The 12 Best Mosquito Repellents to Keep Your Family Protected
Take the bite out of mosquito season with one of these best mosquito repellents you can buy.
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How to choose the best bug repellant
Ah, the sweet summer months are now upon us, which means picnics in the park, fun BBQ ideas, days at the pool…and mosquitos. Hopefully, you don’t live in one of the most mosquito infected cities in the US, but you can still get bitten almost anywhere.
And although mosquitos have not been shown to transmit COVID, they can ruin your evening and leave you itching and scratching for days. Luckily, there are plenty of safe and simple ways to keep mosquitos at bay, from plants that repel mosquitos and natural bug repellents to mosquito-repelling lawn treatments and EPA-approved bug sprays. The challenge is to pick the right one.
“When choosing a personal repellent, make sure you match your insect repellent to the environment you are going to be in, as well as your activity,” says Tania Elliott, MD, an internist, allergist, and immunologist. “Different repellents offer a varied range of active ingredients, strengths, and lengths of protection.” Keep in mind: “The higher the percentage of the active ingredient (i.e. DEET), the longer one application will last,” she adds.
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Key ingredients to look for in a bug spray
The mosquito repellent you use in your yard should not be the same kind you use on your body.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these mosquito repellent ingredients are EPA-approved and safe for use—even by pregnant or breastfeeding women:
- DEET, which is suitable for babies over two months, according to the CDC
- Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), which is not suitable for kids under the age of three, according to the CDC
- Para-menthane-diol (PMD), which is not suitable for kids under the age of three, according to the CDC
For yards and large areas: The above ingredients won’t be as effective on large spaces. These are the recommended active ingredients for large-scale adult mosquito treatments in residential settings:
- Piperonyl butoxide
You may also want to invest in one of these best bug zappers.
How to properly apply bug spray
“Many people don’t know how to properly apply personal insect repellent,” Dr. Elliot notes—because yes, there’s a “right” and “wrong” way to do it. “It’s best to put it on your hands first, then rub the repellent in to ensure you don’t miss any spots,” she explains. “This is especially important to remember if you have kids,” she says. Just don’t forget to wash your hands afterward!
Also, if you’re using both sunscreen and bug spray, the CDC recommends applying the sunscreen first and the mosquito repellent second.
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Natural ways to deter mosquitos
If you’re looking for a natural way to repel mosquitos, take these steps:
- Drain any standing bodies of water. This one is the most important steps, since mosquitos need water to breed, and standing water might contain mosquito larvae. Whether it’s collected in your kid’s outdoor toys or the saucer of an outdoor planter, dump it out.
- Use yellow-hued lightbulbs outside. Bright white lights can attract mosquitos, so switching over to yellow-hued bulbs will help minimize these pests.
- Wear protective clothing. According to the CDC, you don’t need to apply bug spray to any areas of your body covered with clothes, so long pants and long sleeves aren’t a bad idea—as long as you can stand the heat! For extra protection, consider wearing clothing treated with permethrin (it’s an insecticide that kills bugs and mosquitos and lasts through multiple washes).
Best mosquito repellants for skin
1. OFF! Deep Woods Bug Spray & Mosquito Repellent
This mosquito repellent is best for everyday use. The 25 percent DEET works to form a vapor barrier around your skin, keeping mosquitoes from landing (and biting!). While DEET can be oily, this dry spray is specially formulated so it doesn’t leave a greasy, sticky residue, making it ideal for outdoor fun.
2. Sawyer Products 20% Picaridin Insect Repellent Lotion
With up to 14 hours of mosquito-repelling power, this product is best for camping trips. Whether you’re out on the trails or fishing by the lake, the Picaridin in this mosquito repellent not only keeps them away, but it also keeps them from biting, according to the National Pesticide Information Center. And since it’s a non-greasy lotion, it’s easy to rub on. Bonus: It repels ticks and chiggers, too.
3. Cutter Backwoods Pest Repellent
“For those days when you’ll be hiking and/or outside for quite some time, I recommend products from the Cutter Backwoods collection, which includes a high DEET option for those sweaty, buggy days,” Dr. Elliott says. Cutter Backwoods Pest Repellent contains 25 percent DEET and lasts for up to 10 hours.
4. Bug Bam! Mosquito Bands
Slide on one of these bands on your wrist anytime you’re headed toward water—they’re waterproof, making them perfect for days at the lake, kayaking, or any other water-focused activity. Made with lemongrass, peppermint, and citronella, these bands deter mosquitos naturally—plus they’re sweat-proof, and last for 100 straight hours.
Best repellent for clothing, gear, and on-the-go adventures
5. Sawyer Products Premium Permethrin Insect Repellent for Clothing, Gear & Tents
Arm yourself and your belongings against mosquitos with this mosquito repellent specifically designed to be applied to clothing and gear. The permethrin actually bonds directly to fabric fibers (don’t worry, it doesn’t stain and dries odorless) and will last up to six weeks or six washings.
6. Thermacell MR300 Portable Mosquito Repeller
Whether you stash it in your backpack or carry it with you while hiking, this handy little gadget is the best portable mosquito repeller you can find. It uses the same mosquito-repelling ingredients and technology that makes the larger Thermacell Patio Shield Mosquito Repeller so popular. Even though it’s smaller, it still covers the same 15-foot radius.
Best mosquito repellent for yards
7. Cutter Backyard Bug Control
The best all-around mosquito repellent for yards is Cutter Backyard Bug Control because it’s so easy to use! You just attach it to your hose, start spraying, and the active ingredient (Lambda-cyhalothrin) will go to work. Even better: You can get away with doing it just once a season since the results last up to three months.
8. Thermacell Patio Shield Mosquito Repeller
This best mosquito repeller for patios is a #1 Best Seller on Amazon for a reason: It really works. The device heats unscented replaceable mats containing a type of pyrethrins called d-cis/trans allethrin that naturally repel mosquitos. Each mat works for four hours and covers a 15-foot radius, so just one device can keep your outdoor seating area bug-free. You can also get it in a chic lantern version, too.
9. Cutter 95783 Citronella Candle
This best-budget mosquito repellent is a tried-and-true classic. Just one bucket has 30 hours of burn time so you get a lot of bang for your bucket. The citronella oil in these candles works to naturally deter mosquitoes while creating a pretty glow on your patio table.
The best all-natural mosquito repellents
10. Cutter Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent
“My go-to for families with small children when there is a desire to use something DEET-free is Cutter Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent,” Dr. Elliott says. Eucalyptus oil is a natural mosquito repellent, and this one purports to last up to six hours.
11. Murphy’s Naturals Mosquito Repellent Incense Sticks
These all-natural mosquito repellent incense sticks are best for times when you’ll only be outdoors for an hour or two. Each stick burns for 2.5 hours and contains five types of essential oils that deter bugs, including citronella, lemongrass, rosemary, cedarwood, and peppermint oils.
12. Wondercide Flea, Tick, and Mosquito Yard Spray
This yard mosquito and tick repellent is best for people with pets. Its all-natural insect repelling formula is made of essential oils, so it’s safe for your dog to run around in. Attach it to your hose and spray anything and everything in sight, from your grass and dog house to your garden veggies and siding.