Best Insect Repellents Reviewed & Rated for Quality
Not only are insects annoying, in some cases, they can also be dangerous, bringing diseases and causing all sorts of health hazards. While there are several different solutions, they vary greatly and don’t always work effectively for your given circumstance. It's always good to remember though that several of these use potentially hazardous chemicals, so make sure you know how to use it. That’s where this buying guide comes in. We're going to provide a wealth of high-quality options that encompass as many aspects of pest control as I could, in order to hopefully provide a viable solution for any situation.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 10 hrs of research
Works on rodents as well as insects
Very easy to install
Best Insect Repellents
1. Ultrasonic Pest
Works on rodents as well as insects
Very easy to install
Not the most effective
Constant lights get irritating
This is a fairly new way to keep pests out. How effective they are is still up for debate, until you look at this one. Constantly improved upon, this ultrasonic repellent is a fantastic, environmentally-friendly option for those that don’t want to cause any undue harm to anything. When you just want the bugs gone quickly, with no mess involved, go ahead and give this one a look.
Blankets an Area
One of the best things about an ultrasonic repellent is that they cover a very large area without you even noticing it, letting you set it up and forget about it. Not bad for such a compact little unit.
Sometimes insects aren’t your problem. While this repellent is perfect for insects, it’ll also take a stab at various rodents as well. This all in one product will put all your pest problems to rest.
Cost and Value
You get four of these ultrasonic pest deterrents in a pack, meaning you can pretty much have your entire house covered with just one simple purchase. Being able to rid your home of nasty insects so conveniently and affordably just screams value.
2. OFF! Deep Woods
Up to eight hours of protection
Easy to apply
Works on bedbugs
Plastic lid prone to break
Spray is corrosive
If you have ever seen a bug, then there is a very good chance that you’ve heard of OFF! Insect repellants. They have been synonymous with summer, let alone bug spray, for decades now, and they are constantly finding ways to keep you bug-free and enjoying the outdoors while reducing the number of harmful chemicals that they use to get the job done.
Great for the Whole Family
A lot of insect repellents on the market work either for adults, or for kids. It’s usually not both. Being the seasoned veterans in pest control that they are, the people at OFF! Have found a happy medium, letting you protect yourself and your kids with just one product.
You’re Covered All Day
Personally, I wouldn’t want a bug spray to be on my skin for eighteen hours. They stink, irritate the skin, and are toxic. Not this time. Deep woods is meant to be worn all day without causing your skin any problems.
Cost and Value
OFF! Is a trusted name that you know works, and they decided to sell one of their premier products in packs of two for convenience. Then they slapped a really cheap price tag on top of it.
3. Repel 94100
Travel size packaging
Designed for outdoor enthusiasts
Great for quick use
Good for sensitive skin
Not water resistant
Once open, wipes dry out quickly
In an effort to change things up a bit, I’ve decided to include these wipes. Honestly, it’s a pretty neat idea, and it took a company I’ve never heard of until now - to bring it to reality. It’s strange that I haven’t heard of Repel, considered they are so ingrained in the repellent game that their products show up no less than three times on this list. I won’t make that mistake again, because these wipes are great. They virtually eliminate messy applications which, on a sunny day, are the difference between insect repelling and a sloppy mess.
Take it Anywhere
Aside from the obvious convenience of a wipe, I think the best part about these is the super convenient travel pack they come in. Even more compact than an aerosol can, these can literally go almost anywhere you need to take them.
Of all the products reviewed here, this happens to be the only one that was designed specifically for more vigorous outdoor activities. What’s great about that is there’s no smear application, it lasts all day, and it’s strong enough to keep you going.
Cost and Value
The decent quantity found in this little package means you won’t need to buy more for a while, and also brings the price point down to just cents per wipe. That is cheap, long-lasting protection. That’s not value, I don’t know what is.
4. Sawyer Picaridin Lotion
More effective than DEET
Safe on clothes
The active ingredient is recommended by the WHO
Spray top leaks
Goes on oily
Sawyer, another insect repeller company that I had never previously heard of, has actually been around for over thirty years. I need to pay closer attention. Since they’ve clearly managed to carve out a niche for themselves, I think it’s safe to say that they can be trusted. So when I see that they offer an alternative to DEET, which can be harmful, I immediately took notice. After finding out that it’s actually more effective than DEET, I think I found a new favorite.
Picaridin. It’s a chemical I haven’t heard of, but considering that at only a twenty percent concentration it’s more effective at getting rid of mosquitoes and other flying insects than double the amount of DEET, I should pay more attention.
Or at the very least it will last as long as the bigger name brands. Again, it doesn’t contain any DEET, but it offers everything that made that chemical the go-to for pest control. Maybe it’s time for a new go to.
Cost and Value
You are definitely going to get a lot of value out of this repellent, if only for the fact that it is a safer, more effective alternative to the more well known yet very unpopular DEET. It’s a great product, but I do wish it would come in a larger bottle.
5. Avon Skin-So-Soft
Nice, subtle scent
Active ingredients not as effective as DEET or Picaridin
When it comes to skincare, Avon knows what they are doing. That translates perfectly well into this moisturizing lotion/sunscreen/ bug repellent. For something to cover that much ground and still work, leaving your skin smooth and undamaged, you know they mean business.
Gentle Breeze is the name of the scent, and it describes it perfectly. Very unobtrusive, the only way you’ll notice that you’re wearing it (aside from the lack of bugs), is every once in a while you’ll notice a fragrant scent when the breeze wafts it your way.
These days, when you go to the beach, especially if you have a family, you tend to pack a bag just for all the lotions, creams and sprays that you need in order to enjoy the day. Or, you can just grab a bottle of this waterproof lotion, repellent, and sunscreen and be done with it.
Cost and Value
Funny, I remember Avon products costing quite a bit more back in the day. Don’t get me wrong, I won’t be complaining, but this is just an absurdly low price for something that does so much so well.
6. Ultrathon 3M
Strong DEET concentration
Time released formula for long-lasting protection
Effective protection against a wide range of insects
No need to reapply
Strong DEET concentration
If you choose to purchase this product, after a few uses you may start to think that this is military grade protection. Actually, it is. It was originally designed for the military to protect them for up to twelve hours. 3M then decided that if it was good enough for the army, then they may as well make it available to the general public. That was some good thinking.
Put it on. Once.
Even for lotions that claim to last all day, some reapplication, at least toward the end of the day, is usually necessary. This one doesn’t do things that way. It says All day protection, and it delivers with a single use.
The 3M Ultrathon Insect Repellent Lotion contains a concentration of 34.34 percent DEET, which in turns offers superior protection to mosquitoes and other flying annoyances. AS good as that is, though, just be aware that it may end up being a bit of an irritant. That being said, the effectiveness is unrivaled.
Cost and Value
Ultrathon Insect Repellent is a fairly expensive product, but what you’re paying for is time-tested peace of mind and the quality and attention to detail that 3M puts into everything they make.
7. Cutter Backwoods
No expiration date
Lasts for up to ten hours
Great for outdoor activities
Takes a large amount to work
I like the insect repellents that aren’t messing around. They don’t generally even bother with only one can of spray and give you a really sweet deal on two long-lasting cans. I don’t have much need for a lot of bug spray, but I do have a family that likes to spend as much time outside as they can, so I can certainly appreciate being able to get a large supply of it in such a convenient manner.
Use it for Years.
You actually can. I mean, overlook the fact that the chemical concentration of this spray makes it possible for this stuff to last forever, and you’ve got yourself a repellent that you can forget about for years, and then go back to it without any diminished efficiency.
Hot? No sweat.
The sweat resistance aspects of this insect repellent make it an ideal product for those who spend a lot of time outside under a blistering sun, day after day. So if you work outside, or just like doing stuff outdoors, you need this spray.
Cost and Value
Here we have another value packed product, giving you several days worth of insect protection for a very small cost. Perfect for those with large families, or a job that requires them to be outdoors all day every day. It might not seem like a big deal, but prolonged protection does add up in cost.
8. Sawyer Permethrin
Effective against Zika Mosquito
Lasts up to 6 weeks
Odorless after drying
Treats 2 outfits
Spray Device Fails Easily
Causes bad taste in mouth
I’m going to say that this insect repellent by Sawyer is my favorite of the bunch. I don’t usually pick favorites in my buying guides, instead opting to offer a wide range and let you, the consumer, find the one that works best for you. This time, I have a small personal stake in these reviews in the regard that I don’t typically like using chemicals on my body if I can avoid it. So the fact alone that this goes on your clothes and not your skin, puts this one in my good books.
Nothing Will Touch You.
Reading up on the description of Sawyer’s clothing repellent, it states that the spray will effectively ward off almost sixty different kinds of insects and bugs. That is crazy and good to have, especially if you’re not overly familiar with whatever territory you may happen to find yourself in.
You Applied This When?
While this feature speaks to the level of protection the repellent offers, it also highlights the incredible value that the bottle holds. Spray it on once, and then go out and enjoy life without worry for up to six washes? That is hardy stuff.
Cost and Value
Expensive, but in my opinion absolutely worth the cost. A little goes a long way, lasts a long time, does not contain harsh chemicals, and works before the bugs can even get near your skin. Awesome little product.
9. Repel 100
Convenient size for traveling
Best in heavily infested areas
Almost 100% DEET
Easy to use pump action
High DEET concentration can cause irritation
Can destroy fabric
This 100 insect repellent is made by Repel. Enough said. As good as the other products they make are, this one takes the cake. They made this stuff for use in the harshest conditions imaginable, and they were not messing around. It contains a DEET concentration of 98.11%, so use with caution. While you’re at it, because of how strong and long-lasting it is, you can also just go ahead and use with confidence.
Good. That makes it perfect for heavy concentrations of insects, such as flooded areas and swamplands. The 98 percent DEET makeup ensures that no matter how bugs may be present where you are, they are going to act like you don’t exist, and I’m pretty sure you’re going to be okay with that.
Forget the fact that I had never heard of Repel, that’s on me. That also doesn’t mean that they can’t be trusted. After spending some time taking a look at what they have to offer, I’ve come to the conclusion that if it’s made by Repel, it’s a good idea to buy this repellent!
Cost and Value
For the amount that you get, at first glance, this is pretty pricey. For the strength and reliability contained in that four-ounce bottle, this stuff all of a sudden become priceless. Also, you only need a little, so in the end, a bottle does go a long way.
10. Repel 94101
Strong, effective protection
Sprays on thin
Leaves a residue
Hard to get every dropout
This is it, the final product. This time, we have the perfect all around multi-use bug spray for your everyday needs. It’s going to hold up really well while you’re out, and then it’s going to wash right off once it has served its purpose. The best part is, it won’t cost as much as most of the other general purpose spray you’re going to find. So with all that, is it a coincidence that it’s made by Repel? I doubt it.
Forty percent DEET is a perfectly acceptable amount. It’s not going to hold up in infested areas, but there are products for that. As such, it is going to keep the bugs off of you throughout the day without irritating your skin.
Like a Fine Mist
When you apply this spray, it’s going to coat your skin with a light mist, preventing any gross build-up of product lingering on your person, and also help to prolong the life of the bottle by not wasting any spray.
Cost and Value
Here to end things off is a bug repellent that works just as well as the high priced big name sprays on the market, but at a low price point that doesn’t properly reflect its quality and effectiveness.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
One of the best ways to pick out an insect repellent is to look at the active ingredient. There are generally five different active ingredients that vary in their effectiveness and the type of ingredient. Some people are completely comfortable with using chemical-based insect repellents while other people prefer natural means to repel insects. It is possible that you may have a preference for one kind of insect repellent over another kind as well so you may base your choice on the active ingredient because of your tastes.
For some people, certain active ingredients may cause skin irritation and therefore may wish to avoid such insect repellents. There are five main kinds of active ingredients for insect repellents that you will see on the market. DEET is one of the most well-known kinds of insect repellents. It was developed by the United States army in 1946 so it has been used for a long time and has a well-established track record for repelling insects.
Picaridin is an alternative chemical to DEET that was developed in Europe and has been sold in the United States since 2005. Since it has not been around for as long as DEET, Picaridin is only currently available in 20% concentrations while more study is being conducted on higher concentrations. Picaridin does not damage materials, fabrics, or surfaces which makes it great for use on clothing so unlike DEET, you will not need to worry if Picaridin will ruin your clothing.
For this reason, there are also insect repellents that are made from synthesized plant oils which are usually advertised as botanicals or plant-based insect repellents. It is important to understand that these products are not naturally occurring plant oils but are compounds that have the same chemical structure as a plant oil, hence synthesized plant oils. Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus is one of the most common forms of synthesized plant oils and many people prefer it to DEET and Picaridin.
There are different ways that you can apply an insect repellent and some people prefer one means to another means. Sometimes people prefer to place an insect repellent directly on their skin in the form of creams and sprays. Other people prefer airborne delivery through the use of candles, lamps, or even coils.
You will also see insect repellent clothing that you can wear that will help repel insect from your body. Some of these methods are more effective than others under certain circumstances so you will need to consider each kind of application method so that you get one that works the best for you.
.All forms of insect repellents need to be applied in one form or another so you will need to consider the benefits and the drawbacks of each kind. Sprays and creams can be the most effective way to repel insects since they are worn directly on your skin. However, you will need to wash them off when you have finished and they can sometimes feel uncomfortable. The alternative is to use airborne insect repellent that is combusted and dispersed into the air. This is less effective but can be more comfortable than creams and sprays.
All forms of insect repellents break down over time and will eventually lose their ability to protect you from bugs. That means that you will need to plan your time outside for the amount of time that the insect repellent is good for or you will need to reapply the insect repellent when it is no longer effective.
All of the different insect repellents have different times for which they are effective so if you plan on spending a long amount of time outdoors, then you will need a long-lasting insect repellent or plan on reapplying insect repellent throughout your day. The chemical based insect repellents are the longest lasting kind of insect repellent.
The synthesized plant oil type of insect repellent will not last for as long as chemical based insect repellents. Oil of lemon eucalyptus typically lasts for up to six hours at a time while IR3535 usually lasts between four to eight hours. This will allow you to spend a good deal of time outdoors while being protected from insects.
Insect repellents are not created equally which means that some insect repellents are more effective at deterring the pests than other kinds. You will need to consider the effectiveness of your insect repellent in order to make sure that it will keep you safe from getting bit. No insect repellent is worth its sticker price if you are consistently getting swarmed and bit by flying insects or ticks, so you will want to make sure that your insect repellent is able to keep you safe while you are enjoying your time outside.
Since everyone's body is different you will need to consider your age and how your body will react to an insect repellent. Some insect repellents are safe to use on children while other insect repellents are only known to be completely safe for adults.
Sometimes people have skin allergies that will prevent them from using a particular kind of insect repellent and they will need to look for an alternative solution. There are times where you do not like how a skin repellent makes you smell or feel while you are wearing it so all of these concerns will need to be taken into consideration when you are picking out an insect repellent.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
The one thing to remember about insect repellent is that something that is going to kill or keep insects away may not be great for you if you expose yourself to it for a long period of time. Some people have allergies to some of these ingredients and some people are going to have skin sensitivities to some of the ingredients so be careful with what you're putting on yourself and make sure you read the directions before using some of these products. These are powerful chemicals so treat them with respect.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: What are ultrasonic insect repellents?
These are devices that use sound waves that are inaudible to human beings to repel insects. The sound waves are irritating to biting insects such as mosquitos and even rodents which drives them away from the area of coverage. These devices are safe for people and pets and do not use any chemicals, however, their effectiveness is a matter of debate. The FTC has started to regulate the advertising of these products due to consumer complaints so you should be advised prior to purchase one.
q: What is Permethrin repellent?
This is mosquito repellent that has been proven to work but it only works when it is applied to clothing. Applying permethrin directly to your skin will not repel biting insects. You can treat your clothes with Permethrin and it should last for about 45 days at a time. When combined with DEET, Permethrin is highly effective at repelling almost all biting insects so you should consider treating your clothes if you plan on spending a lot of time outside.
q: Is DEET toxic?
DEET has been in use since the 1940s and has been long established to be safe for human use. It is an eye irritant so you need to make sure that you do not get it into your eyes as well as open cuts or sores. If you do accidentally get any DEET into these areas, then you should flush them with water until it has been fully rinsed out otherwise you will feel severe pain.
q: Do bug zappers or citronella candles repel insects?
These do not repel insects and should not be considered to be an alternative to insect repellent. Bug zappers use ultraviolet light to attract insects and then electrocute them to death but this does not prevent insects from coming near you are landing on you. Citronella candles also do not deter biting insects and will not work as an alternative to insect repellent either. If you do not want to wear insect repellent, then you should consider coils or candles.
q: Can DEET ruin clothing?
Deet breaks down plastics and rubbers so there is the potential that it can ruin your clothing. This can be especially true when you are wearing clothing that is made of spandex or has polyester. Deet is safe to use on cotton and wool and will not harm either fabric so if you are wearing clothing that is primarily made of these or other natural materials then using DEET will not harm your clothes when you apply it.