10 Essential Oils That Repel Bugs & Insects For Real

You will see abundant of chemical-based bug repellents in the market, but the question is, are they safe for your health? Or Environment? Definitely not! Happily, there are some incredible essential oils that repel bugs, mosquitoes, and insects.

Before we list them to you, here are some facts for you to be aware of.

A lot of people tend to use DEET (N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide or diethyltoluamide). DEET is a commercially sold pale yellow oil, which is applied either to the clothing or skin in order to defend against insects, bugs, ticks, mosquitoes, leeches, chiggers, and fleas. (1)

Yes, DEET is highly effective in repelling bugs and insects but its active chemicals do more harm than good. It can cause allergies, skin problems, and other serious conditions.

In fact, prolonged use of DEET has been linked to neurotoxicity, slurred speech, seizures, birth development defects, kidney problems, liver diseases, etc.(2)

However, essential oils are one of the best natural alternatives to DEET.

10 Essential Oils That Repel Bugs

  • Peppermint oil
  • Catnip oil
  • Neem oil
  • Thyme oil
  • Citronella oil
  • Tea Tree oil
  • Clove oil
  • Lavender oil
  • Geranium oil
  • Patchouli oil

Let’s learn how these essential oils help in repelling bugs naturally.

natural bug repellent

1. Peppermint Oil

essential oils that repel bugs

Peppermint (Mentha × piperita) is an essential oil that has been commonly used for ages – be it food preparation, cosmetic, or medicine.

It is highly appreciated for its uplifting and invigorating fragrance. No wonder it holds a valuable possession in aromatherapy. However, not many of them know that it is an excellent deterrent against bugs. (3, 4, 5)

Peppermint oil is one of the best alternatives to those mainstream harsh chemicals and plastic-laden options for pest control.

The key chemical compounds in peppermint oil that help repel bugs include alcohol, menthol, and terpene. All these are natural fumigants through smell. Bugs, mosquitoes, and other small insects pick up these compounds and get repelled effectively.

In fact, many studies have demonstrated menthol’s effectiveness against in repelling mosquitoes, much like DEET but the difference being the “naturalness.”

Besides bugs, peppermint is also one of the most effective essential oils to repel bed bugs. Just spray the DIY bug spray recipe (given below) on your mattress to help deter those little pests.

How To Use Peppermint Oil To Repel Bugs?

The peppermint oil DIY homemade recipe to make a natural bug repellent include:

  • Bug Spray: Add ½ cup boiled water to a clean, spray bottle. Mix 2 teaspoons of witch hazel, 25 drops of peppermint oil, and 5 drops of eucalyptus oil to it. Shake the bottle well and spray a little on your clothes before you step outdoors. You can even spray on the window curtains to prevent bugs and mosquitoes from entering in the house.
  • Cotton Balls: Take a few pieces of cotton balls and add 5-6 drops of peppermint essential oil directly on them. This emits a stronger smell and works better. Place these cotton balls in different locations around your house to repel rodents and insects naturally. Replace the cotton balls with new ones after 25-30 days.

Also Read: How to use essential oils safely?

2. Catnip Oil

list of essential oils that repel bugs

Catnip (Nepeta cataria), more commonly known as catmint or catswort is one of the best essential oils to repel bugs naturally. Besides emitting a fresh, unique aroma, it is a well-admired medicinal herb to treat different ailments.

This is due to the presence of an essential compound in it called nepetalactone. In fact, research has demonstrated that nepetalactone not only gives catnip its characteristic aroma but also is proven to be 10 times effective than DEET – a chemical compound that is commonly used in all commercial bug-repellents. (6, 7, 8)

How To Use Catnip Oil To Repel Bugs?

Here is a homemade bug spray recipe that involves the use of catnip essential oil.

  • Insect Repellent Spray: To make a DIY bug repellent, mix 10-15 drops of catnip essential oil with ½ cup boiled water, and 1 teaspoon of witch hazel. Blend them well and finally, dilute it with any carrier oil. Spray a little on your skin when you step outside.
  • Diffuser: You can also diffuse a few drops of catnip oil with 2-3 drops of mint or citronella oil to prevent bugs and other insects from entering your room.

3. Neem Oilwhich essential oils repel bugs

Neem (Azadirachta indica) is one of the most valued herbs in the Ayurvedic system due to its rich medicinal properties. From the flowers to its bark, each part of the neem tree can be used for industrial, agricultural, and medicinal purposes.

It has a powerful, pungent aroma with a very bitter taste. The color of the neem oil might differ from pale yellow to light brown, based on the extraction process. (9)

However, talking about repellents, neem oil is proven to be highly effective. In fact, it is a natural pesticide and has been used since ancient times to prevent diseases and control pests.

It is either in brown or yellow with a sulfur/garlic smell, and a very bitter taste. It mainly constitutes triglycerides and triterpenoid compounds. These are the ones responsible for its bitter taste. But its active compound Azadirachtin is what repels bugs and insects. (10, 11, 12)

How To Use Neem Oil To Repel Bugs?

 Here are two popular ways to use neem oil as a bug repellent.

  • Topical Application: Mix neem oil and pure coconut oil in equal proportions. Apply the mixture on your skin whenever you step outdoors. While coconut oil moisturizes the skin, neem oil’s bitter smell helps in repelling the pesky bugs and mosquitoes.
  • Vaporizer: Mix 1 tablespoon of neem oil with a few drops of camphor oil or 1 tablespoon of powdered camphor. Mix them properly and fill this mixture to an empty chemical-based mosquito repellent. Plug and use this in the same way you do with the usual repellent. You can even use this in a vaporizer.

4. Thyme Oil

essential oils that repel bugs

Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is one of the incredible Mediterranean herbs with medicinal and dietary uses.

It is well admired for its antifungal, insecticidal, and antibacterial properties. But not many are aware that it works perfectly to repel bugs. In fact, it is reported to be as effective as DEET.

Now, this is due to its active volatile compounds called thymol and carvacrol.

Thymol is a naturally-occurring compound belonging to the class of biocides. As a substance, it is the potential to kill harmful organisms like infectious bacteria. When it is used with other biocides like carvacrol, the herb – thyme – exhibits antimicrobial properties. (13, 14)

How To Use Thyme Oil To Repel Bugs?

 Here is a simple DIY thyme oil recipe to make a natural bug repellent.

  • Bug Repellent Spray: Mix 1 cup of apple cider vinegar with 1 teaspoon of thyme oil and 3-4 drops of peppermint oil. Add a little lukewarm water to it if the consistency is thick. Store it in a spray bottle. Shake well before use.

5. Citronella Oilessential oils that repel bugs

Citronella (Cymbopogon) is a highly valued essential oil in aromatherapy and perfumery due to its naturally occurring compounds. It has a citrusy flavor and is a commonly used herb in Asian cuisine. It can be used fresh, powdered, or dried.

Citronella oil features immense beneficial properties. It can be used as an insecticide, diaphoretic, antiseptic, deodorant, stimulant, and bactericidal.

It is either pale yellow or colorless liquid with a lemony, grassy, or woodsy fragrance. It repels insects like mosquitoes, fleas, ticks, and black flies. It is used on humans and their clothing – in the form of oil, liquid, and patch. Since it is non-toxic and natural, it makes a wonderful alternative to DEET.

The reason it helps repel bugs and insects is due to the active compounds camphor, eugenol, eucalyptol, citronellal, citral, and linalool. (15, 16)

How To Use Citronella Oil To Repel Bugs?

The homemade recipe to use citronella oil as a bug repellent is given below:

  • Topical Application: Add 3-5 drops of citronella oil to your moisturizer or lotion. Mix them well and apply on your body before stepping outdoors.
  • Bug Spray: Mix ½ cup distilled water with 1 teaspoon of citronella oil and 4 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. Mix them well and store it in a clean spray bottle. Shake well before spraying it on your clothes or house.

6. Tea Tree Oil


essential oils that repel bugs

Tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) is another great addition to keep those pesky pests away. Be it bugs, mosquitoes, or other small insects, tea tree oil has been proven highly effective.

A study demonstrated that tea tree has better abilities to repel insects than DEET. This is due to the presence of an essential compound in it called terpinen-4-ol and terpenes. (17, 18, 19)

Besides using it as a repellent, it can also be used to treat stings or insect bites.

How To Use Tea Tree Oil To Repel Bugs?

 These DIY tea tree oil recipes can keep those bugs at bay:

  • Diffuser: If you want to prevent bugs and insects from entering your room or house, a good way is to diffuse a few drops of tea tree oil with a little mint oil in a diffuser.
  • Topical Application: Add 2-3 drops of tea tree oil to your cream or moisturizer and apply it to your body before stepping outside.

7. Clove Oilessential oils that repel bugs

Clove (Syzygium aromaticum) is one of the best ways to get rid of houseflies and other small insects.

It has a distinctive smell and is widely used in aromatherapy for its therapeutic benefits. It has antimicrobial, antiseptic, antifungal, aphrodisiac, stimulant, and antiviral properties.

The reason clove oil works like a magic in repelling bugs and other insects is due to its active compound eugenol. (20, 21)

How To Use Clove Oil To Repel Bugs?

Learn the right way to use clove oil to repel insects:

  • Bug Repellent: Combine a few drops of clove oil and peppermint oil with 1 quarter of distilled water. Pour this mixture in a clean, spray bottle and shake well before spritzing around your house. However, you will have to reapply multiple times to keep the fragrances active.

8. Lavender Oilessential oils that repel bugs

Lavender (Lavandula) has that essential fragrance to repel bugs and insects. Its usage dates back to the ancient times and is known to exhibit anti-fungal, antiseptic, and analgesic properties.

Well admired for its versatility, Lavender is also known as the “king of essential oils.” Be it respiratory issues, psychological problems, stress, eczema, fungal infections, skin, or hair, lavender is highly helpful.

The active compounds in lavender include linalool, cineol, linalyl acetate, limonene, pinene, borneol, and geraniol. (22)

How To Use Lavender Oil To Repel Bugs?

Here is a terrific homemade recipe using lavender oil to keep the bugs at bay:

  • Bug Spray: Mix ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar with 10 drops of lavender essential oil. Store the mixture in a spray bottle and spritz whenever required. Add a little water if you feel that vinegar’s smell is overpowering.
  • Moisturizer: Add a few drops of lavender oil to your regular moisturizer and apply it to your body to deter insects and mosquitoes.

9. Geranium Oilessential oils that repel bugs

The use of Geranium oil (Geraniums) dates back to the ancient Egyptian times when they used it to promote radiant and beautiful skin. However, this isn’t the only benefit it offers.

It helps in alleviating anxiety, uplifting the mood, balancing the hormones, and treating acne. Besides all this, it is proven to be an effective insecticide.

Geranium is one of the best essential oils that repel bugs, flies, ants, ticks, fleas, cockroaches, and gnats. This is due to the presence of an active compound called Geraniol. (23, 24)

How To Use Geranium Oil To Repel Bugs?

Make your own geranium oil-based bug repellent recipe at home:

  • Natural Bug Spray: Add 10 drops of geranium oil to ½ cup vinegar, 1 tablespoon rubbing alcohol, and 2 drops of eucalyptus oil. If the consistency is thick, add a little distilled water.

10. Patchouli Oilessential oils that repel bugs

Patchouli (Pogostemon cablin) is another effective essential oil that repels bugs. In fact, it is one of the most common ingredients used in different commercial bug sprays, skin lotions, and incense sticks.

It has been reported to be very effective against fleas, ants, bed bugs, lice, mosquitoes, and flies. The reason being its active compound – patchouli alcohol. (25)

How To Use Patchouli Oil To Repel Bugs?

Learn how to make a DIY bug repellent using patchouli oil:

  • Topical Application: You can either take 1-2 drops of patchouli oil and apply it on your wrists and toes and repel bugs, mosquitoes, and other insects. Alternatively, you can mix a few drops of it to your moisturizer and apply before going outdoors.
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