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When you are outdoors and bugs are driving you crazy, you might be tempted to reach for a commercial, chemical-laden bug repellent. Instead, consider avoiding DEET and other dangerous substances by using natural tea tree oil as a bug repellent. Tea tree oil is commonly found in health food stores, pharmacies and even some grocery stores and is all natural and safe to use topically on adults and children alike.


Tea tree oil is taken from the Melaleuca alternifolia leaves, native to Australia. While tea tree oil is an effective anti-fungal and antiseptic oil, it is also an effective insect repellent. Tea tree oil can actually dissolve the exoskeleton of an insect, causing it to smother. Strong and distinctive-smelling tea tree oil also contains terpenes that repel insects away from your skin. Tea tree oil is also useful for treating insect bites or stings if you are too late using your natural repellent. Just dab some on with a cotton swab for quick relief.


Tea tree oil is an essential oil that is highly potent per drop, so do not use it undiluted on your skin or you risk causing a rash or irritation. Choose 16 oz. of a base oil, such as jojoba, olive, almond or coconut oil, and add a few drops of tea tree oil, about 1/8 oz., before applying to your skin. Add an additional 1/2 oz. of citronella, 1/4 oz. of lavender oil and 1/8 oz. of pennyroyal oil to the mix for increased potency. Shake your oil mixture with 16 oz. of vodka in a spray bottle for a convenient, all-natural bug spray.

How to Use

Spray or rub your natural insect repellent over your body, avoiding your mouth, eyes, nose and hands to keep the strong-smelling concoction from irritating sight or smell. If you want to avoid applying bug repellent to your skin on a frequent basis, spray the mixture onto your clothing, bedding or tent while camping or add the oil mixture to your shampoo or body soap. Pour a few drops of tea tree oil onto strips of paper to hang near doors and window to keep bugs at bay or place a few drops of your oil mixture onto a candle for more natural bug repellent.

Proper Storage

Keep tea tree oil out of reach of children or pets as it can be toxic when taken internally. Tea tree oil has a long shelf life because of its anti-fungal and antiseptic properties. When mixed with another base oil for a bug repellent, keep the oil mixture out of direct sunlight for best results and follow storage directions according to the base oil you have chosen.