I've been trying to use natural mosquito sprays (from essential oils) in the place of the chemical variety because I don't want to expose my kids to DEET every day--but it's a pretty high stakes experiment because Dengue fever is a problem here and I also don't want to expose my kids to that. And I was pretty stressed last year because my kids were getting a fair number of bites.
I had a discovery this year that's pretty exciting, though. I had decided that my most recent batch of essential oil-based sprays wasn't working and had tried to use it up so that I could try a different brand. Which is how I discovered that quantity matters. I started dousing us in the stuff--again, in order to use it up--and suddenly it became a very effective mosquito deterrent. My children went from scabbed and bitten skin to smooth arms and legs. The mosquitoes actually started going down their shirts to bite them in order to avoid the spray (a problem easily solved by a squirt down the front and back of the shirt). It worked!
When that spray ran out I mixed up a batch of my own using a blend of essential oils called "Pest-off" from Plantlife. It has lemon eucalyptus, lemongrass, citronella, and peppermint, among others. I think catnip is the only notable ingredient missing (I've read that that stuff's really great at repelling mosquitoes). I put some of the oils in my empty repellent spray bottles. And I used filtered water, alcohol, and glycerin to water it down. And once again, it's working!
I found some essential oil blends on Amazon that contain catnip (which is a really expensive ingredient, so I don't want to buy it separate) but that don't contain lemon eucalyptus. So I ordered Plant Therapy's Bug Off Synergy Blend (you can check out different brands, I just liked that it was affordable and had catnip along with other ingredients I see used a lot in natural sprays) and a separate bottle of essential lemon eucalyptus. A note on lemon eucalyptus: I was almost suckered into buying a blend of lemon oil and regular eucalyptus masquerading as lemon eucalyptus (and as lemon eucalyptus is FDA approved, along with citronella, you want to get the right one). What is commonly known as lemon eucalyptus is actually called eucalyptus citriodora, so you can check to make sure you're getting the right one.
It's so empowering to be providing my kids with very natural, very safe protection. I love it!