I Tried This DIY Mosquito Repellant, and I Can’t Believe How Well It Worked

published May 23, 2023
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Credit: Lana Kenney

It’s finally patio season and, at my house, that means we’ll spend as many days and nights as we can eating outside for the next three months. (Sorry, dining room.) But as much as we love our backyard setup, with its huge umbrella that blocks the sun on hot afternoons and the twinkly lights that turn on after the sun sets, there’s one thing we haven’t completely figured out: how to stop pesky flies and mosquitoes from ruining the vibe when dining al fresco.

In the past we’ve used citronella candles and they’ve worked OK, but when I stumbled across a simple, DIY solution recommended by Apartment Therapy Media’s CEO and founder, Maxwell Ryan, I knew I had to try it.

Credit: Ashley Abramson
All it takes is a few simple things: rosemary, a bowl, and a Sterno can.

A Brilliant Mosquito Repellant from a Mexican Restaurant

Last year, when Ryan traveled to Mexico, he ate out at a restaurant that used a super-smart, DIY trick for fending off annoying bugs. They slowly burned a bowl of fresh rosemary at the table with a Sterno can (you know, the little can of jellied alcohol people use for portable stoves, fondue, and buffets). 

Credit: Ashley Abramson
One Sterno can usually lasts for about two hours.

While the trick seems like a new hack, it’s actually a very old practice. For centuries, Indigenous peoples have burned herbs for a variety purposes — including keeping bugs away. It turns out, flies and mosquitoes can’t stand strong-smelling herbs.

Here’s how to make your own mosquito deterrant.

Credit: Ashley Abramson
Stay away, flies!

How to Make Mosquito Repellant Using Whatever Herbs You Have

Grab a large, heat-proof bowl, open up a Sterno can, and then set it inside of the bowl. Use a lighter to ignite the Sterno, then lay a bundle of fresh herbs on top of the bowl. Try whatever you’ve got growing in your yard, or raid your refrigerator’s herb stash. Ryan suggests rosemary, but lemon balm, lavender, mint, citronella, or even sage are worth a try. The gentle smoke and pungent scent — appealing to your human guests — will repel unwelcome bugs from your dinner setup, sans chemicals. Happy barbecuing!

This post was originally published on Kitchn. Read it there: This DIY Mosquito Repellant Actually Smells Amazing