For a long time now, people have been warned against using DEET as an insect repellent. It is a neurotoxic substance which can cause severe damage to your nervous system — especially if combined with other pesticides and chemicals.
Don’t fret, though — there are safe insect repellent alternatives available that are all-natural.
DIY Safe Insect Repellents
For a safe DIY mosquito repellent, mix 1 part pure organic vanilla extract with 1 part water in a small spray bottle (this amber colored glass spray bottle will help keep any ingredients from breaking down due to UV exposure). It must be pure vanilla — anything else will be ineffective. Vanillin (with an N on the end) is a synthetic, imitation vanilla that should be avoided. Be warned, though — this spray may stain clothing, so avoid wearing light colored clothes.
If you prefer other options for DIY repellents, you can check out these 5 Homemade Mosquito Repellents.
Ready-Made Natural Insect Repellent Products
Badger Anti-Bug Balm is a certified USDA organic product. The active ingredients are castor oil (10%), citronella (5%), cedar oil (2%), lemongrass oil (2%), rosemary (1%), and geranium oil (1%). Other ingredients are extra virgin olive oil and beeswax.
Burt’s Bees Herbal Insect Repellent is a biodegradable formula that is safe for children and pets. Active ingredients are castor oil (10%), rosemary oil (3.77%), lemongrass oil (2.83%), cedar oil (0.94%), peppermint oil (0.76%), citronella oil (0.57%), clove oil (0.38%), and geranium oil (0.19%). Inert ingredients are soybean oil and vitamin E. Does not contain phthalates, parabens (both of which have harmful side effects) and is pH balanced.
Buzz Away Extreme has been proven to be more effective than Skin-So-Soft Bug Guard, Bite Blocker Organic Insect Repellent, and Natrapel Deet-free Mosquito and Tick Prevention — and it equaled the effectiveness of Deep Woods OFF!. Its active ingredients are castor oil (8%), geranium oil (6%), soybean oil (3%), cedarwood (1.5%), citronella oil (1%), peppermint oil (0.5%), and lemongrass oil (0.25%). Inactive ingredients are purified water, coconut oil, glycerin, lecithin, sodium bicarbonate, citric acid, sodium benzoate (as a preservative), and wintergreen oil. Buzz Away Extreme repels mosquitoes, gnats, and black flies, and also provides approximately 2 hours of tick protection! It can be bought in towelettes, as well!
Insect Repellent Precautions
Always test any repellent (even homemade ones) by smelling it while it is still in the container prior to application to your skin. For a skin test application, apply the insect repellent to a small area of skin, and have soap and water ready to wash off the repellent quickly if necessary due to allergic reaction.
If you are prone to allergic reactions from random products, have your medication ready as well as any EpiPens or inhalers you may have for your particular condition. Always use caution when applying any new substance to your skin.
Use at your own risk!
Repellent Alternatives to Liquid Sprays
For people who are super sensitive to chemicals that don’t want to attempt a repellent, there are other options:
An electric fan — Fans require either an outlet or batteries, and they are often not as effective as spray-type repellents, in most cases. However, they do help deter the pesky little buggers. If you’re camping, you can even find battery operated fans that can hang from the peak of your tent.
Rain Gear — Jacket and pants sets like GoreTex or this polypropylene rain suit prevents mosquitoes from biting the covered areas, and they have hoods to protect your head. They’re also extremely effective against gnats. A windbreaker with a hood and long pants are effective against gnats, but persistent mosquitoes may be able to bite through. Also, rain gear will be hot in warmer weather, so be prepared to sweat!
Bug Mesh Suit — These may be effective against gnats and black flies, but could be ineffective against mosquitoes which may be able to bite through the holes in the mesh. Repellent can be applied to the suit to aid in effectiveness, however mesh suits can be uncomfortably hot in summer months… and they just look silly.
Bug Zappers — Zappers rely on ultraviolet light to attract bugs and an electric charge to kill them. You can even get a solar powered bug zapper that does not require an outlet. Avoid those that burn fossil fuels (propane or butane) to generate carbon dioxide, which actually attracts mosquitos. Also avoid prolonged looking at the UV light since it could damage your eyes (unless you’re wearing UV-blocking sunglasses like these).
Other Helpful Hints for Safe Insect Repellents
- Supplement with 100mg of vitamin B1 each day from April to October.
- Do not eat bananas during mosquito season. Mosquitoes love bananas! There is something about how the body processes the banana oil that attracts these sugar-loving insects!
- Do not use clothing treated with Insect Shield “repellent” since it actually contains permethrin insecticide. Since mosquitoes quickly bite through clothing, they don’t stay long enough to get sick from the pesticide.
- Do not burn mosquito coils. Large suites of volatile organic compounds, including carcinogens and suspected carcinogens, can often be found in the coil smoke. The emission of formaldehyde from burning one coil can be as high as that released from burning 51 cigarettes!
- Do not apply repellent or pesticides to lawns.
Stay safe this summer with you family! Use good, natural ingredients on your skin and on your children, and have lots of fun!