The Best Homemade Repellents for No-See-Ums

Bill Swank
Last updated: February 27, 2024

Ever heard of no-see-ums? These tiny biting insects may be almost invisible, but their bite can leave quite an itch! If you’re tired of scratching and looking for an effective solution to keep these pests at bay, you’re in the right place.

In this comprehensive guide, we’re diving into some safe, natural, and accessible homemade repellents that can be a first-line defense against no-see-ums. Learn about the most potent essential oils, how to create your custom essential oil blends, and explore non-essential oil alternatives. The best part? Making these at home is cost-effective, environmentally-friendly, and free from harmful chemicals. So, let’s get started on reclaiming your bug-free space!

  • A wide range of essential oils, including citronella, lemongrass, eucalyptus, peppermint, and lavender, can be used to create effective homemade no-see-um repellents. These oils contain natural compounds that disrupt these pests’ sensory perception and can be combined to enhance their repellency and create a custom scent.
  • Non-essential oil solutions, such as basil leaves, clove infusions, vinegar traps, vanilla extract applications, citrus rub, or garlic sprays serve as alternative repellent methods. They leverage the strong scents of these natural ingredients, which deter no-see-ums.
  • Essential oil-based repellents blend well with other mediums like candles, torches, or homemade sprays to fend off no-see-ums in larger areas like yards and gardens. They can also be diffused indoors for added protection.
  • Even though homemade repellents predominantly use natural ingredients, potential allergic reactions should not be overlooked. It is necessary to test these repellents on a small area of skin before wider application.
  • While homemade repellents offer a substantial deterrent against no-see-ums, they are most effective as part of a wider defensive approach. Together with personal protective measures and strategic habitat control, they provide the best line of defense against these tiny pests.

Table of Contents

What are No-See-Ums and Why Do We Need Repellents?

What exactly are no-see-ums, and what problems do they cause?

No-see-ums, also known as biting midges, sandflies, or punkies, are a type of tiny, biting insects that are too small to see clearly with the naked eye – hence the name. They are notorious for their painful and itch-inducing bites, which can cause significant discomfort to humans. These pests can wreak havoc, especially during warmer months and in wet, humid environments, where they breed.

Why is it important to use repellents for these pests?

Repellents are necessary to keep no-see-ums at bay. These tiny flying insects may not only cause uncomfortable and itchy bites, but they can potentially transmit diseases as well. This makes repellents a key line of defense in preventing their painful bites and the potential health hazards associated with them. Moreover, the use of repellent can help to reduce the population of no-see-ums, especially in heavy infestation areas.

How Can Essential Oils Help Repel No-See-Ums?

What is the science behind using essential oils as repellents?

Nature has gifted us with plants packed full of repellent properties, particularly in their essential oils. Researchers believe that essential oils can act as deterrents for no-see-ums because many of our bug-fearing friends dislike the strong odors of these oils. The complex compounds found in essential oils can interact with the odor receptors of these insects, disrupting their sense of direction, and deterring them from the area where the oil is applied.

What specific properties do these oils possess that contribute to their repellent action?

Different essential oils have different repellent properties. Some naturally contain compounds, such as citronellal or geraniol, known for their insect-repellent capacity. For example, citronella, eucalyptus, and lemongrass oils contain naturally-occurring components that can disrupt the sensory perception of insects, such as no-see-ums, thereby repelling them.

How does DIY repellent compare to commercial products?

DIY repellents made from essential oils are a natural, non-toxic alternative to commercial insect repellents. Many commercially available repellents contain DEET, a chemical that can be harmful if ingested or applied excessively on the skin. In contrast, repellents made from essential oils can be safer, especially for people with sensitive skin or allergies. Not to mention, making your own repellents allows you to create a custom blend that suits your specific preferences and needs.

What are the Most Effective Essential Oils for No-See-Ums?

The following essential oils are known to be highly effective against no-see-ums due to their potent insect-repelling properties:

  • Citronella: Known primarily as a mosquito repellent, citronella also works well against no-see-ums due to its strong smell which is off-putting for many insects.
  • Lemongrass: The strong, citrus-like smell of lemongrass oil can help keep these pesky bugs at bay. It contains a natural compound citral, which is toxic to various types of insects.
  • Eucalyptus: Not only does eucalyptus oil repel no-see-ums effectively, but it also has a fresh aroma that humans usually find pleasing. The strong components in this oil, such as eucalyptol, have a repelling effect on insects.
  • Peppermint: Besides having a refreshing scent, peppermint oil can also deter no-see-ums due to it’s highly concentrated menthol content.
  • Lavender: Its aromatic and calming scent is loved by humans but hated by no-see-ums, making it an excellent natural repellent.
  • Geranium: Known for its strong, floral scent, geranium oil helps deter no-see-ums and many other insects too.
  • Catnip: Studies have shown that catnip oil can be effective in repelling no-see-ums. This is quite ironic considering catnip’s famously attracting effect on felines!
  • Rosemary: This herb’s oil can be used not only for its culinary values but also as an effective way to repel no-see-ums.
  • Tea Tree: Aside from its myriad of medicinal uses, tea tree oil is also appreciated for its bug-repelling properties.
  • Camphor: With its strong and penetrating aroma, camphor is a well-known insect repellent, including for notoriously pesky no-see-ums.

Step-By-Step Guide to Create Your Own Homemade Essential Oil Repellent

Creating your own homemade no-see-um repellent with essential oils is an easy process that can be customized to your liking. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  1. Choose Your Essential Oils: Based on their repellent properties and your personal preference for scents, select one or more essential oils from the list mentioned above.
  2. Prepare your Carrier Oil: This oil is crucial in diluting essential oils, preventing any skin irritation that could be caused by the potent concentration of pure essential oils. Suitable options include jojoba oil, coconut oil, or sweet almond oil.
  3. Mix: Combine a few drops of your chosen essential oils with the carrier oil. The general guideline is to add 10-12 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier oil.
  4. Add Witch Hazel (Optional): Witch hazel can be added to your blend for an extra kick. A few drops of it not only improves the blend’s consistency but also enhances the repellent’s longevity, ensuring that it keeps those pesky no-see-ums at bay for longer periods.
  5. Application: Apply your homemade no-see-um repellent to exposed skin, reapplying every few hours or as necessary.

Remember, before widespread use, always do a patch test to ensure no allergic reaction occurs.

What is the role of carrier oils in making essential oils for no-see-ums?

Carrier oils serve a crucial role in the creation of your no-see-um repellents. Essential oils are quite potent in their undiluted form, which may cause skin irritation if applied directly. Carrier oils like coconut, jojoba, or sweet almond oil not only help to dilute these essential oils but also assist in distributing them evenly on your skin.

What precautions should be taken when using these essential oil repellents for no-see-ums?

Although essential oils are natural, they can cause allergic reactions to some people, especially if applied in high concentrations. Therefore, always perform a patch test on a small area of your skin before using these DIY repellents more widely. Avoid contact with eyes, and if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, consult your healthcare provider before using any new essential oils. Always keep these oils out of reach of children and pets.

How to Create Custom Essential Oil Blends for No-See-Um Repellent?

While using a single essential oil can repel no-see-ums to a certain degree, blending multiple essential oils can offer enhanced protection. Also, mixing various essential oils can produce a unique fragrance that you may enjoy. Here are some effective combinations for your no-see-um repellents:

  • Lemongrass and Eucalyptus: The potent citronellal in lemongrass and the aromatic eucalyptol in eucalyptus combine to create a compelling deterrent for no-see-ums.
  • Peppermint and Lavender: The minty coolness of peppermint and the calming scent of lavender not only creates an appealing fragrance for humans but a potent repellent for these bugs.
  • Tea Tree and Citronella: The medicinal aroma of tea tree and the lemony scent of citronella blend into a highly effective no-see-um deterrent.
  • Geranium, Citronella, and Lavender: This three-oil blend brings together floral, citrus, and calming scents, creating an even stronger repellent for no-see-ums.

Why do people mix essential oils as repellents?

Mixing essential oils can increase the effectiveness of the repellent and provide a broader range of protection against different types of pests. Additionally, it allows you to create a unique, pleasant scent to enjoy.

Can essential oils be mixed with sprays, candles, or lotions?

Absolutely! Essential oil-based repellents can be incredibly versatile. You can use them as a spray by combining the oils with some water in a spray bottle. Alternatively, they can be stirred into candle wax to create bug-repelling candles. Adding a few drops of essential oils to an unscented lotion can offer a skincare benefit while also keeping no-see-ums at bay.

What Non-Essential Oil Repellents Can be Used Against No-See-Ums?

Don’t worry if you don’t have any essential oils on hand, as there are other homemade repellent options available. Following are some methods to repel no-see-ums without the use of essential oils:

Basil Insect Repellent

Basil leaves produce a strong smell which no-see-ums find unappealing. Crush some fresh basil leaves and rub them on your skin, or add a few drops of basil essential oil to a spray bottle filled with water and spritz it on your skin.

Clove Insect Repellent

Like basil, cloves can also serve as a no-see-um repellent. Boil some cloves in water for around 10 minutes, let the water cool, and then strain the mixture. Apply the liquid to your skin using a cotton ball.

Vinegar Trap

A combination of vinegar and dish soap can be a deadly trap for no-see-ums. They are attracted to the scent of the vinegar and once they land into the solution, the dish soap will ensnare them.

Toilet Paper Roll Traps

Use standard toilet paper rolls filled with water plus a few drops of dish soap – the no-see-ums are attracted to light reflected off the water.

Vanilla Extract Repellent

Interestingly, the sweet aroma of vanilla is reputed to repel no-see-ums. Mix one tablespoon of vanilla extract with a cup of water and apply it to your skin.

Garlic Spray

Though this may not be the first choice for those who prefer to smell pleasant, crushing a few cloves of garlic, mixing them with water, and applying the mixture to your skin can effectively repel no-see-ums.

Citrus Rub

Rubbing the inner part of citrus fruit peels, such as orange, lemon or lime, on your skin produces a strong scent that can deter these pesky bugs.

Herbal Spray

Creating a spray using fresh mint, catnip, citronella, lavender, and cloves, combined with distilled or boiled water, witch hazel, rubbing alcohol, or vodka, can make an effective natural insect repellent.

What precautions should be taken when using these non-essential oil repellents for no-see-ums?

Although these ingredients are natural, it’s still necessary to exercise caution. Avoid using these products if you are allergic to any of their components. Always perform a patch test on a small area of your skin before using the repellent more extensively. Finally, avoid putting the repellent too close to your eyes or mouth.

How to Ensure the Efficacy and Longevity of Homemade No-See-Um Repellents?

Why is it important to use fresh ingredients and high-quality essential oils?

Fresh ingredients and high-quality essential oils are pivotal in crafting effective homemade no-see-um repellents. Freshness guarantees that the essential oils still possess their strong insect-repelling properties. On the flip side, oils that have been sitting for a long time tend to lose their potency. High-quality oils ensure that the oils are pure and devoid of harmful substances that might produce adverse effects when applied to the skin.

What are the best practices for storing and maintaining the effectiveness of repellents?

Storing your homemade repellents is also key in maintaining their potency. It is advisable to keep your repellent in a glass sprayer or container, as some essential oils can react with plastic. Store in a cool, dark place to preserve the active properties of the essential oils. If possible, make your repellent in small quantities to use up within a few weeks or months.

When and why should you reapply repellents, especially when sweating or swimming?

The effectiveness of homemade essential oil repellents often decreases over time after application. It’s crucial to reapply your natural repellent every couple of hours, especially if you’re spending a lot of time outdoors, where you’re more exposed to no-see-ums. If you’re swimming or sweating, reapplication becomes even more necessary because moisture can wash away the repellent.

How Can Essential Oils Help in Treating No-See-Um Bites?

What are the essential oils effective for no-see-um bites?

If you’re unfortunate enough to get bitten by no-see-ums, certain essential oils can provide relief and aid in healing:

  1. Chamomile and Calendula: These oils can provide soothing relief to irritations and inflammations caused by the bites.
  2. Lavender: This essential oil is known for its pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties. It can ease the itchiness and promote quicker healing of the bite.
  3. Tea Tree: Renowned for its antiseptic properties, tea tree oil can prevent infection and speed up healing of no-see-um bites.

How can essential oils be applied for bite relief and prevention?

To use essential oils for bite relief and prevention, first dilute them in a carrier oil, then apply directly to the bite. This helps soothe itchy, inflamed skin and ward off potential infections. You might also consider making a diluted mix of these essential oils to spray on your skin and clothes as a preventive measure against no-see-um bites.

Are There Essential Oil-based Repellents Suitable for Larger Areas Like Yards?

What are the homemade no-see-ums repellent that are suitable for yards?

For larger areas like yards or gardens, consider using essential oil-infused candles or torches, homemade sprays, or create your own no-see-um-repelling garden by planting bug-offending plants, such as lavender, citronella, or rosemary!

Can I use essential oils for diffusers?

Absolutely! Essential oils can be used in diffusers to keep no-see-ums away. Simply fill your diffuser with water and add a few drops of your chosen essential oils. This method is particularly effective for indoor use.

Are Homemade Repellents Effective Against No-See-Ums?

How effective are homemade repellents against no-see-ums?

Homemade repellents, when made and used correctly, can be an effective natural deterrent against no-see-ums. While they may not provide 100% protection against these tiny pests, they significantly reduce the chance of being bitten.

Are homemade repellents the best solution for no-see-ums?

Homemade repellents are a great natural solution for dealing with no-see-ums. They are a safer alternative to commercial products, especially for those with allergies or sensitivity to certain chemicals. However, it’s crucial to note that personal protection measures, like wearing appropriate clothing, and habitat control, such as removing standing water where these pests breed, are also key in managing no-see-ums.


By arming yourself with knowledge and taking a proactive approach to make homemade repellents, you can effectively keep no-see-ums at bay. Whether you decide to opt for essential oils or non-essential oil repellents, the homemade route is a natural, economical, and safer alternative to commercial products. Remember, the best prevention strategy includes not just using these repellents, but also taking other control measures. Together, these strategies will help you win the battle against these pesky pests, letting you enjoy your outdoor time, bite-free!

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