How to Make a Homemade Solid Insect Repellent with Essential Oils

Mosquitos are terrible pests that ruin time outside. Conventional insect repellents contain questionable ingredients, but a homemade solid insect repellent with essential oils works well without the worry!

How to Make a Solid Insect Repellent with Essential Oils

There’s nothing like quiet time outdoors to refuel your spirit and calm your mind. The rustle of leaves, sounds of wildlife, and smell of fresh outdoor air are practically therapy.

That is, until a certain high-pitched hum starts ringing in your ears.

Mosquitoes know just how to ruin a good time!

The only thing I enjoy when it comes to mosquitos is watching the bats circle through the air eating the rascally buggers.

May the bats multiply abundantly.

If you want to spend time outdoors when the weather is nice, especially if you’re going out in the evening, you’ll likely need some kind of insect repellent.

Many conventional insect repellents use questionable ingredients, leaving you stuck in a tricky trade-off: Is DEET really safe? Will natural repellents actually work?

I have good news, my friend! There’s no need to skip the repellent or use something that makes you uncomfortable. With some common skincare ingredients and a handful of essential oils, you can make a natural solid insect repellent that keeps the bugs away!

Developing a Natural, Homemade Insect Repellent

I made the first version of this repellent recipe to rescue my husband from the monster mosquitoes of Guyana, South America. He spent a number of years traveling there every summer for ministry trips and needed something that was travel-friendly, effective, and didn’t worry his label-reading wife.

The first version worked quite well, both in Guyana and back home in Ohio. But to be honest, I didn’t have enough essential oil education to confidently create a formula based on good aromatherapy practice. So I stalked other products on the market and used those to guide me.

After getting my herbalism training and later my aromatherapy certification, I continued to improve this recipe until it was both effective and safe. Because even if something works well, it isn’t smart to use if it has the potential to cause harm.

The recipe now features an essential oil that wasn’t included in the first formula, along with a better dilution rate and options for young children, pregnant women, and the elderly.

At the bottom of this post, you’ll find a convenient printable recipe card with ingredients and instructions. Be sure to scroll all the way down to find it!

homemade solid insect repellent with ingredients

The Key Ingredients You Need to Make a DIY Solid Insect Repellent

If you can make homemade lip balm, you can make homemade insect repellent, too. (And if you haven’t done that yet, no worries. Both projects are super easy!)

A hard lotion bar recipe forms the base of this solid insect repellent. Hard lotion bars are like giant lip balms, usually made with equal parts butter, oil, and wax. This recipe uses beeswax, cocoa butter, and coconut and castor oils.

Castor oil provides some repellent activity, but essential oils do the main work in keeping the bugs away. There’s a balance with essential oils, though. Too much or the wrong oils and your skin can become painfully irritated; too little or the wrong oils and you don’t have an effective product.

The oils in this recipe are powerful repellents, but in safe dilutions to keep your skin happy.

5 Insect-Repellent Essential Oils That Work (and You Can Safely Use)

  • Lemon Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus citriodorais the star. It contains a chemical called p-menthane-3,8-diol which is sometimes isolated and used in conventional repellents. Oil of lemon eucalyptus, a standardized product that’s similar to but not entirely equivalent to lemon eucalyptus essential oil, is even listed by the EPA as an effective insect repellent. *Important note: you cannot blend lemon (Citrus limon) and eucalytpus (Eucalyptus spp.) together to make a lemon eucalyptus substitute. Lemon eucalyptus is a unique plant species.
  • Citronella (Cymbopogon nardus) and lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratusare traditional insect repellent botanicals. Their active repellent compound is citral, but it’s come under fire lately for topical use. In moderate to high concentrations, it can be harmful to skin cells. Since this is a topically applied product, that’s important! Since learning about this possibility, I’ve lowered the amount of both citronella and lemongrass to safer dilutions.
  • Lavender (Lavandula angustifoliais mildly repellent but nourishing to the skin, making it an important addition.
  • Peppermint (Mentha x piperitahelps repel insects because of its menthol content. Menthol can be irritating to the skin, though, so it plays a minor supporting role in the formula.
  • Geranium (Pelagorium graveolens or P. asperumis also soothing to the skin and mildly repellent.

I chose these oils with mosquitos primarily in mind, though many of them will repel most bothersome bugs. This formula will also help repel ticks, but with Lyme disease and other tick-born illnesses on the rise, it’s crucial to take additional steps to avoid being bitten.

Homemade Insect Repellent Recipe with Essential Oils

Disclosure: Affiliate links are included in this section for quality suppliers of the needed ingredients. Purchasing through these links comes at no additional cost to you but supports this site with a commission. Thanks!

solid insect repellent and ingredients

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons beeswax pastilles (from Amazon or Mountain Rose Herbs)
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons shea butter (from Amazon or Mountain Rose Herbs)
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil (from Amazon or Mountain Rose Herbs)
  • 2 tablespoons castor oil (from Amazon or Mountain Rose Herbs)
  • 40 drops lemon eucalyptus (Eucalyptus citriodora) essential oil
  • 10 drops each: citronella (Cymbopogon nardus), lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus), and lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) essential oils
  • 5 drops each: peppermint (Mentha piperita) and geranium (Pelargonium graveolens or P. a) essential oils

I recommend organic essential oils from Florihana, Plant Therapy, and Mountain Rose Herbs.

Instructions

  1. Place all of the ingredients except for the essential oils in a heat-safe bowl. Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and gently melt the shea butter and wax into the oil while stirring. The beeswax will be last to melt.
  2. When the beeswax melts completely, remove from heat and allow to cool slightly before adding the essential oils. I like to wait until the edges of the mixture just start to become opaque and firm.
  3. Add the essential oils, mix thoroughly, and pour the mixture into glass jars, metal tins (Amazon or Mountain Rose Herbs), or cosmetic-grade plastic containers (Amazon or Mountain Rose Herbs) to solidify. You’ll need two 4 oz. containers.

After about 30 minutes, the balm should be all cooled down and ready for a lid and a label. Always write the product name, ingredients, and date made on the label.

The finished product is quite firm, making it a great repellent to carry in your purse or diaper bag. A little goes a long way, and you don’t have to worry about it leaking or spilling.

To add a double-repellent-whammy, pair this with an insect repellent spray that you apply over your clothing.

You can use this formula on everyone in the family over 4 years of age.

How to Make a Safe Homemade Insect Repellent for Children, Elders, and Pregnant Women

For little ones younger between 2-4 years old, pregnant women, and elders, you can eliminate the lemongrass, citronella, and peppermint essential oils for a milder product. This adjustment also works well for anyone with sensitive or damaged skin.

For little ones under 2 years, you can combine three drops of lavender essential oil in 1 1/2 teaspoons carrier oil and apply topically as a safer alternative. It’s best to use essential oils sparingly on newborns, if at all. While some people claim pure essential oils can be applied liberally and even without dilution onto babies and toddlers, this is a dangerous myth, regardless of brand.


The Essential Oils Quick Reference Guide

If you love natural DIY projects like this homemade insect repellent recipe, you might enjoy The Essential Oils Quick Reference Guide.

It’s a printable set of age-specific dilution charts, safety checklists, and more I created to make it easier than ever for you to use your essential oils.

You’ll be able to see at a glance

  • how to get the dilution rate you need 
  • what essential oils should be avoided for certain ages and groups
  • how to decide if a brand is a quality option
  • what essential oil may help a need you have
  • and more!

Homemade Solid Insect Repellent with Essential Oils

This recipe is definitely a must-have for the outdoor season, but in case you don’t have the time to DIY (because, life) or don’t want to gather up the supplies, I recommend Bug Block from MadeOn Skincare. I’ve personally used it and can attest to very good results. Use the code THRIVE5 for a little extra discount at checkout.

Now, imagine yourself outside again, this time without that annoying soprano hum darting in and out around your ears. Nice, right?

The first time I used this repellent and watched a mosquito hover over my arm, then fly away, I was thrilled!

And I hope a bat swooped by shortly after and ate it.

Printable Recipe Card: Solid Homemade Insect Repellent with Essential Oils

Yield: 2 4-ounce tins

How to Make a Solid Insect Repellent with Essential Oils

Homemade Solid Insect Repellent with Essential Oils
Active Time 10 minutes
Additional Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes

Materials

  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons beeswax pastilles
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons cocoa butter wafers or shea butter
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons castor oil
  • 40 drops lemon eucalyptus (Eucalyptus citriodora) essential oil
  • 10 drops each: citronella (Cymbopogon nardus), lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus), and lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) essential oils
  • 5 drops each: peppermint (Mentha piperita) and geranium (Pelargonium graveolens or P. a) essential oils

Tools

  • Heat-safe bowl
  • Small saucepan
  • 2 4-ounce tins or containers
  • Small spatula for stirring

Instructions

    Place all of the ingredients except for the essential oils in a heat-safe bowl. Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and gently melt the butter and wax into the oil while stirring. The beeswax will be last to melt.

    When the beeswax melts completely, remove from heat and allow to cool slightly (5 minutes) before adding the essential oils.

    Add the essential oils, mix thoroughly, and pour the mixture into 2 4-ounce glass jars, metal tins, or cosmetic grade plastic containers to solidify.

Notes

You can use this formula on everyone in the family over 4 years of age.

For little ones younger between 2-4 years old, pregnant women, and the elderly, you can eliminate the lemongrass, citronella, and peppermint essential oils for a milder product. This adjustment also works well for individuals with sensitive or damaged skin.

For little ones under 2 years, you can combine three drops of lavender essential oil in 1 1/2 teaspoons carrier oil and apply topically.

Have you ever used an insect repellent with essential oils?

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    67 Comments

    1. Hello and thank you for this lovely recipe! In my eagerness to make enough to share, I think I’ve made far too much; will it still be good next year?
      Thank you!

      1. Hi Emma. Most likely, it’ll still be fine next year. If you use oils and butters that are fresh, they end product will last longer. The essential oils should stay in the product well if it’s kept sealed and not left in a hot place. Next year, give it a good sniff and see if it smells like it should. If it no longer smells like the essential oils or has a rancid scent, you’ll want to make a fresh batch. If you want to be completely sure it keeps well for next year, you can actually refrigerate it.

    2. Hi Kristen,
      Was wondering if the consistency would be right that I could use push up sticks instead of the jars? The recipe would have to form up so you could roll it over your skin.

      Thank you,
      Cheryl

    3. I’m looking forward to trying this as we have already seen mosquitoes here in Wisconsin. Do you have a recipe for bug spray you would recommend?

    4. Hi again Kristen,
      I noticed you have changed your recipe and was wondering if it’s still possible to add the 5 drops of basil oil to repel the flies? They are terrible here where I live and I just saw a friend today spray himself with a store bought spray laden with chemicals. (They also have a horrid spray where I work with DEET in it, and I would love to give them an alternative.)
      Many thanks, Tara.

      1. Hi Tara! Yes, I occasionally update recipes to make them easier, safer, or more effective. If you want to add the basil, you could substitute some of the lemongrass or citronella for it to keep it at a good dilution percentage. Hope that helps and brings relief! πŸ™‚

        1. Thanks so much for that. I will give it a go and hopefully it will work to keep those pesky flies away. Some days, as soon as you step out the door, there is a black cloud of them buzzing around your face. They are far too friendly for my liking. haha

    5. Hi Kristen, thanks for sharing this with us!

      If I have no lemongrass essential oil, could I just double the amount of citronella, do you think?

      Thanks in advance!

    6. Was wondering if this was safe to use daily for years. My husband and I will be spending several years in Sri Lanka soon. I am not only allergic to mosquitoes and most other bugs but a super magnet for them. In just a two week visit I sported over 60 bites with me spraying clothes and bed sheets daily with off containing deet. I’m just trying to find healthier ways of making life liveable while there without having to lock myself in the house burning citronella candles.

      1. Hi Leslie. Great question! With any product containing essential oils, it’s possible that your skin will start to become sensitized after years of continual use. Proper dilution rates help lower that risk, but it’s still there. I would recommend switching up formulas from time to time to further reduce your risk of sensitization. You can look for formulas that include essential oils like tea tree, rosemary (Rosmarinus officinale ct Cineol), or cedarwood, or higher amounts of geranium, peppermint, or lavender, which are included in this recipe. Best wishes! Those tropical mosquitos are no joke.

    7. Hi, I recently made this about 30 minutes ago, went outside (I’m from Louisiana) I live in a very rural wooded area the mosquitos are so bad you can’t even open your mouth Bc they swarm so bad! I made this tried it out and it didn’t work As great as I’d hoped, I purchased all the expensive pure therapeutic grade essential oils and everything and while it does work better than having nothing at all I’m still getting bit quite a bit. I even doubled the essential oil amount and that didn’t help. Any suggestions would be appreciated!

      1. Hi Danielle. Sounds like mosquitos could be a state mascot for you! There are a lot of variables that can go into how a repellent works, including your own body temperature and chemistry. I wouldn’t recommend going much higher on EO concentration because it can start to irritate your skin and cause unpleasant reactions if it gets too strong. Unfortunately, if you’re going to be outside in the deep woods long and really need protection from mosquitos, you might need to look at conventional sprays for your clothes but use something like this on your skin.

      1. Hi Angelica. Because essential oils evaporate easily, especially with heat, you don’t want to reheat the repellent to add the lavender. You’ll end up with unknown amounts of essential oil left in the product after it solidifies again. You can just use it as-is. πŸ™‚

      1. Absolutely, Jan! It’s a small part of the formula, so don’t worry about it. You can add extra lavender to take its place if you want, or just omit it.

    8. Thank you for this recipe! I use a mix of something very similar, but have been thinking about adding geranium EO to it. Glad to see it’s working for you!

      1. Hi Rachel! The castor oil lends some repellent activity of its own, but if you don’t have it and don’t care to get it, it’s not going to ruin your repellent. You can just use coconut oil in its place. πŸ™‚

    9. Will there ever be a Better Way to Thrive Store? I really want to try this but don’t want to splurge on all the missing oils and other ingredients. Love, your faithful but lazy subscriber.

      1. Dear faithful but lazy subscriber, you made me laugh this morning! I’ve been asked about making actual products, but at this time, it’s not on my radar for the near future. So much has to go in the backend of making products at home for other people, like making sure everything is clean and sanitized, there’s no cross-contamination with potential allergens, I have a dedicated spot for product formulation, and then packaging and mailing orders among other things. I do keep the idea tucked in the back of my mind, though! Maybe years down the road? Love, your faithful and smiling herbal friend.

    10. Hi,
      I don’t have Geranium ready. Can it be substituted with other oil? Lavender perhaps? How is the efficacy compared to Geranium?

      Thanks!

      1. Hi Olivia. Yes, you can substitute lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) in the recipe if needed. It’s often used in other repellant blends. I prefer Geranium since it is more widely referenced as a repellent essential oil, but since it plays a minor part in the blend, I think you should be fine with lavender instead. Enjoy!

      1. Hi Kara! No, cocoa butter and shea butter are different vegetable butters with different textures. Cocoa butter is much firmer, like refrigerated butter. Shea butter is soft and spreadable, like butter left at room temperature. You can use shea butter instead of cocoa butter in this recipe, though. Your insect repellent balm will just be a little softer. Best wishes!

    11. Hi,
      When making this, I accidentally put the essential oils in before heating and melting the oils. I continued the process, because I didn’t have enough ingredients left to start over, using really low heat to very slowly melt the concoction. Will the efficacy of the oils be significantly reduced? I am planning on using the salve in two weeks while on a camping trip and need to know if I should get more ingredients and just start over.
      Thanks!
      Kristen

      1. Hi Kristen. In this case, it is likely that the bug repellent will be less effective. Since essential oils are volatile, they readily evaporate. That evaporation is speeded by heating, even when it’s gentle. It stinks to start all over, though!

        One option is to melt down the salve and keep it liquid for 20 minutes or so, to try to get as much of the essential oils evaporated out as possible, and then add the oils called for in the recipe once the balm starts to cool and thicken. The difficulty with this is that there’s no reliable way to tell at home how much of the original oils are left before adding new ones.

        You could also melt down the balm and a reduced amount of essential oils to avoid any potential skin irritation in case some of the original EOs remain in. The difficulty with this is that it’s possible the ending balm might not be as effective as it could be since you’re adding less essential oil after melting it down.

        If you are using the balm on children or pregnant women, the second option would likely be more suitable. If it is just going on adults, then the first option might be okay. And starting over, obviously, will give you a result you don’t really have to guess at, but it does cost more.

        I hope this helps a little!

        1. Thank you for your reply! I ended up having enough ingredients to make a new half batch and will be testing both. I’ll let you know how it works!

    12. Hi there! My only concern would be the lemon, it’s photosensitive properties in a summer product could cause more serious burns, especially for those that already burn easily in the sunshine. So I would either eliminate it, substitute it or add zinc for protection!

      1. Hi there, Donna! I’m so glad to hear you are concerned about essential oil safety. That’s so important these days as essential oils become more popular! πŸ™‚
        You are right. Expressed lemon essential oil is phototoxic, and that is definitely a bad characteristic for an oil that’s applied topically in the summer! But this recipe doesn’t use lemon essential oil; it uses lemon eucalyptus. Lemon eucalyptus is a specific species of eucalyptus that’s particularly effective at repelling insects. It isn’t a citrus plant and is not phototoxic, though the name might lead you to think so! I hope this relieves your concern. Best wishes!

      1. Hi Debbie! You have to be really careful with essential oils on animals. Certain oils are toxic to dogs, so I wouldn’t recommend this as a canine repellent and would try to avoid the dog licking it off your skin. I have a chapter in my essential oils book that covers animals and EOs. You can learn more about that HERE.

    13. Hi
      Found this link searching for mosquito repellent balms. Can I leave out beeswax. If I do so how does it alter recipe ..that is proportion of other ingredients.

      1. Hi Shree. The beeswax is what makes this balm solid. So if you leave it out, you’ll be left with a goopy oil instead of a balm. You’d also need to reduce the amount of essential oil since there is less carrier diluting it. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend it. It would be pretty messy! You can use other waxes if you don’t want to use beeswax. Carnauba is a good vegan alternative.

    14. HI,
      I was referred to your recipe on facebook, and it looks nice and simple, just the way I like my recipes to be. lol
      I was wondering if you could please tell me approximately how long this would last once it was opened and used. I see many recipes but they don’t say how long the products will last without some kind of preservative.
      Also, are there any natural preservatives that could be added to make them last longer, if they don’t usually last very long?
      Many thanks,
      Tara.

      1. Hi Tara! Yes, I gave you the link. πŸ™‚ Recipes like this one don’t really need preservatives because there is no water in the product. It’s shelf life will be as long as the oils and butters used. This one uses pretty shelf-stable oils and butters, so you can plan for a couple of years with it. If you wanted it to last extra, extra long, you can refrigerate it to slow the oxidation process that eventually makes the oils and butters rancid. But you definitely won’t have any trouble with it lasting through a season, especially if you use fresh materials. Happy crafting!

        1. Oh, whoops. lol I’m not very observant at times. πŸ˜‰
          That’s great that they don’t need preservatives. I like to be able to use or make things as naturally as I can. I’m just kind of starting out on this adventure, so I’m learning all this kind of thing from scratch.
          Also, is it best to smear it all over or just at a few strategic points on the body?
          Thanks for your patience. πŸ™‚

          Tara.

          1. You’re just fine, Tara! We’re all learning together. I use this all over any skin that’s exposed, though I don’t really apply it much to the face. It’s a bit heavy and strong for that.

            1. Ok, I’m back. haha
              I have made this and it seems to work fine for mosquitoes, but I’m wondering if there is anything that could be added to repel flies? I can’t even barely step outside before the flies come and divebomb my face! I would really love some help finding something to get rid of the flies.

              Thanks. πŸ™‚

            2. Hi Tara! Welcome back. πŸ™‚ For houseflies, my references site cornmint (this has significantly more menthol than peppermint) or basil (Ocimum basilicum). You could start with just 5 drops of one of them to avoid making something so strong that it irritates your skin. Sounds like you have some aggressive flies at your house!

    15. Tea tree and peppermint with a base of viniger and almond oil works amazing I also put some in a beeswax and set of ledge of porch it smell for days

    16. Do you have any ideas for palmetto bugs here in Florida. I want to put some kind of barrier around the bottom of my doors, mainly my garage door so they don’t come in. I DETEST and are PETRIFIED of palmetto bugs, we don’t get too many but once a month or once in a while might find one in the house and it makes me feel like moving, knowing they are in the house with me.. YYYAAAKKK

      1. Living in Ohio, I had to go Google palmetto bugs to see what they look like. Yeah, I can see why you’d want them gone! My reference books list repellents for house flies, mosquitos, and gnats mostly. One thing I see often repeated is using peppermint essential oil to repel spiders and insects in the home. Perhaps the palmetto bugs won’t like it? You can either add some peppermint to vinegar and spray the surfaces where they come in, or add some to a cloth or cotton ball and leave in the area. This post from Aromahead’s blog might offer some ideas! Best wishes for a bug-free home. πŸ˜‰

    17. can you explain 1/4c.+ 2T beeswax pastilles please also 2T castor oil….I am English and this is not familiar to me….and I find all American recipes use this method…I’ve tried working it out and admit defeat….can you help me understand what surely must be simple so that I can proceed with confidence. regards David

      1. Hi David, and so sorry for any confusion. For beeswax pastilles, it is 1/4 cup (dry) measurement, plus an additional 2 tablespoons. For the castor oil, it is 2 tablespoons as well. I hope this helps, but if there’s still confusion, please let me know so I can explain better. Best wishes!

        1. Hi there…how easy it is when you have the answer…thanks very much…its like someone has turned the light on…or perhaps its just that we limes are non too bright…..regards David

    18. Nix the first question.
      Can this also can be put in molds so all I would have to do is just.fun on like a motion bar. and does this repel no-see-um, I have a big issue here in Key West, FL., besides the Aisan Tiger Mosquito that carries West Nile and/ or Malaria.
      I work at Home Depot Garden Center.

        1. I’m not sure how that would work. You can certainly try it, but my guess is that the consistency would be different. As far as the repelling properties, I don’t think that jojoba oil would make a big difference. If you try it, I’d love to hear how it turned out!

      1. Hi Faye,
        Yes, I think this would work well in molds. It’s a very solid balm! Depending on the heat, they might get a little squishy, especially if you used a butter other than cocoa butter. I don’t know about no-see-ums, though. We don’t have those in Ohio where I am, so I’m sorry I can’t say one way or another for those!

      1. Sure Sapna! Cocoa butter makes this very firm, but other body butters would work just as well. It is just the base of the balm, but doesn’t add any repellant properties.

      1. Ah! Colleen, thank you for the reminder! I wrote these posts a couple of years ago before I was really familiar with how to add links in my posts. Silly, I know. I kept forgetting to go back and edit this one with a link to the verdict, but it’s all added now. You can read the verdict here!

      1. It was a success, Sheri! I wrote this post a while ago and need to link the follow-up post I wrote. Thanks for the reminder!

        1. I make soap so measure my ingredients by weight. I have pure beeswax, not pastilles so what do you think the weight of 1/4 cup plus 2T would be?

          1. Hi, Trish! I just checked for you. You’ll need 1.5 oz beeswax (or 43 grams). I should have the weight measurements in the recipe since that’s more accurate, anyway. I’ll be sure to add those soon. Enjoy!