June 21st marks the official start to summer, but many of us consider Memorial Day weekend as the beginning. Filled with outdoor celebrations, we’ll gather around the picnic table and barbecue pit, on the lake and in the pool to get our fill of sun and fun this three-day weekend. Time spent outside this time of year means fighting off bugs and sunburn. You want the right products to make sure your time spent outside is enjoyable.
Things heated up quickly in Best In Bunch’s neck of the woods. We even saw June bugs before the technical end of winter. The biting bugs are already out in full force here and since we’ll be spending the coming weekend outdoors, what better time than to evaluate the best way to repel mosquitos?
There are over 20,000 insect repellents on the market! With so many choices, how do you know which one to choose? Many people base their decision on the most active ingredient in the product. Some avoid chemicals like DEET, while others go for the highest concentration of DEET. It also depends on your activity and location.
There is a comfort level some people feel about certain things they will rub or spray on their body. There are plenty of people who avoid chemicals as much as possible and use as vegan/organic/mineral-based/plant-based/all-natural as much as they can. It’s true—some chemicals found in common body care products have been found to cause cancer or other serious issues. Doctors have found traces of sunscreen in patients’ urine. Whatever you want to or not want to put on your body is up to you; however, mosquitos carry nasty diseases—malaria, Dengue, Zika and West Nile. Not to mention that the rates of Lyme disease (caused by ticks) diagnosis has increased in the last three years. To avoid contracting these diseases, it is important to protect yourself from mosquito and tick bites.
Why do Mosquitos Bite?
Female mosquitos (the only ones that bite) feed off our blood to retrieve the nutrients they need to provide for their eggs. When they bite, they inject saliva the same time they suck our blood. The saliva contains an anticoagulant, so our blood doesn’t clot while she’s feeding. The red, itchy welts are an allergic reaction to the mosquitos’ saliva.
Smelling dinner from up to 55 yards away, mosquitoes are attracted by carbon dioxide, bacteria from our sweat, heat, dark-colored clothing and certain acidic smells we emit like estrogen and lactic acid.
Unfortunately, mosquitos are most active when us outdoor lovers are—dawn and dusk, prime time for fishing and hunting. The best way to avoid getting bit is by staying inside but that kills all the summertime fun, so instead, cover up with long sleeves and pants, get rid of all standing water and use a proven mosquito repellent.
What is the Best Mosquito Repellent?
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommend only four different ingredients effective for repelling mosquitoes—DEET, Picaridin, IR3535, and oil of lemon eucalyptus. There is also Permethrin that is used on clothing and gear.
There are mosquito traps (fairly new on the market) and repellents like Thermacell that have not been thoroughly tested by the CDC to conclude on their effectiveness. This does not mean they don’t work, however.
Do Natural Mosquito Repellents Work?
What has shown to be ineffective is ultrasonic devices, armbands and citronella candles—or any other “natural,” plant-based oil like soybean, lemongrass, cedar, peppermint, geranium or lavender. In fact, these might be skin irritants, haven’t been approved to spray on children, nor are they recommended by the EPA. Though these mosquito repellant alternatives have been approved for human use, it doesn’t mean they are necessarily good. Just because it is plant-based doesn’t make it safe. In fact, these products need to be avoided by use on children three years and younger. Citronella has proven in tests to be just as effective (or as ineffective) as regular candles. It might surprise you that DEET has been extensively tested and proven safe for children two months and older.
Here are the following best-selling bug repellants that work:
There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about DEET. First off, DEET is NOT DDT. DDT is a pesticide that was used in the United States until 1972. It was eventually labeled a carcinogen and banned. DEET was developed by the United States Army in 1946 and has been safely used as a bug repellent since. It has been extensively tested by the EPA and never shown to cause any adverse effects. DEET is the only repellent the CDC recommends that repels ticks. A repellent must contain at least 20% DEET to be effective. One warning about DEET—it can and has ruined certain plastics and damaged rubber and leather on flip-flops and sandals.
Deep Woods OFF, available as an aerosol or pump spray, contains 25% DEET and offers up to 8 hours of protection with one application. It repels mosquitoes, ticks, black flies, chiggers, gnats, fleas and no-see-ums. Deep Woods is particularly good for camping, going to the shooting range, fishing and hiking. It dries very quickly and leaves no residue. It repels day into evening without it being necessary to respray. If it’s a long day that turns into a long night—reapply at dusk and be covered until you turn in for the night. OFF! Cons: Deep Woods has a smell some might not like, and it gets sticky when mixed with sweat.
Cutter is incredibly cost effective compared to other mosquito repellant and its packaging is attractive to those who are skeptical about using DEET. It has 7% DEET and 93% “other” ingredients that aren’t listed. The Cutter Skinsations has a nice refreshing sensation when sprayed and dries quickly. Yet it does require some rubbing to even out the liquid. It is not sticky and barely has any odor. Cons: This one you must reapply throughout the day/evening to get maximum coverage. It can turn black clothing white with a powdery residue, but that washes out.
Picaridin was developed by Bayer (as in the aspirin manufacturer) in the 1980s. It is the best spelling bug repellent in Europe but has only been approved for use in the U.S.A. since 2005. It has been found to be as effective as DEET in repelling mosquitoes.
OFF! Family Care
OFF! Family Care is a good choice for those who have concerns about DEET. It contains 5% Picaridin. This spray has a pleasant, fresh odor and can last up to four hours; however, you might find yourself having to reapply every hour—especially as it grows darker and you’re around water. There is no greasy or oily feeling when applied and the spray is nice and even. Cons: The biggest con is having to consistently add layer after layer throughout the night. This means the bottle doesn’t last as long and is not as cost-effective as some of the other repellents.
IR3535 (Insect Repellent 3535) was developed and a registered trademark by Merck. Created in the 1980s, IR3535 is an amino acid that messes with a mosquito’s sense of smell.
This two-in-one contains SPF 30 and 20% IR3535. It provides up to eight hours of protection. It is also water-resistant, so this is good for being on the lake, the beach or out by the pool. Cons: It is extremely oily, needs rubbing in for even coverage and can leave a thick film on the skin.
Permethrin was registered with the EPA in 1979 and the military used it on their uniforms in the 1990s to repel bugs. It is a synthetic that act likes a natural extract from chrysanthemums. Permethrin is biodegradable, kills ticks and lasts 5 to 6 washes.
Before a trip to Mexico where mosquitos were tested to be carrying the Zika Virus, one of the Best In Bunch editors treated their travel clothes with it and zipped them up in airtight bags. One application will last up to six washes. It did the trick. The entire trip was mosquito-bite free. Use in combination with DEET sprayed on exposed skin for maximum protection. Cons: You should not spray it on your skin and it can be fatal to cats when wet.
For anyone who is completely averse to using synthetics, Repel makes a 30% oil of lemon eucalyptus spray. It’s a small, four-ounce bottle that costs more than chemical-based sprays. This spray is not recommended for heavily-infested areas; however, if you aren’t a mosquito magnet, this works for some. You must reapply as often as up to every hour. It has a strong, but not unpleasant odor. Don’t trust it to keep off ticks, but it is safe to spray on clothing or gear without staining or damaging fabrics. Cons: It’s questionable how effective this spray is in repelling mosquitos.
These six top-selling mosquito repellents are effective at repelling mosquitoes, some more than others. For those who swear by clip-ons, wristbands and all-natural essential oil-based sprays, you should feel thankful mosquitos don’t find you as attractive as others. Studies have shown that some people are just enticing to mosquitos. For those of you who are, we highly recommend the most effective repellent on this list.