Natural Mosquito Repellents – Do They Work?

Do Natural Mosquito Repellents Work Against Tough OKC Mosquitos?

The short answer is no. In fact, the protection afforded by natural mosquito repellents can last for as little as 30 minutes. That said, professional mosquito control is very effective if applied consistently.

OKC Mosquito Militia Total Pest Control wages war against mosquitoes each year, and keeps Oklahoma City and surrounding areas mosquito-free. Our Integrated Pest Management (IPM) process is an environmentally responsible, low-impact program that combats mosquitoes in OKC as effectively as possible.

We’re great at what we do, but we also acknowledge that there isn’t an instant solution to completely eliminate mosquitoes. That’s why we attack mosquitos on a regular basis throughout the mosquito season, to better combat their 8-10 day life cycle. With regular application by our eco-friendly mosquito treatment sprays, we’ll have you enjoying the outdoors as often as you like.

That means no matter what, there are times of the year when you’re going to want to use repellent. Mosquito repellents, like management solutions, come in different forms.  Some repellents work well because they have a base-level of toxicity. Nice for avoiding bites, but not so appealing to put on your skin.

There are more environmentally-friendly, natural options with repellents. Some are more effective than others, but most will at least discourage mosquitoes from coming around.

Here are some natural products and herbs you can try against mosquitoes. These probably won’t get it done if you’re hunting or fishing in the deep woods, but within the urban areas around Oklahoma City they can give you some protection.


Citronella is a well-known mosquito repellent that is sold by commercial brands as candles and in topical repellents. Citronella is initially as effective as DEET, but it evaporates quickly so it’s only effective for a short time.High concentrations of citronella have been known to cause skin irritation.

Research shows that a topical application of 100% citronella provides complete mosquito protection for up to 120 minutes, but this is in a laboratory setting.

In your OKC backyard where a few bugs are trying to interrupt dinner, citronella may work well. In the backwoods, use a more effective synthetic repellent than citronella.


Clove oil has shown promise in some research as a mosquito repellent. It has a strong, aromatic smell that is the type of thing bugs generally don’t like.  You can apply it topically as oil and there are candles and other aromatic products that will discourage mosquitoes.

Lemon Eucalyptus

Do mosquitoes hate eucalyptus? We think so. Lemon eucalyptus oil has been used since the 1940s and is approved by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a mosquito repellentLemon eucalyptus is 85% citronella, so it has a similar ability to fight mosquitoes. Like citronella, it’s been shown to be highly effective as a repellent, but only for short periods of time. 

If you don’t like the smell of citronella, lemon eucalyptus has a pleasant scent that makes a good substitute. It’s available in a variety of products.


Lemongrass is used in Asian cooking. It’s another citrus product that has acidic qualities mosquitoes tend to hate.

You can combine lemongrass with cooking oil to create a topical repellant. Again, it’s mildly effective and won’t work well in areas that are heavily infested with mosquitoes.


Peppermint essential oil can make an effective mosquito repellent, and peppermint scented products are common. As a repellent, research shows that peppermint must be used in high concentrations to be effective against mosquitoes.

Neem Oil

Neem oil comes from the tropical neem tree, also known as Indian lilac. It has a long history in Southeast Asia as a folk remedy, including use as a bug repellent.

There are two things to consider with neem oil. The first is that it’s not easy to find in household products like candles. Second is that the smell is not just repulsive to mosquitoes. The stuff has a pungent stench most people find distasteful.


Cats love it, mosquitoes don’t. As part of the mint family, catnip also has a pungent quality that makes it a natural mosquito repellent.  If you keep a lot of this around for your cats, it’s a win/win.

You can also apply catnip essential oil to your skin as a natural mosquito repellent, but be warned. You’re likely to make a lot of new feline friends.


Eucalyptus oil has the type of fragrance that mosquitoes hate, but it has a quality that wakes people up. It’s also good for your skin. Try this in the morning to fight mosquitoes at dawn.

Thyme and Basil

Thyme and basil are common herbs that are easy to grow and access. Thyme, in particular, will grow like a weed if you let it.  You can create homemade oils from these herbs, or in a pinch, just rub them directly on your skin.  Lemon thyme is particularly effective against mosquitoes.


The natural mosquito repellents listed here all have some clinical evidence showing degrees of effectiveness. Most studies, such as this one done in 2011, took place in parts of the world where malaria is a danger.  Also, in many of these countries, people don’t have access to synthetic mosquito repellent.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that travelers use EPA-registered mosquito repellents that contain one of the following:

  • DEET
  • picaridin
  • IR3535
  • oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or para-menthane-diol (PMD)
  • 2-undecanone

As we said, if you’re at home in areas like Oklahoma City or Edmond, slapping on some Eucalyptus oil in the morning might be enough, and it does have the advantage of not containing synthetic materials that are not particularly healthy for our bodies.  If you’re in an area that’s been sprayed by OKC Mosquito Militia, just rubbing a handful on your arms and neck may be enough.

However, if you’re heading down to Lake Thunderbird mid-summer, take some repellent with DEET. Save the basil for your fish – it’s really tasty.

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