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"Food based" Mosquito Repellent

I've found an effective mosquito repellent is to cook up cinnamon and clove in a regular food oil (even using nicely ones that have gone 'out of date'). The problem is that it is a liquid that isn't always so easy to apply - it would be a lot better if I could make it 'thicker' as a kind of 'vaseline-type' salve.

Any ideas?

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  1. is this your own concoction, or you've seen this done before? sounds a bit.... odd. but hey, I'll try anything once. especially if it keeps those f#@kers at bay.

    top of my head, xanthan gum, guar gum? mix it with aloe vera? mix it with some beeswax?

    10 Replies
    1. re: reedux

      Needed something for kids - as Off - whatever version - etc. - is nasty stuff - and a stink I don't like - (and expensive).

      Googling came up with cinnamon, clove and oil -- some article tried to pooh-pooh with sticking 'clove.nails'. in fresh limes. That's nonsense - the cinnamon and clove must be boiled in oil to get an extraction.

      It does work - even by a friend in Cuba where they are a super-problem. And kids don't mind as smell is good. But the effect is only for a few hours which is usually quite enough.

      But applying the oil is messy and would be good to have a salve/cream type.

      I have Guar - and maybe the Aloe Vera would work - but not sure how the Guar would dissolve with oil - and maybe the oil would liquefy the Aloe too much - dunno - would have to open the 'lab' - was just trying to see if anyone might have a 'ready' idea.

      1. re: jounipesonen

        This may be crazy, but you could use that oil to make mayonnaise and spread that on. Or at least start from there and tinker.

        1. re: ennuisans

          assuming ur serious (?) - I still think a mayo consistency not 'vaseline-y' enough - also the mayo emulision probably assumes the egg and maybe even a water-based liquid such as vinegar or lemon juice. The result might be to become 'walking potato salad' which insects wd really love :-)

          1. re: jounipesonen

            MUST the thickener be a food-grade item?
            Or can it be any sort of DIY?
            Why not boil down your spice mix and add it to petroleum jelly?

            1. re: Kris in Beijing

              yeah dsnt need to be eaten - but big use wd be for kids so shd be cmpltly non-toxic - as surely wil get into mouth at sm point sometime

              not so sure abt the edibility of petr jelly

              1. re: jounipesonen

                it's not something you really want to sit down and make a meal of, but given the popularity of its use in products to be used in and around the mouth (lip balm, anyone?) it's not toxic.

            2. re: jounipesonen

              I couldn't find any confirmation online but you might be able to use soy lecithin in place of the yolks for an emulsifier. This is getting way out of my own experience but someone else might have some insight along these lines.

              1. re: ennuisans

                i think the 'mayo' direction not the way to go - too 'loose' in any case - to say nothing of getting rthr complicated

          2. re: jounipesonen

            I make "spoon butter" for my wooden spoons and bowls, with melted beeswax and mineral oil. Stir together and cool.

            I see no reason this would not work with vegetable oil (I use mineral because I want to avoid its going rancid in storage).

            3 or 4 oz. oil to one oz.beeswax; melt wax in double boiler (coffee can in sauce pan); stir until smooth; pour in wide-mouth jar to cool.

            The texture is very much like a salve or cold cream -- if it is too hard or too loose, just melt again and tweak.

        2. I was just googling similar recipes yesterday!
          Mixing the essential oils of your chosen herbs and spices into vodka or witch hazel popped up repeatedly. You'd end up with a thin liquid you could just spray on.
          Haven't tried it yet, but it might be worth a look for you. Good luck, those pesky bugs are tough to get the better of.

          1 Reply
          1. re: NicoletteT

            not sure wd get the mother's permission for spraying vodka on kids (and vodka being 6X more expnsv in Finland than US)


            also as the effectiveness is a few hrs etc - a thicker layer of 'stuff' prob needed - a sprayed on layer is going to be pretty 'fragile'

          2. why not go directly to naturally occuring pyrethrins in things like citronella?

            There are lots of commercial mosquito repellants that have these ingredients and claim to be effective whilst remaining DEET free. Mosquito-borne illnesses are serious enough that I'd rather pay money to someone who (hopefully) at least knows enough about the topic to sell a product that actually works, even if only a little.

            As a resident of a state where things like dengue fever, encephalitis, and now chikungunya exist because we're in the subtropics, we just go straight to the DEET and make sure we wash it off when we come back indoors.

            I don't want the nurses to be proclaiming that for someone that sick, I sure smell nice -- like cinnamon and cloves!

            2 Replies
            1. re: sunshine842

              except that have found cinnamon and clove to be more effective than citronella - and DEET not something to use for kids

              1. re: jounipesonen

                see below -- clove oil is toxic on the skin.

                I'm a parent, and I'd far rather deal with the minimal risk of DEET exposure for a few hours versus the life-changing effects of contracting dengue fever, encephalitis, malaria, or chikungunya.

                DEET has been around long enough that the health effects are pretty well-known, and washing it off when you go inside ends the exposure.

            2. I think you could use a1:1 mix of coconut oil and beeswax, melt in a double boiler, add your oil mixture, and pour into a container. A lip balm or deodorant container would make it easy to apply. If you have Shea butter, it makes a smoother application.

              I've also heard that mosquitos don't bother people who eat lemongrass. I don't think you have to eat a lot.

              3 Replies
              1. re: hippiechickinsing

                if that were true, there'd be no mosquito-borne illness in areas where lemongrass is a regular part of the diet.

                since that's not the case, I'd be wary of putting much stock in that belief.

                1. re: sunshine842

                  but wdnt be a problem to chuck in some lemon grass to the boil - the coconut oil/beeswax idea definitely worth a try

                  1. re: jounipesonen

                    it won't hurt anything, but it won't help -- if it did, malaria, encephalitis, and dengue fever wouldn't exist in Southeast Asia.

              2. I have heard that taking garlic pills during the bug season can really help make you unattractive to bugs - and supposedly the odorless type works just as well as the regular type (if you're worried about humans smelling you). I'd use repellent as well, but it can't hurt to try the garlic.

                ETA: I just did a quick search for a natural product I used a few years back, when I spent a summer in the (extremely buggy) mountains of North Carolina. I can't find the same product, but I know I bought it at a hippie food-co-op type place, and it definitely had cinnamon, clove and a few other strongly scented oils in it (it smelled like a cross between an Indian restaurant and a patchouli factory), and it was quite effective. You might check that type of store to see what they have on offer.

                Also, coconut oil is solid at cool room temperature - you might try cooking your spices in coconut oil and then storing it in the fridge or another cool place. If you find the coconut oil gets too hard in the fridge you can mix it with vegetable oil to keep it malleable.

                7 Replies
                1. re: biondanonima

                  the garlic capsules didn't do anything to help me. Tried it.

                  1. re: sunshine842

                    I've never tried it, but after I got eaten alive on my most recent trip up north, I am considering it for next time. Of course, I think the problem this time was that I didn't have DH with me - he is SO attractive to bugs, they seem to leave me alone when he's around. More reason to take our next trip together!

                  2. re: biondanonima

                    The old natural bug repellant thing was to take a combination of garlic and brewers' yeast supplements daily for a period of weeks to build up enough "smell" to repel insects.

                    I don't know how well it works for humans, but after we began giving the dog version to our doggie, the midnight tick-pulling sessions ended.

                    1. re: sandylc

                      One of my main reasons to use what I'm trying is for it to be compatible with kids - using the stuff described here would turn the kids into de facto orphans.

                      1. re: jounipesonen

                        there are numerous types of garlic that are odorless -- while I've had a couple of brands that I threw out because I could smell it in my skin, most of them do what they say on the label.

                        Garlic capsules are also believed to be effective against a fairly long list of evil things.

                        1. re: sunshine842

                          well, brewer's yeast pretty 'strong' - and not a kids' aroma IMO

                          odorless garlic and such are DAMN expensive - especially when one id to use to smear body parts

                          my whole aim was to find something inexpensive, convenient to smear, odor on the pleasant side - and good for kids - as well as being reasonably effective (I did find this aspect to be true)

                          1. re: jounipesonen

                            no, you don't smear brewer's yeast or odourless garlic on your skin.

                            You take them as a capsule -- then your skin smells without anything.

                            I can tell your for certain, though, that the mozzies will not necessarily leave you alone if you take garlic.

                  3. I use the essential oils to repel bugs and rodents. BUT, you shoudn't use clove oil on your skin or imbibe it. It is toxic.

                    I used to get mice and the mites they bring in, in my basement ceiling. I take essential peppermint oil, clove oil, and lavender oil and mix them with neutral spirits and distilled water and put into small spray bottles and spray them into the dropped ceiling. Since I started doing this I don't have any more mice or mites.

                    When I first did this I used just pure clove oil, and within hours several mice died.

                    I have used peppermint oil, diluted and lavender oil diluted successfully to repel mosquitoes and other bugs. Although honey bees like it.

                    11 Replies
                    1. re: JMF

                      Clove oil is perfectly safe to ingest in small quantities - you wouldn't see it used as a seasoning, a pain killer in dentistry or any of its other uses if it weren't.

                      1. re: biondanonima

                        Clove essential oil is very concentrated. Small amounts for humans is ok. But it is toxic and care should be used.

                        1. re: JMF

                          and pure cinnamon oil will put a chemical-burn blister on your skin.

                          1. re: sunshine842

                            that's why just boiling food oil with ordinary cinnamon/clove powders - result surely in a completely different concentration - one is only interested in the aroma which will come from small amounts.

                            1. re: jounipesonen

                              but that's relying on suppliers for a LOT. What's the concentration of essential oils? Does it vary from batch to batch?

                              It also has a lot to do with where you live...if you live in the tropics where mosquito-borne diseases are common, the stakes are immeasurably higher than if you live in northern climates where the worst result of being bitten is an itchy welt.

                              If you're in a northern climate, hey, experiment to your heart's content -- discomfort is the worst that can happen.

                      2. re: JMF

                        True - cloves are toxic - but it's got to be very relative as we use it rather copiously in all kinds of foods - apple pie, etc. Dentists use it rather regularly too on a number of procedures - it's also the pain killer in topical 'tooth pain' products.

                        But of course caution is the word.

                        (Am just surprised there isn't more public caution re foods and dental work.)

                        1. re: jounipesonen

                          But it's all part of the the "but it's natural!" thing.

                          DEET is toxic in enough quantity.
                          Clove oil is toxic in enough quantity -- and the fact that it's "natural" or "edible" doesn't change that.

                          I'm not going to sit down to a plate of toxic mushrooms just because they're "natural".

                          1. re: sunshine842

                            Absolutely agree re being fooled by 'natural.'

                            In this case, clove aroma gotten into some food oil is not close to Clove Oil and a far cry from the rather scary Wiki article on DEET. I was approved by the FBI to work on bio-poisons for the US Army - so have a good idea of what that 'kind' of thing can do.

                            1. re: jounipesonen


                              has recommendations of other non-DEET products with very good efficacy.

                              Also has a less-scary mention of DEET that puts it into a little better perspective, particularly pertaining to children.

                              (with the caveat as to the sources for some of their information -- sorry, but about.com is not a reliable reference, IMO)

                              1. re: sunshine842

                                agree completely re about.com - seen some ridiculous stuff there - same with Yahoo answers

                                1. re: jounipesonen

                                  it's a pity in that particular article -- there's some pretty good references, and some that make you shake your head.

                                  I used to read Yahoo Answers just for the amusement value.

                      3. How about using glycerin rather than oil? It is about the same consistency but does not leave the skin greasy.

                        FWIW, mosquito bites USED to give me large welts that I scratched until I bled. I often had self-resolving cellulitis (raised, hard, hot, red blotch several inches in diameter) from the worst of the scratches. I live near Boston. A friend who lived in Alaska, where the mosquito season is short but intense, told me everyone there takes Vitamin B-12 during mosquito season. It does not repel the buggers but suppresses the skin reaction. She said it is routinely used by the military bases there. It certainly works for me, though I discovered that it takes a few weeks of daily B-12 before it becomes effective. So I aim to start in early April. I take one 2000mcg tab per day. When I get a bite, there is either no welt at all, or it is less than a half inch diameter and disappears within 15 minutes. It is not nearly as itchy while it lasts. One year I forgot to start on time and come early May, had not yet begun when the mosquitoes became active. I got the same major welt and cellulitis that had plagued me before I learned about the B-12. I've been taking it from spring through Halloween for 20 yrs now. Of course this does nothing to prevent exposure to mosquito-borne illness.

                        1. Beeswax or coconut oil. Mosquitos aren't fond of lavender, either.

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: sandylc

                            You are probably better off with oil of lemon eucalyptus (Citriodiol) made into a cream or lotion. It's one of the few natural products that has been tested and works. Many of the other things like yeast, garlic, cloves etc may smell a lot but the evidence for them is only anecdotal.

                            1. re: PhilD

                              The beeswax and coconut oil are ideas for a carrier medium, per the OP's request.

                              Lavender works well for me, thanks.

                              1. re: sandylc

                                I hear the ultrasonic repellents work really well as well.....not.

                                  1. re: PhilD

                                    Gee, however did people survive before patents...

                                    1. re: sandylc

                                      I don't understand the comment. There is no patent on oil of lemon eucalyptus. Its an essential oil and sold by many manufacturers - Citriodiol is just one of the many products.

                                      I appreciate that lavender appears to work for you. However, many people think things stop them getting bitten because the people the are with get bitten but they don't themselves don't. But generally thats down to the other person being more attractive to a mosquito rather the repellent capacity of the lavender of other substance.

                                      Mosquitos are attracted to people with smelly feet, not because the feet are smelly but because the bacteria responsible also produce volatile compounds that the mosquitoes like. Equally some perfumes are more attractive, and possibly certain blood types.

                                      So one of the best things to do if you want to avoid getting bitten is to find friends with smelly feet - at least the lavender will mask the smell.

                                      And if you go to a malaria area then DEET is best - not sensible to take chances.

                                      1. re: PhilD

                                        My comment was a product of my impression that you were pooh-poohing home remedies for repelling bugs.

                                        Mosquitos have always loved me, despite my lack of "smelly feet". The lavender has a clear effect for me in keeping them away.

                                        Here is an interesting article:

                                        And another:

                            2. Mix essential oil with shea butter or other body cream type ingredient (coconut oil stored in the fridge?).

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: julesrules

                                Yeah, I forgot to mention shea butter. We use that a lot in the winter for moisturizer. Good stuff. Sticks around, so it would probably last well for this use.

                              2. Just a thought - from as many people on these boards that have problems with people wearing perfume or hairspray, consider that the smell of what you're suggesting might be offensive to others. I personally can't get within 50 yards of clove anything. Not that OFF smells so great, but the smell doesn't last very long. Not trying to be a negative Nellie - just a thought.

                                1. I cook well enough to attract and maintain an SO who is more appealing to mosquito and other biting pests than I am.

                                  This method works well for me.

                                  1. Many recipes out there on the herbalist websites. They not only make the stuff they'll happily tell you what binders work and don't work. They are the experts on spices/herbs etc. for all sorts of uses. I use the catnip based ones which work for the skeeters here, and I get the skeeter reaction which means skeeter bites are like bee stings, last for weeks and have sent me to the MD. Done the kyolic B-12 (recommended more for fleas not skeeters) but that doesn't work; I get allergic skin rashes if I use eugenol based essentials (eugenol is the active ingredient in cloves/cinnamon, the various aldehydes aren't). Each person is different. Here's a place to go with some good research on the whole thing.https://www.cherylsherbs.com/Catnip_a...

                                    1. Appreciative of all the input - got some work to do!

                                      Btw -- light colored clothing best - black is definitely the worst (and best for the mosquitoes)

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: jounipesonen

                                        there are also products you can use in your yard to attract and kill them -- not much help if you're off to the park or out and about, but it would help when you're playing in the garden


                                      2. I stopped using citronella candles on the porch when I found a mosquito drowned in the hot, melted wax. I use my stove as little as possible in hot weather but when I do, I always notice mosquitoes buzzing around the hot pans, and even the empty burner when it is still hot. I get bitten a lot but when I'm cooking, they go for the hottest area, which is NOT the arm holding the spatula while stirring the food. They also hover around dishes/containers of hot food. I have never read that they are attracted by heat but the candle and stove make it clear that they are.

                                        1. Regular food oil is liquid at room temp. How about cooking it in plain vegetable shortening which is solid at room temp? Shelf stable and should last a long time.