The Essential Oil Hack That Keeps Gnats Far Away From Your Space

Gnats! These tiny, annoying flying insects seem much more plentiful in late summer than any other time of the year. They don't live long, but in the short time they're around, they can be a real annoyance. But there are some accessible and inexpensive natural substances that can repel gnats effectively, namely essential oils. The best essential oil to use for repelling gnats is peppermint.

The three main varieties of biting gnats are midges (aka no-see-ums, named for their tiny size, making them hard to see), sandflies, and blackflies. They often travel in swarms and can leave many bites in a short period of time. Unlike mosquitoes, gnats release a natural anti-coagulant (anti-clotting) venom when they bite that masks any initial pain, so you may not know you've been bitten until a few hours later. Gnats don't generally carry disease, but the bites may be mildly itchy and/or somewhat painful.

To prevent gnat bites, cover up your skin when outdoors in summer, especially in shaded areas where gnats love to congregate. Gnats tend to gather during the cooler hours of early morning and evening, so prepare to encounter them at these times. Gnats won't usually go inside your clothing, so wearing long sleeves, socks, and hats can help prevent bites. But in addition to wearing protective clothing, an excellent way to prevent gnats from invading your space is applying a spray made with peppermint essential oil.

How to make a peppermint spray to deter gnats

A number of essential oils are effective when used as insect repellents, including pine, lavender, bergamot, cedarwood, and citronella. Peppermint is one of the most effective essential oils for deterring insects and other pests (including mice), due in part to its very strong odor. Planting peppermint in your garden can help repel fleas, flies, and spiders (but grow it in a pot, as it can be invasive when planted in the ground). But to deter gnats, you'll want to use the concentrated essential oil distilled from the peppermint plant.

There are a few ways to use peppermint essential oil around your home, including as an insect repellent. Applying it "neat" (undiluted) is not recommended as it can be a minor skin irritant. But you can easily make a  spray that is very effective. To a pint of water, add a tablespoon of vinegar or vodka (to act as a dispersant) and 15-20 drops of peppermint essential oil. Decant this into a glass or plastic spray bottle, and shake gently before each use.

Spray this mixture onto your clothes before venturing outside, and bring a small bottle to reapply as needed. You can also spray it on your patio furniture, and around doorways and window screens. You can also use it in an essential oil diffuser. Be aware that peppermint is very stimulating, so avoid using it in or near your bedroom close to bedtime if you want a good night's rest.