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Best Mosquito Repellents

Updated September 2018
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 16 Models Considered
  • 68 Hours Researched
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 149 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best mosquito repellents

    Last Updated September 2018

    Pesky mosquitoes can easily ruin outdoor fun. But whether you’re enjoying a family barbecue or working up a sweat on a weekend hike, mosquito repellent can keep the bugs away so you can spend time breathing fresh air and having a blast with your loved ones, itch-free.

    There are a lot of mosquito repellents on the market, however, and finding the right one for you can be challenging. You have to consider the safety of the ingredients, the easiest application method, and how long the repellent will be effective. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, we’re here to help.

    At BestReviews, our goal is to make shopping easy by helping you find your best products. If you’re ready to purchase mosquito repellent, check out our top picks in the matrix above. For everything you need to know about this outdoor necessity before you buy, keep reading our shopping guide.

    Even short periods outside require protection. Apply mosquito repellent even if you’ll only be exposed to mosquitoes for a few minutes. Help prevent bites not only by using mosquito repellent but by wearing lightweight long sleeves and pants to cover exposed skin.

    Benefits of mosquito repellents

    Are you wondering why you need mosquito repellent? Let’s take a look at a few reasons why you should protect yourself from these insects.

    • Mosquito bites itch. For those with sensitive skin, the bites can become inflamed and very uncomfortable.

    • Because they consume blood, many species of mosquitoes spread blood-borne viruses and other pathogens. Some examples of diseases spread by mosquitoes include West Nile virus, Zika virus, and malaria.

    • In rare cases, mosquito bites can cause severe allergic reactions.

    • Mosquitoes multiply readily and are nearly impossible to completely eradicate, making mosquito repellent an important way to reduce disease transmission.

    Portable all-around protection

    For protection on the go, these Avon Skin-So-Soft Bug Guard Towelettes feature picaridin as their active ingredient. The resealable bag contains eight single-use packets that provide protection against biting insects such as mosquitoes, ticks, and sand flies.

    Types of mosquito repellents

    Mosquito repellents are available in various formulations.

    Spray

    Mosquito repellents in spray bottles make applying repellent quick and easy. It’s easy to apply repellent to clothing with a spray bottle, too. However, it’s difficult to get even coverage with spray mosquito repellents, and they are easily inhaled, so they’re not ideal for use by or around those with respiratory illnesses. Spray repellents are best applied outdoors or in an open area.

    Cream

    Mosquito repellent in cream form is good for direct use on the skin because the application is easier to control than with a spray bottle. Not everyone likes the feeling of a cream, however, which can leave a residue on the skin.

    Roll-on or towelettes

    Mosquito repellent can also come in roll-on bottles like deodorant or individual towelettes, which are wiped over the skin. These types of repellents are great for camping, hiking, and travel because of their ultra-portable nature.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Did you know that wearing dark clothing attracts mosquitoes? Scented lotions and perfumes may do the same.

    Considerations for mosquito repellents

    When shopping for mosquito repellent, consider these features.

    Active ingredients

    The active ingredient is the primary substance in a product that produces the intended effect. With mosquito repellents, a higher concentration of the active ingredient means a longer protection period from bites.

    Let’s take a look at the ingredients recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as effective mosquito deterrents.

    • DEET: DEET is registered with the EPA and endorsed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). It is a highly effective mosquito repellent, but there are some concerns about its toxicity. Though many studies have determined that DEET is safe for human use, it’s not a good choice for young children. In high doses, it may cause skin reactions. It’s also harmful if ingested. DEET effectiveness does not increase with a concentration higher than 50%.

    • Picaridin: Like DEET, this synthetic repellent is very effective against mosquitoes. It’s also odorless and not likely to irritate the skin.

    • Oil of lemon eucalyptus: This mosquito repellent is a synthetic derivative of eucalyptus plant oil. It’s nearly as effective as the chemical DEET, and it is not suitable for use on young children.

    • Permethrin: This mosquito repellent is meant to be applied to clothing, not directly on the skin. It’s a biodegradable substance, but it’s been known to cause irritation in some cases. It can also be applied to gear, such as tents. You can purchase clothing that’s already treated with permethrin. One cause for concern is that it’s toxic to many insects other than mosquitoes, including bees. It’s also harmful to fish, so it’s a poor repellent choice around bodies of water.

    • IR3535: IR3535 is a synthetic plant oil that is commonly used in Europe as a mosquito repellent. Studies have not shown it to be harmful or toxic to humans.

    • Plant-based ingredients: These include ingredients like citronella, lavender, and peppermint. They are natural alternatives to synthetic mosquito repellents. While they are less effective than their synthetic counterparts, plant-based ingredients are unlikely to cause side effects.

    Protection timespan

    Different active ingredients and concentrations will protect you from mosquito bites for varying lengths of time. Usually, the higher the percentage of the active ingredient, the longer the repellent will protect you, though some active ingredients plateau above certain concentrations. Mosquito repellents with natural ingredients don’t protect you for as long as synthetic repellents, and they need to be reapplied.

    Permethrin, which is applied to clothes, is the longest-lasting option. It doesn’t wash out when clothes are washed and can remain for up to 20 washings. Some clothing comes pre-treated with permethrin.

    DEET lasts the longest of the mosquito repellents that are applied to the skin. DEET can last for over eight hours.

    Of the other mosquito repellents, picaridin lasts for a maximum of eight hours, oil of lemon eucalyptus lasts for a maximum of six hours, and plant-based ingredients last for a maximum of two hours.

    CAUTION

    Mosquitoes lay their eggs in pools of standing water. Inspect your property for standing water, and eliminate these pools as best you can since they’re breeding grounds for these insects.

    Registered vs. non-registered

    Because they are pesticides, most mosquito repellents need to be registered with the EPA before they can be brought to market. That said, many active ingredients in repellents are considered safe for human use but are not recognized as effective by the EPA. These ingredients are non-registered.

    Registered mosquito repellents

    • Effectiveness of active ingredients backed by independent studies.

    • Safe for human use.

    • Feature an EPA registration number.

    • Endorsed by the CDC.
       

    Non-registered mosquito repellents

    • Include plant-based pesticides deemed safe for human use.

    • Effectiveness data not backed by the EPA.

    • Do not include an EPA registration number.

    • Are not endorsed by the CDC.

    Ease of use

    When buying mosquito repellent, consider how easy the application method is for you. Does the repellent quickly absorb into the skin, or does it leave a greasy film? Creams may leave a residue on the skin, while sprays, roll-ons, and towelettes are fast and easy to apply.

    Odor

    Many mosquito repellents have a chemical scent. Plant-based mosquito repellents have the strong scent of the oil they contain that repels mosquitoes. For those with sensitivity to scent, odorless mosquito repellents are the best choice.

    Price

    Most mosquito repellents won’t set you back more than $10. When buying repellent towelettes, make sure to check how many individual wipes are included in the package, as the number varies.

    On-the-go convenience

    The Cutter All Family Wipes make it easy to apply mosquito repellent on exposed skin. They’re perfect for picnics and other outdoor family events since they come in a handy resealable bag of 15 towelettes. The lower 7.15% concentration of DEET makes these wipes appropriate for children and those with sensitive skin.

    Tips

    Here are some tips on how to safely and effectively apply mosquito repellent.

    • Unlike sunscreen, mosquito repellent should be applied only on skin that’s exposed and on top of clothing, not underneath.

    • Always read the manufacturer’s guidelines to ensure you’re using the repellent safely.

    • Avoid spraying or applying mosquito repellent on any open wounds.

    • Be careful not to apply repellent too close to your eyes or mouth. If you’re using a spray, spray the product on your hands and apply to your face.

    • An adult should apply mosquito repellent on children. Don’t let children handle repellent alone. These products can be harmful if ingested.

    • You don’t need to thickly apply mosquito repellent, a thin layer is fine. If you still experience issues with mosquitoes, apply another layer.

    • When using a spray formulation, don’t apply mosquito repellent near food.

    • Wash your hands post-application to prevent contaminating food or water.

    • Reapply mosquito repellent after swimming or sweating intensely.

    • Wash yourself thoroughly after returning indoors. Throw your clothes in the wash as well.

    Don’t forget to apply sunscreen in addition to mosquito repellent. Avoid products that contain both sun protection and insect repellent. Sunscreen needs to be applied much more often than mosquito repellent.

    FAQ

    Q. What about citronella candles? Are they a good mosquito repellent?

    A. If you are sitting outside for a little bit enjoying a book or eating dinner, a citronella candle might be effective but not for long. If the weather gets windy, the smoke might change directions, and it won’t be long before the mosquitoes descend. Citronella is safe for use on the skin, though, and a cream containing this ingredient is much more useful than a candle.

    Q. Will mosquito repellent also repel other insects?

    A. It’s possible. Products containing DEET are effective against ticks, gnats, and some species of flies. Most repellents will let you know on the packaging what insects they’re effective against.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Devangana
      Devangana
      Web Producer
    • Eliza
      Eliza
      Production Manager
    • Katherine
      Katherine
      Editor
    • Kyle
      Kyle
      Writer
    • Melissa
      Melissa
      Senior Editor
    • Steph
      Steph
      Writer

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