For me, summer is synonymous with backpacking trips, barbecues, and long evenings by the lake with friends and family. But there’s nothing that ruins a beautiful day outdoors like the swarms of mosquitoes that are all too happy to come join the party. Sure, you could rummage through your camping supplies to find that old, probably cancer-causing bottle of bug spray (with the added benefit of acting as your new permanent perfume for the foreseeable future) , or you could give a more natural solution a try — using vanilla extract as a bug repellent. Vanilla extract is the base for a DIY tried-and-true bug repellent, which, as it turns out, is super easy to make.

How to make bug repellant from vanilla extract


- 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract

- 1 tbsp water

- A bottle for storage and application (try a spray bottle, or reuse a perfume roller)


Add extract and water to your bottle, shake, and apply just like your favorite perfume. I honestly don’t think it could get any easier.

Does vanilla extract actually repel bugs?

Mosquitoes are never a welcome guest at a summer soirée, but luckily for us, they tend to dislike many of the smells that we as humans already enjoy. Mosquitoes use their strong sense of smell to find preferred food sources, so applying an equally strong scent will confuse them and keep them away.

The key here is to choose your vanilla wisely. If the label says “Pure Vanilla Extract,” you’re in the clear. Some extracts have sugars and alcohols added in, which mosquitoes are actually attracted to, so check the ingredients label and stay far away from any sugar-related extracts when you’re preparing your repellent.

Other natural mosquito repellents

If you’re all out of vanilla, there are plenty of other natural scents that are effective at repelling mosquitoes. Lavender, thyme, peppermint, lemon eucalyptus, and pine oil are a few of the leading alternatives to chemical-based bug sprays, but be sure to dilute any of these oils with water before applying directly to your skin. If you’re feeling especially adventurous, try mixing a few scents together to create your own custom mosquito-repellent blend. My personal favorite is lemon eucalyptus and vanilla — adding a drop or two of eucalyptus oil to your spray bottle before mixing is an easy way to increase the concentration of scents and add a bright, citrusy smell to your blend.

I’m fully embracing my farm-girl, low-waste era, and this vanilla extract bug spray is the perfect addition to my summer plans. In the words of TikToker @jacquieslife: “I smell like a vanilla cookie, but the bugs still don’t want me.”