Best insect repellents

Consumer Reports

Mosquito

(iStockphoto)

A good insect repellent can protect you from mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus, ticks, and other biting insects.

Concerned about West Nile virus or ticks? Or just want to enjoy late-summer and fall outdoor gatherings, camping, hiking, and hunting without biting bugs? If so, you're in luck.

For this insect repellent review, brave testers at an outside lab bared their arms in mosquito-filled cages and also let ticks crawl on them. We recorded how long it took for mosquitoes to start biting and for ticks to crawl over treated areas. Our bugs were free of disease, but wild mosquitoes in the U.S. can carry West Nile virus or St. Louis encephalitis. Travelers outside the U.S. might encounter mosquitoes carrying malaria, yellow fever, or dengue fever. Ticks can spread Lyme disease, human babesiosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. (Stay on top of the news related to West Nile virus at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's West Nile page.)

MORE AT COnsumer Reports

Several tested repellents (see ratings below) protected against deer ticks and two common types of mosquitoes for 8 hours or more. Four of those—Off Deep Woods Sportsmen II (30%), Cutter Backwoods Unscented (23%), Off FamilyCare Smooth & Dry (15%), and 3M Ultrathon Insect Repellent 8 (25%)—contain deet in varying levels.

The active ingredient in some insect repellents is oil of lemon eucalyptus. (It's not recommended for children under 3.) Almost as effective was Natrapel 8-Hour with picaridin, which protects with picaridin. Our five top choices worked for at least 7 hours.

(See also: What you need to know about sunscreen)

While effectiveness of the best insect repellents is similar they feel and smell somewhat different. Cutter Backwoods leaves little scent or sensation; Off Deep Woods has a citrusy odor and filmy residue panelists wanted to wash off; Off FamilyCare has a fruity odor and dries quickly; 3M Ultrathon has a strong odor and leaves an oily feeling on the skin at first; Natrapel has a floral odor and is a little greasy.

Ingredient issues. The Environmental Protection Agency judges deet safe when used as directed, but it has caused rare toxic reactions when misused. Don't use it on infants less than 2 months old. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises against using repellents with deet concentrations higher than 30 percent on any children. We think that no one needs a repellent with more than 30 percent deet.

Also note that national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you avoid products that mix sunscreen with deet insect repellent. Unlike repellents, sunscreens are meant to be applied liberally and often, so using a combination product could result in unnecessarily high exposure to repellents. Another reason not to use a combo: Many mosquitoes tend to bite long after the highest risk of sun damage has passed.

Bottom line. Most of the tested products will do the job if you're going to be outside for only a couple of hours, but look for a highly rated product to protect you on longer excursions. The insect repellents in our ratings, below, are still available; prices reflect what we paid when we tested these products in 2010.

How to apply repellent and protect yourself

When applying any repellent, follow directions. Use your hands to apply it to your face, avoiding your eyes and mouth, and don't apply it to cuts. Use just enough to cover exposed skin. Some directions suggest using it on clothes, but most tested repellents damaged leather and vinyl, and some of them stained synthetic fabrics. Wash repellent off your skin and launder treated clothes. For extra protection:


Wear light-colored, loose clothes and avoid using scented products when outdoors, especially at peak feeding hours—dusk to dawn for most mosquitoes.

Remove standing water near your house. It can be a mosquito breeding ground.

To avoid ticks, tuck pants into socks and wear closed shoes and a hat. (Read about tick protection for pets.)

Inspect yourself for ticks after venturing into wooded or grassy areas.


Mosquito



Copyright © 2006-2013 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. No reproduction, in whole or in part, without written permission.

Sorry you didn't like this comment. Please provide a reason below.

Are you sure?
Rating failed. Try again.
Request failed. Try again.
We will promote constructive and witty comments to the top, so everyone sees them!
Sorry, we can’t load comments right now. Try again.

    Recommended for You

    • Mark Zuckerberg is suing hundreds of Hawaiians to protect his 700-acre Kauai estate

      Mark Zuckerberg paid close to $100 million for 700 acres of beachfront property on the island of...

      Business Insider
    • Andrew Napolitano: Attorney General Loretta Lynch and a parting shot at personal freedom

      On Jan. 3, outgoing Attorney General Loretta Lynch secretly signed an order directing the National Security Agency -- America’s 60,000-person-strong domestic spying apparatus -- to make available raw spying data to all other federal intelligence agencies, which then can pass it on to their counterparts in foreign countries and in the 50 states upon request. She did so, she claimed, for administrative convenience. Yet in doing this, she violated basic constitutional principles that were erected centuries ago to prevent just what she did. Here is the back story. In the aftermath of former President Richard Nixon’s abusive utilization of the FBI and CIA to spy on his domestic political opponents

      Fox News q
    • Floyd Mayweather Failed Miserably At Trying To Troll Conor McGregor For Being Broke

      Floyd Mayweather is at it again, attempting to antagonize Conor McGregor as they continue their very strange beef and teasing a potential fight between the biggest star in boxing and the biggest star in mixed martial arts. The latest installment in the Mayweather-McGregor saga comes courtesy of Floyd’s Twitter, as he attempted to troll McGregor by comparing the two’s net worths. The reason he did this is because Dana White recently offered both fighters $25 million plus a negotiated pay-per-view revenue split to fight.

      UPROXX
    • VIDEO: Driver Licenses From Nine States Won’t Be Valid IDs for Domestic Flights in 2018

      Beginning Jan. 22, 2018, travelers from nine states will no longer be able to travel with only their driver’s licenses.

      Travel & Leisure Video
    • Police search for whoever wanted Lauderdale Lakes man dead beyond a reasonable doubt

      Gary Wallock’s killer shot 10 to 12 bullets into his body Monday evening as he lay beside his car in a restaurant parking lot in Lauderhill. To help find the killer, Lauderhill police released surveillance video of the parking lot execution Wednesday afternoon. The video did not show the killer’s facial features, but viewers could see his build and gait. Police are also looking for a 2010 blue Nissan Altima sedan with dark-tinted windows that bears Florida license plate EZX F13. The shooting occurred around 5:30 p.m. Monday as Wallock, 34, left the Lobster and Seafood Warehouse with a friend. As they reached Wallock’s car, the friend headed for the front passenger door while he paused by the

      Miami Herald q
    • 'The Big Bang Theory' First Look: Raj's Girlfriends Return!

      From now until the end of the month, follow the hashtag #25Scoops25Days on Twitter and Instagram to keep up with the latest — and check EW.com/25scoops for all the news and surprises. The Big Bang Theory is soon going to put Raj in a tight spot when all of his exes return — and EW has an exclusive first look. In the Feb. 2 episode, Raj (Kunal Nayyar) holds a focus group of his ex-girlfriends to determine what has gone wrong in his previous relationships. Hence, Emily (Laura Spencer), Claire (Alessandra Torresani), Lucy (Kate Micucci), and Emily (Katie Leclerc) all return to weigh in.

      Entertainment Weekly q
    • The Rock Brings 15-Year-Old Daughter to the People’s Choice Awards – Then Jokingly Drops the F-Bomb During Acceptance Speech

      When Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson won the 2017 People’s Choice Award for favorite premium series actor on Wednesday, his mini-me was on hand to celebrate. Johnson, who was PEOPLE’s 2016 Sexiest Man Alive, shares Simone with ex Dany Garcia. Simone and Johnson also posed with girl group Fifth Harmony, who are performing for the first time as a foursome at the show.

      People
    • The internet roasts a photo of Donald Trump writing his inauguration speech

      When times get tough, at least you can still meme. President-elect Donald Trump is slated to deliver his inauguration address on Friday, so he teased his Twitter followers with a little behind-the-scenes photo of himself writing a speech at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. SEE ALSO: Don's Johns: Port-a-potties get censored for Trump’s inauguration Writing my inaugural address at the Winter White House, Mar-a-Lago, three weeks ago. Looking forward to Friday. #Inauguration pic.twitter.com/S701FdTCQu — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 18, 2017 The staged photo and Trump's cold, dead gaze sent the internet straight into "meme mode alpha," where it was pointed out that Trump was actually holding Sharpie marker, which may or may not actually be closed. @realDonaldTrump that is a blank piece of paper and you're holding a closed sharpie pic.twitter.com/ekCcH8eTXe — Jules Suzdaltsev (@jules_su) January 18, 2017 @cajunmonkey439 @realDonaldTrump It is *obviously* a sharpie. pic.twitter.com/gdD2AUhBKX — Jules Suzdaltsev (@jules_su) January 18, 2017 .@realDonaldTrump pic.twitter.com/8CSroNshBR — XpeK (@peKofX) January 18, 2017 Surprised that you didn't just use this photo as your epic, bigly speech pic.twitter.com/SezwzToFg4 — Roland Scahill (@rolandscahill) January 18, 2017 good job @realDonaldTrump pic.twitter.com/Ioj869Tfy3 — uhhh (@_uhhhhhhh) January 18, 2017 pic.twitter.com/pAKcXAEAkD — Sam Grittner (@SamGrittner) January 18, 2017 @realDonaldTrump #NotMyPresident #TheResistance #conflict #Putin #Inauguration In house security cam Mar a Lago pic.twitter.com/diwnpjAS3F — Beo Bachter (@kaysintBB) January 18, 2017 Early draft of Donald Trump’s inauguration speech. #TrumpSpeech #MyFirstWordsAsPresident #MAGA pic.twitter.com/qgo1glv5cG — Tom ❄️ (@TommieWho) January 18, 2017 Exclusive sneak peek at Trump's inauguration speech! pic.twitter.com/6W6ex0Ks3z — Kara Calavera (@KaraCalavera) January 18, 2017 Trump's Inaugural address leaked... pic.twitter.com/J8soJQ4Ira — Jordan Uhl (@JordanUhl) January 18, 2017 Exclusive: #Trump's Inauguration speech leaked! #TrumpInaugural #trumpgrammar pic.twitter.com/XzrXXpnjxD — Gerry Stergiopoulos (@GerryGreek) January 18, 2017 According to CNN, Trump did write his inauguration speech himself. BONUS: NBD, just a massive alligator out for a stroll

      Mashable
    • I tried Whataburger, In-N-Out, and Shake Shack — and the winner is clear

      The INSIDER Summary: • There's always been competition between the east and west coasts when it comes to burgers.  • In-N-Out takes the title as the best burger, but Whataburger's honey chicken biscuits are a solid bet too. Ah, the great debate of burger joints. If you're on the Eastern side of the USA, you may be more of a Shake Shack fan. However, for those of you on the West Coast, you may be more partial to some In-N-Out or Whataburger. Unfortunately for me, I am smack dab in the middle with many other flyover states, and close to none of these amazing burger joints. However, I do travel a lot and have had the opportunity to try all three varieties, time and time again (I just love burgers,

      Business Insider q
    • Cancer Patient Who Did 'Juju on That Beat' During Chemo in Viral Video Dies

      Ana-Alecia Ayala, who made headlines in October for dancing up a storm during chemotherapy treatments, has died after a year-long battle against cancer.

      Inside Edition
    • 8 Michelle Obama Quotes That Will Get You Through 2017 (8 photos)

      Happy birthday, Michelle Obama ! FLOTUS turns 53 years old today--during her last week in the White House, no less--and we can't help but get a little teary thinking about the grand impact she's had these past eight years. From creating her female education initiative, Let Girls Learn , to championing healthy living that's about more than just what you eat, Michelle has been revolutionary in more ways than one. Heck, even her style has changed the game for countless First Ladies to come. VIDEO: Michelle Obama's Best Looks of All Time 5121546754001 But perhaps what we'll remember most about this FLOTUS was her commitment to equality, in race, gender, class, and everything in between. No one says it better than her husband, President Barack Obama . "Michelle, for the past 25 years, you've been not only my wife and mother of my children, but my best friend. You took on a role you didn't ask for and made it your own with grace and grit and style and good humor," he said in his farewell address. "You made the White House a place that belongs to everybody. And a new generation sets its sights higher because it has you as a role model. You've made me proud. You've made the country proud." As we attempt to fix our supposedly waterproof mascara, join us in taking a look back at eight of Michelle's most inspirational quotes. We will miss you, FLOTUS.

      InStyle
    • Theo Epstein of the Chicago Cubs shares his 20% rule for getting ahead in your career

      The MLB star was once the youngest general manager in baseball history.

      CNBC.com q
    • Teen Who Was Kidnapped as a Baby Knew About Abduction, Court Records Say

      The South Carolina woman accused of kidnapping a newborn baby from a hospital in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1998 allegedly admitted to the crime over a year ago, according to court documents obtained by ABC News. Gloria Williams, 51, allegedly abducted Alexis Manigo on July 10, 1998, just hours after she was born at a Jacksonville hospital and raised the girl as her own in South Carolina. Williams allegedly posed as a nurse and told the baby's mother that the newborn had a fever and she needed to take her away, according to Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams.

      Good Morning America 41 min ago
    • Olivia Munn Sports Sexy Gown for 'Ocean's Eight' Cameo in NYC as Aaron Rodgers' Family Feud Goes Public

      The 36-year-old actress is leaving very little to the imagination!

      Entertainment Tonight
    • Kristin Cavallari Defends Husband Jay Cutler After People Fat Shame Him on Instagram

      Kristin Cavallari knows her husband, NFL quarterback Jay Cutler, is “hot AF” — even if people try to fat shame him. After Cavallari, 30, shared a photo of the two of them on a surprise vacation in Mexico for her birthday, her followers started commenting that Cutler had gained weight. “Since Jay looked like a 300-lb. lesbian in my last post, I felt I should do him justice by posting him looking hot AF in this one,” she posted.

      People
    • Entertainment Tonight
    • Trump poised to take executive actions on first day in office

      By Steve Holland and Julia Edwards Ainsley WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Donald Trump is preparing to begin taking executive actions on his first day in the White House on Friday to roll back policies of outgoing President Barack Obama and implement parts of his plans to crack down on immigration and build a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border. Trump, a Republican who was elected on Nov. 8 and will be sworn in during a ceremony at the U.S. Capitol on Friday, is poised to wield one of the most powerful tools of his office, the presidential pen, for executive actions that can be implemented without the input of Congress. "He is committed to not just Day 1, but Day 2, Day 3 of enacting an agenda of real change, and I think that you're going to see that in the days and weeks to come," Trump spokesman Sean Spicer said on Thursday, telling reporters to expect activity on Friday, during the weekend and early next week.

      Reuters 56 min ago
    • Alibaba founder Jack Ma has a brutal theory of how America went wrong over the past 30 years

      DAVOS, Switzerland — Alibaba founder Jack Ma thinks America went wrong over the past 30...

      Business Insider