Drastically Reduce your Pesticide Exposure with DIY Bug Sprays

Have you ever felt conflicted when it’s time to break out the bug spray?

On the one hand, with diseases like Lyme (now believed to be carried by ticks, mosquitoes, and fleas), and West Nile Virus on the rise, you want to keep your family safe.

On the other hand…with warning labels on DEET-containing products such as…

“Do not apply to hands or near eyes and mouth of young children.”

AND “After returning indoors, wash treated skin with soap and water.”

AND “Do not let young children apply this product.”

AND “Do not spray in enclosed areas.”

Common sense tells you this stuff must be pretty darn toxic.

Hmmmm…risk diseases or…chemicals…

Itchy bites or…pesticides…

What’s a well-meaning parent to do?

Relax. I’ve got you covered, with a plan to drastically reduce your pesticide exposure with DIY bug sprays.

You can make these 100% natural bug sprays in a matter of minutes and rest easy that your family will be protected against bugs AND harmful chemicals and pesticides.

It’s a win-win…plus they are extremely easy to make and actually smell good.

The dirty side of DEET and other common bug repellents

According to the EPA, about 1/3 of Americans use DEET-containing bug repellents annually.

The obvious draw to these products is, they work. They repel mosquitoes, gnats, ticks, fleas—bugs won’t get within a ten feet of this stuff.

And neither should humans, here’s why.

  • DEET is a neurotoxin meaning it attacks the nervous system.
  • It is a known irritant and can cause damage to the eyes, it can also cause rashes, soreness, and blistering to the skin.
  • A study from France concluded that DEET may have toxic effects on the nervous systems of mammals as well as insects…wait, aren’t humans mammals?!
  • According to the EPA, DEET has been associated with adverse neurological effects in 18 children and has even caused 2 DEATHS…YES, I said DEATHS.
  • There is also evidence to suggest DEET is associated with higher rates of insomnia, mood disorders, seizures, and impaired cognitive function.
  • By the time you wash it off (as recommended on the package) it’s already entered your bloodstream. BTW anything we put on our skin enters our bloodstream with in minutes. Our skin absorbs everything we put on it, we might as well be eating the stuff.
  • These highly toxic sprays are endorsed by The American Pediatric Association and the EPA for use in children of any age at any concentration…YIKES!

Our children’s organs and nervous systems are still developing and fragile.

Don’t they have enough environmental toxins to deal with without coming into direct contact with neurotoxic pesticides?

It sounds ridiculous, but that’s exactly what these government agencies are recommending to concerned, well-meaning parents.

It leaves you wondering, does the end justify the means?

Mainstream DEET alternatives—what about Picaridin?

Picaridin was introduced in the United States in 2005. Like DEET, it is a chemical pesticide approved for use as a bug spray for all ages.

To quell consumer fears about DEET’s “safety”, many bug spray companies have started switching to Picaridin.

Though Picaridin is less irritating to the skin and the EPA considers it low-toxicity (but they say that about DEET too), it is still a chemical pesticide, and therefore raises many of the same safety concerns.

My advice? Avoid Picaridin AND DEET-containing products ESPECIALLY for young children.

THERE IS A BETTER WAY! Meet your bug-busting essential oil kit…

Being from northern Wisconsin—a hot bed for mosquitoes and Lyme—I know how important a trustworthy bug repellent is.

This is where many natural alternatives can fall flat, either in performance or affordability/practicality.

However, I have been so pleased with the simplicity and effectiveness of essential oils for keeping my family safe outdoors.

Here’s a list of my favorites:

  • Citronella
  • Lemongrass
  • Rosemary
  • Tea Tree
  • Lavender
  • Myrtle
  • Eucalyptus
  • Clove
  • Geranium


Making your own bug repellents at home…easy as 1-2-3

Step 1: Chose your essential oil or blend of choice from the list above.

Step 2: Add distilled water.

Step 3: Shake, store (in a stainless steel or glass container*) or spray, and enjoy the day!

That’s it. Quick, easy, and effective bug control is less than a minute away.

*Plastic containers are not recommended for storing essential oils, because they will degrade and break down plastic over time. Plus, most plastic spray bottles are not BPA-free, and you don’t want that in your bug spray.

DIY Bug Spray Recipes—For Outdoors and Indoors


Mosquito Repellent: spray directly on skin and clothes.

Combine all ingredients in a stainless steel or glass spray bottle and shake to combine.

  • 3 oz. distilled water
  • 25 drops of Young Living Purification Essential Oil
  • 5 drops Young Living Clove Essential Oil
  • 5 drops of Young Living Eucalyptus Essential Oil (optional)
  • 2 oz. of Witch Hazel (natural astringent extracted from the Hamamelis virginiana tree)

Doctor’s Tip: Apply Peppermint and Thieves® essential oils directly to mosquito bites to disinfect and stop the itch.

Remember, when you scratch a bite, bacteria on your fingers and under the nails can be passed into the bite and into the blood.

The powerful antibacterial/antimicrobial oils in Thieves® will help the bite from becoming contaminated.

If you have sensitive skin or are using these methods for a child, please use a carrier oil like olive oil or coconut oil instead of applying the oils neat.Young Living also makes a carrier oil called V6.

To mix an essential oil with a carrier oil, use 5 drops of carrier oil (1/4 tsp-1 tsp) with 1-2 drops essential oil, then apply to skin.

Lavender Essential Oil also works well to soothe a bite.

Gnat Repellent and Flies: Spray directly on skin and clothes.

Combine ingredients in a stainless steel spray bottle and shake to combine.

  • 2 oz. distilled water
  • 20 drops Young Living Patchouli Essential Oil


Fruit Flies: a recipe from my Grandma Carol that works wonders.

Combine the following ingredients in a small glass cup (like a shot glass)

  • 2 oz. of Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1 drop of natural dish soap

Set the small glass out on the counter and leave it overnight.

The fruit flies land on the cup and eventually take the plunge and die.

Spiders: My mom taught me this one.

Combine ingredients in a stainless steel spray bottle and shake to combine.

  • 4 oz. distilled water
  • ½ tsp natural liquid dish soap
  • 15 drops Young Living Peppermint Essential Oil

Shake lightly and let it sit for a few minutes, then spray solution on a cotton ball or cotton pad and place in corners where spiders make their webs.

I also put them in our pantry corners, and spray the outside edges of our screen doors.

Ants: When you have a self-feeding toddler ants are soon to follow! This solution works wonders.

Combine ingredients in a stainless steel spray bottle and shake to combine.

  • 2 oz. distilled water
  • 10 drops of Young Living Cinnamon Essential Oil
  • 15 drops of Young Living Clove Essential Oil

Spray directly on the floor or counter after cleaning. Let sit for a few minutes, then wipe any remaining residue off counters.

I hope today’s post has shocked and inspired you to ditch the DEET—and other pesticide-laden bug sprays—in favor of DIY-ing at home.

It really takes NO TIME at all, and once you have your oils on-hand you’re always ready to whip up another batch.

Living your life naturally doesn’t mean suffering through summer nights and camping trips with bug bites…it just means approaching them a little differently.

There are so many creative ways to control bugs naturally, please share yours in the comments section below.

Happy natural exterminating!


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