Best Review Guide on Mosquito Repellents

What are mosquito repellents and how do they work?

What are the best mosquito repellent and how they workMosquito repellents are chemical substances, sold as sprays, creams, wristbands, sticks, wipes, or liquids that help prevent mosquito bites. Repellents are typically formulated for use on bare skin or clothing in order to make the air around the human skin unpleasant to insects so they are less likely to come close and bite. Repellents do not kill mosquitoes but help deter them from biting people. In other words, mosquito repellent help mask the chemical cues (carbon dioxide emissions, smell of sweat…etc) and prevent mosquitoes from finding its target. Mosquito repellents substances evaporate and, depending on the substance and its concentration, remain active for a few minutes to a few hours. Mosquito repellents only work on the surface area onto which the repellent has been applied: mosquitoes will bite 1.5 inches away from the repellent surface area.

What are the main types of mosquito repellents?

Synthetic chemicals


DEET based products (N,N-diethyl-3-methylbenzamide)has been the most recommended mosquito repellents for over 50 years. DEET was developed by the US army in 1946, and made available to the public in 1957. It is considered a reliable and effective insect repellent and has been used to repel mosquitoes, flies, chiggers, fleas, and ticks. DEET mosquito repellents are sold under various brands, concentrations (5% to 100%) and forms (lotions, sprays, wristbands). DEET is not a pesticide according to EPA as it does not kill insects (unlike the dangerous and now banned insecticide DDT). A product with 5% DEET concentration will protect against mosquitoes for about 90 minutes. If the concentration is closer to 100%, the protection will last between 8 to 10 hours.

Are DEET repellents safe?DEET mosquitoes repellent kids
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) deem DEET safe, even for children and pregnant women as long as used properly. EPA re-evaluated the safety of DEET in 1998: it was found to be very safe when used according to label directions (it should only be applied once a day to exposed skin and clothing). The American Academy of Pediatrics says it is safe to be used on children 2 month and older, as long as it is applied by an adult, and in concentration up to 10%. DEET products should never be swallowed, used on irritated skin or close to eyes or mouths.


The CDC considers Picaridin (KBR 3023) to be one of the second most effective mosquito and ticks repellent. It was developed by Bayer Corporation in the 1980s and has been in use since 1998, mostly in Europe and Australia. Unlike DEET, Picaridin is orderless, does not damage clothing, does not melt plastic, and is not greasy. Picaridin can be used on children as young as 2-years old. A 20% concentration is effective for about 8 hours.

Are Picaridin repellents safe?
Picaridin products should be used according to label instructions to remain safe. Picaridin products should never be swallowed, used on irritated skin or close to eyes or mouths.

For Clothing Only: Permethrin

Permethrin Mosquitos spray for campingPermethrin, unlike DEET, is an insecticide: it will kill mosquitoes that come in contact with the substance. It should NEVER be applied to the skin but can be used on clothing, tents, camping gear, or mosquito nets. Permethrin remains potent for several weeks, even after the fabric has been washed several times. Permethrin is effective in killing most insects (ticks, mosquitoes, lice, mites), including our loved honey bees. 
Are Permethrin repellents safe?
Permethrin is a broad-spectrum chemicals and will kill more than the intended pest. Unless it comes in the form of a topical cream prescribed by your physician, it should never be applied to the skin. Based on studies, the EPA has classified Permethrin as a likely human carcinogen. Permethrin is very toxic to cats.

IR3535® (Ethyl butylacetylaminopropionate)

IR3535IR3535® was developed by Mark and has been used as a mosquito, repellent in Europe for several decades. It is an engineered compound that is structurally similar to a naturally occurring amino acid. IR3535® is odorless and has been found to be effective against mosquitoes carrying West Nile Virus, Zika, Chikungunya and Yellow Fever. IR3535® can be applied directly on the skin. 
Are IR3535 repellents safe?
IR3535 has been approved by the CDC has an effective mosquito repellent for those seeking a non-DEET product. IR3535 is biodegradable within a short amount of time. It may created mild skin irritation and eye contact should be avoided.

Plant-derived Oils

While some repellent active ingredients may be derived from plants, remain cautious as they may still be irritating and poisonous if ingested.

While some repellent active ingredients may be derived from plants, remain cautious as they may still be irritating and poisonous if ingested.

Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) Or PMD (chemical name: para-menthane-3,8-diol)

Oil Lemon Eucalyptus OLE PMD against mosquitoesOil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) is an essential oil extracted from the leaves of the lemon eucalyptus tree (Eucalyptus citriodora or Corymbia citriodora) that has been refined in order to have a minimum of 64% PMD (p-menthane 3,8-diol). PMD is the component that is effective in repelling mosquitoes. Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) should not be confused with lemon eucalyptus essential oil, which has not been proven effective as a mosquito repellent. At concentration of 30%, OLE seems to be effective as a mosquito repellent for 4 to 6 hours, therefore, requiring more frequent applications than when using DEET.

Are Oil of lemon eucalyptus safe? OLE with enhanced PMD concentration can cause skin reactions. The US Food and Drug Administration (USDA) does not recommend the use of PMD in children younger than 3 years due to a lack of testing for this age group.

Oil of citronella

Cymbopogon lemongrassesCitronella is an oil obtained from Cymbopogon lemongrasses, containing Citronellol and geraniol. Many manufacturers use citronella in candles, torches or lotion to repel against mosquitoes. While citronella candles have been used for decades, they do not reduce exposure to mosquitos any more than regular candles. In general, citronella is not very effective as a mosquito repellent. Citronella oil should be handled with care as it is irritating to skin and eyes.

General Tips on using Mosquito Repellents

  • Always follow the label instructions
  • If the repellent is safe to be used on skin, apply sparingly only to exposed skin.
  • Never inhale or ingest insect repellents.
  • Keep repellents away from eyes and mouths. Avoid applying repellents on hands that may come in contact with eyes or mouths.
  • Use sprays to avoid contact with hands and assure an even application
  • Use lotions or sticks for a more precise application
  • Do not apply on wounds, eyes, lips, cuts or irritated skin
  • Wash treated skin area as soon as the repellent is not needed anymore
  • Do not use products combining sunscreen/mosquito repellent: sunscreens should be reapplied more often than repellents and may increase risks of over exposure to the repellent substances.
  • Do not use near food, or in the kitchen, and wash your hands after application and before eating or drinking.

TOP Mosquito Repellent Reviews in 2020

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Do It Yourself (DIY) Bug Spray

If you want to make your own mosquito repellent from ingredients that you have in your kitchen, check out the video below.

This article was last updated in April 2020