household items as mosquito repellents

Mosquitoes are #1 on my list “The Worst Creatures on Planet Earth”. In fact, they should be #1 on everyone’s list of worst creatures, and this is an objective fact. Mosquitoes have almost no purpose except to give humans 5 itches per night.

Adding insult to injury is the fact that you have to pay for a repellent. I’m shocked no one has started a charity dedicated to giving out free mosquito repellents.

But what if…what if you didn’t have to pay for a repellent? What if I told you that you might have the solution to your mosquito problem in your cabinets.

Crazy? Maybe, but some of your household items have the potential to save you some money while keeping pesky mosquitoes at bay. If that’s crazy, lock me up!

Homemade mosquito repellents and DIY natural repellents can do wonders for your bug problem.

(Quick side note: household items won’t work as well as commercial repellents and bug sprays that contain chemicals such as DEET. You may have some luck with essential oils, though.)

Vinegar – Does it Work?

Our Conclusion: Yes

Why it Works

It’s time to bust out that vinegar you’ve been holding onto—and no, we’re not cooking a mosquito repellent. Actually, the vinegar itself is the insect repellent! Let me explain: mosquitoes hate certain smells. Hate. They hate certain smells so much that they will steer clear of the area it’s in, and this is a blessing for humanity.

Our Thoughts

All types of vinegar work, though certain vinegars work better as repellents than others. And if you have a mosquito problem but know where the larvae are kept, you can even use the vinegar to kill the larvae, ending the problem before it even started!

The only downside of using vinegar as a mosquito repellent is the inevitable association of vinegar with mosquitoes, ruining the product forever for you. But hey, no mosquitoes! I think that’s a pretty fair trade, don’t you?

Read more about this item as a mosquito repellent here.

Listerine – Does it Work?

Our Conclusion: Maybe

Why it (May) Work

But wait! Listerine does contain eucalyptol, a chemical found in other commercial repellents, so these claims aren’t entirely unfounded. Though, there is one issue: Listerine only contains trace amounts of eucalyptol(1%), whereas repellents have much more(75%).

Our Thoughts

Listerine is nowhere near the perfect repellent. In fact, there’s no evidence to support it being a repellent at all! This shouldn’t be shocking, considering the fact that Listerine was never made as a repellent. The closest it has ever come to being advertised as a repellent is a fake chain email spread in the 2000s.

However, you can still use it and maybe get results—no matter how awful—by simply filling a spray bottle with the stuff and spraying on whatever surface you want those mosquitoes to stay away from. Be forewarned, however, that the only effective Listerine for this purpose is the original yellow variety, not the blue/green variety.

Read more about this item as a mosquito repellent here.

Dryer Sheets – Does it Work?

Our Conclusion: Yes, but only for a short time

Why it Works

Personally, I like my clothes to smell fresh and sort of lemony, so dryer sheets can always be found near the dryer. If you’re in the same boat, then those dryer sheets may end up being the key to your mosquito problem. Well, kinda.

While there hasn’t been a test specifically for their effectiveness of on mosquitoes, they’ve been tested against a couple types of insects, and the results show that a certain chemical, linalool, is used in dryer sheets that repel them due to the odor.

Our Thoughts

However, while linalool is used in other repellents, dryer sheets only contain trace amounts, usually less than 2% even 1%, whereas actual repellents may contain 95% linalool.  As a result, a dryer sheet’s time of effectiveness is short, so those mosquitoes won’t be leaving you alone for more than an hour at most.  Overall, dryer sheets are good for a temporary, short outing while mosquitoes are around you, but not much else.

Read more about this item as a mosquito repellent here.

Tiki Torches – Does it Work?

Our Conclusion: Kind of

Why it (Sorta) Works

I had a neighbor that was obsessed with tiki torches. It was so bad, his backyard started to look like a modern Polynesia. One day, I asked him why he liked them so much, and he said that bugs stay away from him when he is near a tiki torch, reasoning that the bugs didn’t want to go near the fire.

Well, he was kind of right. While it is true that bugs don’t like being near fires, it’s the release of the citronella oil that keeps the fire burning. Citronella is a popular mosquito repellent, so that begs the question, “Why doesn’t it work”?

Our Thoughts

Burning citronella is ineffective. Period. At most, insects will be repelled up to 2 meters from the torch. After, you become just as vulnerable as you were before setting up the torch. Out of all the household items you can use, a tiki torch is by far the worst option.

However, a tiki torch is good for a quick trip outside, if you plan on spending a good amount of time out there, of course. Plus, why not add some flair to your yard or patio?

Read more about this item as a mosquito repellent here.

Burning Coffee Grounds – Does it Work?

Our Conclusion: Yes, but only for larvae

Why it Works

I’ve yet to meet someone that doesn’t drink coffee. I don’t even like the taste of it, but it gives me enough energy to start my day, as I am the definition of groggy when I wake up.

With a morning ritual involving coffee, you might as well make those burnt coffee grounds useful. However, there is a catch: burnt coffee grounds will only work on larvae. So no, you cannot rub burnt coffee grounds all over your arms and expect anything more than being laughed at, but you can attack the source of your mosquito problem.

As it turns out, caffeine inhibits the growth of mosquito larvae, so all you need to do is sprinkle a bit of that burnt magic on where you believe the larvae to be and wait; they’ll eventually die out. What else are you going to do with those burnt coffee grounds? Exactly.

Our Thoughts

Personally, if you know where Mr. and Mrs. Mosquito keep their family, I see no reason why you wouldn’t use your burnt coffee grounds to stop the problem at its source. Sure, coffee grounds in your pool(just an example) is not the most glamorous thing, but neither is an arm full of mosquito bites.

Read more about this item as a mosquito repellent here.

Incense – Does it Work?

Our Conclusion: Maybe

Why it (May) Work

I said earlier that mosquitoes are repelled by certain odors, and if one of those odors is vinegar, then it would make sense that incense works the same way. But it doesn’t.

Well, I shouldn’t sound so sure about that. At the time of writing this, there is no published evidence or study to give incense a stake in this argument. There may even be negative results to using incense as a repellent, as one test found that incense attracts mosquitoes.

Our Thoughts

However, some claim that incense does work, so if you got some lying around somewhere, it won’t hurt to at least try. It can’t be any worse than the results you’d get with Listerine. Be warned though, the potential to attract mosquitoes is there. But at least your house will smell a bit nicer?

Read more about this item as a mosquito repellent here.

Rubbing Alcohol – Does it Work

Our Conclusion: Maybe

Why it (May) Work

There’s not much to say when it comes to the effectiveness of rubbing alcohol besides “No one is sure.” Rubbing alcohol works against other insects such as bed bugs, so it would make sense that mosquitoes could also be repelled with it, but the only sources backing this up are testimonials on forums and blogs; no real evidence has been presented.

Our Thoughts

There is evidence of rubbing alcohol dehydrating insects, killing them almost immediately. But again, this wasn’t tested on mosquitoes. But hey, spray some around and try it yourself. The worst-case scenario is that you end up with a case of dry skin for the day. Not the worst thing that can happen, at least.

Read more about this item as a mosquito repellent here.

Coconut Oil – Does it Work?

Our Conclusion: Maybe

Why it (May) Work

Last but not least is coconut oil. This stuff has tons of uses: it (sort of) works as a sunscreen, is healthy for you, and can aid your skin when dry and irritated. But who would’ve thought that coconut oil could also repel mosquitoes?

A lot of people did! But it can’t repel mosquitoes. Once people thought about it, you bet there were scientific studies to test its effectiveness, and these tests showed coconut oil having almost no effectiveness compared to retail repellents.

Our Thoughts

Coconut oil does show promise as a repellent, as coconut oil evaporates slowly when applied as a pomade, due to the oil’s high saturated fat content, so if you have a jar with you and it’s a mosquito-kind of night, slather some on you. Worst case scenario, you get a bit on your hydrated skin.

Read more about this item as a mosquito repellent here.

Choosing the Best Household Repellent

As you can see, mosquitoes are disgusted by everything that’s good in the world, but their level of disgust varies with each product. And if you want a quick recap, I’ll list what I think are the best household products for repelling mosquitoes from best to worst:


At our #1 spot is vinegar, but this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Unlike every other item on this list, using vinegar as a mosquito repellent is both a proven solution and effective in most situations. Vinegar can also be found in many stores, markets, and various other public areas, so you don’t have to worry about running out.

All types of vinegar work well as a repellent, though a couple of types, such as white vinegar, may need added ingredients to be 100% effective. Whether you’re gulping down a bottle of apple cider to give your body a natural vinegary odor or mixing an elaborate spray to protect your house, mosquitoes will hate your presence. Feelings mutual, mosquitoes!

Dryer Sheets

Coming in at a close second are dryer sheets. While they may not last as long as a true DEET-based repellent, or even vinegar for the matter, dryer sheets’ chemical makeup of linalool mixed with a strong scent repels even the most stubborn of mosquitoes.

However, it’s important to repeat that dryer sheets won’t last as long as a DEET repellent, even though linalool is similar to DEET. This is because dryer sheets don’t contain much linalool, whereas repellents that contain linalool have high amounts in their chemical makeup.

Burnt Coffee Grounds

The reason I put coffee grounds third is because there’s not many scenarios in which you’d, well, need to use them. People buy repellents for adult mosquitoes; mosquitoes that are flying around and biting them incessantly. Coffee grounds don’t work against adult mosquitoes, unless you feel like piling a bunch of coffee grounds on one, essentially suffocating it.

Actually, that’s the main tactic with burnt coffee grounds. Caffeine is harmful to mosquito larvae, inhibiting growth and acting as a form of suffocation if enough is presented. Therefore, if you have burnt coffee grounds and know where the mosquitoes are keeping their larvae, you have the tools to stop the problem before it happens.

However, don’t expect coffee grounds to work against the mosquitoes that are already biting you. For that, you’ll need one of the two repellents I’ve mentioned or get yourself a DEET-based repellent.

Should You Use Household Items as Repellents?

Compared to using DEET-based repellents or similar, proven repellents, using household items isn’t the most efficient idea. While vinegar will definitely work, it won’t work as well as commercial repellents. Even then, you’re forced to either drink a bit of apple cider vinegar or spend time creating your own bug repellent mixture, and time is money. No one likes itchy bug bites, so finding an effective mosquito repellant is a priority for lots of people.

However, not every country has easy access to more-advanced repellents or no access at all. Even worse is that many of these countries with limited/zero access to effective repellents are countries where mosquitoes run rampant, increasing the likelihood of diseases such as malaria or West Nile.

On the other hand, household items are available in most countries, especially cooking ingredients like vinegar. So if you’re in an area without commercial repellents or you’re strapped for cash, I’d say there are worse options out there than a few household items for repelling mosquitoes. You may also have some luck looking around in your garden or pet’s toy box. Lemongrass, citronella (not citronella candles), and catnip can act as natural mosquito repellents. Essential oils, like lemon eucalyptus oil, lavender oil, and tea tree oil, can also have positive effects on mosquito prevention.

See our plants page and essential oils page to learn more.

Other Forms of Mosquito Repellents

Checkout our analysis of the claims behind other forms of mosquito repellents: