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How to Keep Mosquitoes at Bay Without the Spray

If there’s anything that can put a damper on outdoor fun, it’s mosquitoes. These tiny pests thrive in all the spaces people like to gather—parks, yards, lakes, pools, and gardens. While you can find several repellant sprays on store shelves, you may not always enjoy the smell, feel—or taste—of these products on your face, arms, and legs. We’ve rounded up some alternative methods to combat mosquitoes, so your itch to get out the door doesn’t result in itching while outdoors.

PLANT SMELLY PLANTS. Mosquitoes love the floral-scented fragrances in perfume, cologne, and scented lotion—simply a dash of your favorite eau de toilette can instantly make you a target for the little bugs. To keep them from coming near, consider planting plants that smell great to you and terrible to mosquitoes, like lavender, citronella grass, and marigolds.

PLANT SOME HERBS. Mark “natural bug repellant” as another motivator for starting your herb garden ASAP. Fresh herbs like basil, rosemary, mint, and lemongrass take your weekly cuisine to another level, and planting them outside can help ward off any pesky eaters that like to feast on you.

USE OUTDOOR FANS. A Consumer Reports test shows that an outdoor fan reduces mosquito landings by 45 to 65 percent for people sitting nearby. Not only does a fan make it more difficult for mosquitoes to fly against the steady breeze, but it also helps disperse carbon dioxide emitted by humans, which unbeknownst to many of us, is like a beacon to mosquitoes, signaling them to land here.

STASH A DRYER SHEET IN YOUR POCKET. This method may only work for a short period, so it’s best to reach for the Bounce only when you’re in a pinch. Dryer sheets contain the chemicals linalool, which is toxic to some types of insects, and beta-citronellol, which is found in citronella. For added effectiveness, stuff a few extra in your pockets or rub another on any exposed skin.

BURN COFFEE. Beyond a morning pick-me-up, plant fertilizer, and skin exfoliant, coffee’s other superpower is an all-natural mosquito repellant. Whether caffeinated or not, used or unused, burning coffee grounds can be a chemical-free way to repel mosquitoes. Just pour dry coffee grounds in a bowl or on a flat surface, burn the grounds like you would incense, and watch your worries fly away.

REACH FOR THE VINEGAR. Vinegar is another pantry staple that just keeps on giving. Thanks to the overpowering smell of vinegar, mosquitoes tend to steer clear. Apple cider vinegar works well on its own, while white vinegar should be mixed with one-part vinegar to three-parts water for the same repelling benefits.

BRING OUT PUNGENT FOODS. There’s something about the makeup of certain foods that send mosquitoes heading for the hills. Foods like garlic, onion, lemons, oranges, grapefruit, and tomatoes all produce mosquito-fighting chemicals. Either use these foods in your next barbecue or snack on them to create a bug-free zone.

Enjoy Your Plate in a Bug-Less Space

Some of these methods work double-duty. Check out our article, “A Step-by-Step Guide to the Perfect Summer Charcuterie Board,” for additional ways to put some of the herbs and foods from the list above to good use.