Introduction: Natural Tick Repellent and Tips for Keeping Ticks Away

Picture of Natural Tick Repellent and Tips for Keeping Ticks Away
A few months ago my girlfriend and I took our dog Tucker and went Geocaching in the woods near our house. We had a great day   finding caches and trading goodies, but when it came time for use to head home for the day we noticed a bunch of little black and red bugs crawling all over Tucker, TICKS!! Worse yet, after we found them on Tucker we started checking ourselves and sure enough they were all over us too!

Now I'm not a big fan of most crawly things but I especially hate ticks, they're gross, they want to suck my blood, and then could potentially give me a nasty infection or even infect me with Lyme disease so I feel that my hatred is completely justified. So after a round of the worst game ever, "Pick the Tick" I decided to hit the internet in search of something to keep these terrible little insects as far away from me and my loved ones as possible. Initially I found a lot of commercial tick repellents but once I read about the ingredients in these repellents I opted against the idea of coating myself in chemical pesticides every time I want to go for a walk through the woods.

After ruling out commercial pesticides I started my search for natural alternatives and was amazed by what I found. Through my research I came across 3 different natural remedies that all have proven histories of being effective tick and insect repellents. These remedies were garlic, which I vaguely knew about from family members who were avid hunters and swore by the miraculous properties of garlic, neem leaf extract, which apparently has been used for centuries in India as a natural insect repellent, and citrus, which also has been shown to be an effective insect and tick repellent.

So with these three potential remedies in mind I decided to create the ultimate natural tick repellent. I have been using my tick repellent since that fated day of Geocaching and I'm happy to report that after numerous excursions into the woods I have not had a single tick bite and have only found a few on my clothing, results that are far better than that first geocaching experience when I had to pluck 8 of the little devils off of me.

Check out the following steps to see how to make and apply my natural tick repellent and to also learn about other methods of repelling ticks and lessening your chances of getting bit. I have also added a page detailing what to do if you do if you happen to find a tick attached to you or a loved one, so this Instructable should hopefully serve as your one stop destination for all things related to ticks.

Reasons you should make natural tick repellent:
  • Because it's safe, you won't have to cover yourself in chemical pesticides
  • Because it's easy, you can make in in your kitchen at home in about 30 minutes
  • Because it's cheap, all the ingredients will only cost you about 3 dollars.
  • Because anything that is safe, easy, and cheap is worth trying at least once.
  • Because ticks are gross and could potentially transmit terrible ailments like Lyme disease so anything that can keep them away from you is worth trying.

Step 1: Ingredients and Equipment

Picture of Ingredients and Equipment
One of the best things about this project is that you probably already have almost everything you need to make the natural tick repellent.  the neem leaves are the only obsure ingredient and I have included a link for you to track them down. 

Ingredients
  • 5 or 6 cloves of Garlic (roughly one bulb)
  • 2 Tbsp. of crushed Neem Leaves (Available from Amazon.com click here.)
  • 1.5 Lemons (skin and all)
  • 2 cups of Water
Equipment
  • Stove
  • Sauce Pan
  • Knife
  • Cutting Board
  • Strainer
  • Funnel
  • Spray Bottle
  • Liquid Measuring Cup
  • Measuring Spoons

Step 2: Making the Repellent

Picture of Making the Repellent
Follow the steps listed below to make one dose of natural tick repellent.  One dose of repellent is enough for about two people.  I don't like to make more than I need at any one point in time because time degrades the potency of the ingrediants making the spray less effective.  If you need a larger batch simply double the ingrediants listed in the previous step.
  1. Start by heating your two cups of water.
  2. while your water is heating dice your garlic and lemon.  you don't have to be too careful with this step, I don't even bother peeling the lemon or shucking the garlic, just chop them all up and your good to go.
  3. Measure 2 TBSP of dried neem leaves. 
  4. Once your water reaches a boil, add in your diced lemon, diced, garlic, and neem leaves.
  5. Cover your sauce pan, reduce your heat, and allow the mixture to simmer for about 15-20 minutes.
  6. Remove the mixture from heat and allow to cool.
  7. Insert your funnel into your spray bottle and position your strainer over the top of your funnel.  carefully poor the cool mixture through the strainer and into the funnel.  the strainer should catch all solid material leaving you with the finished liquid tick repellent. 
  8. Screw the spray nozzle onto your bottle and your ready to go.
  9. If you happen to make more repellent than you need, storing it in the refrigerator will keep it effective for longer.

Step 3: Applying the Repellent

Picture of Applying the Repellent

Applying the repellent is a simple process. Simply lay out your clothing and thoroughly mist each article with the repellent. You may also mist yourself or your pet with the repellent for added protection as none of the ingredients are toxic in the small concentrations that make up the tick repellent.  Note that the repellent does have a bit of a garlic smell to it so if you are opposed to your skin smelling like garlic I would advise only misting your clothing. 

Step 4: Additional Measures to Keep Ticks Away!

Picture of Additional Measures to Keep Ticks Away!

Although my natural tick repellent has gone a long way in lessening my experiences with ticks it is not full proof. Listed below are some extra measures you can take to keep yourself free and clear of ticks.

Eat Garlic
- Ingesting garlic has been shown to reduce your chances of being bit by a tick by as much as 21%

Wear Light Colored Clothing - Wearing light colored clothing allows you to easily spot a tick once it's on you and gives you the opportunity to flick the little bugger away before he has a chance to bite onto you.

Tuck It In - Although not super fashionable, tucking your pant legs into your socks and your shirt tail into your pants can greatly reduce your chance of being bit by a tick. When ticks get on you their first response is to start climbing up to find a place to attach. So if you're un-tucked they can climb from your socks to your leg and from your pants to your stomach, however if you're tucked in they will only be able to climb from one layer of clothing to another giving you time to spot the little buggers and flick them away.

Perform Tick Checks - After any amount of time in the woods always perform a tick check. As noted earlier, ticks climb up your body to find suitable places to attach. They look for warm moist areas so make sure to check behind your knee caps, your groin region, your backside, around your waist band, your belly button, under breasts, in armpits, and around your neck and ears.

Step 5: What to Do If You Get Bit!

Picture of What to Do If You Get Bit!
In the event that you do find a tick attached to you don't panic.  Check out the information below to learn what to do.

Things to know:
  • Ticks don't immediately transmit diseases like Lyme disease.  In fact, it takes 24-48 hours of attachment for the disease to be transmitted.
  • Only a small percentage of ticks carry the bacteria associated with Lyme disease.
  • Ticks will not continue to burrow into your skin; the way they're built allows only their mouth piece to penetrate your skin.
  • You're not going to die, so take a breath and relax,  I know it is really gross to find a tick stuck to you but  I promise you will be okay.

How to get the tick out of your skin
 The best way to remove a tick once it is attached to you, (or any of your furry friends,) is with special fine tipped tweezers and rubbing alcohol, both are available at pharmacies like CVS. Start by thoroughly disinfecting the bite site with the rubbing alcohol. Once the site is thoroughly cleansed use your tweezers to grab the tick as close to your skin as possible.  What you want to do is grab the tick's head so that you pull it off of you without crushing it or ripping it apart.  With a firm grasp on the tick’s head pull straight up, you can expect to feel some resistance but eventually the tick will be pulled from your skin; (if you should accidentally pull the tick apart, try your best to get the rest of it out of your skin, but if you can’t get it out don’t worry, your body will expel the remaining parts of the tick like it would a splinter).  With the tick out of your skin disinfect the bite site once more with rubbing alcohol.  The bite site should be a little red and sore but it’s nothing to worry about right now.  Monitor the bite site for the next few days if the redness starts to grow or if you notice a target effect, (red at the center with a ring of normal colored skin and then a ring of red), consult a doctor immediately as these can be indicators of Lyme disease.  Early diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease can prevent serious illness and long-term complications.

What DOESN'T Work when trying to remove a Tick

There are a lot of myths regarding the removal of ticks, please allow me to debunk a few right now.

  • Lighters and Cigarettes - There are some stories that the heat from a lighter or the pain of being burnt by a cigarette will cause a tick to recoil and pain and release its grip on your skin.  This doesn't work, the only thing you're going to accomplish is that you now have to remove a dead/burnt tick from your skin as opposed to a live one; and if you're putting a flame that close to your skin you probably have to deal with a burn on top of your tick problem.
  • Vasaline - some people say that coving the tick with substances like Vasaline deprives it of oxygen and causes it to withdraw from your skin as they being to asphyxiate.  This simply doesn't work vasaline or no vasaline, the tick isn't coming out of you in search of fresh air.
What to do with the tick once it's out of your skin

Congratulations, you've pulled the tick from your skin, now what in the world do you do with it? Although destroying it is a very tempting option you need to keep track of the little bugger for the next few days in case of you should develop signs of infection or disease.  Using clear office tape or packing tape affix the tick to an index card and write down all information relating to the bite i.e. when you were bitten, where you were bitten, when you found the tick, etc.  Also try to identify what type of tick it is, doing so can aid in diagnosing an infection if you have contracted one.  Use the chart on this page to help you identify the different types of ticks.

Step 6: End

Picture of End

Thanks for taking the time to check out my Instructable.   I hope this information serves you well if you ever have the misfortune of having to deal with ticks on you, your loved ones, or your furry friends.  If you have any questions or comments please feel free to post them in the comments section and I will do my best to get back to you as soon as possible.


 

Comments

Smidg (author)2016-11-01

PLEASE do not use powder borax around or on pets! (or lavender on cats) It can be harmful to everyone in the home and potentially lethal if ingested by pets. (They all lick their paws and coats) Borax can be effective flea/tick deterrent but in a controlled application.

Safe, proven, and some even beneficial tick preventatives for you and your pet(s) are Sulfur - internal/external, Diatomaceous earth -i/e, and Neem leaf or oil -external. The Neem is great for those outside a lot and don't want to think about it. Just add Neem oil to your shampoo/bodywash and you're set. You can easily get Neem leaves to boil and make a spray also. You can just google any of these and find what works for you. Stay safe all!

BradD45 (author)2016-06-13

To keep fleas out ur house get 4 whole lemons quarter them and put skin and all in a juicer mix that with a quart of water in a spray bottle then spray doorways carpet and furniture inside ur house straight lemon is not good on your pets it will stress them out. On pet i use 100% lavender oil it repels fleas and ticks both these together the lemon mix will protect ur house and the 100% lavender oil on ur pets works wonders ive been using both methods for years it works

jacobs93 (author)BradD452016-07-30

What method are you applying lavender oil on your pet. We have a huge tick problem here in maine

BradD45 (author)jacobs932016-07-30

I put the oil in my hand rub hand then go thru pets coat and belly. I then put drops of oil on my dogs collars. U can also get borax put lavender oil in it shake to mix and sprinkle like carpet fresh on carpets and dogs bedding. Even sprinkle lil on pet and rub down their fut

TeresaM7 (author)2016-05-25

Oh, yeah, my parents swore by the "burn it off" technique. I remember getting burnt from it, too! And just FYI, it's worse than just having a charred tick on you - heating, pinching and otherwise abusing the nasty little monster makes it pump more of it's own toxins into your body. I hate ticks. Evil little vampires.

jcrocker-idone (author)2014-06-02

Could essential lemon, garlic and neem oil be used instead of going through all that process? Just curious if I could make it the way I make my natural insect repellent, mom of 3 and the easier the better! Ty

Hi Jcrocker-idone,

sorry for the extremely late response,

you could certainly use the essential oils for this project, the only thing you would have to play around with is how to dissolve them into a solution of some sort so that you could spray them on,

LoriH66 (author)Matt2 Silver2016-05-09

a couple drops of dish soap per gal.will emulsify the oil to allow you to spray it

LoriH66 (author)Matt2 Silver2016-05-09

a couple drops of dish soap per gal.will emulsify the oil to allow you to spray it

Natalina (author)2016-04-28

Great advice on tick removal. I found one on me camping this weekend and accidentally did all the things you aren't supposed to do as I was tweezer and internet-less. Picking up a tick twister for next time!

Chucknsc (author)2013-11-17

I just wanted to add that garlic has always worked great for me, my family, and my dogs ! We just add it heavily to our food. For the dogs we sprinkle it in liquid or powder form on the dogs food starting out very light and slowly increasing till they get used to it. We keep increasing the amount till we can smell it on them all the time telling us that it has gotten in their bloodstream. At that time we decrease the amount put on their food every day! It has worked for us for years.

lazemaple (author)Chucknsc2016-04-28

garlic and onions can cause hemolytic anemia in dogs and cats. Both should be avoided for cats and used sparingly for dogs!

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11108195

http://www.petinsurance.com/healthzone/pet-articles/pet-health-toxins/Garlic-Toxicity-and-Pets.aspx

ybbed (author)Chucknsc2015-05-25

Dogs cant have garlic over time it will KIll them.my son is a veternarian......Neem

nthwoods (author)ybbed 2016-04-28

Not even sprayed on them?

AllByMyself (author)Chucknsc2015-04-14

Yes!! Very good information for sharing. There are also garlic pills, even odorless ones that still repel the ticks.

ybbed (author)AllByMyself2015-05-25

Not for DOGS

ybbed (author)AllByMyself2015-05-25

Please dont use garlic for animals

lazemaple (author)2016-04-28

Whole Dog Journal recommends the use of 3% peroxide instead of alcohol. Quote "Three-percent hydrogen peroxide, the common disinfectant, is recommended for tick bites because the oxygen it contains destroys the Lyme disease bacteria"

http://www.whole-dog-journal.com/issues/4_7/features/5371-1.html

Peroxide IS a bleach, so should not be used around the eyes and if your dog is black it may bleach the fur - that said 10% peroxide is what hair dressers use I believe. Personally, I'd rather a little bleached hair than Lymes Disease!

I use a Q tip or cotton swab to apply, less chance of dripping into eyes with that.

JeffB35 (author)2016-04-28

So, ive been reading all the comments and it seems to mostly be about tick removal...which IS very important! BUT...what about the effectiveness of the mixture? Has anyone tried it and did it work?

JGDean (author)2016-04-28

My daughter was having a lot of trouble with ticks on her dogs until she found out (somewhere) about rose-geranium oil. Now she applies a drop between their shoulders and one at the base of their tails and has no more problem. It's available from many places online. and some natural food stores.

sue.donim.144 (author)2016-04-28

whenmy parents found a small tick they put it in tape. the doctor said that they couldnt identify the tick because of thevtape adhesive. maybe a baggie, jar, or a old medicine bottle would be a better container for tick for identification purposes.

kf4nxs (author)2016-04-28

We always used finger nail polish remover, they back out with then seconds.

Azmerelda (author)2016-04-28

Actually, infection/co-infection from a number of bacteria are possible within minutes of a tick bite. If you want to learn more about tick bites and the infections they carry plus protocols for dealing with these infections I highly recommend picking up one of Steven Harrod Buhner's books on the subject. He has extensively studied the these infections and the effects of tick bites.

Azmerelda (author)2016-04-28

Actually, infection/co-infection from a number of bacteria are possible within minutes of a tick bite. If you want to learn more about tick bites and the infections they carry plus protocols for dealing with these infections I highly recommend picking up one of Steven Harrod Buhner's books on the subject. He has extensively studied the these infections and the effects of tick bites.

Azmerelda (author)2016-04-28

Actually, infection/co-infection from a number of bacteria are possible within minutes of a tick bite. If you want to learn more about tick bites and the infections they carry plus protocols for dealing with these infections I highly recommend picking up one of Steven Harrod Buhner's books on the subject. He has extensively studied the these infections and the effects of tick bites.

XtremePieGuy (author)2016-04-05

I hate ticks, they are like the top 5 worst creations on Earth. Seriously, little bloodsucking bugs embedded into your skin and causing diseases. Great.

aengland2 (author)2013-11-25

Awesome recipe! I'm going to have to remember to use needle point pliers to remove them. Although usually when I see one on me, my first reaction is to whimper and just start tugging on it until it comes off. (arachnophobia) Using the tweezers is obviously much safer though.

AllByMyself (author)aengland22015-04-14

Tweezers can cause the insect to spit bacteria into the skin. O Tom Tick Twister is the BEST!

ybbed (author)AllByMyself2015-05-25

Yes its great and safe

nutgone (author)2013-11-18

I wouldn't apply anything prior to attempting to remove the tick. Applying any chemicals to a feeding tick can cause it to regurgitate (throw-up, barf, puke) the contents of it's meal back into the wound. This is more likely to give you an infection. Just remove the tick, as described (or even better, get a special tick removal pen from your local vet) THEN, and only then, clean/disinfect the wound/bite area. Same if you squash the body of the tick.
Love the repellent recipe, will try that one next spring. (I don't mind smelling of garlic, but I HATE getting ticks on me!) We get a lot of ticks here some years, especially in long grass areas, as well as woodland.

AllByMyself (author)nutgone2015-04-14

Get a Tick Twister, it's the best tick remover,

ybbed (author)AllByMyself2015-05-25

Yes

nutgone (author)nutgone2013-11-18

Also, the shock of freezing or burning a tick can cause it to regurgitate its stomach contents into the wound. Really the only safe way to remove one is as described in this instructible, either with fine tweezers on the head of the tick or with a special tick removal tool (tick pen) available from pet stores & vets. (that's veterinarians, not like Vietnam vets, although some of them might have tick removal pens). Just be careful with tweezers not to squash the body of the tick.

jbrooks31 (author)2013-11-17

This article states that studies have shown that lemon and naam leaves are proven insect repellent... But ticks are not insects. They are arachnids. So do we assume it works on them too

ybbed (author)jbrooks312015-05-25

Yes lemon and neem?not garlic please

AllByMyself (author)jbrooks312015-04-14

Neem oil.

Matt2 Silver (author)jbrooks312013-11-17

very astute of you jbrooks31, yes the research I did shows these natural remedies do work to ward off ticks which are arachnids not insects. I will change the wording of my instructable to reflect this. Thank you for bringing it to my attention and for helping me to make my instructable better. : )

Champi0n (author)2013-11-16

My Mom used to light a match, blow it out & place the hot tip on the tick. That little parasite will crawl right out! You will receive instant gratification from burning their butts! Speaking of butts I heard that they breathe through their butts, yuck! So with that being said suffocate them!!! Put duct tape on it, nail polish, etc. to get that pest to unbury itself without having to risk leaving its head in your skin after a failed attempt at tweezing.

AllByMyself (author)Champi0n2015-04-14

The Tick Twister is a very genius device.

Champi0n (author)AllByMyself2015-04-15

You are correct! After I had posted this response the author made some good points, so I actually found out about the Tick Twister and bought one! I have used it on my dog and it worked perfectly!!! http://www.ticktwister.com/

Matt2 Silver (author)Champi0n2013-11-16

Hi Campi0n,
Thanks for checking out my instructable and for sharing your experiences. I researched both the heat and suffocation methods before writing this instructable and although they can work I opted to advise against using them for a few reasons. The heat method can work, but what can also happen is that when the tick gets brunt they can expel bacteria back into your body which may lead to infection or Lyme disease. As for the suffocation method, it can also work because ticks do in fact breathe through their bodies while they are feeding, however, the suffocation method is not fast and can take anywhere from 4 to 20 hours to work, which depending on when you were first bit may be long enough for the tick to transmit the bacteria associated with Lyme disease. At the end of the day I feel that using very fine point tweezers is still your best option when removing a tick.

Moscow_Wolf (author)Matt2 Silver2013-11-20

Thank you for your Instructable however, not ALL DOGS will lie quietly whilst you remove the latched on ticks and therefore, I would NOT recommend using fine pointed tweezers as you might end up stabbing your dog or poking an eye out. I use something called the O'TOM TICK TWISTER which works of my 4 dogs. I found my first tick latched inside my leg whilst sat on the toilet in a Bulgarian Hotel. Having only expensive aftershave with me, I dabbed some of that on and the tick released itself fairly quickly so I am off the opinion that any alcohol spirit based fluid will do the trick when you don't have the ideal item with you. Women should be particularly careful when squatting to urinate in long grass whilst out in the wilds as my Wife got a tick where you don't really want one. I was aware of garlic being a deterrent, but I also heard a tale about adding some vinegar to the dogs drinking water, not that I have ever tried it. We can get so many ticks here during spring and autumn that I have to fork out for expensive collars for the four dogs and manually check the 6 cats and ourselves. I don't save them, I stab with a tooth pick and burn them on the stake with my cigarette lighter.

Daan123 (author)2013-11-16

I would be afraid of squeezing the thing out, with tweezers. We also use another tool: a creditcard with a slit in a V-shape. You slide it between the bug and your skin, turn and pull it out.

AllByMyself (author)Daan1232015-04-14

Also a plastic spoon can be cut with a small V. The Tick Twister is the best commercial device ever.

DDW_OR (author)2013-11-17

the most i have ever gotten was after a 2 hour hike in the woods. i got 34 ticks off of me. thankfully none of them had bitten yet. the average for the same hike is between 25 to 30. Near Lake Ida in Minnesota. YUCK.

AllByMyself (author)DDW_OR2015-04-14

Before you go into the woods, plan ahead and swallow a garlic pill. Really.

Matt2 Silver (author)DDW_OR2013-11-17

YUCK indeed, that makes my skin crawl just hearing about it. On that day of Geocaching I wrote about I flicked about 15 of them off of me and had 8 attached on my legs, my girlfriend and dog were also covered, That was after about 5 hours in the woods and was definitely a gross experience. Thanks for sharing ddw_az, the picture is particularly gruesome : ).

sunnygyk (author)2014-12-28

nice!I will do it. Thank you!

millsangelo (author)2014-11-08

How do I keep the ticks from my home. I have three rescue dogs, now all three dogs are services dogs because of our health but lately I've been finding ticks on two of the smaller ones

sugarroman (author)2014-10-13

My mom suggested a test to our camping group to see if it helped with preventing tick bites and it did the kids that ate junk food and chips and drank soda got tick bites bad but the ones that drank only water and ate healthy food the week before the trip had maybe 1-3 bites out of all of them the whole week of camping it made a large difference

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