Which insect repellents are best at keeping mosquitoes away?

To keep ticks off and mosquitoes away, there are lotions, wipes and sprays. But levels of protection can vary with ingredients and application methods when it comes to keeping biting bugs at bay.

“This year, we did try to test a lot of products that had more of the so-called natural active ingredients, the so-called essential oils,” said Catherine Roberts, Consumer Reports’ associate editor for health.

Consumer Reports laboratory tests revealed that “the products that bill themselves as more natural usually don’t perform as well,” Roberts said. “The DEET-based products are consistently most effective.”

Natural bug repellents good enough to be recommended by Consumer Reports have 20% picaridin and 30% oil of lemon eucalyptus. Although with picaridin, lotion versions and wipe versions did not perform as well as sprays do.

“Products with 25% to 30% DEET really are the most consistently high performing,” Roberts said.

Products with the highest scores on Consumer Reports’ new list of “recommended” repellents against mosquitoes last at least 6.5 hours. The lowest-rated products were effective for two hours or less.

Of Consumer Reports’ 15 recommended products, the active ingredient in one is oil of lemon eucalyptus; two have picaridin; and 12 include DEET.

The top five rated products are:

  • Total Home (CVS) Woodland Scent Insect Repellent (30% DEET)
  • Off Deep Woods Insect Repellent Vlll Dry (25% DEET)
  • Repel Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent2 DEET-FREE (30% oil of lemon eucalyptus)
  • Ben’s 30% DEET Tick & Insect Repellent (30% DEET)
  • Coleman Insect Repellent High & Dry 25% DEET

Some consumers are concerned about using products with DEET, but Roberts said concentrations higher than 30% aren’t necessary.

“It has been demonstrated to be safe when used as directed,” Roberts said, but she added that DEET might cause damage to synthetic fabrics.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up