For years, I have dreaded the late summer months on the homestead because turkey mites would inevitably ravage my legs. This almost invisible villain is the larval form of the Lone Star Tick. The intense itching for weeks was too much! I began searching for the ultimate defense to protect myself from turkey mite bites. Any effective defensive strategy inevitably encompasses a multifaceted approach. My defense against turkey mites is no different! I am using a three-fold approach to defend myself against ticks and turkey mites. The cornerstone of my defense lies within my goat milk tick repelling soap.
Natural Insect Repellent
Life on the homestead naturally involves many outdoor activities. Often, I find myself waist-deep in tall grass or a wooded area of the farm as we build the infrastructure of the homestead. These are the perfect conditions to encounter ticks and turkey mites as they wait for their next host. While I could certainly spray my body and clothes daily with bug spray, I was looking for a natural repellent that would not involve exposing myself and the whole family to harmful chemicals daily.
The key ingredient of my tick repellent soap is pure essential oils. An effective concoction of essential oils creates a natural bug repellent using natural soap. The fresh scent naturally repels pesky ticks protecting us from not only bug bites but also tick-borne illnesses caused by tick bites. Best of all, this natural product is safe for use on the entire body.
The Essential Oil Line Up
Essential oils are derived from plants. They are called essential, as they are believed to capture the plant’s essence or fragrance. Each essential oil in my tick-repelling soap bar has a known natural ability to deter ticks. While some essential oils are known for their ability to repel ticks, not all are appropriate for use on your skin. Many oils require appropriate dilution in a carrier oil. With any use of essential oils, it’s important to know the benefits of using essential oils and be aware of any adverse reactions.
Please Be Aware
We are not healthcare professionals, the information provided is for informational purposes only. When seeking medical advice, please contact your healthcare provider.
Cedarwood oil is derived from the needles, bark, and berries of cedar or juniper trees. Among its many uses, it is insecticidal, antimicrobial, and antifungal. Cedarwood can help treat acne, treat minor wounds and repel a variety of insects such as ticks, fleas, and moths. All of these attributes make cedarwood a common essential oil found in natural soaps. Cedarwood not only repels ticks, but it is also toxic to ticks, making it an excellent essential oil in tick-repelling products. Additionally, it has a woodsy fragrance that is appealing to men.
Rose geranium is an essential oil that is derived from geranium leaves. They smell strongly of roses and are known for their antimicrobial and antifungal properties. Rose geranium has been studied specifically regarding its repelling properties of lone star ticks. My first batch of tick repelling soap did not contain rose geranium. Through continued research, I learned that rose geranium was especially effective in repelling the nymph form of Lone Star ticks. Since turkey mites are the larval form of Lone Star ticks, I determined that my second batch of tick repelling soap would feature rose geranium as a primary essential oil. I must admit, this is my favorite blend.
Cinnamon oil is derived from the bark and leaves of the Cinnamomum cassia tree. Also known for its antibacterial properties, cinnamon oil has a strong scent that repels ticks. Cinnamon like rose geranium has specifically been studied regarding its repelling qualities of ticks. However, cinnamon can be irritating to your skin, so always dilute it in a carrier oil. Be aware that cinnamon does not mix well in water. It beads together rather than dilute in water. This can be irritating to your skin, and even create a burning sensation. Always dilute in carrier oil instead. Cinnamon oil proved to be one of the longest-lasting essential oils to repel ticks in this study.
Lemon eucalyptus is an essential oil that is distilled from the leaves of the lemon eucalyptus tree. It should not be confused with oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE). The oil of lemon eucalyptus is extracted from the leaves and is enriched with para-menthane-3,8-diol (PMD). PMD can be chemically made in a laboratory. While both can repel insects, one is chemically made. Lemon eucalyptus essential oil is used for wounds, infections, and pain relief. In addition to repelling insects, it can help with respiratory conditions like colds. Always dilute lemon eucalyptus in a carrier oil.
Peppermint oil is derived from the peppermint plant. It has a refreshing fragrance that makes it a popular essential oil used in soap making. It’s the strong aroma of peppermint oils that makes it effective in repelling ticks. While peppermint has some mildly antimicrobial properties, it should not be considered its strength. Be aware that peppermint oil is toxic to dogs! Never use it as a tick deterrent on your furry friends. Peppermint is the primary essential oil in my first tick repelling soap blend.
Lavender essential oil is derived from the lavender plant. It is so good for your skin in a multitude of ways. Lavender essential oil helps prevent acne and wrinkles and soothes skin conditions like eczema and blotchy skin. It is also anti-inflammatory and soothing to sunburns. As a result, it is very popular in soap making. Not only does lavender repel insects, but it is also soothing to bug bites. I included lavender in my first batch of tick repelling soap, as its many benefits make it a perfect essential oil for soap. However, its fragrance is not my personal favorite and I cut it from my second batch.
Citronella oil is an essential oil distilled from the Asian grass plant in the Cymbopogon genus. It has a floral citrus-like aroma that is very distinctive. It is well known for its mosquito repellent qualities. Additionally, it is antifungal, good for healing wounds, and clearing parasitic infections. While citronella is effective against repelling insects it needs to be applied frequently. However, with most forms of herbal medicine and remedies, this is almost always the case. It can also be mixed with water or witch hazel to create a repellant spray.
Goat Milk Soap
Soap is created through saponification. Sodium hydroxide is dissolved in a base of water or milk. Then the lye base is mixed with fats and oils. The lye and oils are bonded together to become soap. Goat milk is my preferred soap-making lye base. While making homemade soap with milk can be more challenging than making it with water, the benefits of goat milk soap make it worth the extra effort. Goat milk soap is known to be extremely gentle to the skin. It’s perfect for people with sensitive skin. However, goat milk is especially nourishing no matter your skin type.
My homemade soap has a variety of oils and fats that make it extra nourishing to the skin. Olive oil, coconut oil, shea butter, cocoa butter, avocado, and caster oil are mixed to create a hard soap that creates a bubbly lather that is perfect for cleansing and conditioning a variety of skin types.
I already make all of my soaps with natural essential oils rather than synthetic fragrances. While I certainly want my soap to smell good, creating a soap that also helps repel ticks and turkey mites has been an added bonus.
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Field Tested Results
As a creator, it was important to field test my tick-repelling soap before releasing my recipe. I have been so pleased with the tick-repelling qualities of this strategy. Finally, after years of being ravaged by turkey mites every year, I can say that I had my first Kentucky summer with no turkey mite issues! Although I frequently found ticks crawling on my clothes and Roxie, our dog. I only had two ticks embedded on my skin throughout the spring and summer.
Additionally, I shared my tick-repelling soap with friends who frequently find ticks in their work areas. They also reported that while working in the same environments they have experience none to minuscule amounts of tick bites. I can’t tell you how thrilled I am with the results of both variations of my tick repelling soap!
Threefold Defensive Approach
The pictures in my turkey mite post are of my legs. I was determined to protect myself from another miserable summer of turkey mite bites. During the spring on the homestead, I used the tick-repelling soap as my sole tick and turkey mite defensive strategy. However, since the summer and fall is historically the worst time of the year for turkey mite out breaks I used a threefold defensive strategy.
- Sodium Hydroxide- Lye 112.13 grams
- Frozen Goat's Milk 227.66 grams
- Olive Oil 313.50 grams
- Coconut Oil, 76 deg 189.75 grams
- Shea Butter 165 grams
- Cocoa Butter 66 grams
- Avocado Oil 49.50 grams
- Castor Oil 41.25 grams
- 1 1/2 tablespoons finely ground oatmeal
- Total Fragrance Weight 33 grams
- Peppermint Essential Oil 10 grams
- Cedarwood Essential Oil 7 grams
- Lemon Eucalyptus Essential Oil 6 grams
- Cinnamon Essential Oil 4 grams
- Citronella Essential Oil 3 grams
- Lavender Essential Oil 3 grams
- Prepare in advance: Freeze goat's milk into ice cubes.
- Mix your fragrance oil. Set aside.
- Prepare an Ice Bath
- Gather all your soap-making supplies before beginning. Work in a well-ventilated area and be sure to wear the appropriate safety equipment. Gloves, goggles, long sleeves, long pants, and shoes.
- Place your stainless steel bowl (or heat-safe bowl, NO glass) on your digital scale and tare the weight to zero. Measure your frozen goat's milk. Cubes of goat's milk can be cut to get exact measurements.
- Place your stainless steel bowl into an ice bath bowl.
- At this step, you need to begin wearing your safety equipment, goggles, and gloves.
- NOTE: Always tare the scale before each measurement.
- Measure lye into a glass container (I use a sacrificed mason jar).
- Keep the bowl with the goat's milk in the ice bath. Add lye in small batches, just a little at a time, and stir. WARNING: The mixture will get VERY hot!
- As the goat's milk cubes begin to melt, add more lye, continuing in small batches.
- After all the lye has been added, continue stirring until all the lye is completely dissolved. Stir longer than you think. I look for signs of undissolved lye on the side of my bowl and spatula. Lye is completely dissolved when the temperature is no longer increasing, check the temperature using a digital or infrared thermometer. You can strain the lye mixture through a strainer to remove undissolved lye prior to mixing with oils if you desire. Once the lye is completely dissolved, set aside. I remove the bowl from the ice bath at this time.
- Measure oils in order of longest melt time.
- Start with cocoa butter, measure, and melt partially.
- Measure and melt shea butter, and add to cocoa butter.
- Measure and melt coconut oil, and add to other butters. Stir until completely melted.
- Measure olive oil, avocado oil, and castor oil and add to melted butters.
- Mix the melted butters and oils completely together. You can use a stick blender. See notes below on how to "burp" the stick blender.
- Add oatmeal to oils and mix well (optional).
- Take the temperature of both mixtures, the lye solution, and the oils. The ideal temperature for soap making when using milk is between 75 to 80 degrees. At a minimum, the two mixtures should be within 10 to 15 degrees of each other.
- Be sure to use a heat-safe bowl at this time. Add the oils to the lye mixture. Pour the oils over the handle of the spatula to lessen the air added to the mixture.
- This is where saponification will take place. Using your stick blender and spatula mix the mixture until trace. It's best to use your stick blender in short bursts. This takes time. Just keep mixing. Trace is achieved when drizzled soap from the stick blender holds its shape. Light trace will lightly hold its shape, medium holds its shape better, and it looks like pudding.
- Once you achieve medium trace, add fragrance oils. Mix well. Be aware fragrances can accelerate trace, and be prepared to work quickly.
- Once the fragrance is mixed well, add to the soap mold. Use a spoon to shape the top. If you want to add any decorative touches to the top, it's time to do it now.
- Spray the soap mixture lightly with alcohol to prevent soda ash.
- Place in freezer for 5 hours
- Move to the refrigerator for 2 days.
- Remove soap from the mold and cut it into bars. Allow the soap to cure on a wire rack where it gets good airflow. Be sure it's away from animals and children for 6 weeks.
- Once the soap is fully cured, it is safe to use.
- NOTES: On the day you are making your soap, continue to wear the safety equipment while you clean your bowls and equipment.
Directions for Using SoapCalc. Fill in the following fields.
#1 Type of Lye: NaOH
#2 Weight of Oils: 825 grams (adjust to meet your mold size)
#3 Water : Lye Concentration 33%
#4: Super Fats 6%
#4 Fragrance 33 g/kg (adjust to meet your preference)
# 6 Choose Oils:
Olive Oil 38%
Coconut oil, 76 deg : 23%
Shea Butter: 20%
Cocoa Butter: 8%
Avocado Oil: 6%
Castor Oil: 5%
#7 Calculate Recipe
The printed version will show the Soap Weight before CP (cold process) cure or HP (hot process) cook. For this recipe the total amount of soap will be 41.96 ounces. Keep adjusting the Weight of Oils until this amount is sufficient for your mold. All other fields will automatically adjust based on your percentages when you change the oil weight.
"Burp" the Stick Blender AKA Immersion Blender
Do your best to prevent adding air to your mixtures. When using a stick blender, place the end of the stick blender into the mixture on an angle to allow air to escape. Next burp the stick blender by tapping it on the bottom of your bowl. This allows air to escape.
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Rose Geranium Tick Repelling Soap
I created TWO incredible tick repelling soap blends! I must admit, Rose Geranium is my favorite! Become a Member of the Kowalski Mountain Subscriber’s Library to download the BONUS tick repelling soap recipe.
How to Remove Ticks
No matter how hard we try, no tick-repelling defense can deter the most determined ticks or turkey mites. Despite my best efforts, I still found two ticks embedded in my skin, one in the spring and one in the summer. Please be aware, even my threefold defensive strategy is just that: a tick-repelling strategy. Individual results can not be guaranteed. My experience regarding turkey mite bites has significantly improved! I had to share my strategy to help others defend themselves against the horrible agony of turkey mite affliction.
If you do have ticks embed in your skin, follow these steps to remove them correctly.
- Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible.
- Pull the tick straight out of your skin. Pull the tick with firm pressure. Always try not to break the tick, or leave it’s head embedded in your skin.
- Clean the tick bite with soap and water. Then dab it with alcohol to prevent infection.
- Dispose of tick properly.
Permethrin Treatment for Clothing
I suggest using the lowest level of protection needed to prevent ticks and turkey mite bites. In the spring when exposure is less, I use a single strategy to protect myself from turkey mite bites. I use the most benign treatment, my homemade tick repelling soap, to prevent exposure to unnecessary chemicals. However, when exposure is more significant, the threat of tick-borne illness is serious enough to warrant a serious defensive strategy. Permethrin clothing treatment would be the highest level of protection necessary only when risk exposure is significant.
I realize that permethrin is a poisonous chemical, and I feel this method is a safer method than spraying poison directly on my skin and clothes daily. When treating clothes with permethrin, take all necessary precautions: wear gloves, work outside, be mindful of treatment materials, and dispose of them safely.
Concentrated forms of permethrin must be diluted to the recommended 0.5% strength solution recommended for treating fabrics. Once diluted, soak clothes in the solution for several hours, allowing the items of clothing to become completely saturated with the permethrin solution. Soak your clothes in batches in buckets or individual items in a plastic bag. Hang clothes to dry. Once dry, wear as usual.
The good news is that the treated clothing will be effective in repelling insects for up to six weeks, or six washings! Don’t forget to treat your boots as well! I use a spray bottle to treat the outside of my boots and the inside edges of my boots, around my ankles. As a bonus, permethrin prevents all types of insects including mosquitoes, which was my first experience using permethrin to treat my clothing when I lived in Alaska.
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I am thrilled that my turkey mite defensive strategy worked! For months I sat on this recipe for months, as I needed to thoroughly test the threefold defensive strategy before releasing it to you. I highly recommend using the lowest level of protection from ticks and turkey mites that you need. My homemade tick repelling soap contains natural ingredients that truly repel ticks. If conditions warrant a higher level of protection, you can add an extra layer of defense. Share in the comments your experience using my homemade tick repelling soap and threefold tick repelling strategy!
About the Author: Barbra-Sue Kowalski grew up on a small hobby farm. She was always drawn to farm life, however, she was stuck in an urban life far from her roots. Barbra-Sue was a single mom for 13 years, raising her 3 children on her own. She met Philip in 2018 and they married in 2021. Between the two of them, they have 5 grown children and 4 grandchildren. These empty nesters are following their dreams! As they both turn 50, they are building their off-grid homestead to live the life that they dream about. Learn more about Philip and Barbra-Sue here. Contact them here. To leave a comment on this post, please scroll down.