Introduction: 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

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. 

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

Step 2: 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

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!

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!

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

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.

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