Natural Insect Repellents: Vinegar and Herbs

As a parent with young children,  I am always looking for the most natural, non-toxic and environmentally-friendly options. This extends to my choice of insect repellent and bite soothing. I want the kids to be able to play outside and not be bothered by biting insects.  This is important to me - two of my children are 'scratchers' and have very sensitive skin.

I also want to be out in the garden enjoying the cooler twilight hours to play with the children and do some gardening.

The main insects we need to think about are mosquitoes, sandflies and ticks. Not only do we need to consider the discomfort of the bites but these insects also spread Lymes Disease and Ross River Fever which I know people in our neighbourhood suffer from.


Drink it
Put a tablespoon of cider vinegar into your drinking bottle. Not only is this good for your health, but also makes you smell bad to mosquitoes.

Spray it
Put white vinegar in a spritzer bottle and spray onto your skin, your clothes, your hair (avoid eyes). The mosquitoes will stay away. (once the vinegar dries, you won't smell like a vinegar bottle)

Dab it
Dab vinegar on the bite to relieve the bite itch - lemon juice is also effective

Vinegar is good for pets too

Vinegar is also great for reducing insects on your pet. Adding cider vinegar to pet drinking water can discourage fleas from living on your dog or cat, or flies bothering larger animals. Rub it onto their coats and/or add it to their bath water.


There are a number of herbs which are known to repel insects - lemongrass, citronella, lavender, basil, marigolds, pelargonium, lemon balm, peppermint and lemon myrtle. Rub the leaves directly on your skin or have a spray bottle with essential oil infused.

Catnip is also a great mosquito repellent. Apparently it is more effective that DEET - the ingredient commonly found in  strong bug repellents.

To soothe bites, rub peppermint leaves directly onto the skin for itch relief.

Rosemary is a natural mosquito repellent


If vinegar is so effective, and herbs are too - how about herb infused vinegars. Make a special brew of herb vinegar as your insect repellent. My favourite is lemon myrtle and peppermint.

How to make a Herbal Vinegar Insect Repellent

Harvest 2 cups of insect repellent herbs, crush and add to 2 cups of apple cider vinegar in a sealed glass jar (used a plastic lid - vinegar corrodes metal lids). Shake every day for about a week, then filter the vinegar. This should last a year.

A couple of other ways to reduce insects: 

What are your favourite home-made natural insect repellent blends?

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