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See Modern Essentials: Repelling Bugs & Insects

Have you ever wondered if there was a more natural way to keep away those pesky insects that seem to always be buzzing around during the summer months? Would you like to know a non-poisonous method to prevent the ants from invading your home? According to several different authors, essential oils can be a great natural way to repel insects.

General Insect Repellents

According to Valerie Ann Worwood, author of The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy, lemongrass and citronella are great oils to use to keep insects out of the room. She recommends either diffusing these oils or placing ribbons or strings with the oils on them by windows, doorways, or other places that insects might like to enter. To keep insects from landing on you, she recommends using 30 drops lavender oil diluted in 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil.

The Modern Essentials book recommends using a blend of 5 drops lavender, 5 drops lemongrass, 3 drops peppermint, and 1 drop thyme blended with a cup (8 oz.) of water and sprayed on to help keep bugs away (Valerie Ann Worwood also suggests a blend using these same oils but with different proportions). Modern Essentials also recommends Insect Repellent Blend, patchouli, basil, lavender, lemongrass, cedarwood, eucalyptus, arborvitae, thyme, Cleansing Blend, and a blend of clove, lemon, and orange as other insect-repelling oils.


One suggestion Valerie Ann Worwood gives for keeping ants out of your house is to place peppermint oil at places where ants are coming into your house or to spray peppermint oil where the ants walk. Other authors suggest that most mint oils are effective for repelling ants.


In his book, Aromatherapy Workbook, Marcel Lavabre recommends a blend of equal parts lavender and lavandin placed in aromatic pottery in a drawer or closet to keep moths away. Patchouli also works well when placed on a cotton ball and placed in the drawer or closet.


To help keep fleas off dogs, Kristen Leigh Bell recommends in her book, Holistic Aromatherapy for Animals, a blend comprised of 1/2 oz. hazelnut or Sweet Almond Oil, 4 drops clary sage, 1 drop citronella, 7 drops peppermint, and 3 drops lemon. She recommends either applying 2–4 drops to the neck, chest, legs, and base of the tail or else applying the drops to a bandana or cotton collar that the dog wears.

Mia Frezzo, DVM, and Jan Jeremias, MSC, suggest in their book, SpOil Your Pet: A Practical Guide to Using Essential Oils in Dogs and Cats, making a flea collar with eucalyptus, Insect Repellent Blend, and lemongrass. Click here to view the recipe.


According to Valerie Gennari Cooksley, RN, author of Aromatherapy: Soothing Remedies to Restore, Rejuvenate, and Heal, basil, cedarwood, citronella, geranium, juniper, and rosemary can all be effective for keeping mosquitoes away. She mentions in her book that her son will soak strips of cloth in a blend of citronella and geranium essential oils mixed with a vegetable oil base. He then ties the strips to trees around his camping site to successfully keep mosquitoes away.

The following is an idea that is similar but can be used anywhere you want to repel insects, including formal outdoor events. This insect-repelling string is really easy to make and is great for keeping insects away from camping areas, picnic tables, and other outdoor events! The compact case/dispenser this string is stored in is small enough that it can easily be taken backpacking, hiking, biking, or on any other outdoor excursion.

Insect-Repelling String

Time: 5–10 minutes active; 2–3 hours inactive | Difficulty: Easy


  • Cotton yarn
  • 2 oz. Glass Salve Jar
  • 4 tsp. Jojoba Oil (other unscented vegetable oils will work, but jojoba oil, technically a liquid wax rather than a true oil, tends to be more stable and is less likely to go rancid if unused for a long time.)
  • 75 drops lavender essential oil
  • 75 drops lemongrass essential oil
  • 45 drops peppermint essential oil
  • 15 drops thyme essential oil
  • Note: You can substitute 150–200 drops of your own desired essential oil or blend instead of using the above oils.


  1. Place the Jojoba Oil and essential oils in the glass salve jar. Screw the lid on the jar, and shake to combine. Let the mixture sit for a few minutes as you coil your yarn.
  2. Start by wrapping the yarn 10 times around 2–3 fingers to give yourself a base to coil around (you’ll want it about 1 1/2 inches tall). Then pull the yarn off your fingers and wrap 10 times around the middle of the previously wrapped yarn. Continue wrapping in the same direction, moving up and down that previously wrapped bit of yarn, until it is almost as big as the inside of the salve jar (about 1 3/4 inches).
  3. Dip the yarn ball into the salve jar mixture and let it soak up at least 1/4 of the liquid. Flip the yarn ball around and slowly push the whole yarn ball into the salve jar, allowing the yarn to soak up the mixture to prevent overflowing.
  4. Once all of the yarn ball is inside the salve jar, screw the lid on and flip the jar over to allow the yarn to soak up all of the liquid. Let sit for 2–3 hours or until all the mixture has been soaked up into the yarn.
  5. To use, simply remove the desired length of string from the container and tie it onto tree branches, fences, tents, poles, or other objects around the desired area (if you tie them onto tree branches, be sure to remove them when finished, or the string may end up causing damage as the branch tries to grow wider).  For a more formal event, the string can be used to hold pictures or other decorative items around the area.

Extra Idea:

Convert the 2 oz. salve jar into a great dispenser for your string with a few easy steps. Drill a small hole (approximately the same diameter as the yarn or string you used) through the lid of the container. Thread a small amount of the yarn/string through the bottom of the hole in the lid. Screw the lid back onto the container, being certain to hold onto the yarn/string that has been threaded through the hole so it doesn’t slip back down through the hole. Apply a small label or sticker over the top of the hole and yarn to help seal the container until needed. To dispense from this container, simply pull the desired length of yarn/string through the hole; then carefully cut the yarn/string off approximately 1″ above the hole.

The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy by Valerie Ann Worwood
Modern Essentials by AromaTools®
Aromatherapy Workbook by Marcel Lavabre
Aromatherapy: Soothing Remedies to Restore, Rejuvenate, and Heal by Valerie Gennari Cooksley, RN
Holistic Aromatherapy for Animals by Kristen Leigh Bell
SpOil Your Pet: A Practical Guide to Using Essential Oils in Dogs and Cats by Mia Frezzo, DVM, and Jan Jeremias, MSC

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