The Most Effective Insect Repellents
To find the most effective mosquito repellents, we tested products containing a variety of ingredients, including deet, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, chemicals called IR3535 and 2-undecanone, as well as a variety of plant oils, such as cedar, citronella, geraniol, lemongrass, and rosemary.
The most effective products against Aedes mosquitoes were Sawyer Picaridin and Natrapel 8 Hour, which each contain 20 percent picaridin, and Off! Deepwoods VIII, which contains 25 percent deet. They kept the mosquitoes from biting for about 8 hours. (The Sawyer product was our top insect repellent overall. It was the only one that also kept Culex mosquitoes, which can spread West Nile disease, and deer ticks, which can spread Lyme disease, away for at least 8 hours.)
Ben's 30% DEET Tick & Insect Wilderness Formula kept Aedes mosquitoes away for 7.5 hours and Repel Lemon Eucalyptus, containing 30 percent lemon eucalyptus, stopped them for 7 hours.
The IR3535 products didn’t make our list of recommended sprays. Neither did repellents with 2-Undecananone or those that contained 7 percent deet or less than 20 percent picaridin.
We advise skipping most products made with natural plant oils, such as California Baby Natural Bug Blend (a blend of citronella, lemongrass oil, cedar oil, and other ingredients) and EcoSmart Organic, (which includes geraniol, rosemary oil, cinnamon oil, and lemongrass oil). They did not last for more than 1 hour against Aedes mosquitoes, and some failed almost immediately.
In addition, those products are not registered by the Environmental Protection Agency, which regulates skin-applied repellents and evaluates them for safety and effectiveness. Most plant-oil products are exempt from scrutiny by the EPA because the agency considers them to be a minimum risk to human health.
Instead, the CDC recommends using EPA-registered insect repellents. To see if a mosquito repellent is registered by the EPA, look for its registration number ("EPA Reg.") on the back of the label.
The Best Way to Use Mosquito Repellent
Insect repellents that use deet come in varying concentrations, ranging from 4 percent to 100 percent. Our previous tests show that concentrations of 30 percent provide the same protection against mosquitoes as higher percentages for up to 8 hours. But higher concentrations of deet have been linked to rashes, disorientation, and seizures. That’s why Consumer Reports says you should avoid mosquito repellents with more than 30 percent deet and not use it at all on infants younger than 2 months.
Women who are pregnant or breast feeding can safely use deet, picaridin, lemon eucalyptus, and IR3535, according to the EPA, if they are applied properly. Here are tips from the EPA on how to use insect repellent:
• Apply repellents only to exposed skin or clothing—never put it on under clothing. Use just enough to cover and only for as long as needed; heavy doses don’t work better.
• Don’t apply mosquito repellents over cuts, wounds, or irritated skin or immediately after shaving.
• When applying to your face, spray first on your hands, then rub in, avoiding your eyes and mouth, and using sparingly around ears.
• Don’t let young children apply. Instead, put it on your own hands, then rub it on. Limit use on children’s hands, because they often put their hands in their eyes and mouths.
• Don’t use near food, and wash hands after application and before eating or drinking.
• At the end of the day, wash treated skin with soap and water, and wash treated clothing in a separate wash before wearing again.
Home Remedies to Keep Bugs Away
Topical Mosquito Repellents
• Lemon Eucalyptus oil can be used to repel mosquitoes.
• Rubbing the skin with baby oil or imitation vanilla extract repels biting insects such as mosquitoes and black flies.
• Rub apple cider vinegar on your skin to repel insects. If you take in enough apple cider vinegar by putting it on foods you eat, you’ll develop a body odor that will repel insects, including black flies.
• It has been said that garlic works. Swallow slivered garlic to ward off these summer pests. Others take garlic tablets or rub garlic juice directly on their skin. Some people apply onion or radish juice for the same purpose.
Straight From Consumer Reports