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

    • Fox News’ Alan Colmes Dies at 66 After ‘Brief Illness’

      Fox News contributor and commentator Alan Colmes has died after a brief illness. He was 66.

      People
    • Call Her Hot Mama June! Honey Boo Boo and Pumpkin Talk About Their Mom’s Journey from 460 Lbs. to a Size 4

      Mama June Shannon may just need to change her name to Hot Mama June. After undergoing weight loss surgery, the matriarch of the Here Comes Honey Boo Boo family will reveal her new body on the reality TV screen in WE tv’s new docu-dramedy Mama June: From Not to Hot. But first, her daughters Alana (known better to fans as “Honey Boo Boo”) and Lauryn (AKA “Pumpkin”) stopped by Entertainment Tonight to explain how their mother went from 460 lbs. to a size 4. “She had gastric sleeve back in May of 2015, and then she slowly started losing weight, and the reason she got the gastric sleeve was because she hit a plateau — she couldn’t lose any weight,” Pumpkin explained of her mom’s surgery to make her stomach smaller.

      People
    • California's punishing rain creates rare spectacle

      First the rain, now the drain. California’s punishing rain this month has flooded neighborhoods and triggered evacuations. It has also pushed Lake Berryessa in Napa County way beyond capacity, pouring water into its bathtub-like drain. It’s the first time that’s happened in 11 years, reports CBS News correspondent Mireya Villarreal. “Back in October, we were essentially half-full,” said Roland Sanford, general manager of the Solano County Water Agency. “This is the first time that the lake has been so low, and filled-up and spilled in one year.” What looks calm at the top of the “Morning Glory Spillway” looks like a raging torrent at the bottom. The spillway is located 200 feet from the Monticello

      CBS News q
    • Off-Duty Cop Fires Shot During Scuffle With Boy, 13, Sparking Widespread Outrage

      Video of the confrontation encouraged hundreds to swarm Anaheim, Calif., streets.

      Inside Edition
    • Conservative provocateur James O'Keefe says he plans to leak 'hundreds of hours of tape' in CNN exposé

      Conservative provocateur James O'Keefe said Tuesday that he plans to release "hundreds of hours...

      Business Insider
    • Prominent gamer died during live-streamed attempt to play ‘World of Tanks’ for 24 hours

      Twenty-two hours into a 24-hour-long marathon video game session, Twitch streamer Brian Vigneault, 35, got up to take a smoke break. He never returned to his computer. His fans, mainly fellow gamers who watched Vigneault play the online skirmisher “World of Tanks,” wondered if Vigneault had fallen asleep. Although it was around 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, falling asleep in the afternoon would not have been completely unexpected. Vigneault, under the online nickname Poshybrid, would play “World of Tanks” for extreme lengths of time to raise donations for charity. When a moderator messaged Vigneault a few hours after his abrupt disappearance, a Virginia Beach detective responded via Vigneault’s computer

      Washington Post q
    • Ask Amy: My ex-wife won’t talk, even when our kid was in crisis

      DEAR AMY: My former wife and I divorced after 26 years of marriage. She has refused to communicate with me. We have twins in their late 20s — a daughter and a son. Although neither is married, each wants to eventually get married, and so I anticipate weddings. Our son graduates law school this spring. He may feel awkward about having both his parents attend his graduation. Last year, he went through a terrible crisis — the death of one of his best friends. It was terribly hard on him, yet his mom never talked to me about how we might help him. Such occasions — a grief-stricken child, and a grown child’s life event — call for parents to come together. I want to talk with my former wife about the

      MercuryNews.com q
    • This drone video perfectly captures the dread of falling into an abyss

      There's just something about big, deep voids that strike fear in the deepest reaches of the human brain. Black holes and whirlpools are great examples of this, as is the Glory Hole Spillway in Napa, California. A massive hole in Lake Berryessa helps regulate an overflow of water at the lake's dam, and when a recent spat of wet weather caused the spillway to overflow for the first time, one intrepid drone pilot decided to see just how close he could get. The answer: too close. Starting at an altitude of 1,000 feet, drone pilot David B navigated his drone slowly downwards, perfectly in line with the Glory Hole. Everything was going smoothly, and you can even see a different drone checking out the hole prior to David B's attempt, but then things got a little dicey. "When I lowered the drone into the Glory Hole it became unstable and almost crashed into the side," he says. Luckily, he was able to make a last second ascent before the drone actually came in contact with the rushing water. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iMLulzPZBC0 The video is awesome, but it's not the only glimpse of the watery abyss that was filmed that day. Local news station Lake Berryessa News was able to capture its own look at the spillway in action, and got mighty close to the danger zone as well. I might have gone with a slightly different choice of musical accompaniment — maybe Waterfalls by TLC — but the video is mighty impressive nonetheless. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NxOOnKL265I

      BGR News
    • Papa John's stock crashes and it may all be because of the NFL

      Better sales. Better stock price. Not Papa John's.

      The Street q
    • Off-duty LAPD officer fires weapon during confrontation with teens in Anaheim

      An off-duty Los Angeles police officer fired his weapon outside his Anaheim home during an altercation with two juveniles.

      KABC – Los Angeles
    • Mama June’s Weight Loss Surgeries Revealed -- How She Went From 460 Pounds to a Size 4

      How Mama June got down from 460 pounds to a reported size 4.

      Entertainment Tonight
    • The Best Beauty Looks from London Fashion Week's Fall 2017 Runways (15 photos)

      Fashion month is in full swing. At London Fashion Week , designers didn't hold back when it came to creating hair and makeup moments just as memorable as their Fall 2017 collections. If the multiple crimped hair and bold eyeshadow sightings on the runways are any indication, expect these two '80s trends to experience a resurgence next fall. Here, we've rounded up all of the beauty looks you need to see from London Fashion Week's Fall 2017 runways. VIDEO: Get a Recap of London Fashion Week

      InStyle
    • How Jesse Jackson Jr. collects $138,400 a year from the federal government

      Records from former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.'s divorce case show how he has been able to collect hefty benefit checks from the federal government after serving time in prison for looting hundreds of thousands of dollars from his campaign fund. Most of that — about $100,000 — is workers' compensation and tax-free, according to Chicago attorney Barry Schatz, who is representing Jackson in his divorce proceeding. The rest of Jackson's benefits are Social Security Disability Insurance payments, some of which may be taxable, Schatz said. The payments flow to Jackson because he has bipolar disorder and depression — the issues that led to an extended leave from Congress in 2012 — and those conditions have been exacerbated by a "very difficult, contentious divorce" from former Chicago Ald.

      Chicago Tribune q
    • Chef José Andrés Addresses His Lawsuit with President Trump: ‘I Did What I Had to Do’

      For chef José Andrés, becoming embroiled in a legal battle with anyone—let alone the President of the United States—is brand new territory. Andrés found himself at the receiving end of a lawsuit from Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign after he pulled out of a restaurant project in Washington, D.C.’s Trump Hotel. The move was a response to the then-candidate’s controversial remarks about Hispanic immigrants, which the chef claims made it difficult to attract staffers and customers.

      People
    • Utah Teens Allegedly Left 14-Year-Old for Dead After Shooting Her in the Head and Robbing Her

      Two Utah teens were charged Tuesday with the attempted murder of a 14-year-old girl who police said was shot in the back of the head, robbed and then left for dead last week. The 16-year-old boys, who were arrested over the weekend, are charged with one count each of first-degree felony attempted aggravated murder and aggravated robbery and four counts each of second-degree felony obstructing justice. The two teen suspects allegedly lured their victim to a dry canal bed in Smithfield, Utah, under the guise of selling her a knife, according to charging documents obtained by PEOPLE.

      People
    • Alan Colmes Dies: Liberal Half Of Fox News’ ‘Hannity & Colmes’ Was 66

      Alan Colmes, the cable news and radio commentator who, as half of Fox News’ early and long-running Hannity & Colmes was the network’s go-to voice for a more liberal viewpoint, is dead following a brief illness at the age of 66. Colmes death was announced on Fox News in a segment narrated by Hannity, who called Colmes “one of the nicest, kindest and most generous people.” Fox News confirmed his death. A statement on Colmes’ website says he is survived by wife Jocelyn Elise…

      Deadline
    • Ben Simmons, Robert Covington react to Ersan Ilyasova trade

      On Wednesday, the Sixers traded Ersan Ilyasova to the Hawks in exchange for Tiago Splitter and a 2017 second-round pick, as well as the option to swap 2017 second-round selections (see story). "I want to thank Ersan Ilyasova for his positive contributions to this organization both on and off the basketball court," president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo said in a statement. The Sixers took to Instagram to express their appreciation for Ilyasovas leadership.

      CSN Philly q
    • Fit Mom Tammy Hembrow Shares a Photo of Her Loose Belly Skin Post-Baby

      Australian fitness trainer and mom-of-two Tammy Hembrow bounced back to having a flat tummy just weeks after giving birth to her second child, but she recently shared a photo that shows that her stomach isn’t perfect — and she’s totally fine with that. On Saturday, Hembrow posted a mirror selfie on Instagram that shows her holding her baby while wearing a crop top and gray leggings.

      People
    • Here's how much money you should have saved at every age

      By age 30, you should have the equivalent of your salary saved.

      CNBC
    • ‘Walking Dead’ star slams T-shirt controversy: ‘People are stupid’

      Jeffrey Dean Morgan is shocked and stunned by The Walking Dead T-shirt controversy — shocked and stunned, that is, that anybody would find the shirt controversial in the first place. To recap: U.K. department chain Primark pulled a Walking Dead T-shirt (image below) from its stores after a customer complained the clothing item is “racist” and “offensive.” The shirt featured Negan’s signature Lucille baseball bat and his victim-selecting rhyme, “Eeny meeny miny moe, catch a tiger by the toe…” The problem?

      Entertainment Weekly