DIY Outdoor Spray - Plant Therapy Blog

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Essential Oils Blog

DIY Outdoor Spray

By: Kimberly Daun, Certified Aromatherapist

Lets-Get-Creative-900x200DIY Outdoor Spray

Enjoy the great outdoors with this natural, effective barrier, shielding you from nature’s outdoor annoyances. These synergies can also help keep your patio or outdoor picnic area free and clear for you to enjoy!  I’m loving these synergies and we’ve been using our spray on these warm spring evenings.  Be sure to check out our DIY Outdoor Wipes, DIY Outdoor Lotion Bars, and DIY Outdoor Candles for other ways to use these great synergies.

What you will need:
Directions:  
  1. Fill the 4 oz spray bottle with your carrier almost to the top.
  2. Add 72 drops of Nature Shield for a 2% dilution.
  3. Add 1 teaspoon of polysorbate 20 (emulsifier).

Spray directly on your skin as often as needed, I typically use it hourly.  I spray it on our clothes and even on our outdoor gear to help keep the area around us free and clear!

*Store in the fridge and use within a week, or add a preservative, such as Optiphen Plus.

This post contains affiliate links which support Africa Heartwood Project. This means they will receive a commission if you make a purchase using these links. To learn more about Africa Heartwood Project click here.

131 thoughts on “DIY Outdoor Spray”

  1. I plan to try this for our 4th of July celebration. I really need a good bug spray around here this year. The humidity is nasty right now.

  2. So I live in VIrginia and can not purchased Everclear any stronger than 151 proof, is there anything is can do to make it work?

  3. I’m excited to get my bottle of shield me! I’m researching the best way to use it for my family.
    I have some Vitamin E lotion that I’m thinking I’ll use for skin application. Do I need to add anything else to it?
    I also have 91% isopropyl alcohol (my state doesn’t carry/sell 190 proof grain alcohol) to make a spray for clothes. Do I need to add anything else (I didn’t plan to add water, should I? And does that mean I’d need to add other stuff if I add water?)

  4. Hello! Newbie here.. if I’m making a recipe that calls for an emulsifier or preservative.. is just Grain Alcohol okay to use?

    1. Grain alcohol is an excellent choice! The trick is to make sure the proof is high enough. We recommend checking out this resource for more information on alcohol and aromatic blending.

    1. You can use plastic as long as you make sure to use a Pet Plastic bottle. Just look for the triangle with a 1 inside of it on the bottom of your bottle. Some may also say PET or PETE under the triangle.

  5. I made this today at a 1% dilution for my pregnant self and my 3 year old. It immediately kept the black flies away and they were awful. I can’t wait to make more to keep in our camping stuff and to share with friends with kids! It worked amazing and smelled great!

  6. I have read the recipe a couple times and the comments. I am confused by this recipe. I bought everclear alcohol to use. I do not have the any polysorbate. The recipe does not say how much to use of the alcohol and/or water and/or witchhazel. I can see it can be whatever is prefered but this is my first time making bug spray. If I only have everclear, water, & witch hazel and of course the EO what should my ratios be?

    1. Hi Sylvia, sorry for the confusion! Since you’re using Everclear, it will act both as an emulsifier and as a preservative. You’ll want to make sure that the Everclear is at least 20% of your solution. In this 4 oz. recipe, that would be a little less than an ounce. Just make sure to add your drops to the Everclear before adding any water. Hopefully that clears things up!

  7. I thought I read before that you have to mix the Polysorbate to the EO first, and mix well, then add your water, vodka, or witch hazel. Does it make any difference at all?

    1. Hi Tina, if you’re just using Everclear, it will act as an emulsifier and preservative, as long it makes up at least 20% of the mixture. Since Witch Hazel doesn’t emulsify oils, you’ll need to mix the oils and Polysorbate first. Hope that helps!

  8. I am really looking forward to trying these this year, we have a 7 month old and I’ve been searching high and low for a non-toxic solution to bug spray.

  9. This might seem like a silly question, but can I use any Vodka brand? Is Everclear just a brand of Vodka? We don’t drink and so I want to make sure I purchase the right kind! I haven’t been able to find Everclear here at any of our stores, and wanted to know what could be used as a substitute. Thanks!

    1. You are correct! Everclear is a specific brand. It is a grain alcohol with one of the highest proofs out there. Some states don’t sell it, which is why you might be having a hard time finding it. You can substitute vodka, just make sure to purchase the highest proof you can find.

  10. I have been using Shield Me diluted in witch hazel for the past two summers when ever my kids go outside to play. Touch wood it was worked in terms of keeping ticks off of them. We never add a preservative or Polysorbate 20 to the spray. We just give it a good shake before applying. Because they smell like the EO after I apply it I always feel like they are receiving the protective benefits of the oil. After reading these comments I am wondering if you feel this technique is incorrect and if so why. Many thanks,
    Sara

    1. Sara, in recent years there has been a lot of discussion in the aromatherapy community about what constituents an effective emulsifier, and what does not. For a long time, many people used witch hazel to emulsify their essential oils and you’ll still find it as a recipe ingredient in many online DIYs and even published books. However, witch hazel just does not properly dilute essential oils, which can then cause harm if used directly on the skin. You may not have noticed any negative effects from the product you made, but we are coming from a standpoint that it is always best to err on the side of caution. Adding an emulsifier, like Polysorbate, ensures that essential oils aren’t going on the skin “neat.” Also, adding a preservative is always recommended when using a water-based product. If you can store it in the fridge and use within a couple of weeks, then a preservative really isn’t necessary, but otherwise, it’s a good idea to prevent mold and bacteria from forming. I hope this helps! And remember, you can always contact our team of aromatherapists at [email protected] for more information 🙂

  11. So, I bought ShieldMe just before summer. I didn’t have the polysorbate 20 or optiphen, so I kinda made up my own recipe. I used a 4oz spray bottle. I put 50/50 distilled water and witch hazel and I forget now how much vodka I used. I also added the 72 drops of ShieldMe. The witch hazel would be the emulsifier, correct? And the vodka would be the preservative, correct? I had my made up recipe printed off somewhere, but have lost it. So, if I am correct about the witch hazel and the vodka, how much vodka would I need to use do you think, if I am doing the 50/50 water and witch hazel?

    1. I probably won’t get an answer fast, but could I use a small amount of Castile soap or sunflower lecithin as an emulsifier? Also I wondered that in another PT blog that high proof alcohol was an emulsifier, so why would we need an additional one? What am I missing here? (Don’t mean this in a sassy way, just confused, my usual state).

      1. Hi Maggie, castile soap can be used as an emulsifier. However, this would leave the skin soapy. We cannot speak for products that we’ve not personally tried and would recommend research into the sunflower lecithin to determine the usage guidelines.

        Alcohol can be used as an emulsifier. However, to do so, grain alcohol of at least 151 proof is needed. Vodka often will not hit this target.

        You can learn more about blending with alcohol here.

  12. Is there a reason why witch hazel would be better than water or vodka or is it just a matter of preference?

    1. It’s personal preference, really. If you use Witch Hazel, you’d need a solubilizer to mix the essential oils. With water and Everclear, you’d only need to make sure the ratio is correct.

  13. Hi I’m making a 4 oz nature shield bug spray. I used coconut oil 1 tsp. 60 drops eo. And the rest water. Is that okay for a bug repellent?

    1. The oils aren’t diluted enough in the coconut oil. The water does not count towards your dilution unless you add a solubilizer.

  14. Can I put the EOs in the PT Aloe Vera Jelly instead since it already has emulsifiers? Would be an acceptable substitute? And if so, what would be the ratio of either EO to a 4 oz bottle of PT Aloe Vera Jelly? TIA!

  15. This recipe has worked great for us!
    I’m careful to make sure I spray it on every square inch of our bodies though. Then I’ve sat and watched and the mosquitoes may land, but they take off again right away. Maybe they are extra brazen and bold up here in Northern AB, Canada though!
    I make it in small batches with water and an emulsifier…I’ve heard that using an alcohol base will make it sting if you happen to spray it on small cuts, etc

  16. Is there a bug spray that someone can share that is made from the basic oils? will be using on kids. thanks

  17. Hello,
    If I were to use the carrier of water/witch hazel with an added preservative, what would be the right ratio for water and witch hazel?
    Or if I use only witch hazel, then no added preservative required?
    Thanks!

    1. If you were to use witch hazel and/or water, you’d not only need a preservative, but a solubilizer/emulsifier as well. As far as the ratio is concerned, it would depend on the preservative and emulsifier.

      1. Thanks for the reply! if I use only witch hazel to dilute the EOs, what would be the recommended ratio and would preservative be required? I added Polysorbate 20 and optiphen plus when using witch hazel and water together.

    1. Plant Therapy is working to get our aromatherapists trained in the usage of essential oils with animals to better help educate our customers. We also are working on the labeling of our products so it is stated more clearly what essential oils can or cannot be safely used around certain animals. Unfortunately some essential oils cannot be safely used around pets, especially cats and other small animals. In the meantime, You may find this book helpful, “Holistic Aromatherapy for Animals” by Kristen Leigh Bell, in gathering more information on using essential oils with animals.

  18. If I don’t have they blends, what eo’s can I use for an aluminum sprayer I bought on PT website. Thx

    1. Hi Erin, I would suggest checking amazon since this is not a product we currently carry. I hope this helps!

  19. I am considering adding a drop of two of Shield Me into a palm full of aloe vera gel (with presevative), mix it and apply it directly onto skin. Would that work? or would I still need an emulsifier? Thank you.

    1. Measuring in the palm of your hand isn’t recommended as you cannot accurately calculate a dilution. However, if you’re using Aloe Vera Jelly, and you’re only making enough for one use, no preservative would be needed.

    1. Cristy, we do not currently carry polysorbate so I would suggest checking on Amazon. I hope this helps!

    1. Chances are, yes. With things like Witch Hazel and other products, it usually just has enough for the product itself. When you add other ingredients, it throws the balance off.

  20. Hi, I want to make a kidsafe spray. So to use everclear instead of witch hazel it would be the 4oz of the everclear vodka, 72 drops of the kidsafe? The polysorbate 20 should also be added? I want to use in on my kids and I am not sure if the vodka is ok to use without adding water. This would be my first DIY so I want to make sure it’s safe for my kids. Would I also need a preservative? I am quite confused on this. Thank you!

    1. Hi Sylvie! Yes, you would use the 72 drops of Shield Me to 4 oz of Everclear. You still want to add the Polysorbate 20 as an emulsifier, but you won’t need to use a preservative.

      1. Thank you so much! I was having a hard time getting an answer to this question. The vodka is ok to use on my kids skin? Also, how often should it be applied? Where do I get a preservative and what is the best to use? I have tried looking it up online and I am having a hard time finding it. Any advice is greatly appreciated. My first plan therapy order is coming today and I am so excited to start this journey! Thank you!

    1. jBarbara, Certified Aromatherapists are not trained in the use of essential oils with animals. This is considered a specialty and requires additional education. We do know that hydrosols are very safe for most pets, but it is best to check with your veterinarian or someone who is educated in this area.

  21. Just to be clear, if you’re not using vodka or Everclear, are you to use a water/witch hazel mixture with an added preservative, and if so, what is water/witch hazel ratio? Also, if you use vodka or Everclear, then you don’t need the preservative, but the emulsifier is still a good idea? Thank you.

    1. Yes, you would need a preservative if you use water and witch hazel. We recommend a 50/50 blend of the two. You don’t need a preservative with vodka or everclear but it is recommended to use an emulsifier.

    1. Unfortunately, we do not have anyone on our staff that is trained in animal aromatherapy so we cannot answer this question for you. We are passionate about animals, and hope to be able to offer assistance in this area in the near future.

  22. How much preservative (Otiphen Plus) would I use if I go with water? Also, an EO-savvy friend told me EOs should ALWAYS be diluted in a carrier oil first, even the “safe” ones. Do you disagree? I really don’t know much about this and am trying to learn!

    1. Optiphen is recommended at 0.75-1.5% of water. We always recommend diluting oils before applying topically, however you can dilute into witch hazel, water, etc when using Polysorbae or Solubol as an emulsifier. These products allow the oils to blend with non-oil based liquid, making them safe for topical applications.

    1. If you’re spraying it on your clothes and gear that should be fine. I would recommend using a carrier oil if you’re applying directly to your skin.

  23. Can you use ever clear instead of vodka? I read for perfume making vodka or ever clear would be good because they are both grain alcohols. The everclear I have says grain alcohol 95% alc. by vol. 190 proof.

    1. Vodka is an alternative a lot of people use because, unlike water, I believe you don’t need a preservative.

  24. Is there a trick or a certain time you’re supposed to add the polysorbate? I’ve added it to a few or my water based sprays at 4% and I still have to shake because there is a layer of something at the top of the bottle. Not usually a big deal, but it makes me wonder if the polysorbate was worth additional at all.

    1. Yes, timing and amount used is the key to success. You should mix your EOs in a glass container (to create a synergy), then keep adding the Poly until the mixture turns from cloudy to clear again. If you are using any additional carrier oils, they should be added before the Poly (but can make the cloudy until clear part a little bit tricky). You then add the oils and Poly to your already mixed “waters” (alcohol, witch hazel, hydrosols, distilled water, vinegar, etc). Sometimes the oils will still separate after sitting for a while, but a quick shake should blend them again (as opposed to not using any solubizer that will never “mix,” will always need shaken before and during use and still spray tiny drops of neat oils).

        1. I have not used Optiphen yet, but I would think that if it’s water based (which I believe it is), add it to the watery part of the mixture. If an oil base, into the oily part of the mix. I’m hoping that someone else with more experience will chime in with a definitive answer for you.

  25. So we don’t need to use a preservative with witch hazel? Even tho the main ingredient in it is water? Is this also true for aloe Vera gel? I’m Heath such conflicting things about when a preservative is necessary, my head is spinning!

    1. I believe that as long as you let it sit for a few days it all mixes quite well together so I do not believe you would need an emulsifier or preservative but I encourage you to do research as this is not our area of expertise.

    1. I believe that as long as you let it sit for a few days it all mixes quite well together so I do not believe you would need an emulsifier or preservative but I encourage you to do research as this is not our area of expertise.

      1. From my own research and experience, in order to use alcohol as a preservative, it must be at a rate greater than 14%. Because the Vodka is typically 40-50 proof (20-25% alcohol), I prefer to skip the hard math and use Everclear, which is 195 proof (almost pure alcohol). Although alcohol and witch hazel may solubize better than other “waters,” it will still need some sort of solubizer to truly “mix” the waters & oils and avoid spraying tiny drops of neat oils. If you have the extra materials, including some EOs with colors, I highly encourage you experiment with Everclear, Vodka, Witch Hazel, Distilled Water and a properly solubized mix. The difference between them is quite astounding to see 🙂

        1. I haven’t used alcohol as a preservative, simply a carrier if I want to spray my gear (backpack, tent, blanket, clothes) to avoid those little outdoor annoyances. Thank you for the recommendations, I’m hoping to do a lot more experimenting with the types of carriers you’ve recommended.

  26. If I use witch hazel instead of water, do I still need to use the polysorbate 20 and do I still need to consider
    bacteria growth?

        1. Hi Lori,

          These links are to send you to some expert blogs that you might be able to find your answer. Since Plant Therapy’s Certified Aromatherapists are not experts on preservatives, if you want to change the recipe in any way, you will need to do your own research on what preservative if any is needed. The links are a good starting point to some recommended expert blogs on preservatives. Thanks

  27. I just love you PT, for all of this information. I had never heard of using Polysorbate 20 before, and now I’m wondering if I should use it in everything that I make that uses water based products and EO’s (plus my Optiphen). For example, should I be using Polysorbate in the foaming hand soap I make, that uses distilled water, Optiphen, a bit of carrier oil and EO’s?

    1. We love you too Sarah! If you are not shaking the water based product before each use then I would recommend using an emulsifier such as Polysorbate 20.

        1. Absolutely! It is always a good idea to research all of the ingredients prior to using. Particularly if you have allergies/sensitivities.

  28. Kim – I would love to make this for my daughter-in-Law to use on my grandson. She is Pregnant. Is it safe for her to use? She hates the heavy chemical sprays.

    1. As long as she is through her first trimester the whole KidSafe line of oils (except Nighty Night and Clary Sage) are safe for her during her entire pregnancy and while nursing 🙂

    1. Unfortunately I’m not sure, I would recommend looking into what types of environmental annoyances you’ll encounter and what would best protect you against them.

      1. Thanks, Kimberly. Nothing terrible as I understand, but I, sure mosquitos live there too!! LOL! But I can certainly use it here in FL! LOL!!

  29. Could you use distilled water as the carrier oil with the Shield me (KidSafe) and that’s all? Or would you need anything else? (That’s all I have right now)

    1. If you choose to use water you would need to use a preservative (such as optiphen plus) as well as an emulsifier (such as polysorbate 20). If you choose to use just water I would encourage you to store it in the fridge (to help keep bacteria growth down) and shake well before each use (to mix the essential oils with the water).

  30. If we use something other than water can we skip the perservatives and just make sure to shake well each time? Also is this recipe all kidsafe?

    1. Polysorbate 20 is an emulsifier and if you choose to use a base that doesn’t mix with oil you will either need the emulsifier or to shake well before each use. Shield Me is a KidSafe synergy.

    1. If you decide not to use an emulsifier I would recommend shaking well prior to every application. You will want to use a preservative, such as optiphen plus, if you decide to use water to help protect against bacterial growth.

      1. If we choose to do water & the otiphen plus (but decide to shake instead of adding emulsifier) how much of the optiphen plus in this 4oz recipe?

        1. Jessica you do not want to apply to the skin without using an emulsifier. Water and oil do not properly blend no matter how much you shake it. If you don’t want to use the Polysorbate then we recommend blending in a carrier oil as opposed to water.

          1. Okay, I will use both…how much of the preservative would i add to each 4oz bottle? I ordered the otiphen plus…

    1. If you don’t want to use an emulsifier you can use fractionated coconut oil as your carrier, I would just be cautious using it on clothes (possible oil stains).

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