Suitable for people with sensitive skin. Protects against a number of insects, including mosquitoes. Safe for children 6 months and older with no DEET. Uses picaridin instead. Dries quickly.
Won't prevent mosquitoes from flying near you. Towelettes are very moist.
Feels nice on the skin; no greasy or oily residue. Mild scent. Lower price per wipe than most other options. Great for all ages. Wipes remain moist for hours if you don't use the entire one initially.
Only a 7% DEET concentration. Short protection window of 2 hours.
Lotion formula easy to apply. Very minimal odor, and sweat-resistant when dry. Originally developed for military use.
Wears off quickly under wet conditions. Can feel sticky on skin, and challenging to remove. Lower concentration of DEET.
Made with oil of lemon eucalyptus to provide DEET-free protection for up to six hours. Has a refreshing, botanical scent that does not smell like chemicals. Not greasy or sticky. Spray is easy to apply.
Some are not fond of the scent.
Portable repeller that runs on a rechargeable battery. Quiet and mess-free. Repels mosquitos for up to a 20-foot distance. Works with replaceable cartridges that provide as many as 12 hours of continuous protection. Odorless.
May not work on all mosquito infestations. Rare reports of faulty repellers.
We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.
When mosquitoes interfere with your outdoor activities, the best defense against these winged nuisances is mosquito repellent. Most are formulated with natural or chemical ingredients that deter and/or kill unwanted pests and are made to be applied to the skin. While these topical repellents are often the most effective, there are alternatives, such as electric devices, you can try if you’d rather not come in direct contact with chemicals.
For instance, rechargeable devices that emit a mist of repellent into the air are available in portable and table-top versions to help keep mosquitoes from coming too close to people. Outdoor mosquito repellent sprays keep the bugs from accumulating around patios, yards, pools and decks. However, citronella candles, often touted as bug repellents, will only have you running for the mosquito bite reliever.
We checked out a range of mosquito repellents, and our top pick is the highly effective Avon Skin So Soft Bug Guard. It comes as premoistened towelettes that are easy to use and gentle on sensitive skin.
What could be easier than applying a mosquito repellent with a prepackaged towelette? This pack of eight towelettes is highly transportable and useful for deterring pests while camping, hiking and engaging in other outdoor activities. They’re infused with picaridin, a very effective mosquito repellent that also repels other flying pests so your outdoor fun isn’t interrupted by these annoying critters. The towelettes also contain vitamin E and aloe to nourish and soothe skin. Consumers with sensitive skin can use them too.
These are also convenient towelettes that simplify keeping mosquitoes away. Made with DEET, these are effective as well as portable. The reliable protection they provide can help prevent the transmission of diseases carried by mosquitoes. We also like that they’re easy to stash in a pack for camping trips and other outdoor adventures. Once applied, the repellent dries quickly and doesn’t leave behind an oily residue. You get 15 wipes per pack, making them a good pick for budget-conscious shoppers.
If you prefer a lotion to a spray mosquito repellent, Ultrathon is a great choice thanks to its appealing features like easy application and 34.3% DEET for reliable pest deterrence. Those who don’t like an overpowering odor will appreciate the light scent. Originally formulated for members of the armed forces who were deployed to mosquito-infested areas, this lotion deters numerous types of pests and protects for up to 12 hours.
Some people don’t like the idea of repelling pests with chemicals. A plant-based option like this easy-to-use natural mosquito repellent is a nice alternative to chemical-based products. It’s made with lemon eucalyptus oil that repels mosquitoes and other insects and keeps them away for up to 6 hours after application. Most users find the botanical-based scent appealing, not overpowering, and the liquid doesn’t leave the skin feeling oily or sticky. This plant-based formula can help protect against the transmission of mosquito-borne diseases like West Nile and Zika.
Place this mosquito repelling device in your outdoor living space and you’ll enjoy mosquito-free fun in an area up to 20 feet in diameter. This mosquito repellent works with replaceable cartridges that release odor-free repellent into the air without producing a noticeable spray. It’s powered by a rechargeable battery, so you can take it with you wherever you need pest protection. Each charge deters pests for over 5 hours, and each refill cartridge works for 12 hours. The device is a sound investment for anyone who spends a lot of time outside during mosquito season but doesn’t like to apply topical repellent.
Made by a popular pest control brand, this repellent deters mosquitoes and other insects like ticks and chiggers that are bothersome to humans. There’s no mess or oily residue after application because it converts to a powdery consistency as soon as it touches the skin. The formula contains 15% DEET, which does a good job of preventing bug bites and offers as much as 6 hours of protection. The aerosol spray bottle makes it easy to apply quickly and evenly.
Formulated with plant-based ingredients including cedarwood, this powerful yet natural spray is made to be applied to outdoor areas like porches, walkways and yards. It deters and kills mosquitoes and many other insects and pests without chemicals that can be harmful to pets, plants and kids. The 32-ounce bottle includes a handy nozzle and can provide protection for up to 5,000 square feet. The product is also cruelty-free, which appeals to animal lovers.
Another quality rechargeable mosquito repeller by Thermacell, this model also eliminates the need to apply a topical product and stands out for being very lightweight and portable. Not only is it easy to carry, but it can also be mounted to provide protection to outdoor areas up to 15 square feet. It works with cartridges that emit an effective deterrent that last for up to 12 hours and don’t produce spray or odor. It’s ideal for campers, hikers, gardeners and outdoor sport enthusiasts.
Not all OFF! products contain DEET. This spray is made by the trusted brand but formulated with plant-based ingredients that target mosquitoes and other tiny winged intruders. It’s made without artificial dyes and is easy to apply. The light, pleasant scent is appealing to most users, especially those who dislike the chemical smells of other products. Fans also appreciate that it doesn’t feel heavy or oily when applied to the skin.
When buying mosquito repellent, consider how easy the application method is for you. Does the repellent absorb quickly into the skin or leave a greasy film? Creams may leave a residue on the skin, while sprays, roll-ons and towelettes are fast and easy to apply. Devices emit a repellent that doesn’t come into contact with skin.
Spray: Mosquito repellents in spray bottles make applying the liquid to skin or clothing quick and easy. However, it can be difficult to get consistent coverage with a spray, and the mist is easily inhaled, so it isn’t ideal for use by or around people with respiratory issues. Spray repellents are best applied outdoors. Also, sprays formulated to be applied to outdoor areas like yards or decks are available.
Cream/lotion: Mosquito repellent in lotion form is good for use on the skin because the application is easier to control than with a spray. Not everyone likes the feeling of a cream, however, which can leave a residue on the skin.
Roll-on or towelette: Mosquito repellent also comes in roll-on bottles like deodorant or individual towelettes that are wiped on the skin. These portable types of repellents are great for camping, hiking and travel.
Devices: Electric mosquito repellents use cartridges that disperse vaporized repellent into the air. This fine mist is odor-free and unnoticeable yet effective at keeping pests away without spray or DEET. These devices are cordless, rechargeable and available in several sizes. The square footage of the protection zone depends on the model.
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: This highly effective mosquito repellent is registered with the EPA and endorsed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), but there are some concerns about its toxicity. Though many studies have determined that DEET is safe for human use, it isn’t a good choice for young children. In high doses, it might cause skin reactions. It’s also harmful if ingested. DEET’s 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 unlikely to irritate the skin.
Pyrethrin and allethrin: Pyrethrins are repellents derived from chrysanthemum flowers, while allethrins are the synthetic versions. Both work to repel mosquitoes and other insects.
Oil of lemon eucalyptus: This mosquito repellent is a synthetic derivative of eucalyptus plant oil. It’s nearly as effective as the chemical DEET, but 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 can also be applied to tents and other gear. You can also purchase clothing treated with permethrin. It’s a biodegradable substance, but it has been known to cause skin irritation in some cases. One cause for concern is that it is toxic to many insects other than mosquitoes, including beneficial insects like bees. It’s also harmful to fish, so it’s a poor repellent choice around bodies of water.
IR3535: This synthetic plant oil 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.
The length of time a mosquito repellent is effective differs with the active ingredients and their concentration. Usually, the higher the percentage of the active ingredient, the longer the repellent will protect you, though some ingredients plateau above certain concentrations. Mosquito repellents with natural ingredients don’t protect you for as long a period as synthetic repellents, and they need to be reapplied to stay effective.
Permethrin, which is applied to clothes, lasts the longest. It doesn’t come out when clothes are washed and can last through up to 20 washings. Some clothing comes pretreated with permethrin. DEET lasts the longest of the mosquito repellents that are applied to the skin, up to 12 hours.
Of the other mosquito repellents, picaridin lasts for a maximum of 8 hours, oil of lemon eucalyptus lasts for a maximum of 6 hours, and most other plant-based ingredients last for a maximum of 2 hours.
When it comes to devices, the synthetic allethrin is commonly used in the cartridges to repel mosquitoes. The protection lasts as long as the device is in use, until it needs to be recharged or the cartridge needs to be replaced. A full charge lasts up to 5.5 hours, while each cartridge lasts around 12 hours of use.
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 aren’t recognized as effective by the EPA. These ingredients are non-registered.
Registered mosquito repellents
Non-registered mosquito repellents
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.
A. The cost varies depending on type. Products applied to the skin are the most affordable. Sprays range from about $5 to $15. Creams, lotions and roll-ons typically come in bottles with 4 to 8 ounces of repellent and cost between $5 and $20. Towelettes come in multipacks and also cost $5 to $20. Spray formulas applied to outdoor areas come in 32-ounce bottles and cost between $20 and $40. Devices are the most expensive type. Small, highly portable models cost around $25, while tabletop versions cost about $40. Keep in mind that larger devices provide a larger zone of protection against pests.
A. If you’re sitting outside for a while enjoying a book or eating dinner, a citronella candle might be effective, but it won’t be for long. The smoke can change direction in a breeze, and it won’t be long before the mosquitoes descend. However, citronella is safe for use on the skin, and a cream containing this ingredient is much more useful than a candle.
A. Some do. Products containing DEET are effective against ticks, gnats, and some species of flies. The packaging on insect repellents will tell you what insects they’re effective against.
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