How to Make Insect Repellent Incense

Insect repellant incense is one way to keep down the population of biting insects around your garden party or barbeque. While not as effective as candles, or especially sprays or lotions, but in combination incense can help improve your chances of not getting bitten.

The two easiest styles of incense to make at home are loose and cone incense. Loose incense consists of bits of herbs, sometimes with some essential oils added, burned over an incense coal. Cone incense burns without an outside heat source due to the addition of a base, commonly wood powder made from sawdust, and potassium nitrate (saltpeter). Also added are a bonding agent such as gum arabic or karaya to keep the ingredients in the cone form and a liquid to dissolve the saltpeter and form the cone.

Herbs for Repelling Insects

  • Basil
  • Bay Leaves
  • Catnip
  • Ceder
  • Citronella
  • Clover
  • Eucalyptus
  • Garlic
  • Lavender
  • Lemon Grass
  • Mint
  • Pennyroyal
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme

Experiment to find a scent you like, mixing dried herbs and essential oils in various combinations.

Loose Incense

Step 1: Choose herbs you like in combination from the list. Crumble them into small pieces. Add drops of the essential oils you choose and mix together until the herbs have absorbed the oil. Use a spoon or other mixing tool rather than your hands as essential oils can be toxic if too much is absorbed through the skin or ingested.

Step 2: Allow the mix to dry. Store in an airtight container until used.

Step 3: Burn by sprinkling the incense mix over a red coal. More incense must be added regularly to maintain the level of smoke and scent that will drive the insects away.

Cone Incense

Step 1: Place the wood powder, bonding agent, and herbs into a mortar and pestle and grind into a fine powder. There should be at least twice as much of the herbal mix as base powder. Try starting with 20 parts herbs, 4 parts base, and 1 part bonding agent. You will have to try different batches at different combinations to find one you like the smell of, works well, and burns well.

Step 2: Mix the water and potassium nitrate (saltpeter) together until the solid has dissolved. Prepare between 1 and 2 teaspoons of water for each 2.5 teaspoons of dry mixture. Try a ratio of ½ cup of water to ¼ teaspoon of potassium nitrate. If the cones do not burn well, increase the amount of potassium nitrate for you next batch. Each combination of herbs will need a slightly different mix to burn well.

Step 3: Mix the liquid with the dry ingredients, adding the water a little at a time until you get a dough like consistency. Knead the mixture.

Step 4: Break of small pieces of the incense dough and form them into cone shapes. Try for a cone about 1 ¾ inches tall and 7/16 inch at the base.

Step 5: Allow the incense to dry on the flat end until the water appears to have completely evaporated. It will shrink approximately 1/8 inch in height and 1/16 inch in diameter when drying. Store in an airtight container.

Step 6: Burn cone incense by lighting the tip of the cone. If the mix works right, the cone will burn evenly from the tip to the base, taking between 10 and 25 minutes depending on the mixture and the size of the con