DIY Organic Pest Repellant: How to Keep Bugs Out of Your House and Off Your Skin This Summer

Ants in your kitchen sink. Ticks inside your sock. Mosquitoes going BZZZZZ in your ear at 4 a.m.

Summer brings many wonderful things, but bugs aren’t one of them. And for many of us, summer can feel like an endless battle against creatures that would love nothing more than to bite us, sting us or make our homes their own.

So, we’ve put together this guide below to help you repel and get rid of such pests — without harmful chemicals:

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Why the focus on essential oils?

Well, for several reasons...

First, they simply smell better than chemical bug sprays. More importantly, though, they’re effective at warding off bugs without exposing you, your family, and your home to unhealthy chemical compounds.

The most effective commercial bug sprays rely on a chemical compound called diethyltoluamide, or DEET. This is a substance that about one-third of Americans use each summer, according to Duke University Medical Center pharmacologist Mohamed Abou-Donia, Ph.D., and it has been shown to have negative health effects.

According to Heather at Mommypotamus — whose site was a valuable resource in putting this infographic together — DEET has been shown to impair the coordination, muscle control and brain functions in laboratory rats.

Essential oils present a reliable alternative to DEET, and many of the oils in the recipes above can be found easily in shops and online.

Granted, essential oils come with their own health warnings. These are strong substances, and you shouldn’t ingest them, get them near your eyes, or apply them to young children. Women who are pregnant or nursing should also talk with their doctors before trying out essential oil mixtures.

If you’ve been cleared to use them, though, essential oils are great at repelling mosquitoes, flies, spiders, ticks, cockroaches, bees, and ants.

To keep your home perfectly bug-free, you will probably need to take additional, non-chemical steps — and most of this stuff is common sense. Keep your non-carpeted floors clean by sweeping and mopping them regularly, and maintain a similar hygiene routine for your counter tops. This will get rid of any chemical trails ants leave for each other to signal food sources.

Also, try to seal any foundational cracks or gaps under windows and doorways. This will wall off access to your home from outside intruders such as spiders and cockroaches.

Finally, make sure to clear away any potential hiding spots where spiders can take refuge. “Spiders thrive in dark, cluttered places, so keep stacks of debris, wood piles and thick plant growth away from the sides of the house,” cleaning supplies company Seventh Generation writes. The fewer places spiders can easily inhabit, the more effectively they can be repelled.

And if despite your best efforts you do get bitten or stung — and you don’t have an allergic reaction to the bite or sting — you can use several organic remedies to alleviate the itchiness of the bite. Natural products that have been found to soothe bug bites include: honey, basil, tea tree oil, skim milk, and apple cider vinegar.