Natural Insect Repellants to Try This Summer

By using natural insect repellants, you can cut down or even fully eliminate your exposure to this chemical ingredient and its potential side effects.

natural insect repellant

Mosquitoes and other flying insects are a common nuisance during the summer months. While commercial insect repellants are available and usually very effective, there are concerns about the active ingredient that most of them use- diethyltoluamide, or DEET. By using natural insect repellants, you can cut down or even fully eliminate your exposure to this chemical ingredient and its potential side effects.

Side effects of DEET

Products containing DEET often come in a variety of strengths or factors, similar to that of sunscreen, and manufacturers recommend choosing the weakest concentration of the product that your environment allows. This kind of warning begins to highlight some of the concerns that many hold about the ingredient. Children in particular are recommended only to use the weakest possible concentrations of DEET. Although DEET products are heavily regulated to ensure the safety of insect repellant products, scientific research has shown that excessive use of DEET can cause:

  • skin irritation

  • dizziness and seizures

  • kidney and liver damage

  • birth defects

While these side effects aren’t likely to happen to you if you spritz on some repellant at your summer barbeque, many people are looking for natural alternatives to keep insects at bay in order to cut back their need to use DEET products.

Bite prevention

There are certain steps you can take to reduce you likelihood of being bitten. Mosquitoes are drawn to lactic acid which is excreted from the skin through sweat from exercise as well as eating salty and high potassium containing foods. Moisture also draws insects in, so try to keep extra sweat mopped up or wear moisture wicking clothes made from bamboo or hemp if it’s an especially hot day. These will keep sweat away from your skin and help cool you down as well as reducing the chance of bites. Dark or vivid colours also attract insects as they view them as potential foliage, so try to keep your clothes as light as possible.

Natural insect repellants

Natural essential oils release potent volatile vapours which deter insects and reduce their likelihood to bite. Effective essential oils include:

  • citronella

  • eucalyptus

  • rosemary

  • peppermint

  • clove

  • lemongrass

An effective home made insect repellant can be made using a blend of essential oils and witch hazel. It can be used to repel insects in most summer conditions, however, a stronger alternative may be necessary in more humid conditions where mosquitoes, midges and other insects thrive. If you’re not happy to cut out DEET sprays completely, it can be used to keep an additional application of DEET repellant topped up, reducing the levels you need to use overall.

To make a home made insect repellant:

  • half fill an empty spray bottle with distilled water

  • top up with distilled witch hazel

  • add 40 to 50 drops of essential oil- Experiment with combinations to find which works best overall

A stronger natural spray can also be made using apple cider vinegar:

  • soak 2 tablespoons of sage, lavender, mint, thyme and rosemary in a 1 litre bottle of apple cider vinegar for 2 to 3 weeks

  • Strain and keep in a jar or bottle in the fridge

  • To use on skin, dilute to half with water and add to a spray bottle

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