Tick Off! Bug Off! (TOBO) - recipe for tick repellent and bug repellent made with essential oils and safe for kids and dogs

It's that time of year again!

We are juuuuuust beginning to abandon our winter garb and enjoy the outdoors, when reality bites us right in the face. Or the arm. Or the leg.


The Using Essential Oils Safely facebook group is hopping (pun intended) with questions about what safe tick repellents and bug repellents can be used for all members of the family – including pets.

I have been making only Lea's bug off tick off recipe for the past 2 years. It works really well for me. Thanks Lea. – Leela

This is a 2% dilution according to my dilution chart over on Diluting Essential Oils Safely.

Keep scrolling to find out more detailed information about this recipe, which should answer any questions you may have about this recipe.

Tick Off! Bug Off! (TOBO) – recipe for tick repellent and bug repellent made with essential oils and safe for kids and dogs

Tick Off! Bug Off! (TOBO) – recipe for tick repellent and bug repellent made with essential oils and safe for kids and dogs


    Essential Oils
  • 50 drops Geranium (Bourbon) Pelargonium roseum X asperum
  • 20 drops Geranium (Egyptian) Pelargonium roseum X asperum
  • 50 drops Lemon Eucalyptus Eucalyptus citriodora, Corymbia citriodora OR Citronella Cymbopogon nardus, Cymbopoon winterianus
  • 20 drops Patchouli Pogostemon cablin, Pogostemon patchouly
    Hydrosols (optional)
  • 3 oz. Lemongrass
  • 3 oz. Lavender
  • 3 oz. Peppermint
  • 3 oz. Witch Hazel


  1. In 12 ounce spray bottle add the essential oils.
  2. Top off with water or the hydrosols.
  3. Shake well before using. Apply as often as needed.

Already bitten? Use our Bug Bite Soother recipe.

Tick embedded? Remove with a tool like Ticked Off on amazon. Do not use undiluted essential oils on ticks to remove them (they can regurgitate toxins into the skin as they back out). Read more about what not to do here.

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

Questions you may have about this recipe

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

A: Geranium (Bourbon) essential oil is needed for repelling ticks, Geranium (Egyptian), Lemon Eucalyptus (or Citronella) and Patchouli for mosquitoes and other bugs. I don't suggest leaving anything out unless you don't need to repel ticks, then you can omit Geranium (Bourbon) and increase the amount of the other essential oils. You can replace the Patchouli with Texas Cedarwood (Juniperus ashei, Juniperus mexicana).

Q: My bottle says Pelargonium graveolens, not Pelargonium roseum X asperum. What does this mean?

A: Geranium essential oil used to come from Pelargonium graveolens, but this no longer the case. Many companies still use this Latin name, instead of the correct Pelargonium roseum X asperum. No matter which Latin name is reflected on the bottle, the contents are in fact from Pelargonium roseum X asperum, and you can still use it.

Q: What if my bottle doesn't say which Geranium (Bourbon or Egyptian) it is?

A: You will have to ask the company you got it from which Geranium it is. There is no way to tell which one it is, unless specified, as both have the same Latin name. They come from different countries, and will have different constituents (or same constituents at different levels), so it's good idea to know which country it is from so you can get the right Geranium. Reputable companies will have the country of origin available on their website. Farthing reading: How to Tell if a Company is Worth Buying From and Lea's Opinion on Brands.

Q: Is Geranium really best for ticks?

A: Here is an abstract from PubMed which states: “Some major constituents of these oils, e.g. citronella [Citronella and Lemon Eucalyptus] and geraniol [Geranium] and eugenol [Clove] showed pronounced repelling effects.” Brackets mine for clarity. Another abstract showing effectiveness of Geranium on ticks is here.

Q: Is Lemon Eucalyptus essential oils really better than DEET?

A: According to this PubMed abstract, the 32% Lemon Eucalyptus Oil provided 95% protection vs 40% formulation of DEET which provided 100% protection. Because of the risks of using DEET, I'll go for the 95% protection!

Q: Wait – I thought Lemon Eucalyptus wasn't safe for kids?

A: Lemon Eucalyptus doesn't contain any 1,8-cineole, but contains high amounts of citronellal. It is safe for children.

Q: Which Lemon Eucalyptus is preferred?

A: Lemon Eucalyptus essential oil sourced from China, Australia, and India contain higher amounts of citronellal, making it more effective as a bug repellent. Sourcing from Madagascar will give you a lower amount, and it may not be quite as effective.

Q: Do I have to make 12 ounces? What if I want to make a smaller batch?

A: For a smaller batch, add the following essential oils per ounce: 4 drops Geranium (Bourbon), 2 drops Geranium (Egyptian), 4 drops Lemon Eucalyptus, and 2 drops Patchouli.

Q: Should there be a preservative in this recipe? I don't see any mention of one.

A: I don't use a preservative in this recipe, as I recommend a fresh batch be made each summer. This spray can be used during the 3-ish months of summer, then discarded. I also recommend keeping in your purse, but not leaving in your car, so it is not sitting in high heat for long periods of time. If you wish you try to use this recipe for more than one summer, or leave in the heat, you can add a preservative such as phenoxyethanol at a 1% dilution (6 drops per ounce, or 72 drops for the recipe). I recommend this phenoxyethanol from amazon.

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

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 twice as many drops of this polysorbate 20 from amazon as essential oils (or even liquid soap) to help disperse the essential oils into the hydrosols. If you use the recipe as given, that would be 280 drops of polysorbate 20.

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). You can learn more about hydrosols here.

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: Why does this work on [this person], but not me?

A: Body chemistry and bacteria, and some people believe. high blood sugar, can be a factor. This page has some interesting thoughts about this topic: Why Mosquitoes Bite Some People and Not Others.

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! In addition, 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. Apply as often as needed.

Q: Is this recipe safe for use on pets?

A: This recipe is safe for dogs, but I don't recommend using essential oils with cats (read why here). You can use the hydrosols with dogs, or add the essential oils to a carrier oil which includes 5% neem (a natural insect repellent) and apply to the fur. You can use just the hydrosols part of the recipe for your cats. Apply as often as needed.

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 🙂

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Tick Off! Bug Off! (TOBO) – recipe for tick repellent and bug repellent made with essential oils and safe for kids and dogs

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