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4 Natural Mosquito Repellents to Rival DEET

girl with mosquito bite, scratching hand has motion blur

You don’t need toxic chemicals to beat mosquitoes. While DEET-based bug sprays may be the tried-and-true method, if you do your research, you can find all-natural mosquito repellents. In fact, some of these natural mosquito repellents work better than DEET, and all of them are free of the nasty side effects DEET brings.

Soybean Oil

Soybean oil mixed into creams and bug sprays in a concentration of at least 2 percent will keep away mosquitoes, flies, and ticks. It’s safe to apply to young children, and a little goes a long way. One application will block mosquito bites for up to four hours and will keep away black flies for up to eight hours. Though not as popular in the U.S. outside of the organic and specialty products aisle, soybean-oil-based mosquito repellents are the second most popular natural mosquito repellent in Canada. Expect to pay $7 to $10 for four-ounce sizes across multiple brands.

Neem Oil

This is another all-natural mosquito repellent that’s not very well known in the U.S. However, it is well-known and trusted elsewhere – in this case, Asia. Neem is a kind of evergreen tree native to the Indian subcontinent. The fruits and leaves are pressed for oil, which is added to bug-fighting lotions, sprays, and creams. You can even eat it in small amounts with no ill effects, making it a good choice for families with young children or for pets that are getting bitten to death out in the yard. Neem oil fights off mosquitoes, flies, ticks, ants, cockroaches, and even bed bugs. Applied topically, it also has bonus anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. Expect to pay $2 to $5 per ounce, depending if it’s certified organic or not, with special formulations for pets running about the same.

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Lemon Eucalyptus Oil

Lemon eucalyptus oil is one of the few all-natural mosquito repellents recommended by the Centers for Disease Control as a suitable weapon to fight off West-Nile-carrying mosquitoes. It will also make flies, gnats, and ticks think twice about hanging around to bite. Though labels sometimes advertise that lemon eucalyptus oil will protect up to six hours, peak protection starts to wane after about two hours, according to a 2002 study by the New England Journal of Medicine. However, this beats low-concentration DEET-based sprays, which peter out after about ninety minutes. Expect to pay $6 to $8 for a four-ounce spray bottle and a bit more if it is labeled as organic or is being sold in a formula made just for kids.


Citronella is probably one of the best-known ways how to avoid mosquitoes, with candles, incense sticks, sprays, lotions, shampoos, and hand soaps available during peak mosquito season. It’s useful for short-term trips outside – the average lotion or spray offers protection for thirty to sixty minutes before it needs to be reapplied – and for outdoor events. Study participants sitting near citronella candles or incense experienced a third less bites on average. To avoid getting bitten up at BBQs and other outdoor events, use combination protection, mixing a ring of citronella candles or torches with a longer-lasting topical bug spray application. Expect to pay about $2 per ounce for sprays, though candles and incense are less per ounce.

There are other mosquito fighting tools out there, but many have limited levels of effectiveness. Garlic rubs or taking Vitamin B1 are about as effective as standing around slapping things as they land – and you can do better. Try one of the proven natural mosquito repellents mentioned here, or share your own fail-proof mosquito-fighting tricks in the comments!

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