Tips & Guides

6 Homemade Mosquito Repellent Recipes for RVers8 min read

There are a few key items you should have in your RV at all times. At the top of that list is mosquito repellent.

Mosquitoes are nasty monsters. The female insects suck human blood to provide nutrition for their eggs (male mosquitoes don’t bite). But that’s not the extent of their damage. They’re responsible for transmitting some of the world’s deadliest diseases, from malaria to West Nile and the Zika virus.

Few are probably unaware of the recent Zika outbreak. Prior to 2007, just 14 known cases were reported to the CDC. But then in Brazil, starting around two years ago, Zika was blamed for several new cases of microcephaly, a particularly insidious neurological defect that inhibits head and brain growth in newborn babies. More than 3,500 cases have been reported since January. Zika disease carrying mosquitos have not made their way into the U.S., yet, but experts say they will.

The best way to avoid mosquitoes is to lock yourself in an air conditioned house and wear clothing head-to-toe, finger-tip-to-finger-tip. Have a great summer!

… You’re Still Here?

If you don’t want to lock yourself in an airtight house, then consider stocking up on mosquito repellent. Also, be sure to eliminate standing pools of water (a.k.a mosquito nurseries) at home, at campsites – wherever you are for extended periods of time.

Bug Spray Ingredients

When buying mosquito repellent, read the product label and look for one of these ingredients:

  •    DEET
  •    Picaridin
  •    IR3535
  •    Oil of lemon eucalyptus
  •    Para-menthane-diol

One thing that may stand out about this list is that it’s populated with barely pronounceable chemicals. Can all of these compounds be safe? For the most part, we know that they don’t cause cancer – not immediately, at least. But many are known irritants. If you’re not convinced that products meant to murder insects and damage receptors in their antennae should be doused onto your skin, consider making homemade mosquito repellent.

Here are some other reasons you may want a homemade mosquito repellent recipe on hand:

  • Stores are selling out. NBC News reported that in response to the Zika outbreak, Americans are stocking up bug spray. Even if manufacturers can keep up with demand, you may still face the inconvenience of an empty shelf at CVS on the day you go to pick up your supply.
  • Mass-market sprays often contain fragrances, which for some people can cause headaches or migraines; red, scratchy eyes; or burning, itchy skin.
  • Mass produced bug spray is a one-size-fits-all formulation. If you’re among those who do just fine with the minimal amount of chemical repellent, it can’t hurt to whip up your own formula.
  • Mosquitoes can become immune to bug spray. They’re less likely to develop a tolerance if you switch up your tools of warfare.

6 homemade and road-tested mosquito repellents

Homemade Mosquito Repellent - Witch Hazel

1. Health and wellness website,, suggests using a witch hazel spray 

What you need:

  •      Natural witch hazel
  •      Distilled water (or boiled water will do)
  •      8 oz. spray bottle

Optional Ingredients:

  •      One of these essential oils: citronella, clove, lemongrass, rosemary, catnip, mint, lavender
  •      Vegetable glycerin


  •      Fill ½ of your spray bottle with distilled water
  •      Top off with witch hazel, leaving about a half an inch of space

Optional steps:

  •      Add ½ teaspoon vegetable glycerin
  •      Add around 30 to 50 drops of the essential oil of your choice. You can also combine multiple oils for a unique scent. Certain oils also act as a skin moisturizer.

Pro Tip: Never apply a new substance to your skin without first researching it and testing it on a less exposed patch of skin, like the back of your thigh or the back of your arm. If you have a reaction, your skin may be too sensitive for this combo, or you may be allergic.

DIY Mosquito Repellent - Castile Soap

2. Bug-repellent soap, featured on

What you need:

  •      Castile soap. Popular brands include Dr. Bronner’s or Kirk’s
  •      Essential oils – they use citronella, pennyroyal, lavender, and rose geranium


  •      Add 10 to 15 drops of essential oil per ounce of liquid soap. Note that there are about 600 drops of oil in a 1-ounce dropper.

Pro Tip: Using bug-repellant soap in the shower and washing your hands may give you some protection from insects, but it can’t hurt to have a backup homemade repellent on hand.

Homemade Mosquito Repellent - Essential Oil Atomizer

3. Essential Oil Atomizer

What you will need:

  •      Volatile oils: O. basilicum (common basil); and one or a combination of these oils: hoary basil (aka, camphor), turmeric, kaffir lime, citronella grass
  •      Atomizer – a set of four 1-oz spray bottles will set you back less than $8


  •      Keep a basil-filled atomizer close by so you can spray exposed skin, as well as your surroundings. On dry, non-perspired skin, spraying once every eight hours could do the trick. Spray more often if you perspire.

Pro Tip: Rubbing fresh basil leaves directly onto your skin is said to have a similar effect as its volatile-oil cousin.

DIY Mosquito Repellent Recipes
4. This homemade essential oil spray was developed by researchers in New Zealand 

Mosquitoes are attracted to humans by the C02 we exhale. In fact, they can smell a tasty host from 100 feet away. Researchers in New Zealand have found that certain combinations of essential oils mask chemicals that attract the bloodsuckers.

In the study, researchers found that a mixture of 0.1 and 0.3 ml of citronella and basil repelled laboratory mosquitoes for up to three hours. Adding vanillin deterred the insects another 3 ½ hours. Mosquitoes also dislike turmeric, kaffir lime, and vanillin – for at least 4 ½ hours. Spraying surfaces – like your picnic table, lawn chairs, BBQ stand, and other non-porous surfaces – can help make the area less desirable to mosquitoes.

Homemade Mosquito Repellent - Neem Oil

5. This organic fly repellent is from

What you need:

  •      1 liter distilled water
  •      5 ml neem oil
  •      2 ml organic liquid soap (there are almost 30 ml in a 1 ounce bottle of hand soap)
  •      Small spray bottle or recycle food jar with lid


  •      Combine the water, neem oil, and liquid soap in the spray bottle or jar.
  •      Spray directly onto skin, or massage onto skin by hand.
  •      Wash hands after handling to avoid getting soap and oil in your eyes

Coconut Oil

6. Ancient Indian recipe

In 1995, researchers from the Malaria Research Centre in India reported that forest-dwelling villagers experienced 81% to 91% protection from mosquito bites over a period of 12 hours. They used different combinations of neem and coconut oils.


In order to effectively repel as many mosquitoes as possible, you will need a better strategy than just dousing your skin in insect spray. While that may deter a majority of the flies, it’s not a foolproof plan. Plus, there are other critters out there that are best avoided, like the Lyme’s disease carrying deer tick, for one.

Brand and gear experts at REI suggest wearing Insect Shield clothing, or applying permethrin to your shorts, tees, and socks. The chemical kills ticks and also stops mosquitoes from biting through fabrics. Also, always use candles, diffusers, coils and sticks formulated for deterring mosquitoes. If swarms are a problem, use a headnet.


Have you ever whipped up a full-proof mosquito repellent? Share you recipe here!




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