Best Bug Repellent
Nothing says summer more than the sound of crickets in the night and the bullfrogs loudly expressing their excitement from the ponds after an evening summer rain, but do you know what else shows the signs of summer? Those nasty insect bites and the annoying no-see-ums that nibble on your ears. Before you begin your summer activities, consider a plan of defense against those irritating insects and show them you are the boss before they begin to chew on you like the main dish of a buffet.
There are so many choices, from odorless to knock down strong; lotions, pumps, and aerosols. DEET, or DEET free? Do you get one that will work on your skin and clothes, or do you need one for your tent and sleeping bag? Let us introduce you to some of our favorites below.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 18 hrs of research
It’s DEET free
It leaves no obnoxious odor
It lasts all day
- Sawyer Picaridin
- Repel 15% Deet
- Ben's 30% Deet
- Natrapel 12 Hour
- Sawyer Products Premium
- Repel 100
- Off! Deep Woods
- Repel Lemon Eucalyptus
- Skedattle Natural
- Off Family Care Smooth
- Criteria Used for Evaluation
- Other Factors to Consider
- Frequently Asked Questions
Top 10 Picks
1. Sawyer Picaridin
It’s DEET free
It leaves no obnoxious odor
It lasts all day
It might not completely deter mosquitoes
It’s hard to find an insect repellent that is safe to use on babies, but with the Sawyer line of DEET free repellents, you will rest assured they are safe for the entire family. Apply it in the morning and enjoy the entire day itch free.Read more
This repellent comes in the form of a lotion that will last up to 14-hours, that means you can put it on once a day and forget about it. Unlike some insect repellents, with this one, it’s not greasy or sticky and it’s odorless so you won’t have to deal with a headache from an unpleasant smell. You can use it with your sunscreen and it’s safe to use with your gear and equipment. The best thing about this repellent is that the entire family can use it and it’s safe to use during pregnancy.
It is a DEET free, natural repellent and made with 20-percent picaridin. Picaridin is made of piperine which is found in a class of plants used when making black pepper. That’s why natural is best, making this one safe for use on the entire family.
Since there is no need to apply this lotion but once a day, it will last longer than some of the others on our list. It leaves positive results winning the battle against disease-bearing mosquitoes, so it would be the protection you need when you’re in the jungle. Even if you’re in your own backyard you will find that you will chase away biting flies, chiggers, and those annoying no-see-ums. Never again will you find a tick on you and no more flea bites either.
Ease of Use
The bottle is easy to use, just squeeze it and the lotion will come right out. It won’t leave messes and there is no need to fight with the cap; just push it open and snap it shut, it’s that simple. When applying this lotion, you should put it in your hands and spread it evenly like you would a moisturizer. Never allow your children to apply it to themselves, instead, squeeze some in your palm and apply it to them. When you’re finished, wash your hands and throw in your pack allowing it to safely rest until your next use.
When it comes to a DEET free insect repellent that is safe for everyone in the family, Sawyer delivers. Knowing that it’s safe, it’s all natural, you only need to apply it once a day, and it has none of those unpleasant odors like some of the rest, how could you go wrong with this one?
2. Repel 15% Deet
It is safe for children if used properly
It is not oily
It doesn’t have a strong odor
It might not last a complete 7-hours
Keep your family safe and out of harm’s way with this family insect repellent. Take it camping. to the Caribbean, or use it in your backyard, no matter what your plans, you won’t be disappointed with the results you will discover from this fantastic repellent.Read more
This aerosol spray repellent is made to last up to 7-hours, and not only can you use it on your skin, but it will work on your clothes without leaving behind stains or residue. It’s not oily and it doesn’t leave a strong odor behind, so you can sneak up on your friends and they won’t know you’re there. It’s perfect to keep near the back door so the kids will remember to grab it on their way out or keep it in the boat for those fishing adventures in the swamp.
Although it does contain 15-percent of DEET, which is one of the most common ingredients in many insect repellents, the other ingredients are probably the reason it doesn’t produce an obnoxious odor and it is still safe for all your family members.
This repellent should stay effective for the biggest part of your day without having to re-apply it and it is excellent, and highly recommended for mosquitoes. It’s effective for scaring off those pesky gnats that you often find in your backyard, and it will also work for warding off fleas and ticks as well.
Ease of Use
It is an aerosol spray and should be used with caution. When applying the repellent, you should be in an open area and hold the can 6-8-inches away from the skin and garments you are spraying. When applying the repellent to your face, spray it into your hands and then rub it on your skin. You should also spray it into your hands before applying to children. Always wash your hands after use and store it high out of the reach of small children.
The amount of DEET in this spray is a much less percentage than most, therefore, it is one of the best overall family insect repellents. Take it with you on family outings or to the mountains, wherever you go, you will be safe with this one.
3. Ben's 30% Deet
It is perfect for the wilderness
It doesn’t leave your skin oily
It is odorless
It is not recommended for all members of the family
When you’re venturing throughout a tropical climate you’re bound to get attacked by some nasty insects, and the last thing you want is to contract a disease, that’s why this repellent made especially for the wilderness is a good choice for you.Read more
This spray pump contains a water-based formula that’s safe to use on your skin and clothes. It’s not oily and it doesn’t leave a nasty scent. It will last up to 10-hours and it’s small enough to fit into your pocket or the pouch of your backpack. Due to the higher amount of DEET in this one, is probably not one of the better choices to use on young family members.
This bug repellent contains 30-percent DEET, but the other ingredients including water are probably the reasons there is little odor when it’s applied.
This one is powerful enough to fight off mosquitoes, especially when you’re in an area where they are known to carry disease. Ticks and black flies will hide from you as well, so you will be sure to be the one sharing your repellent with those who forgot theirs.
Ease of Use
The pump is easy to use and it’s best if you spray it on your hands first and then apply it to your skin. Always be sure you wash your hands after application.
In the hottest climates, this repellent will keep you safe from all those nasty diseases toting mosquitoes and some of those other annoying pests lurking in the air. The fact that the bottle is small makes it convenient to grab when you quickly need it. So, with all this in mind, you can see why this would be the perfect choice for all those hot nights in the wilderness.
4. Natrapel 12 Hour
It is DEET free
It is TSA approved
It is safe for clothes and gear
The pump tends to stick
It might not last the full 12-hours
If you want to stay protected from the evilest of insects while traveling overseas, this repellent is the perfect size to carry with you. It will last for 12-hours and it will assure you will stay safe from all those nasty, itchy, red bumps that bites will leave behind.Read more
This repellent is offered in the perfect TSA approved travel size and, because it’s Deet free it will be safe for your entire family. It’s ideal for use on your clothing and it’s safe for your gear. It has a pleasant smell, so you won’t scare away your friends, but it does tend to be a bit sticky when applied.
This one is a natural, 100-percent DEET free repellent that contains 20-percent Picaridin, making it safe for all the members of your family.
You will find this repellent to be effective on those disease-bearing mosquitoes as well as other mean insects including black, sand, and biting flies, gnats, and chiggers. Put it on in the morning and it should keep you safe up to 12-hours.
Ease of Use
Since this bottle is small enough to fit in your pocket it’s easy enough to grab, open the cap, and apply it to the affected area in a hurry. You should spray it on your hands first and then rub it on your skin for the best results, especially when you’re applying this to your children. Wash your hands immediately after applying the repellent to avoid rubbing it in your eyes.
It’s convenient and easy to use, it will pass TSA inspection, and the thought of only having to carry one type of repellent for the entire family to use makes it simple to see why this is a great choice. It’s DEET free, leaves a pleasant smell, and it’s safe for your clothes and gear too. This one is the perfect all-around choice.
5. Sawyer Products Premium
It’s made strictly for clothing and gear
It lasts up to 6-weeks or 6-washes
It doesn’t have an odor
It’s not effective on the skin
For those outdoor camping trips or long hikes throughout the trails, this is the longest lasting repellent we have on our list, and it’s made just for your clothing and gear.Read more
This repellent was created to keep your clothes and outdoor gear protected for 6-weeks. It provides enough repellent to spray two complete outfits; shirts, pants, and socks. Spray it on your tent, backpack, chairs, and sleeping bags. It will work for 6-weeks, or 6- washes without coming off. You can enjoy your time in the river or the lake without worry and there is no odor. If your trusty canine enjoys the outdoors as much as you do, you can use this on him also but be sure and follow the directions carefully before application. It is not intended for use on cats as the ingredients can be harmful to them. Although it’s not harmful to your skin, it won’t be effective so keep this one only for your clothing and gear.
This repellent contains Permethrin which was originally designed for use on military clothing and gear.
This spray offers weeks of protection against more than 55 annoying and painful creatures including the most dangerous mosquitoes, flies, chiggers, and ticks.
Ease of Use
The bottle is designed to fit firmly in your hand and the easy pull trigger makes it simple to spray the repellent evenly onto its target. Be sure you are outside when using this repellent, and after you spray each side of your clothing for 30-seconds, let them air dry for 2-hours. It’s as easy as 1-2-3, and once it’s applied you should be protected for 6-weeks.
Not every insect repellent is made strictly for clothing and gear nor is it effective for a long period of time. If you’re an avid fisherman or you’re planning a long camping trip, you will need this powerful repellent on your side. It’s odorless so you won’t feel sick every time you slide your pack on and you will sleep in peace knowing that those bugs won’t be having you for their midnight snack. With all this in mind, you can see why it’s one of our top picks on this list.
6. Repel 100
It lasts up to 10-hours
It works perfectly in the tropics
It can be used on clothing
It has an extremely strong odor
It contains 98.11-percent of DEET
If you’re planning a trip to the tropics and you don’t want to be on the menu at the mosquito buffet, then consider this little bottle of repellent. Spray it on before you go out and it should last the entire day or night.Read more
This one is extremely strong and should not be used on children. It can be used on your skin and clothing for guaranteed protection against those pesky critters flying overhead. It is thick and oily making it a bit slimy, and the odor will probably keep your best friend away, but you can be certain it will also keep the bugs away. It is made to last up to 10-hours and a little bit will go along way.
The reason this repellent is so strong and powerful is that it’s made of 98.11-percent of DEET. For this reason, it cannot be used on the younger members of the family.
Once this repellent is applied it will give you the protection you need for up to 10-hours. You can be guaranteed the mosquitoes will not want anything to do with you and they will take the biting flies with them. The ticks, fleas, gnats, and chiggers will stay away from you too, so you should be safe all day or night giving you more time to relax and enjoy the great outdoors.
Ease of Use
It’s extremely important that you apply this in a wide-open area and don’t breathe it in. It’s made for convenience, so you can slide it in and out of your pack with ease. The cap will slide off with without a problem and the pump works well allowing you to sparingly spray the repellent onto your skin. It’s always best to spray it into your hands first and then rub it on your skin. Wash your hands completely following the application.
This bottle might look small, but it’s filled with a lot of power. The odor is strong, but it will get the job done without complaining. Just imagine how much more time you can spend looking at the sights rather than scratching the bites.
7. Off! Deep Woods
It’s dry, not greasy or oily
It has minimal odor
It can be used on clothing
It might not protect against all insects
It only lasts for 6-hours
One of the best things in the summer is sitting by the fire at night, but if you have to battle the bugs it’s impossible to relax. For years, Off has always proven to protect families from the evil bites of insects, and this deep woods formula is no different.Read more
This repellent comes in an aerosol can and it’s made to last for several hours allowing you to enjoy your time outside without distractions. It sprays on dry, so it won’t leave a sticky or oily residue on your skin. It does have a mild odor when it’s first applied but it doesn’t last long making it tolerable to the nose. It works equally the same on your skin and clothes giving you the extra protection you need.
This one contains 25-percent DEET providing enough protection against the worst insects around yet leaving off a pleasant scent that won’t knock you off your seat.
Made to last up to 6-hours, so spray it on in the morning for daytime protection, then apply it again late afternoon for your evening protection. You will be sure the mosquitoes will want nothing to do with you and you will scare away the gnats, ticks, chiggers, and those painful biting flies too.
Ease of Use
The easy to apply aerosol can is no different from traditional repellents of its kind, but it must be applied with caution. Use it in a well-ventilated area and be sure to hold it several inches away from your skin and clothing while spraying. Don’t breathe it in and avoid your eyes.
If you have been using insect repellents for a long time, then you should already know the quality of Off. This deep woods formula works great for repelling disease infested mosquitoes, but it’s not meant for long-lasting protection, so if you’re planning a week-long trip through the wilderness, this might not be the choice for you.
8. Repel Lemon Eucalyptus
It can be used on bedding and furniture
The small bottle is easy for toting
It has a highly strong odor
It can attract bees
Not for children under 3
If you are a mosquito magnet, this all-natural repellent offered by Repel is something you should consider for your protection up to 6-hours; especially when you explore through those damp, swampy areas where those disease-transmitting mosquitoes love to feed.Read more
This is an all-natural repellent intended to keep the mosquitos as far away from you as possible, and with the strong odor it holds, you can see how that would be possible. It comes in a small, convenient spray bottle. If you want to sit by the campfire, or on your back porch, just spray your furniture, it’s that safe. If you want to camp out all night, you can spray your bedding so that the mosquitoes won’t climb in and treat you as a snack. It is safe and natural for family use; however, it should not be used on tiny family members under the age of 3.
It is completely free of DEET and is mixed with 30-percent lemon eucalyptus and 45-percent ethanol, the remaining 70-percent includes other natural ingredients.
You will be completely safe from mosquitoes, but you must heed caution to the possibility of attracting bees. This is probably because of the eucalyptus that makes up so much of the repellent. Once you apply the repellent though, the bugs will head the other way for at least 6-hours.
Ease of Use
The spray pump is easy to use, and as always, it’s recommended that you apply the repellent to your hands and then to your skin. This is especially true when you are applying this to children. It will last a long time and can be applied twice daily.
Despite the strong odor, this repellent is one of the best when you are in a mosquito-infested area. It’s all natural and free of DEET, it’s easy to apply, and it will last for approximately 6-hours, so why wouldn’t this repellent be a good choice?
9. Skedattle Natural
It’s family friendly
It can be applied to clothing
The spray pump tends to stick
It might not deter all the insects you encounter
The last thing you want is for your children to encounter a mosquito habitat or a field of fleas. That’s why you always want to be sure they are protected in the event it does happen but finding an insect repellent that is safe for them to use is not always as easy as one would think. That’s why Skedattle has invented a spray the whole family can use, even the dog.Read more
This repellent is chemical free making it safe for everyone in the family above 6-months old. Spray it on your skin and your clothing before going outside but be sure and carry it with you because it will only last for approximately 2-hours. Since it’s all natural, you can spray it on the family dog too as a flea and tick preventative while he plays outside with the kids. It doesn’t put off a nasty odor, but you might find it to be oilier than some of the others on this list. It would be a great repellent to take along with you on your travels, it just might not be as convenient as some since you will have to apply it more often.
This is an all-natural repellent containing citronella, peppermint, and lemongrass oils mixed with purified water and vanillin sorbate combination.
You will find this repellent to be effective at warding off mosquitoes and fleas not to mention the fight it will put up against gnats, chiggers, and ticks. Although it will only last for a little more than an hour, you will be happy with the results.
Ease of Use
With the use of the pump spray, you can simply douse your skin and clothing with this repellent. You should pay close attention to the protection of your arms, legs, and ankles, and don’t forget to spray your hairline too. It’s safe to reapply as often as you need it.
Although there are a few downsides to this spray, overall, it is one of the safest, all-natural repellents you can buy for your family. It doesn’t smell awful like some, you can spray it safely on your clothes, and the dog can enjoy it too. These are all reasons worth giving this bug repellent a chance.
10. Off Family Care Smooth
Powder dry aerosol
It’s family friendly
It leaves a white powder residue on clothing until cleaned off
Off comes to the rescue once again, but this time they bring with them an insect repellent that can be enjoyed by the entire family. If you want something that feels invisible on your skin and will keep those annoying bugs away from you, this is a good choice.Read more
This powder formula dries immediately and won’t cause your skin to be greasy or sticky, in fact, you might feel as though you’re not even wearing bug repellent. It’s made for the family and can be sprayed on your cotton, nylon, and wool clothing.
This formula is made up of 15-percent DEET, but that isn’t enough to cause harm to your younger children.
This is a great one to use if you plan to visit an area where disease infested mosquitoes linger. This repellent has also shown to be effective against flies, fleas, chiggers, gnats, and ticks. Once you apply it, you should expect to stay protected for approximately 6-hours.
Ease of Use
This aerosol sprays on with ease and should be held 6-8-inches away from your clothing and skin when applying. For best results, you should shake the can before use and always spray into your hands when applying to children.
Off has outdone themselves when it comes to this insect repellent. Just the fact that it is more like a powder instead of bug spray says it all. It will provide you the extra protection you need from mosquitoes, and the whole family can get relief from those nasty creatures lingering in the air. With all this, it’s easy to understand why we saved this one for last.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
It’s important to know what you can expect from a product of this nature, after all, you want to be sure your family is safe. You need to know how uncomfortable the repellent will leave you for the day and knowing the difference between a pump spray, aerosol, and lotion is also important. If you are asthmatic, then you will not want to choose an aerosol, and some lotions might break out your skin. You also need to know if the container is convenient enough to toss into your pack, or should you prepare a separate place in your duffle bag for a larger can. Of course, you always need to gather all the information you can to prepare for your outing.
Ingredients are important for the sake of yourself and everyone in your family. DEET is a very powerful chemical and there are many people who try to avoid it. Additionally, some of the ingredients are too strong for younger members of the family while others might contain an allergen that will ruin your entire trip. As with most things, always be sure and read ingredient labels before you make a purchase to avoid a bad scenario.
This information will help you to determine if it will work with you during the outing you have planned. You wouldn’t want to take a repellent with you to the Caribbean that is designed to be used for only a few hours at your backyard ‘smores party. You also don’t want something to protect you from fleas if it will only work with mosquitos, so before you make your decision decide what you will need the repellent and how long will it be in use at one time.
There would be nothing worse than unexpectedly meeting a pack of mosquitos then realizing you forgot to apply your spray. What’s worse than that would be opening the bottle only to find the pump is stuck and nothing will come out. These are very good reasons you need to know what to expect from your repellent. It’s also equally important to know how to use the repellent properly because you wouldn’t want to risk damage to clothing or gear and the last thing you need is a health hazard because you failed to read the labels.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
DEET is a tricky chemical. Studies show that children can, indeed, use DEET from the age of 2 months and up. However, this should only be applied once per day. It is also important to read the label and do not use any product with more than 30% DEET in the ingredients.
Knowing when and where to apply your bug repellant is important. This will usually be listed on the label. Only reapply when needed, repellants can be toxic and you don't need to double up. If you will be wearing sunscreen in conjunction with with bug spray, apply the sunscreen first. Also, it is good to know that you do not need to wear bug repellant under your clothes. You can spray your clothes instead of your skin, if you choose to use a spray.
Other Factors to Consider
While bug repellent can keep you out of harm’s way when it comes to disease, there are also some precautions you should understand before making your final decision.
As you already know, not all bug repellent is intended for every member of the family, this is because some of the ingredients can do harm to children.
When applying repellent, you want to be sure you have read the directions thoroughly to avoid danger. The best way to apply insect repellent is to put it on your hands and then you can put it evenly on your skin. This is the most important when it comes to the proper application of the repellent on children.
You will always want to be sure you spray aerosols in an open area away from flame and wash your hands immediately after use.
If you’re traveling to another country, do your research carefully so that you can be sure you know which repellent will work best to ward off the appropriate insects.
When used properly, and if you use the best bug repellent for your needs, you should find positive results and no longer have to worry about those painful bites and dangerous diseases.
Frequently Asked Questions
A bug repellent that doesn’t contain DEET will be the best one to choose for babies. The ones containing Picaridin and other natural oils are the ones that are usually recommended for babies however, most repellents are not recommended for babies under 6-months of age. It’s advised to check with your pediatrician for recommendations on which is best for babies under 6-months of age.
As a rule, bug repellents that are safe for babies are usually recommended to use during pregnancy. Repellents that contain Picaridin are usually approved for pregnancy. Never use repellents with harsh odors and chemicals. It’s best to talk with your healthcare provider before you decide which bug repellent would be best for you.
You will find that most repellent will keep you safe from the zika virus, especially the ones containing higher levels of DEET. Most of the ones in this review will do the job but be sure and read all the package information and ingredients before making your decision.
DEET is very dangerous on animals, so for that reason, most human repellents are not recommended for dogs. We did find that Skedattle natural bug repellent will work for dogs when applied properly. There are numerous other products available for purchase specifically intended for dogs.
DEET will last forever without expiration and since it’s not required of manufacturers to print an expiration date on the repellent, the true answer to this question is no. It is recommended though that repellents that are three years or more should no longer be used due to the chemical settling causing a texture change.
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