Except for the coldest months of winter, bugs and mosquitoes are one of the common facts of life. Finding a natural insect repellent that really works is crucial for staying protected, happy, and itch-free.
One of the familiar hesitations surrounding natural household goods and products is whether they work as well as their chemical alternatives. When it comes to insect repellents, you want to feel reassured and able to rely upon the spray to banish bugs. (Need we mention the annoyance of mosquito bites and ticks?)
In this article, we’ll be looking at 10 high-quality and well-reviewed natural insect repellents that work just as well as their traditional counterparts. You can keep natural bug sprays handy in the car, in your bag for outings or traveling, near your porch, or wherever else you may need to ward off pesky mosquitoes.
Why Use Natural Insect Repellent?
Natural insect repellents are appealing for many reasons. For one, they’re powered primarily by plants and plant oils rather than chemicals. They’re easier on sensitive skin and tend to smell nicer while leaving less icky residues.
The ingredient commonly found in commercial bug sprays is called DEET, a yellow oil that can sometimes cause irritation or skin rashes despite its extreme potency against mosquitoes.
It’s not generally considered dangerous, though some studies have linked the use of DEET-containing products with neurological issues (especially in children). And although it’s somewhat unlikely to occur, high concentrations of DEET are also toxic to fish and other wildlife.
As an alternative to DEET, many natural bug sprays will use either a blend of essential oils that bugs hate (like cinnamon or eucalyptus), or more rarely a synthetic called picaridin that’s much safer for sensitive skin than DEET. Note that picaridin is usually sprayed on clothing rather than directly on the skin.
So will natural mosquito repellents work as effectively as those containing DEET? Generally speaking, yes. You may have to reapply the natural bug sprays a little more often, but we think it’s worth it.
Our Picks: 10 Natural Insect Repellents
Whether you’re going for a long hike or are just sitting on your porch, it’s important to have an insect repellent you can trust. (And not to mention, one that won’t be harmful to your skin, pets, or the environment.)
We’ve put together a list of 10 of the best natural mosquito and insect repellents currently on the market. Some bug sprays are meant primarily for warding off mosquitoes, while others will keep away other small insects as well, such as fleas, flies, and ticks.
Looking for a little extra protection against mosquitoes and other pests? In well-ventilated outdoor spaces, lighting citronella candles can help clear the air while adding a flair of candlelit atmosphere.
Note that while most natural bug repellents are safe to use in the vicinity of pets, even essential oils can pose risks — check with your veterinarian before using any repellents close to your furry friends. They may be able to recommend pet-specific bug repellents, too!
1. Public Goods: Insect Repellent
Starting us off is our very own 100% natural Insect Repellent. It leaves no sticky residues and works well for warding off mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks. It’s especially effective as a non-toxic mosquito repellent safe for your whole family.
Our natural insect repellent is made with lemongrass essential oil, glycerin, castor oil, and vitamin E to keep your skin bite-free and lightly fragranced without the DEET or other unpleasant chemicals.
2. Badger Balm: Anti-Bug Shake & Spray
This Anti-Bug Shake & Spray keeps off mosquitoes with a blend of diverse essential oils, such as citronella, castor, and wintergreen. There’s no DEET, nor are there synthetic oils or petroleum products. It comes in a sturdy and recyclable aluminum spray bottle and works very well for all ages (and not to mention the logo is adorable!).
3. Chagrin Valley Soap & Salve: Don’t Bug Me! Bug-Off Stick
A little different from the other natural mosquito repellents on this list, this Don’t Bug Me! Bug-Off Stick comes in the form of a lotion bar stick rather than a spray. DEET-free and made of lemon eucalyptus and moisturizing jojoba oil, use this simply by rubbing it on much like you would apply deodorant from a stick. The packaging is eco-friendly, compostable, and plastic-free!
4. All Terrain Co.: Kids Herbal Armor DEET-Free Natural Insect Repellent
All Terrain Co.’s Herbal Armor Natural Insect Repellent formulated especially for kids provides excellent protection for afternoons playing outdoors and adventures with the family. With a time-released formula that’s non-irritating and allergy tested, this non-toxic mosquito repellent wards off mosquitoes, ticks, and other insects safely and effectively.
5. Public Goods: Lemon Essential Oil
The benefits of essential oils are numerous and acclaimed. For use as a natural way to repel insects, you’ll want to dilute or prepare the oil in some fashion. Using essential oils directly on the skin will cause irritation!
While many types of essential oils work well against mosquitoes and other insects, lemon is among the most effective, capable of providing full protection for around three hours. There are tons of recipes out there for DIY bug sprays; here’s a simple one to start with:
Mix our organic Lemon Essential Oil with pure witch hazel, using 10 drops of the witch hazel for every one drop of the oil. Store in a glass spray bottle. Spray on skin or clothes as needed to repel bugs! Note that essential oils at more than a 5% concentration may not be safest for spraying on young children.
6. Quantum Health: Buzz Away Extreme Spray
This DEET-free insect repellent from Quantum Health provides long-lasting, non-greasy protection against mosquitoes and ticks. Like many of the other natural or organic mosquito repellents on this list, it’s made primarily from plant oils. In this case, from citronella, geranium, cedarwood, and lemongrass.
7. Kinfield: Golden Hour Bug Spray
The fresh scent of citrus and vanilla meets the potent protection of Kinfield’s unique Indonesian citronella, touted as more effective than traditional citronella, in this Golden Hour Bug Spray. It’s safe to wear and reapply all day, and comes from a company priding itself in its commitment to science and plant-based formulas.
8. Murphy’s Naturals: Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent
This Murphy’s Insect Repellent offers another great choice for keeping pesky bugs away naturally and without the DEET. It’s made with sustainably sourced lemon eucalyptus oil and comes in a 25% post-consumer recycled package. Spray on skin or on your gear to repel biting flies, mosquitoes for up to six hours, and ticks for four hours.
9. Yaya Organics: SQUITO BAN All-Natural Mosquito Repellent
Made in the USA, Yaya Organics’ All-Natural Mosquito Repellent is a plant-based bug spray made primarily from a blend of essential oils — citronella, cedarwood, and rosemary. It has a spiced, herbal scent and repels mosquitoes as well as black flies and other biting bugs. The bottle is a reusable, recyclable aluminum that’s perfect for adventure-seeking families looking for a cruelty-free, all-natural way to repel bugs.
10. Public Goods: Peppermint Essential Oil
Rounding out our list is our very own Public Goods Peppermint Essential Oil. Follow the same steps for preparation and dilution as listed earlier in number five. Peppermint oil is one of nature’s stellar defenses against mosquitoes, providing a cooling alleviation on skin and aching muscles in the process.
Looking for other creative ways to use essential oils? Try using them next time you make candles or need relief from nausea. For more fun tips and daily guides like this, check out the Public Goods blog!
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