One of the most common uses of essential oils is in repelling insects and household pests.
Diffusing pest-repellent oils, using them on candles or even spraying them about the home are all great ways to protect your household from pests, and you can take that protection to the next level by understanding exactly which oils are best for different kinds of infestations.
Whilst many essential oils have pest-repellent properties due to their potent natural scents, some are particularly powerful.
From mosquitos and ticks to ants and rats, here are some of our favourite repellent essential oils and the pests they keep at bay.
Why is it important to rid your home of pests?
Pest control is incredibly important for maintaining the health of you and your family members.
Rodents and insects can carry in all kinds of diseases that can infest your home, not to mention dangerous bacteria like E. coli and salmonella that can affect the cleanliness of your surfaces and food.
There is also the risk of pests biting you, your pets, or your family, as well as leaving unwanted droppings around several areas of your living environment.
When out and about, it is also important to keep pest-repelling scents on you to prevent potentially disease-ridden bites, as well as the more common raised, itchy bumps that can come from insects like mosquitos.
What are the best essential oils for repelling pests?
We've narrowed down a list of all our favourite pest-repelling oils to keep you and your home safe during the summer seasons and beyond.
Feel free to try out as many as you feel will suit you, and keep in mind that certain oils may work best for certain types of pests only.
- Amyris oil: Fresh and woody with botanical similarities to sandalwood, amyris essential oil is historically used to repel mosquitos. A purifying oil, it is able to keep these disease-carrying insects at bay and protect our health in the process. Research in 2010 also showed the oil to be repellent to two different species of ticks. Learn more about the benefits of amyris essential oil.
- Basil oil: Research has shown that basil essential oil can deter a wide number of pests from the home, as well as prevent bug bites from appearing on the skin. It is suggested that these effects are due to the volatile oils in basil which act as natural bug repellents. Learn more about the benefits of basil essential oil.
- Bay laurel: The Greeks and Romans believed that bay laurel had magical powers which could protect them from plague. What they saw was likely bay laurel protecting them from creatures carrying the illness. Diffusing bay laurel essential oil can repel many kinds of bugs and protect us from the diseases they often bring. Learn more about the benefits of bay laurel essential oil.
- Birch tar oil: The strong, distinctive scent of birch tar oil can keep your garden free from slugs and snails. A study in 2010 found that birch tar oil could repel slugs and snails from fences and plant pots. This can protect vegetation and prevent slugs and snails from coming near the house. Learn more about the benefits of birch tar essential oil.
- Cajeput oil: Cajeput is often used in its native Australia to repel pests such as mosquitoes. It can help to protect the skin from bites as well as any resulting illness that could potentially come from them. Cajeput oil can also soothe the skin around a mosquito bite and relieve symptoms of itching. Learn more about the benefits of cajeput essential oil.
- Cedarwood oil: Cedarwood essential oil is repellent to a number of bugs thanks to its component cedrol. A study in 2014 showed that cedrol is highly repellent to ants, helping to keep them away from food. Cedrol may even be lethal to ticks and moth larvae. Learn more about the benefits of cedarwood essential oil.
- Citronella oil: The insect-repellent abilities of citronella essential oil are so impressive that the US Environmental Protection Agency considers it an official biopesticide. This means that citronella oil is a non-toxic mods of action against potentially harmful insects. It is particularly repellent to mosquitos, and can be applied topically using a carrier oil to prevent bites as well as ward off the chance of disease. Learn more about the benefits of citronella essential oil.
- Clove oil: Clove essential oil is rich in eugenol, a component which is known to have insect repellent properties. It is particularly effective in protecting against mosquitoes, and can protect from mosquito bites for several hours after it is applied topically. If you're looking to apply clove oil topically, be sure to use clove leaf oil instead of clove bud, as the latter is considered too harsh to be used on skin. Learn more about the benefits of clove essential oil.
- Eucalyptus oil: Eucalyptus essential oil can actually help to keep rats out of the home. A study in 2014 found that spraying areas of a cage with eucalyptus oil was enough to stop rats from consuming food in that area. This suggests the oil may keep them out of kitchens and pantries. Learn more about the benefits of eucalyptus essential oil.
- Lavender oil: Lavender essential oil has a number of impressive cleaning, hygiene-promoting properties, one of which is its ability to repel moths.Lavender oil has been found to be highly repellent to moths and is often used in drawers and wardrobes to protect fabric. If you're constantly finding moth-bitten clothing in your wardrobe, making your own moth balls using lavender oil might be a good way to naturally repel them. Learn more about the benefits of lavender essential oil.
- Lemongrass oil: Lemongrass essential oil has a high citral and geraniol content - two natural compounds that are known for repelling pests. It is particularly high in citral, containing around 70-80%.The sharp, citrussy scent that this oil provides makes it repellent to a number of insects, including mosquitos. Learn more about the benefits of lemongrass essential oil.
- Lemon verbena oil: Lemon verbena’s sherbet-like scent is known to be repellent to adult mosquitos.A study in 2006 found that as well as repelling adults of the species, lemon verbena oil was also able to kill mosquitos at the larval stage. Learn more about the benefits of lemon verbena essential oil.
- Orange oil: Orange oil is known to be repellent to ants. This makes it a popular oil used in the preservation of food, as ants are a common kitchen pest. Using orange essential oil around food storage areas deters ants from those areas and keeps food safe. Learn more about the benefits of orange essential oil.
- Patchouli oil: Patchouli oil has been used for centuries to repel moths and has also been found to be effective at repelling mosquitos, ants and fleas.A study in 2003 found that patchouli was also a highly effective termite repellent. Learn more about the benefits of patchouli essential oil.
- Peppermint oil: Peppermint oil is known to be an effective spider repellent and is popular during spider season, when spiders start to come indoors. It is theorised that the monoterpenoids in peppermint oil act as fumigants which deter the spiders.The scent of peppermint is also incredibly effective at repelling rats, mice, and other rodents thanks to its potency. Learn more about the benefits of peppermint essential oil.
- Vetiver oil: Vetiver essential oil is said to be repellent to mosquito larvae and has also been found to be an effective agent against termite infestations.A study in 2001 showed vetiver to be highly repellent to termites, as well as having the ability to reduce tunnelling activity. Learn more about the benefits of vetiver essential oil.
How to use essential oils to repel pestsEssential oils are incredibly versatile, and can be incorporated in numerous ways to help keep your spaces and your body away from unwanted pests.
1. DiffusionA sure-fire way to keep pests out of your home is to diffuse your chosen essential oils into the air using an electric diffuser or oil burner. This is particularly effective for airborne insects like mosquitos, as the scent of the room will automatically detract them and keep them outside for good.
2. Making a bug sprayFor certain pests that like to hide in corners or around tricky locations, a homemade bug spray is a good method for targeting infested areas. Alongside your chosen oils, you'll need a few handy ingredients to make your bug spray as effective as possible. You will need:
3. Topical applicationTo repel pests on your body, or to help calm the symptoms of any existing (medically benign) bug bites, you can choose to apply your essential oils topically using a skin-safe carrier oil. It's extremely important to always dilute your essential oils before applying them anywhere on your body, as failure to do so can lead to irritation and even allergic reactions depending on your sensitivities. If you're unsure on how to do this, our essential oil dilution guide can help point you in the right direction.