Like the outdoors, but not the bugs? If you are looking for DIY options over commercial insect sprays or repellents, the good news is that there are cheaper and effective alternatives using ingredients right there in your pantry or bathroom cupboard. In this article, I cover a list of homemade solutions for repelling insects while camping out or hiking including a DIY mosquito repellent Dettol mix.
Who is this for? Anyone who wants relief from annoying flying or crawling insects. This is for enthusiasts or visitors of the outdoors, whether you are camping, hiking or day visiting an area where there are bugs galore. It’s also for people who simply want to deter these bugs from their living or personal space. In all, it’s for anyone who has annoying insects and is not keen on applying commercial products with unknown but possibly harmful chemicals.
How do I choose insect repellents?
I choose ‘simple living’ types that I know work. I no longer use commercial bug sprays with a cocktail of chemicals. I keep it simple, using a few everyday ingredients and a set of homemade insect repellent recipes that I’ve tried and tested over time.
How to limit exposure to bugs
Overall, I try to limit my exposure to biting insects. Timing is one way I do this. You can choose your seasons or the time of day to carry out your activities.
For homes and camps, you can use fly screens and netting to limit exposure to flying insects. Crawling insects are a bit different.
And, let’s be real, physical avoidance is not always practical and these critters can attack when you least expect them.
Why it is important to limit exposure to biting insects
Biting insects are vectors for disease. In the tropical area where I live, mosquitoes carry debilitating viruses, one being Ross River Virus. There are many others and these vary with location. You should know the risk of these for the location in which you live or visit.
DIY mosquito repellent
There was a time outdoors when I was caught without insect repellent and got attacked by salt marsh mosquitoes. If you know the type, you know that these know how to bite – ouch! Luckily I travel with a first aid kit in the car and I was so thankful for the bottle of Dettol that saved the day. You’ll see why below.
Simple repellents from everyday ingredients
It’s handy to have some basic know-how of everyday ingredients you can mix up for a quick solution to keep the bugs at bay.
If you want this knowledge or just want to do away with commercial bug sprays, the following includes ‘simple ingredient’ ones I use as well as a few others. These are good to add to your list to take with you camping, on that hiking trail, or anytime outdoors.
DIY bug repellent for skin
I live on the coast in the tropics, so mosquitoes, flies, sandflies, and midges are common annoyances.
If you ask me what is the best mosquito repellent, I’d say this DIY one that I’ve used time and time again and found that it works superbly.
It is a DIY buy repellent for skin recipe that was given to me some time ago by an army reserve volunteer.
I consider this not only a most effective mosquito repellent but it works against sandflies, midges, and marsh flies as well. My friends even remark on how well it works compared to commercial brands, particularly against sandflies.
Instructions to make mosquito repellent Dettol mix
The original recipe is equal parts Dettol Original First Aid Antiseptic Liquid and Baby Oil (which is typically mineral oil).
For a greener option, substitute a light vegetable oil base, such as grapeseed oil, rather than baby oil, which is mineral-based.
I find grapeseed oil is a light silky moisturizer and it’s suitable for all skin types. It’s a non-fragrance alternative you can use to replace mineral baby oil in this insect-repellant recipe.
Place the mixture in a pump spray bottle and shake before each use. (The parts will tend to separate in the bottle when not in use).
For the container, you can recycle a pump spray bottle, for example, one that had contained a hair care product. Or, look to buy a pump spray bottle at your department store or online.
Make sure to label your bottle to avoid misusing it.
How it works
It masks you from the mosquitos and other biting flies that are attracted to the heat, carbon dioxide, and odour emitted by your body.
I’d much prefer this mosquito repellent Dettol mix to being bitten or worrying about the potential issues of ingredients1 in commercially available products.
DIY ant repellents
There is nothing worse than being bitten by an ant (especially, like…when you’re sitting in nature trying to meditate). Ouch! Imagine my surprise when I found a colony of ants nesting under my meditation cushion (for real). By the way, if you are wanting a new or replacement meditation pillow, see my article covering the best type of inner filling and structure for comfort in these.
The following bug repellent is great for deterring ants. You can easily make this up at home beforehand to take with you camping.
You never know whether you’ll have those annoying ants or not. They can get through the tiniest gap and you don’t want them invading your camping supplies.
Generally, at home, I don’t worry about ants as they tend to move inside seasonally with the coming wet season here and usually, they move outside again when the weather settles.
That is unless the invasion gets too much, they are the type that bite or they are getting into food items (or, yeh, they invade my quiet space). Then, I look for solutions.
But when you are out camping, you don’t want the critters getting into your supplies, because, the shop isn’t nearby to replenish
Best ant traps for house – borax mixture ant attractant
This is a homemade ant trap. I’ve used this method and it works to keep ants away. It is a mixture of half borax and half treacle (or molasses) placed in a container away from where you concentrate your activities.
Time needed: 10 minutes.
Homemade ant trap – Step-by-step instructions
- Source A Small Plastic Container Find a small empty plastic container with a lid. Tip: Recycle. Use an empty plastic container with a lid, from a tub of yogurt or a similar container, for example.
- Add Holes Add holes in the top and lid, large enough just so the ants can access the mixture. You can use a small cordless drill for this or just a hammer and nail, depending on the container.
- Mix Ingredients Mix equal parts borax and treacle (or something just as sweet and gooey) and place in the plastic container, secure the lid.
- Place It Put it somewhere close to where the ants are annoying you, but out of the way of prying hands and pets and away from where you sit, sleep, or eat.
How it works
The ants that are the scouts take it back to the nest. Because the colony gets sick on the borax, the Queen ant directs the scouts elsewhere. No joking.
Warning: keep the borax mixture out of reach of pets and children. Borax is a natural mineral and has no known hazard issues, though it is advised to limit its exposure to children (you can learn more here).
Ants can sneak through the tiniest of gaps, like the seal of the honey jar in the closed food crate – but you can use barriers to keep them at bay. Here are ways that are recommended:
☞ Try sitting the honey jar inside another container with a layer of cornflour placed around it. (I’ve tried this…it works).
☞ Place freshly cut slices of lemons in their pathway. (Yet to try this).
☞ Try sprinkling cayenne pepper liberally in their pathway or around items like the food crate or picnic basket to keep the ants from getting into your camping supplies. (Yet to try this).
Best fly repellent for camping
DIY solutions for getting rid of flies that include fly traps, like those listed by
It worries me to think of the effect of the commercial ingredients on my health long-term, not to mention the impact on the environment. So I write about the types of DIY products I use to lessen my exposure to potentially toxic chemicals and options considered less toxic to the environment.
What DIY bug repellents have worked for you?
I’ve shared a few simple ideas for insect repellents when camping. I consider these better for my family’s health and for the environment, but at the same time, they help our budget. What are your favourites?
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No more food wrap for me, I’ve made a couple of sets of beeswax wraps (and you can see how I did that here) and I just love them. They make great gift ideas for the environmentally conscious. If you don’t have time to make them yourself check out the ready-made sets online. My list of thirty or more gift ideas inspired by nature includes links to online places where you can easily buy them.
For hair that is soft and lustrous, you can use products straight from the pantry. For example, virgin olive oil. You can see how and a list of others in my article on homemade natural hair moisturizers.
My article on dental health using alternatives to conventional toothpaste.
- Briassoulis, G., Narlioglou, M., & Hatzis, T. (2001). Toxic encephalopathy associated with
useof DEET insect repellents: a case analysis of its toxicity in children. Human & Experimental Toxicology, 20(1), 8–14.
Other information sources
Apart from those mentioned above, generally, the sources of these DIYs are what I’ve