I'm not a fan of bugs in the best of circumstances. It's a sign of my true devotion to my children that I will kill (or carry outside) bugs for them. If DH is w/in shouting distances, he's called, even for small spiders & such. I HATE BUGS!!! (on the other hand, we had great fun growing ladybugs last summer & plan to grow butterflies this summer, now that we're abit more settled here.
ANYWAY . . . last week I pulled three ticks (& a bug that didn't seem quite like a tick, but I'm not sure what else it would've been) off my kids. That, combined with the dog coming "home" (she'd been at MIL's since before the move, since we were running back & forth every weekend & such) and my friend Laura's rather frightening experience with Lyme's disease all combined to make it a priority for me to find a safe, preferably cheap, way to keep the ticks (& other bugs) away from the kids & the dog this summer.
But of course, I'm not about to spray carcinogenic chemicals on my kids (& dog) daily, or even spray them over my yard (one of the recommendations online was to spray the YARD to get rid of ticks & fleas, so then our skin absorbs it every time we walk through the grass? Not much better than spraying it on our skin (or clothes, because you know, clothes are waterproof so the chemicals won't seep through to our skin, and we can somehow totally hold our breath while spraying and for a period of time after spraying to keep from inhaling those chemicals . . .). And I'm too cheap to run to the health food store to buy a "safe" bug spray considering we're likely to use it multiple times per day, every day, all season (& even at the health food store, it's important to read ingredients, many things that claim to be natural aren't so much).
So, I started hunting online and found various things, and combined several of them and tweaked to take advantage of what I have on hand, and here's what I came up with. Now the test will be if I keep finding ticks on the kids (or dog) after all this LOL.
For us: I filled a bottle 50/50 with distilled water (if you're using a spray bottle, ALWAYS use distilled water, tap water, or spring water, or boiled water or pretty much anything but distilled water will clog the spray mechanism (same goes for the foaming pumps for soap) and I haven't found a way to salvage them once they're clogged) leaving some room at the top (I think the bottle I used is 2 oz and I left probably 1/2 an oz of space at the top), then I added 10-20 drops (didn't count, wasn't real scientific) of the following EOs:
Citronella (ticks, mosquitoes, blackflies)
Cedar (blackflies, mosquitoes)
Lavender (ticks, mosquitos, blackflies, lice)
Sweet Orange (fleas)
Eucalyptus (ticks, blackflies, lice)
Tea Tree Oil (lice)
If you don't have EOs on hand, I'd probably limit it to citronella (which I'm abit confused, one site said citronella is also called rose geranium, but another site said citronella is the same as lemon balm, and listed rose geranium separately, regardless, chances are the EO you find will be called citronella, so who cares), and then IMO every house should have lavender & TTO for a variety of purposes, so I'd go ahead & get those as well. If fleas are a concern, sweet orange is one of the least expensive EOs, so it's a good one to have on hand too. I use it in cleaning solutions since it's a degreaser AND smells yummy and isn't very expensive.
I love the smell of EOs in general, so these all mixed together gives a nice herbal smell that I like (though the citronella gives it a "bug spray" smell)
We'll spray this around our ankles and probably some in our hair, back of our neck . . . and on our clothes when we go outside this summer. Once I know how I like it, I'll probably find a bigger spray bottle to use, so I don't have to remake too often.
For the dog. In general I choose not to use EOs on the dog. Because dogs have such a strong sense of smell, the strong scent of EOs (and other fragrances) can be overpowering for them, even if diluted like is used on people. BUT I found various sites recommending adding Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) to pets' drinking water as well as spraying it (diluted) on them topically to repel fleas & ticks (and other stuff, but that's what I was looking for). My ACV bottle is almost empty so I added some to her drinking water & will make a spray (50/50 distilled water & ACV) once I get to the store for more. A quick spray before we send her outside should be all it takes.
Obviously we'll still need to check the dog & the kids over for ticks on a regular basis as well. From my reading, the tick must be attached to the body for several hours to transmit Lyme's so by checking regularly & removing any ticks you find, it should also greatly reduce the risk.