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How to Make Your Own Bug Spray

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There is nothing worse than settling in for a night of campfire stories and realizing the bug spray bottle has only a few drops left. Or worse, it was left on the kitchen counter. When this happens you have three options:

  1. Suffer through the mosquitoes and endure itchy bites for the rest of the week
  2. Cover up and hide inside a tent for the rest of the night
  3. Make your own bug spray using common kitchen ingredients

How to make vanilla bug spray

There are many variations to making your own bug spray, but this one seems to be the easiest in a pinch. The only ingredients needed are 1 tbsp of natural vanilla extract (check ingredients for corn syrup to prevent stickiness) and 1 cup of water. Mix together and pour into a spray bottle (we really like these ones) or mason jar and voila! A safe and sweet smelling bug deterrent made in less than 5 minutes. Add essential oils such as citronella, turmeric, lavender, or lemon eucalyptus for a more potent spray.

Although vanilla does not repel bugs itself, it has an unpleasant odour to mosquitoes. Pair this spray with covering up as much as possible, staying near the fire (smoke is also known to repel mosquitoes) and moving around (mosquitoes aren’t that fast) to lessen the likeliness of getting bitten. Keep in mind that this is not remotely as effective as DEET or picaridin based sprays, and it will need to be reapplied much more frequently.

Mosquito on skin

Vanillin (the natural chemical in vanilla) can also make commercial sprays last longer because it helps slow evaporation. This is important to note because DEET can have harmful effects when used too frequently. This is one of the reasons that Health Canada phased out any sprays containing more than 30% DEET in 2004. Sprays with 20% picaridin are an equivalent DEET-alternative with no downsides.

Health Canada and the Canadian Pediatric Society urge against the use of DEET on infants from 0-6 months. For children 6 months to 2 years the recommended dose is just once per day, and for children 2-12 years the recommended dose is 3 times in one day. A spray with 10% DEET is safe and effective when used accordingly. Use this homemade spray (in combination with recommended use of commercial spray) throughout the day (when mosquitoes are less active) to prolong protection.

For more tips on pesky mosquito protection check out Tips to Keep the Bugs at Bay During Summer Weather.