Tick Off! Bug Off! (TOBO) – spray for repelling bugs and ticks made with essential oils and hydrosols

This is the time of year our Using Essential Oils Safely facebook group gets asked frequently about bug repellent. There are some out there we have been recommending, but this one incorporates hydrosols as well.

You can read more about hydrosols here: Hydrosols, Hydrolats, Aromatic Waters – oh my! Everything you wanted to know about Hydrosols

This recipe focuses on repelling ticks, and is good for other summer bugs as well.

If you do get bitten, use Bug Bite Soother.

The Recipe

Here is the recipe in text, in case the image doesn’t show up for you…and keep scrolling to find out more detailed information about this recipe, such as if it is child-safe, pregnancy-safe, etc…

Tick Off! Bug Off! (TOBO) – spray for repelling bugs and ticks made with essential oils and hydrosols
2% dilution

1. In 12 ounce spray bottle combine:

  • 3 oz. Lemongrass hydrosol
  • 3 oz. Lavender hydrosol
  • 3 oz. Peppermint hydrosol
  • 3 oz. Witch Hazel (hydrosol)*
  • 50 drops Geranium Bourbon EO Pelargonium roseum X asperum**
  • 20 drops Geranium Egyptian EO Pelargonium roseum X asperum**
  • 50 drops Citronella EO Cymbopogon nardus, Cymbopoon winterianus
  • 20 drops Patchouli EO Pogostemon cablin, Pogostemon patchouly

2. Shake well before using. Apply as often as needed.

* Witch hazel is a hydrosol, although it is typically not labeled as such.

** Many companies label their Geranium as Pelargonium graveolens, but this is incorrect, as Geranium essential oils is no longer being made from that plant. If your Geranium EO is labeled as such, it is OK, it is still Geranium, and you can still use it.

Tick off! Bug Off! spray for ticks and bugs made with essential oils and hydrosols.

Questions you may have about this recipe

Q: I don’t have all the essential oils in this recipe – what can I leave out?

A: The Geranium essential oils are essential for ticks, the Citronella and Patchouli for bugs. I don't suggest leaving anything out, but you can replace the Patchouli with Texas Cedarwood (Juniperus ashei, Juniperus mexicana).

Q: Can I use something other than hydrosols as a base in this recipe?

A: You can use plain water, but it won't be as effective.

Q: You've taught me that water and oils do not mix. Why are you breaking your rule for this recipe?

A: Whenever you add essential oils to water to use as a spray, you want to be sure to shakeshakeshake before applying to the skin. You can also spray this recipe on your clothing, hat, and socks instead. Another option is adding Solubol or even liquid soap to help disperse the essential oils into the hydrosols. I actually did add a whole ounce of Solubol to this recipe, but there was still some essential oil floating on the top. I either didn't add enough, or it was not as fresh as it needed to be (I've had it over a year).

Q: Where can I find the hydrosols you use for this recipe?

A: I am not loyal to one brand. I purchase hydrosols from several different places, including: Mountain Rose HerbsAromatics InternationalPompeii OrganicsGarden of Wisdom (they have a wonderful selection, excellent prices, and reasonable shipping! Get 10% off your order with code usingeosafely10).

Q: What kind of bugs will this help repel?

A: This is useful for repelling ticks, fleas, mosquitoes, and other flying bugs.

Q: Can I make a stronger dilution?

A: You sure can! If you decide to increase the dilution, you might want to apply to your clothes instead of the skin.

Q: Is this recipe safe for use during pregnancy?

A: Yes! For more information on essential oil safety during pregnancy read: Essential Oils and Pregnancy.

Q: Is this recipe safe for use if I breastfeed?

A: Yes! For more information on essential oil safety during pregnancy read: Essential Oils and Breastfeeding.

Q: Is this recipe safe for use on children?

A: Yes, all of the hydrosols (including Peppermint hydrosol) and essential oils are safe for use on children. If you use on children under age 2, spray on the clothing instead of the skin. For more information on essential oil safety with children read: Essential Oils and Children.

Q: You recommend a plastic bottle. Shouldn’t I use glass so the essential oils don’t eat away the plastic?

A: Pure essential oils should be stored in glass, but when essential oils are diluted in a recipe like this, you can use plastic (PET plastic is ideal).

Q: What brands do you recommend for this recipe?

A: I personally use several different brands of essential oils with great results (you can find my opinion here. You can use whatever brand you have on hand, as long as the Latin names match 🙂

Do you have a question or comment? Leave me a note here, ask me in the FB group, or e-mail me.

Lea Harris is a Certified Clinical Aromatherapist Scholar's Program graduate from Aromahead Institute. This website, and its sister website, LearningAboutEOs, is home to educational advice and information about using essential oils safely. Lea founded and runs the Using Essential Oils Safely facebook group, with hundreds of new members joining each week. Lea is the author of The TRUTH About Essential Oil Safety, and the creator of Safe Essential Oil Labels and the UEOS App. You can find FREE classes here: Free Essential Oil Classes.

Lea received her herbalist certification through The Herbal Academy of New England. Lea is a contributing writer for Natural Herbal Living magazine, and blogs about herbs and natural living on her website, Nourishing Treasures.

Lea is Professional level member of the Alliance of International Aromatherapists.

Businesses, groups, and individuals can hire Lea to consult on safety, product formulation, and more on her website Lea Harris CCA.



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