Natural insect repellent: What can you use?

If it buzzes, squeaks, eats your garden and has more legs than you do, chances are you don’t want it creeping around your house.


Blasting unwanted critters with a potent poison may seem like a satisfying solution to your pest problem – and according to our most recent survey of almost 1, 500 Kiwis 37% of us will even use insect spray re-emptively – but if you prefer to use a more natural alternative to expensive pesticides, there are plenty of options. In fact you probably already have the ingredients on hand to make up your own pesticide.

The most commonly applied pesticides are insecticides (to kill insects), herbicides (to kill weeds), rodenticides (to kill rodents) and fungicides (to control fungi, mould and mildew).

Put the lid on pests with these natural controls


If ants are coming in through the cracks of doors and windows, pour a line of cream of tartar where they enter the house, and they will not cross over it. A cinnamon stick, coffee grinds, chili pepper, paprika, cloves, or dried peppermint leaves near the openings may also repel ants. You can even squeeze the juice of a lemon at the entry spot and leave the peel there. Planting mint around the foundation of the house is also claimed to keep ants away.


Create sachets of catnip and place them throughout the infested area (your cat will love you!). Cockroaches like high places, so put a few sachets on top of shelves and other elevated surfaces. Bay leaves, cucumbers and garlic can also help to keep cockroaches away.

Mosquito, Flies & Bugs

Make your own spray with essential oils – Citronella, Clove, Lemongrass, Rosemary, Tea Tree, Eucalyptus, Cedar, Catnip, Lavender or Mint – plus natural witch hazel, distilled or boiled water and vegetable glycerin (optional). Remember to spot test it on furniture and materials before spraying it around with abandon.

Half fill an 8 ounce spray bottle with distilled or boiled water. Add witch hazel to fill almost to the top. Add half a teaspoon of vegetable glycerin, if using. Add 30-50 drops of essential oils to desired scent. The more oils you use, the stronger the spray will be. Try a mix of rosemary, clove, lavender, cinnamon and eucalyptus – it smells great.

Super-strong Insect Repellent

And a warning upfront, this stuff stinks when it is wet, though the smell evaporates as it dries. This is based on a recipe supposedly used by thieves who robbed the dead and dying during the Black Plague. Hence the name Four Thieves Vinegar. It supposedly prevented them from getting sick during their “escapades”. It’s inexpensive to make and you probably already have the ingredients in your kitchen.

Mix 1×32 ounce bottle of Apple Cider Vinegar with 2 tablespoons each of dried sage, rosemary, lavender, thyme and mint. Put into a large glass jar, seal tightly and leave on a kitchen bench top where you will see it daily. Shake well each day for 2-3 weeks. After 2-3 weeks, strain the herbs out and store in spray bottles, preferably in the fridge. To use on skin, dilute to half with water in a spray bottle and use as needed for serious bug control.

Other simple insect repelling ideas:

• Add vanilla extract to the Bug recipes above, or just rub on the skin. You can also mix vanilla with witch hazel and water for a spray version.
• Rub lavender flowers or lavender oil on your skin, especially the hot parts on the body (neck, underarms, behind ears, etc.) to repel insects.
• Rub fresh or dried leaves of anything in the mint family all over the skin to repel insects (peppermint, spearmint, catnip, pennyroyal, etc. or citronella).
• Basil is also useful for repelling mosquitoes – and 28% of our survey respondents admitted to being constantly bitten by mosquitos.

If you do get bitten, grab a paper towel and rub a little lemongrass oil into the area. It is great for stopping the itch caused by mosquito bites.

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