Spring is here and that means it’s the start of nights spent outdoors, more time in parks and backyards, and inevitably bug bites. The worst part about warmer weather is the abundance of mosquitos that swarm around and bite, leaving itchy, red bumps. Mosquitos are the bane of our skin’s existence, but there are plenty of methods you can use to effectively repel them when the need arises. Here are a few favorites.
1. DIY Bug Spray
Use this (almost) all-natural insect spray to repel mosquitoes as well as other insects like flies. Chop one small onion and one head of garlic. Mix together with four cups of water, four teaspoons of cayenne pepper, and one tablespoon of liquid dish soap. Spray around your deck and in places where your children play (rather than on the children themselves). This mixture will last a week or so if stored in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and kept in a dark, cool place.
Important: Although it’s safe, this mixture is meant for use in your environment, not on your skin.
2. Another DIY Bug Spray
If you’re uncomfortable with all of the unpronounceable ingredients in commercial bug sprays, try making this natural version. Mix together a quarter cup of apple cider vinegar, a quarter cup of witch hazel, and around 20 drops of a combination of any of the following essential oils: rosemary, citronella, tea tree, cedar, eucalyptus, or lemongrass. Transfer the mixture to a spray bottle, and shake before each use. Spray directly on exposed skin and the bugs will stay away.
3. Lemon Eucalyptus
When shopping for a natural mosquito repellent, look for one that contains oil of lemon eucalyptus. It’s extremely effective and provides long-lasting protection.
Looking for an effective-yet-natural way to combat mosquitoes? Try peppermint. Combine a few drops of peppermint essential oil with one cup of water in a spray bottle, shake well, and spray onto skin. Not only will the chemical compounds in peppermint help repel the blood-sucking beasts, but you’ll also smell minty fresh.
5. Rosemary and Sage
Do mosquitoes hover over the grill when you barbecue? Next time, place a few sprigs of rosemary or sage on top of the coals. The scent will repel mosquitoes, leaving your meat in peace.
6. Egg Cartons and Coffee Trays
Mosquitoes are a pain each summer, but you don’t have to buy citronella candles, mosquito coils, or the latest gadget—you can just use cardboard egg cartons and coffee trays (the kind you get when you order more than a couple of coffees to-go). Light them on fire, then blow them out and let them smolder in a fire-safe location. The burning smell they produce is pleasant but keeps mosquitoes away.
7. Garlic Water
Citronella candles are great for repelling insects, but they can be pricey. Get the same effect for much cheaper by mixing garlic with water and spraying it near all your outdoor light bulbs. As the bulbs heat up, they spread a faint garlicky scent across your yard, which will keep mosquitoes and other bugs away.
8. Reusable Mosquito Repellent Jar
Here’s a creative idea for keeping insects (particularly flies and mosquitoes) away from you out on your deck or patio. You’ll need an old tin or Mason jar with a lid, as well as a clean cloth or rag. Saturate the cloth with a diluted essential oil like eucalyptus, pennyroyal, peppermint, lavender, or lemongrass; place the cloth in the tin or jar and seal. To use, open the jar and place it on whatever table you’ll be using outdoors. Its fragrance will repel insects. After every few uses, refresh the cloth with more diluted essential oil. People will love the scent, and it’s usually much cheaper than buying citronella candles.
9. Use Nature To Keep Mosquitos Away
Sometimes the easiest thing to do is plant flowers that will keep mosquitoes away. You can also reduce the number of mosquitoes around your property just by attracting the right birds. Many birds—such as orioles, finches, cardinals, and others—eat both seeds and insects. The trick is to give these birds what they’re looking for, so fill feeders with sunflower and safflower seeds, or use suet feeders. The birds will stop by your place to eat, and then make a dent in the mosquito population while they’re at it.
10. DIY Personal Mosquito Repellent
The easiest way to get rid of mosquitoes ever? Simply keep a fabric softener sheet in each pocket. Whether or not this tip works has been hotly disputed (both online and in our very household), but it’s said that there is a chemical in most dryer sheets that is similar to citronella, which is used in bug-repelling candles.
11. DIY Personal Mosquito Repellent Lotion Bar Recipe
You may have seen lotion bars in bath and beauty shops—they look like soaps, but you rub them on dry skin like lotion. They make great presents, and if you have a double boiler and a good health or alternative store that you can buy ingredients like beeswax at, they’re pretty easy to make. Superpower these lotion bars with natural bug repellents like rosemary, thyme, cloves, lavender, and catnip (it’s OK to use what you have and skip some ingredients if you want) and you’ll have coveted gifts on-hand for every summer birthday on your list.
Here’s how to do it.
½ cup coconut oil
2 tablespoons each of dried rosemary and catnip (available at pet stores)
1 tablespoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon each of ground cloves and ground cinnamon
¼ cup cocoa butter
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon beeswax
In a double boiler, stir together coconut oil, dried rosemary, catnip, dried thyme, ground cloves, and ground cinnamon.
Once the coconut oil has melted, cover the mixture and allow it to cook for 15–20 minutes until slightly darkened. (Periodically check the water levels in the bottom of the double boiler, adding more if needed).
Strain the mixture, then return it to the double boiler.
Add cocoa butter and beeswax. Stir until melted, and then remove from the heat.
Add five drops each of lavender essential oil and lemon essential oil.
Pour the mixture into silicone ice cube or candy molds. Allow the bars to set overnight until hard.
To use, just rub a bar against exposed skin. Your skin will be moisturized, and bugs will find someone else to pester.
A version of this article was originally published on Quick and Dirty Tips as “The 11 Best Ways to Get Rid of Mosquitoes.”Read more from Quick and Dirty Tips.