Mosquito Repellents You Can Make At Home for Your Camping Trips

How do you avoid using pesticides around campsites to repel mosquitoes?  Make your own mosquito repellents!

Homemade recipes can be made from household products and natural oils, and are easy to take along on camping trips. They are safe to use on skin and on most clothing. A few of the mixtures can even be sprayed on family pets.

Before using any homemade mix, do be mindful of allergies.  For example, if your child is allergic to lemon grass, it’s not an ingredient you want to use in your mosquito sprays.

Mosquito Repellents You Can Make At Home for Your Camping Trips

Household Products You Can Use As Mosquito Repellents

For a camping trip, the most commonly used household remedy is original flavor (amber) Listerine. (Other flavors don’t work because they are too sweet.) The eucalyptus oil and menthol contained in the product repel several kinds of insects. Pour a diluted mixture (one part Listerine to three parts water) into refillable spray bottles to take on hikes.  Do take care not to spray into the eyes.

At the campground, a spray mix of beer and baby shampoo can help keep bugs away.  Fill a hose-end spray container with a ratio of two parts baby shampoo to three parts beer. Spritz on grass and shrubs around the camp site. If it rains, reapply.

Another useful campground trick is to put a thin layer of water on a white plate and add three drops of dish-washing liquid.  (Lemon scent works best.)  Set the plate about 20 feet away from the tent or picnic table. This will help draw mosquitoes and gnats away from you.

Natural Oils And Herbs That Repel Mosquitoes

Oils and herbs that are safe to use on skin include lemon, lemon grass, eucalyptus oil, catnip oil, citronella, patchouli, thyme, basil, rosemary, cedar, geranium, and lavender. Mixtures can be prepared ahead of time or right at camp. For example, a lemon can be cut up and boiled over a campfire. Additional essential oils or crushed herb leaves from the list of ingredients can be added to the liquid as it is cooling.

Strained liquid and pour into spray bottles to carry with you. Shake well before spraying. Expect to re-spray at least once an hour. Simple boiled lemon (without additional herbs) can be used on dogs and cats as a flea repellent.

Leftover lemon rind and crushed herb mixture can be poured into a bowl with a mesh top.  Use it in the tent or near the picnic table to repel mosquitoes when it is time for camp dining.

One mosquito-fighting recipe combines 5ml lemongrass oil and 10ml eucalyptus oil with 80ml water. It’s generally safe to spray on the body or on items inside a tent or RV. Just don’t spray oil products onto the actual tent fabric, as oil can spoil the water-repelling feature of some materials.

Another tried-and-true recipe is:

  • 5 drops of lemon oil
  • 10 drops of lavender oil
  • 2 drops eucalyptus oil
  • 2 tablespoons of almond oil OR soybean oil OR water

If you use water, this mixture can be used as a spray.  If you use almond oil or soybean oil, soak paper towel strips in the mixture. Then hang near the tent door to repel mosquitoes.

Catnip Oil Can Be More Effective Than “DEET”

Catnip oil contains nepatalactone, which studies have shown to be more effective than “DEET”, a powerful mosquito repellent.

To make catnip oil repellent, mix 1/2 teaspoon essential oil of catnip with a cup of isopropyl alcohol and a cup of water. This mixture is not appropriate for use on pets, small children, on the eyes or on broken skin. Also, some people can have an allergic reaction to catnip oil.

Plants That Repel Mosquitoes

If you are camping close to home, or on personally owned land, plant the camping area with naturally mosquito-repelling plants. These include rosemary, citronella plant, beautyberry bush, lemongrass, and marigolds. There is even a plant called Moskito Schocker which grows well in Zone 7 throughout the year, but can be planted as an annual in colder planting zones.

You can also bring some of these plants along with you on your travels, especially if you have a camper or RV.  Plant in hanging planters that you can move outside near doorways or sitting areas.  Then move them back into the camper when you pack up to hit the road again.

On camping trips, pesticides need not be a first line of defense in fighting mosquitoes. Many of the homemade repellents in this article are more natural, more affordable, and under normal outdoor conditions, can last up to an hour.

Natural and homemade products are effective on the average mosquito, but it is true that in harsh conditions, such as places like Minnesota and the north where tougher and larger swarms of mosquitoes live, not even “DEET” can repel all insects.  You may need to consider using a combined approach or other products to help you keep your campsite mosquito free.

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Tags: nature, rural lifestyle, travel
Barb Webb. Founder and Editor of Rural Mom, is an the author of "Getting Laid" and "Getting Baked". A sustainable living expert nesting in Appalachian Kentucky, when she’s not chasing chickens around the farm or engaging in mock Jedi battles, she’s making tea and writing about country living and artisan culture.
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    • Dale
    • June 14, 2020

    Barb, do any of these work on ticks and red bugs, or do the only work on skitters?

    1. Reply

      Hi Dale, great question! This article focuses just on mosquitoes, but lavender oil also works with ticks. Lemongrass is another essential oil that repels a variety of bugs. I wasn’t sure about red bugs/chiggers but I looked it up for you and using lavender, tea tree, thyme, and/or lemongrass essential oils in your mix should work.

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