Summertime is upon us and that means spending lots of quality time outdoors. Whether you’re hiking, camping, or just playing outside with your kids, one thing is certain, you will want some kind of bug spray! 

We often don’t think about what kind of harmful chemicals are in most store-bought bug sprays and how they can wreak havoc on our health. I strive to use products for my family that are free from harmful chemicals because of this. One problem with most store-bought bug-sprays is that they often contain DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide.) 


Is Deet Harmful?

Dr. Abou Donia, a Duke University pharmacologist, found that “rats treated with an average human dose of DEET (40 mg/kg body weight) performed far worse than control rats when challenged with physical tasks requiring muscle control, strength and coordination.”

Dr. Abou Donia also found that DEET caused “neurons to die in regions of the brain that control muscle movement, learning, memory and concentration.” The pharmacologist says that children are at a higher risk for brain changes after DEET exposure because their skin absorbs it more readily. 

While there are some studies that say using DEET poses no issues, it is not worth the risk to myself or my children. The good news is that there are other options out there to help repel bugs that do not contain DEET. While DEET does typically seem to be the most effective method, it does also have the added risk of side effects that you can avoid altogether with a more natural approach.


What are some natural options?

Some other options that have been shown to be effective repellents are the following:

  • Lemon Eucalyptus- this oil is a well-known pest repellent. A study found that a 32% mixture of the oil would provide protection for up to 3 hours.

*Some research has shown this should not be used on those under 3 years of age.


  • Geraniol- this is known to be effective for two to four hours as an insect-repellent

*If you have sensitive skin, it may not be the best option as it can cause skin and eye irritation


  • Soybean Oil- Adding Lemongrass to your homemade soybean oil mixture has been shown in a study to be effective at repelling insects.


  • Citronella Oil-  This is an effective oil that works well at repelling mosquitoes. If formulated correctly, it has actually been shown to be as effective of a repellent  as DEET. 


  • Tea Tree Oil- This is a popular oil because of its antimicrobial and antiseptic properties. Some studies suggest it may also be a great repellent for insects. 


Homemade Solutions

It can be very simple to make your own homemade bug spray. I prefer to mix mine in a glass bottle. I like to make enough at one time to have plenty ready for use whenever I need it.

There are also many ready-made natural sprays on the market now. To make your own try the following:

Bug Spray



½ c witch hazel

½ c apple cider vinegar

40 drops of essential oils (citronella, tea tree, lemon eucalyptus, lemongrass)


Mix all ingredients in a glass bottle and spray all over, avoiding the mouth and eyes. You will want to reapply this product every few hours for maximum efficiency. 



If you do happen to get some kind of insect bite, a quick, simple way to get natural relief is to rub some apple cider vinegar on the bite.

I also love to mix up my own black drawing salve as it works great on stings, insect bites, splinters, and pulling impurities from the skin. A homemade drawing salve is a staple in my natural first-aid kit.

Here is a great recipe for making your own drawing salve:

Black Drawing Salve



1 teaspoon honey

1 teaspoon vitamin E oil

2 tablespoons calendula Infused olive oil

1 tablespoon arnica oil

1 tablespoon aloe vera

1 teaspoon activated charcoal

1 tablespoon coconut oil

2 tablespoons shea butter

10 drops frankincense essential oil

10 drops tea tree oil



  1. To make this powerfully healing drawing salve, you may want to prepare your calendula infused olive oil a few days in advance. 
  2. Using a double boiler or a glass boil in a pan of water, place the shea butter and coconut oil.
  3. On low heat, melt these two ingredients and stir.
  4. Next, add the calendula infused olive oil, honey and arnica oil. Blend well.
  5. Now, add the aloe vera, vitamin E oil and activated charcoal and continue to mix.
  6. Once all of these ingredients have been well blended, add the frankincense and tea tree oil.

*This salve will stain your skin for a short while. Keep it away from any clothes or furniture that you don’t want stained.


For more details and the full recipe visit




Comparative laboratory and field evaluation of repellent formulations containing deet and lemon eucalyptus oil against mosquitoes in Queensland, Australia 


Efficacy of herbal essential oils as insecticide against Aedes aegypti (Linn.), Culex quinquefasciatus (Say) and Anopheles dirus (Peyton and Harrison)