Pepper spray, or mace, is the most common form of non-lethal self-defense in the US. While martial arts is an incredibly useful skill, and projectile weapons and Tasers have their place, a can of pepper spray combines a safe non-lethality with the assurance that your attacker is going to want to the GTFO of your personal space very quickly.

You can buy pepper spray in all states within the US, but [research: age etc]. In the unlikely but certainly possible event of national economical collapse, you’ll want to know how to make your own. Perfecting your recipe and technique now means one less thing to worry about learning while the shit is hitting the fan.

Aside from its usefulness in self-defense situations, pepper sprays actually have a lot of utility. You can use different versions to deter non-native mice and rats from your home, and to keep certain bugs, snails and slugs off certain plants.

A note of warning: pepper spray is serious stuff. You are making a weapon, which when directed at attackers is temporarily blinding and incredibly painful. If you get even diluted doses of it on your face or eyes, or in the cuticles of your nails, it will burn for hours. There have even been cases of permanent eye damage from pepper spray, and just because it’s home made doesn’t mean it’s less potent. Keep out of reach of children, and handle the ingredients as well as the finished product with care.

Keep in mind that anything the final product touches should be thought of as temporarily or permanently contaminated: if you wipe up some excess pepper spray with a cloth, forget about it, and then wipe your face with that cloth…I just can’t be clear enough that you’re going to have a really bad time.

What you’ll need for a basic DIY pepper spray recipe

 Every pepper-spray or mace is a mix of irritant and a delivery system. For the basic DIY recipe, you’ll need: fresh or dried chillis; vinegar or rubbing alcohol, and an atomizer. We’re unsure of whether pepper spray would have any effect on zombies, but police certainly seem to find it useful deployed against groups. If you think that might be necessary, you could go for the weed killer solution.


  • Seven or more hot chilies

If you don’t have access to the hottest varieties on this list, you can use twice as much of a milder chili.

  • If your chilies aren’t already dried, you’ll need a dehydrator or an oven to dry them
  • Rubber gloves
  • Safety goggles (you can buy plastic safety goggles pretty cheap)
  • A sharp knife and chopping board
  • Blender, grinder or coffee grinder (crush the pepper/chili and garlic)
  • A small and completely sealable atomizer
  • Cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer

To strain out the seeds before you bottle your pepper spray. Even a few tiny pieces could block the nozzle of your atomizer – you don’t want that.

  • Funnel (this will save on mess overall but be sure to wash it very thoroughly with soapy water afterwards)
  • A very well-sealed container in which to keep unused spray if you have made a big batch. Keep it somewhere cool, preferably a refrigerator.
  • Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol or vinegar

Using one of these as the main delivery substrate preserves the Capsaicin longer. The added acidity and alcohol burn isn’t exactly going to tone down the pepper spray effect, either.

  • Mineral oil or baby oil (this makes the pepper spray stick on skim and clothes better)

If you plan to use the pepper spray as a deterrent to pests, or if you just don’t have an oil to use as a base, you can substitute water for the oil. Without the vinegar/alcohol and/ore the oil, your pepper spray solution may not last as long, and is more likely to get corrupted by bacteria.

Choosing your (red hot chili) peppers

Unless you’re already an accomplished chili gardener, they can be a little tricky to grow. Dried chilies are however quite easy to find in most places. When you buy your chilies ready dried, you have much more assurance that they’re of the heat that you want. Home-grown and home-dried chilies can sometimes have a less consistent amount of heat.

Recommended chilies, in ascending order of pain:

Red Cayenne Pepper, Thai (Bird) Chili, Scotch Bonnet, Habanero Chili, Red Savina Habanero and finally the Naga Jolokia or Ghost Pepper. To give you an idea of the range of strengths we’re dealing with here, the Ghost Pepper is about 40 times hotter than your standard Red Cayenne pepper.

Store-bought pepper spray contains between 2% and 10% pure capsaicin, whereas police-issued pepper spray is usually 10% capsaicin. Naturally it’s pretty hard to know exactly how much capsaicin you’re putting into your blend, but we thought we’d provide that as a reference point anyway.

Choosing your atomizer

For any small pepper spray container that you’re going to carry with you in your bug-out-bag, everyday backpack or purse etc., make sure that your container will not leak at all. Test it out with water first. You can get some atomizers that seem to be made to be carried around in purses and pockets without leaking, like this one here.


Don your rubber gloves. Chop the dried chilies by hand or with a food processor. Pour in two tablespoons of mineral or baby oil and pulse for a few seconds. Pour in 12 oz. of vinegar or distilled alcohol and continue to blend for two minutes. Place the funnel over the larger (storage) container, and pour in the unstrained pepper mixture. Leave in a cool place overnight to become potent. Throw away the rubber gloves.

Next day, place your funnel back in your second container, and place your cheesecloth inside of the funnel. Carefully pour the chili mixture into the cheesecloth and leave it to percolate through. Once all the liquid has drained out, remove the filter and funnel (you can scatter the chili pulp around plants outside to keep pests away) and cap the bottle. Use the funnel to transfer some of the spray to your travel-size atomizer. Use soap and hot water to fully wash your hands when you’re all done.

Remember, pepper spray is no joke.  Treat it seriously and use only when your safety depends on it.