The Unexpected Mosquito Repellant That's Already In Your Pantry

Summertime is full of parties, food, swimming, and mosquitoes. The last one is definitely a party pooper — especially when you hit your barbeque, only to be attacked by the little bloodsucking insects. Commercial mosquito repellants are full of chemicals that can harm your health when not used properly. Rather than worry about the toxicity of that can of mosquito spray, hit your pantry for a natural repellent that goes in your cookies.

Mosquitoes aren't equal-opportunity feeders. There are people out there who are more attractive to mosquitoes than others due to their chemical makeup. Female mosquitoes use their antennae to seek out carbon dioxide and odor. The New York Times noted a unique mix of chemical compounds mosquitoes like. Dr. Lindy McBride, an associate professor of ecology, evolutionary biology, and neuroscience at Princeton University, stated, "Mosquitoes love forearm odor." While you might not think of your forearm as smelly, the sebum that keeps your skin from drying out has a smell they like. Natural remedies help cover that smell and keep the mosquitoes off your tail.

Natural remedies are sure to make your outings more enjoyable. And as it turns out, you can keep the mosquitoes away from you by grabbing some vanilla extract out of your cupboard.

Use vanilla extract to keep mosquitoes away

Rather than stay in your house until the mosquito season ends, go to your pantry and reach for some vanilla extract. Tiktokers have been raving about the effectiveness of vanilla extract, and there's a bit of research to back it up.

Shannon Harlow-Ellis, associate certified entomologist and technical specialist for Mosquito Joe, told Yahoo!Life, "Vanilla extract, like some other plant derivatives, will mask the odor mosquitoes are searching for when looking for a blood meal." Since your body emits smells they are attracted to, this can help keep them from nibbling on your arms. Sanford Health pediatrician Dr. Christine Arnold noted on Sanford Health, "So then I sent out one [person] with vanilla extract and one with no repellent at all. And the one without got attacked." The doctor recommends using vanilla extract for hands and face, so it's not toxic if unintentionally ingested.

Research in the Journal of Medical Entomology also found that mixing vanilla extract with citronella oil lotions increases its effectiveness. The study noted that when vanilla was used, it lasted for over four hours. So, this remedy can also increase the effectiveness of other natural treatments.

Other natural ways to keep mosquitoes at bay

Vanilla isn't the only ingredient in your home that you could use to help fight against the irritating bloodsuckers. Several different essential oils have also been proven to be natural insect repellants. While the research is limited, a 2019 study in the Journal of Medical Entomology found that specific essential oils were effective in masking human scent. The study listed the top performers as cinnamon, peppermint, spearmint, lemongrass, and garlic oil. Most of these commercial spray ingredients repelled mosquitoes for about 30 minutes.

Cinnamon has also proven to be an effective killer of mosquito larvae, according to a 2021 study in Molecules. It was also shown that adult mosquitoes land less on plants coated with cinnamon oil. 

Give catnip oil a try when it comes to trying to repel mosquitoes naturally. A 2021 study in the Malaria Journal showed that this oil had good effectiveness against Anopheles mosquitoes. However, the dosing of this oil is essential to make sure to get effective coverage. The study noted that one-milligram solutions had 100% effectiveness. The study also indicated that thyme and olive oil had good effectiveness.

Potential risks of natural mosquito repellents

Vanilla extract and natural mosquito remedies made with essential oils are considered safe overall. However, that doesn't mean there aren't potential risks that you should be aware of. Healthline notes that essential oils should always be diluted before they are applied to the skin. Take care to mix them with a carrier oil (like coconut or olive oil) before application. It's also possible to have skin irritation or an allergic reaction to the oils. Medical News Today noted that citronella and clove oil could also be carcinogenic to humans — but the research is still out.

In addition to side effects, natural remedies might not be as effective against mosquitoes in areas with known Zika or malaria outbreaks. In these cases, Healthline suggests sticking to mosquito sprays that have DEET. However, Medical News Today noted that DEET is slightly toxic and could cause neurotoxicity when applied wrong. You'll also want to be careful when using any mosquito repellent on your face or near your eyes.

Mosquito repellent doesn't have to come from a store to be effective. Vanilla extract is a natural alternative that is effective in repelling mosquitoes and enhances the effectiveness of other natural remedies. Add these natural repellants to your list along with home remedies for mosquito bites.