Natural Insect Repellent
Peppermint (Mentha piperita) has always been one of my favorite herbs, I just never really noticed how useful it was as a mosquito repellent until I was in high school. When I was growing up, my family would go to our ranch in the mountains in the summer after us kids were out of school.
I never really noticed it as a child, but even though there was a lot of water around the ranch, we never had problems with mosquitoes. While there weren't many mosquitos in the area, but there was a lot of wild mint. I just wish I had put two and two together sooner.
In high school, one of the organizations that I was involved with was the Future Farmers Association (FFA), and every year, they had what was called the "Ag Tour." We would spend about a week traveling across the state visiting different agricultural businesses, and once we were finished, we would write reports on what we learned, which tour was our favorite, and why.
One of these tours was to Rainbow Gardens in Kalispell, Montana. It was a fascinating place to visit, and one of the things that they told us was that when they were growing peppermint and spearmint, they didn't have anywhere near as many mosquitoes around. They also gave us each a bottle of peppermint essential oil and a bottle of spearmint essential oil. This was when I remembered the abundance of wild peppermint and the mysterious lack of mosquitos at the ranch from my childhood, but it was a very busy week, and the knowledge got pushed to the back of my mind.
My First DIY Peppermint Mosquito Repellant
A few years later, we had a really mild winter and a wet spring. The mosquitoes were horrible that year. I hate mosquitoes, but they love me. I could be surrounded by fifty people, and it would be me that the mosquitoes would attack.
The moment I stepped outside, it seemed like I immediately had dozens of the little bloodsuckers either biting me or buzzing around waiting for their turn. Not a single mosquito repellent seemed to work. I felt like I was being eaten alive. And it was then that it came back to me—mosquitoes don’t like peppermint and spearmint! So I took a chance and made my own mosquito repellent.
Peppermint and Olive Oil Repellant Recipe
I still had the bottles of peppermint and spearmint essential oils, so I took a small bottle and filled it almost full with olive oil (which I typically cook with) and added a few drops of each essential oil to it, and shook it up to mix it.
I coated every piece of bare skin in the oil. Oh boy, did I reek of peppermint! It was a little (okay, a lot) strong, but when I went outside and went for a walk, I came back with almost zero mosquito bites. I was thrilled. I had been out for almost an hour and was nearly bite-free.
To this day, peppermint (spearmint works too, but I prefer the peppermint) is my number-one favorite repellent. I no longer make it so strong that it drives away people in addition to mosquitoes, but it is still just as effective.
I love it because it doesn’t contain any of the harmful chemicals that most repellents do, so I can use it on my daughter as well. This is a big plus for me since my daughter ends up with welts the size of quarters whenever she gets bit by mosquitos. I don’t think there is anything worse than seeing your baby covered in welts from bug bites.
Note: If you don’t want to use olive oil, you can add the essential oil directly to your lotion instead.
Water and Peppermint Oil Spray Repellant Recipe
If you would like to make a repellant spray that doesn't contain olive oil, you can do that as well. Just fill a small spray bottle almost full with water and add a few drops of peppermint and/or spearmint essential oil. Finally, add in a little bit of alcohol—I use vodka or Everclear—and shake before spraying. The alcohol helps the oil and water mix together. If you prefer, you can use vinegar or witch hazel in place of the water-and-alcohol mix.
Note: Eventually, the spray ingredients may separate, so be sure to shake well before each use.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Question: Can I use rubbing alcohol instead of witch hazel to make mosquito repellent?
Answer: Yes, you can make it with rubbing alcohol instead of witch hazel.
Question: After I put 3 drops of peppermint in an 8oz spray bottle and shake it up, do I then spray it on arms, legs etc to work as a mosquito repellent? Also, can I put it on my six-month-old great-granddaughter?
Answer: Yes, once you have shaken it up, you spray it on. As long as she isn't allergic to any of the ingredients, yes you can use it on her. I used mine on my daughter when she was that young because she would get huge welts if she was bitten and it worked great, and she didn't have any issues with it. If you aren't sure if she might have a reaction, test it on a small area 24-hours in advance of when you will need it. You can also spray it on her clothes rather than her skin.
Question: Could I substitute rubbing alcohol in place of the vodka or everclear when making mosquito repellent?
Answer: Yes, you can substitute rubbing alcohol for vodka or everclear when making a spray.
Question: How much vinegar, witch hazel, or alcohol should I add to the water?
Answer: It depends on which one you are using and how much repellent you're making. Alcohol disburses the oil better than the witch hazel or vinegar, so you can use less. Some witch hazel will contain alcohol. That depends on how it's processed. I use vinegar a lot because it's inexpensive and I always have it on hand. Mosquitoes also don't particularly like it. It does stink though, until it dries. At a minimum I would do a 1-10 vinegar/alcohol/witch hazel to water mixture. There have been times I've used just vinegar and essential oils, and added water as I've used up part of the spray bottle. In those cases I'm generally using it for both cleaning and a bug repellent.
Question: How much peppermint oil do I use with 8 oz of water?
Answer: I would only use about three drops of oil. You will also need to add something like vinegar, witch hazel, or an alcohol to help disburse it in the water because oil and water don't mix without help. Even then you will need to shake it before each use. I would recommend this mixture as a spray, but not something you just pat or rub on because the essential oil would not be diluted in a base oil and could irritate the skin.
Question: Can I use baby lotion with peppermint oil?
Answer: You can use baby lotion, just remember to shake it well before each use.
© 2012 Jody Cope
Jody Cope (author) from Millegan, MT on August 30, 2020:
You're welcome Janisa. I would love to hear how it works for you on your trip.
Janisa from Earth on July 09, 2020:
I heard things about peppermint before, but I've always been too lazy to try to use it. Your method seems quite simple and I love essential oils and natural products!! I'm going camping soon, so I'll definitely try your natural repellent. Thanks for sharing!
Jody Cope (author) from Millegan, MT on February 07, 2020:
You're most welcome. I glad to have been able to help. Essential oils have a great many uses and benefits. I love them and the plants they come from. Just don't forget to dilute them before using them unless you are just diffusing them.
Donna n Tay on September 04, 2019:
Thank you! I use essential oils as often as I can, I hate chemical filled products. Like you, mosquitoes LOVE me and my daughter....I rarely use any repellent because I've not found a natural remedy that works. This is fantastic news!
Anniy on August 27, 2017:
Great and useful article. Peppermint contains pulegone which is a natural pesticide.
Jody Cope (author) from Millegan, MT on July 26, 2017:
I normally use 10 drops of peppermint essential oil to 4 oz of whatever base I'm using, normally olive or safflower oil. If I'm making a spray I use witch hazel or vinegar. With the spray you do need to shake it before each application. The amount of essential oil used can be varied to taste. Some people prefer a stronger or lighter scent. In general, between 5 and 15 drops works well depending on the amount of repellent being made.
Andy on July 26, 2017:
What's the recipe for the peppermint bug repellent please
sylvie on July 06, 2017:
can i please have the direction on how to make the spray version,with water,alcohol and spearmint essential oil, is rubbing alcohol ok to use ?
Jodi Chen on June 24, 2017:
I heard about using peppermint oil to keep cockroaches and mice away and was so happy to see you confirming success with repelling mosquitos. Thanks for the tips. Which brand of peppermint essential oil do you recommend?
Another amazing use of the peppermint oil is for treating headaches. I no longer take Tylenol. Dab some on the temples, between the eyebrows, topmost part of the head and the indent at the base of the skull in the back. Being careful when applying near the eyes. I love putting it on my entire shoulders & back neck areas. It's equivalent to a wonderful massaging. Great for nasal congestion too. I use full strength but it's better to start out diluted with water.
Jody Cope (author) from Millegan, MT on May 21, 2017:
Peppermint does discourage both ticks and lice, but lavender (Lavendula angustifolia) is used more for those than peppermint is-especially on pets.
Greybird1 on May 21, 2017:
I wonder if a peppermint formula will also discourage ticks.
Anybody have thoughts about that?
Vicki on May 18, 2017:
I used peppermint oil on cottonballs to keep mice and spiders away. Also stuffed some in a fake wasp nest hung outside to keep the wasps from making their nests in the soffits.
Jody Cope (author) from Millegan, MT on December 04, 2016:
MPeterson, Where did you find this research? I agree that all essential oils should be used with care. And peppermint is very potent and therefore should be diluted. It is, however, a traditional remedy for many respiratory ailments. It is this benefit that is why it, or the menthol derived from it, is used in most over the counter cold and congestion remedies.
Jody Cope (author) from Millegan, MT on December 04, 2016:
Anonymous, I have not found any research as to why mosquitoes dislike it. I don't know if that has even been studied. It is likely due to a combination of constituents that work synergistically.
MPeterson on September 03, 2016:
Peppermint oil is NOT for use on small children! It is well documented to cause respiratory distress when applied by any route. Essential oils should be used with care as they do effect the body when inhaled or absorbed through the skin. PLEASE update your article!!!
anonymous on September 03, 2016:
What in peppermint do mosquitoes dislike?
Jody Cope (author) from Millegan, MT on September 01, 2016:
It might work, Amy. You would have to try it. However, most of the peppermint oil extracts that I have seen tend to have glycerin in them, which has a sweeter smell and can attract some bugs. You would want to check the ingredients of what you plan to use. You could also put 5-10 drops of essential oil in a spray bottle of witch hazel and use it that way. I would love to hear how the method you use works for you.
Jody Cope (author) from Millegan, MT on September 01, 2016:
How many drops you put in an 8 oz bottle will depend on how strong you want the smell, and on how aggressive the bugs are. I have noticed in my travels that using 5-10 drops works well for most, but there have been a few areas that it barely phased the mosquitoes at all. I would start with 5 and then add 1-2 drops until you find what works best for you and your area.
firstname.lastname@example.org on June 23, 2016:
How many drops of peppermint oil would I put in an 8 oz bottle of olive oil? TIA
am on June 23, 2016:
How many drops of peppermint oil do you put in an 8 oz bottle of olive oil, to use as a repellent? TIA
Jody Cope (author) from Millegan, MT on December 13, 2015:
You're welcome, billybuc. I'm glad it was able to give you confirmation. I've found that I have become sensitive to the more chemically based repellents but that essential oils work wonderfully and don't make me sick.
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on December 13, 2015:
This is one of those things I have heard over the years but never from someone who actually has tried it...so thanks for the suggestion and confirmation.
Jody Cope (author) from Millegan, MT on June 27, 2015:
It depends on how strong you make it. Mine normally lasts a few hours, especially if I mix geranium essential oil with the peppermint.
David on June 18, 2015:
How long does the oil work for?
Jody Cope (author) from Millegan, MT on November 26, 2013:
Hi Beth :) I have always been fascinated by how many things a single herb can be used for. Peppermint is one of my favorite scents & tastes, especially dark chocolate with mint. Yummy!
Beth37 on November 26, 2013:
Who knew? And it's such a wonderful scent.
Jody Cope (author) from Millegan, MT on September 25, 2013:
Peppermint is awesome, isn't it. It's also useful for a lot of other things. I'm planning another hub on the different uses of peppermint since it can be used for so many things.
melo on September 25, 2013:
I was having problems with mosquitoes one day and I didn't have any repellant. On intuition I grabbed a bottle of peppermint extract used for cooking, opened it and set it on the table next to me. No more mosquitoes!
Jody Cope (author) from Millegan, MT on August 01, 2013:
Thanks for reading and commenting Jay. If you have small children it works great for them since most repellents say you shouldn't use them on kids two years old and younger. With peppermint you don't have to worry about it because it's chemical free and safe for even small children.
Jody Cope (author) from Millegan, MT on September 04, 2012:
That it does and it's so much fun to work with and learn about. You are very welcome!
TheListLady from New York City on August 26, 2012:
Love the idea of peppermint lotion - and I've also had some peppermint liquid soap. Ah, jacope, nature does work if we just know what to do with it. Thanks a million!
Jody Cope (author) from Millegan, MT on August 20, 2012:
You're welcome! They have been very aggressive this year. I helped at a camp in Glacier National Park and the mosquitoes were horrible there. I was so glad I had my peppermint lotion with me. Everyone else was being eaten alive even using OFF, but they left me relatively alone. Although I did have to use some of the other repellent on my clothes since I couldn't put lotion on them, but with the combination worked really well too.
TheListLady from New York City on August 20, 2012:
Hmmm I'll certainly try this - I usually keep fresh mint on my windowsill to make tea (sooooo good) but this year I've been away and no mint and yes mosquitoes and they were aggressive.
Thanks a bunch and I am now a happy follower! Yay!
Jody Cope (author) from Millegan, MT on June 13, 2012:
Thanks Vampsdes. I am not sure how much peppermint needs to be planted to have the same effect, but I too am going to be planting it in my garden and have some in containers near the doors now that I have my own home. I use peppermint for a lot of things anyway so having a lot around will be great for me.
Jenny Stub from Missouri, US on June 13, 2012:
This is the first I've heard of peppermint repelling mosquitoes. If it works like you say, it's a great idea! I would prefer planting the peppermint all around the house and see if that would work first. If a boost was needed, then I'd resort to smelling like a peppermint candy while outside. Great information, voted up and useful!