If you're afraid that chemical bug sprays might be too harsh for your skin or your home, then a natural, plant-based product is a great alternative! Natural bug sprays can work well but tend to provide shorter hours of protection than their chemical counterparts.
Confused about which product to choose to keep insects off of you and out of your house? Don't worry and keep reading! Our top 10 best natural bug sprays and buying guide will help you choose a spray that can meet all your needs. But if you just want a quick recommendation, our top pick is Repel's Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent. It's made with the natural oil of lemon eucalyptus and can keep bugs at bay for up to six hours.
Various popular bug sprays contain chemical ingredients such as DEET or picaridin. The Environmental Protection Agency, which regulates the use of these chemicals, considers them to be safe for topical use.
However, in some cases, they may lead to allergic reactions and skin irritation. In addition, some people prefer to avoid the use of synthetic chemicals when possible, especially for their children. Research also indicates that as these chemicals accumulate in our environment, they can pose a risk to wildlife and ecosystems.
Natural bug sprays are made without DEET or picaridin and contain plant-based ingredients with insect-repelling properties, like citronella oil, peppermint oil, and oil of lemon eucalyptus. While there's little research on their impact on the environment, many people prefer natural bug sprays for their lack of synthetic chemical ingredients.
Note that if you need a bug spray to repel disease-carrying insects, it's a good idea to check the guidelines provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
Here is a list of top 10 best natural bug sprays that are highly recommended by consumers. We compared them by factors such as the type of bug spray, main ingredients, and hours of protection.
|Main ingredients||Oil of lemon eucalyptus|
|Protection||Up to 6 hrs.|
|Main ingredients||Peppermint oil, spearmint oil, rosemary oil|
|Uses||Indoor and outdoor|
|Main ingredients||Geraniol, peppermint, lemongrass, and clove|
|Protection||Up to 2 hrs.|
|Main ingredients||Geraniol, cedarwood oil, glycerol|
|Protection||Up to 2 wks.|
|Amount||8 oz. each|
|Main ingredients||Lemongrass oil, vitamin E, castor oil, glycerin|
|Protection||Up to 1 hr.|
|Main ingredients||Citronella oil, lemongrass oil, lavender oil, rosemary oil|
|Main ingredients||Cedarwood oil, lemongrass oil, and sesame oil|
|Protection||Up to 4 wks.|
|Main ingredients||Citronella, lemongrass, geraniol, and peppermint oil|
|Protection||Up to 3 hrs.|
|Main ingredients||Geraniol, soybean oil, rosemary and peppermint oil|
|Amount||6 oz. each|
|Main ingredients||Rosemary oil, citronella oil, geranium oil, cedarwood oil|
Plant-Based Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent
Organic Home Pest Control Spray
Bed Bug Killer
Natural Bug Repellent
Organic Bug Spray
Indoor Pest Control
Natural Repellent Spray
Natural Insect Repellent
Natural Insect Repellent
Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus to Provide Up to Six Hours of Protection
Control Pest Infestations With This 100 Percent Organic Spray
A Proprietary Blend of Essential Oils Eliminates Gnats and Flies
A Spray That Kills Bed Bugs and Nymphs
Vitamin E, Castor Oil, and Glycerin for Extra Nourishment
A Spray Made With Responsibly-Sourced Ingredients
Safe for Kids, Pets, and Furniture
A Non-Greasy Spray That Feels Light on the Skin
Repel Gnats, Mosquitoes, and Flies
A Gentle Plant-Based Formula That's Safe for Your Baby
|Amount||4 oz.||16 oz.||4 oz.||16 oz.||8 oz. each||4 oz.||32 oz.||4 oz.||6 oz.||6 oz. each|
|Type||Pump spray||Pump spray||Pump spray||Pump spray||Pump spray||Pump spray||Pump spray||Pump spray||Pump spray||Pump spray|
|Main ingredients||Oil of lemon eucalyptus||Peppermint oil, spearmint oil, rosemary oil||Geraniol, peppermint, lemongrass, and clove||Geraniol, cedarwood oil, glycerol||Lemongrass oil, vitamin E, castor oil, glycerin||Citronella oil, lemongrass oil, lavender oil, rosemary oil||Cedarwood oil, lemongrass oil, and sesame oil||Citronella, lemongrass, geraniol, and peppermint oil||Geraniol, soybean oil, rosemary and peppermint oil||Rosemary oil, citronella oil, geranium oil, cedarwood oil|
|Uses||Skin||Indoor and outdoor||Skin||Indoor||Skin||Skin||Indoor||Skin||Skin||Skin|
|Protection||Up to 6 hrs.||Not provided||Up to 2 hrs.||Up to 2 wks.||Up to 1 hr.||Not provided||Up to 4 wks.||Up to 3 hrs.||Not provided||1.5 hrs.|
In order to help you choose a product that can effectively treat your bug problem, we compiled a list of important points to keep in mind. Just make sure that the product can protect you for as long as you need!
Natural bug sprays contain various types of plant-based ingredients, including peppermint, geraniol, and thyme oil. Here are some of the most common ingredients that will keep all of the annoying insects at bay!
Oil of lemon eucalyptus, also known as OLE or PMD for the chemical it contains, is derived from the leaves of the Australian eucalyptus and is effective against mosquitoes and ticks. Some testing has shown that it can provide the same amount of protection as low concentrations of DEET.
Note that OLE is different from lemon eucalyptus oil, as it has been refined to concentrate the naturally occurring chemical that repels insects. OLE is the only plant-based ingredient that has been approved by the CDC for use as an insect repellent. It's also regulated by the EPA, so manufacturers have to meet certain standards.
On the other hand, lemon eucalyptus oil is an essential oil and is not regulated. The effects of OLE on children have not been fully explored, so it's recommended to avoid use on children under three years of age.
Citronella oil is distilled from a combination of different grasses and has been shown to be effective in repelling mosquitoes. If you live in a mosquito-heavy area, you've probably used citronella candles. Though it isn't as long-lasting as DEET, it can be just as effective.
When used on the skin, citronella's effectiveness really depends on the formula of the spray. A well-formulated product can provide protection for up to two hours.
Concentrations are usually kept at around five to 10 percent citronella oil because higher amounts can cause irritation. In one study conducted by Cornell University, 10 percent citronella oil was used on mosquitoes, and within 24 hours, it was found that nearly 100 percent of the bugs died due to exposure.
Neem oil is another popular natural insect repellent. However, research on its effectiveness is split, with some studies showing that it works well and others showing that it doesn't. Regardless, neem oil has been shown to cause skin irritation, so avoid high concentrations.
Essential oils like thyme, geraniol, peppermint, and cedar have been shown to offer some protection from insects. However, like citronella, their effectiveness depends on the formula. And while they're natural, they can be irritating to the skin.
Lavender, tea tree oil, and lemongrass are some other common ingredients that can fight off mosquitoes. Furthermore, they have strong antifungal and antiseptic properties that can calm and soothe itchy, irritated skin.
Many people assume that any bug spray can kill all types of insects, but there's a limit to how much it can do.
If you want a product that can repel mosquitoes, gnats, or ticks, then oil of lemon eucalyptus or lavender oil are some great options. If you're looking for a natural cockroach repellent, many people recommend cedarwood oil. And for ants, people use a range of oils, including lemongrass, peppermint, and clove.
The product's description should indicate what types of bugs it provides protection from, so make sure that you choose a spray that can actually help you solve your bug problems!
While chemical bug sprays like DEET or picaridin can protect you for up to 14 hours against various types of insects, a natural spray's longevity will vary depending on the formula.
Check the duration of protection in the product's description. Furthermore, keep in mind that the majority of natural bug sprays are not water-resistant, so they will lose effect as you start sweating. Therefore, you might want to re-apply the product more often.
On the other hand, many natural bug sprays for indoor use claim to last for weeks. But depending on the ventilation in your house and the cleanliness of the surface which the spray is applied to, the effect can wear off more quickly.
On clean surfaces, the residual of the spray will continue killing the target insects. However, if you apply the spray to a porous, dirty surface or one exposed to sunlight and rain, the effect will disappear much more quickly.
There are two types of sprays: aerosol or pump. Each type has its own pros and cons, so consider them carefully before making a choice!
Pump sprays release their solution using manual pump pressure, so they do not contain propellants and tend to be more concentrated with active ingredients in comparison to aerosols.
And since pump sprays don't contain flammable propellants, the can won't burst into flames if used near a heat source. However, the amount of spray is limited to what goes in one pump, so it might be tough to get an even distribution.
Aerosols can spray continuously and help you get full, even coverage. However, be careful when using aerosols, since they often contain flammable propellants like butane or propane and might explode if used near a candle or an open fire.
Some aerosols also release volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Even though VOCs are not acutely toxic, they might cause some respiratory risks in the long run. Try not to spray an aerosol straight at your face and avoid inhaling it to protect your health!
While there's research to back up the insect-repelling properties of some essential oils, before you go all in, make sure you also understand the potential downsides.
Essential oils are considered to be volatile oils, which means they quickly evaporate into the air. Because of this, their effectiveness can wear off quickly and longevity will depend largely on the formula. They generally need to be applied more often than DEET or picaridin-based sprays.
In addition, the production of essential oils isn't regulated by any government agency. This means that manufacturers don't need to meet guidelines concerning the quality of the oil or the formulations of their natural bug sprays. This can make it more difficult to confirm claims of purity, effectiveness, and protection.
And lastly, just because essential oils are natural doesn't mean they're safe for everyone. Essential oils can cause irritation and allergic reactions in some people. If you're not sure about a spray, it can be helpful to test it on a small area of skin before using it on your whole body.
Using a bug spray can be tricky, as you might inadvertently inhale the chemicals. So take a look at our tips to ensure that you're using the spray appropriately.
Natural bug sprays can be used for your home to prevent cockroaches, ants, or beetles. Usually, a product with essential oils such as peppermint oil can send most household bugs packing.
When using an indoor bug spray, make sure to avoid areas that are frequently used by family members, like furniture. Make sure to apply the spray in the right place and cover foods, kitchen utensils, and personal items thoroughly before spraying.
After spraying, you should leave the room for a while for the spray to take effect. Afterward, open up your windows to clear the air!
For sprays used on your body, first and foremost, you should always follow the guidelines and use precautions to ensure that you're doing the right things. Spray the product four to eight inches away from exposed skin or clothing, and try to avoid sensitive areas such as your eyes, mouth, wounds, or irritated skin.
If you want to apply the product to your face, spray it on your hands first and then rub the solution gently on your face. Apply the product in an open area to avoid inhaling the solution.
If you're going to use sunscreen too, you might want to apply that first, let it absorb into your skin, and then apply the bug spray. Even if you're going to re-apply the sunscreen, you don't need to re-apply the bug spray as well, unless you feel like you're getting bitten by mosquitoes.
Stay away from products that claim to protect you from both UV rays and insects, since the instructions for the use of sunscreen and a bug spray are very different! While sunscreen should be applied every two hours, an insect repellent can last for several hours. Also, wash the repellent off with soap and water once you return indoors.
Bug sprays can be easily made with just a few ingredients. As you can tell from the top 10 list, you'll need a couple of essential oils, water, a bottle, and a few other things, but it's super simple to make on your own. Here's a recipe from HGTV Handmade.
Whether you need protection from insects outdoors or in your home, we can help! Check out our articles for further recommendations.
A natural bug spray might be gentle on your skin, but it can still cause allergic reactions especially when you inhale the product. So to be safe, don't spray directly at your face or sensitive areas like your eyes or mouth.
Now that you know how to choose and use a natural bug spray, it's time to get yourself one so that you can fight off all those stubborn bugs!
Author: Thuy Nguyen
In addition to protecting your skin from itchy, painful bug bites, it's also important to protect it from harmful UV rays. Beauty and design blogger Annie recommends Krave Beauty's The Beet Shield, a sunscreen that gives you protection without any greasiness.
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