Briana Boldin

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Briana Boldin

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Update May 2019:  This is still the best bug repellent we have found to use! However, as our dog developed idiopathic epilepsy last year, we have had to become more cognisant of how essential oils and intense scents can affect seizure-prone animals (and humans). We’ve now tried and tested a less intense version that has been safe for our little fur friend – check it out here!

I love the outdoors – from the sun and the grass, to the breeze and the trees – but what I don’t love so much is how attractive I seem to be to all of the bugs out there!

We all have that one friend or family member who seems to get attacked by bugs 100x worse than anyone else, and we love that person for keeping all the tiny pests occupied and away from us.  Unfortunately for me (and many others), I am that person.

So, coupled with the need to avoid many of the harsh chemicals and additives you find in store-bought repellents (that never seem to work that well, anyhow), I set out to create a homemade spray that actually worked. And believe it or not, I did!

I started by digging into a phenomenal resource on essential oils, “The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy” by Valerie Ann Worwood – a book that has provided me with so much valuable information over the years.  Valerie has a great recipe for a general all-purpose insect deterrent that can be used a whole bunch of ways, as well as cool sections that cover what essential oils can be used in a basic emergency travel kit.

My favourite for on-the-go applications is the spray-bottle method, and I’ve adapted her recipe through years of personal trial and experimentation to come up with a genuinely effective, pleasant-smelling blend that leaves you bite-free and never leaves a weird film on your skin and clothing.

Another great feature: its pet and child-safe – I coat my dog in this spray as well to keep the bugs off him during our treks.

One important thing I like to note about the spray is that it seems to wear off rather quickly, so I recommend reapplying every 30-60 minutes or so, or whenever you notice that the bugs seem to be bothering you again (especially on really hot, humid days).

I always look for a glass spray bottle, or BPA-free plastic. Try not to spray in the mouth or eyes – it doesn’t taste very yummy, and will sting the eyes.

Ingredients (makes about 250 mL):

  • ¼ cup witch hazel
  • ½ cup filtered water
  • 10 drops pure lavender essential oil *
  • 10 drops pure peppermint essential oil *
  • 10 drops pure eucalyptus essential oil *
  • 10 drops pure thyme essential oil *
  • 20 drops pure lemongrass essential oil *

Combine ingredients into a bottle.
I like to use amber glass bottles like in the photo above – you can purchase them in 100mL size with a spray lid attachment (I get mine from  This recipe fills two 100mL bottles.

Shake well and apply immediately after shaking.

Continue to shake the bottle once and a while as you are applying to keep it well mixed.

Reapply every half hour or as needed.

* Pure means UNDILUTED. Most essential oils need to be diluted before they can be used on the skin, so many companies sell essential oils pre-diluted in a carrier oil (e.g. hemp, jojoba, grapeseed, argan, etc.).
Please make sure that the essential oil you are using is undiluted, or else the potency and effectiveness will be adversely affected.
Please choose organic oils when possible to reduce exposure to chemicals.


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