…but:) Love all your recipes. Thank you!


Andrea Butje June 3, 2015 at 9:00 pm

Hi Connie – You can get Witch Hazel hydrosol without any additives and alcohol. It’s wonderful for the skin and makes a good astringent toner. Hydrosols are made from the distillation process – it’s the condensed steam collected during the distillation, and not alcohol extracted. Here’s a place you can check:


Jennifer L May 30, 2015 at 1:41 am

Oh ya just gotta love that kid in the picture ; )
Can’t wait to try this blend – it’s officially summer in Alaska and the mosquitoes are coming out! I’ve heard that lemongrass can be helpful in repelling mosquitoes – would it be an appropriate oil to add? I would be omitting spikenard since I don’t have any right now.
Thank you for the recipe!


Andrea Butje June 3, 2015 at 8:59 pm

Hi Jennifer – Yes, you can add Lemongrass but it’s very irritating to the skin, so my suggestion is to use a different type of Lemongrass. I’ve written a blog post about it:
You can find this Lemongrass ct. rhodinol here:
The blend would work fine without Spikenard, and a few drops of Lemongrass ct. rhodinol, or Citronella instead.


Shirl May 21, 2015 at 8:14 am

Andrea, I use another HIGH quality brand of Frankincense but it doesn’t use the term Hydrosol and it is definitely unadulterated (with proof) and not diluted. Will that also work?


Andrea Butje May 26, 2015 at 7:34 pm

Hi Shirl – Hydrosol is not essential oil. Hydrosol is a co-product of the distillation process – the condensed steam from the distillation that is collected and separated from the oil. If you don’t have hydrosol, you can simply use distilled water, or even Aloe vera gel for the bug spray recipe. Frankincense hydrosol can be found here:


Jen Higa May 20, 2015 at 9:29 pm

Is there a substitute oil I can use for Spikenard?I am going on a trip this weekend and just saw this recipe. I’d love to not have to use the insect repellant that I bought.


Andrea Butje May 26, 2015 at 7:31 pm

Hi Jen – sorry that I didn’t get this to you before your trip! If you don’t have Spikenard, you can simply omit it in the recipe. It will work just as well 🙂


Becca C May 20, 2015 at 12:48 pm

I do’t have spikenard on hand. Is there anything else I could/should replace it with?


Andrea Butje May 26, 2015 at 7:31 pm

If you don’t have Spikenard, you can simply omit it in the recipe. It will work just as well 🙂


Jeanine May 19, 2015 at 11:29 pm

Is this blend safe to use on dogs? Thanks!


Andrea Butje May 20, 2015 at 8:50 am

Hi Jeanine – this blend (and all others on our blog) are not meant for animals at all, just people! We don’t teach about oils for animals as we have seen too many toxic reactions. But you can use hydrosols for animals:


pat May 19, 2015 at 11:05 pm

where do you get your hydrosols>


Andrea Butje May 20, 2015 at 8:49 am

Hi Pat – I generally purchase them from Aromatics International –


Kate May 19, 2015 at 8:09 pm

Do you have a source for Frankincense hydrosol?


Andrea Butje May 20, 2015 at 8:49 am

Yes! Aromatics International has great hydrosols – 🙂


Shae May 19, 2015 at 8:46 am

Where would I get a good quality spikenard? Do you have a place to order PET bottles, and what is a hydrosol?


Andrea Butje May 20, 2015 at 8:46 am

Hi Shae! You can buy quality essential oils from Aromatics International –
For PET plastic bottles, I always use SKS Bottle –
Hydrosols are the first part of the distillate waters from the steam distillation of plants. You can read more about them in this blog post:


Christi Jennings June 23, 2013 at 9:54 am

Love the smell of this blend and so do the kids! Effective and without the toxicity of store-bought sprays= grateful!!!


Michele Carroll June 6, 2009 at 2:23 pm

Andrea, Are there any other hydrosols you might recommend in place of the Frankincense?


Admin June 6, 2009 at 3:35 pm

Hi Michelle,

There are many hydrosols that would be great. Any hydrosol that is nourishing for your skin would work. Myrrh, Chamomile, Peppermint (my favorite) and Helichrysum are all great choices.


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