Mosquito Repellents

Mosquitoes aren’t just annoying; they can carry dangerous germs. Use repellents with DEET, picaridin, or IR3535 to protect your skin.

The CDC recommends checking and emptying outdoor containers like buckets, plant saucers, toys, old tires, birdbaths, flower pots, trash cans, and other places where mosquitoes breed. Wear long sleeves and pants outdoors during peak mosquito activity times.


DEET is an extremely effective mosquito repellent and has been used in countless public health campaigns to prevent mosquito-borne diseases like malaria, Dengue Fever and Zika. It works by blocking the receptors on a mosquito’s antennae that detect body heat, carbon dioxide and skin chemicals, which deters them from landing and biting. In addition to blocking receptors, DEET also masks odors that mosquitoes use to locate their prey.

A new study from Rockefeller University reveals more about how DEET works. Neurobiologist Leslie Vosshall and her colleagues discovered that Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, common transmitters of Zika and Dengue Fever, don’t Mosquitos Repellents just sense DEET through their mouthparts, but also with their feet.

These results may help scientists develop less-toxic alternative repellents to DEET, which is toxic to some people and has to be reapplied often. For now, researchers recommend using products containing picaridin or IR 3535 and following other precautions — like wearing long pants and sleeves and eliminating standing water on your property where mosquitoes breed. Natural insect repellents that can be applied directly to the skin or clothes include lemon eucalyptus, soybean, tea tree and neem oil.


Picaridin is a synthetic compound that works as well as DEET at repelling mosquitoes and ticks. It can be used to protect against mosquitoes, fleas, and biting flies and is safe for use on cotton, wool, and nylon, but should not be applied to spandex, acetate, or pigmented leather (like your sunglasses or watch band). It has minimal effects on the environment and does not leach into groundwater.

It disrupts an insect’s sense of smell and makes you nearly invisible to it, providing effective protection from mosquitoes that can transmit diseases like Zika, West Nile, Dengue, and Malaria as well as disease-spreading ticks such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Picaridin repellents also offer good protection against black flies, stable flies, gnats, and chiggers.

EPA-approved repellents containing picaridin at concentrations of 10 to 20 percent can provide up to 12 hours of protection against mosquitoes and ticks. If you plan to spend more time outdoors than that, a higher concentration or reapplication may be necessary.

Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE)

Eucalyptus citriodora oil, also known as lemon eucalyptus oil or OLE, is an essential oil that is sometimes used as a mosquito repellent. It is distilled from the leaves and twigs of the lemon-scented gum eucalyptus tree, and it can be found in some natural mosquito repellent products. According to NMSU, this oil has been shown to be effective in animal studies against some types of mosquitoes and ticks.

It is also thought that the terpenes in lemon eucalyptus oil, especially geraniol and methyl cinnamate-linalool, interfere with the olfactory receptors of mosquitoes, which inhibit their ability to locate humans and bite them. However, these compounds are found in only trace amounts in lemon eucalyptus essential oil and provide only about an hour of protection in arm-in-cage tests.

Because of these limitations, the CDC does not recommend OLE or other lemon-scented oil as a mosquito repellent. Instead, they advise people to use products containing DEET or picaridin. If you choose to use OLE, be sure to dilute it and avoid spraying it near the mouth, eyes, or any irritated areas of the skin.


BioUD is a relatively new insect repellent with the chemical 2-undecanone. It comes from tomatoes and works by blocking the receptors that mosquitoes, gnats, punkies, no-see-ums and other blood-feeding insects use to find their targets. It’s also effective against ticks.

Unlike DEET and picaridin, BioUD hasn’t been fully tested in humans, but it seems to have few acute or long-term health risks. In lab tests, it was less toxic to skin than DEET.

The EPA says that products containing this ingredient are safe for use, especially at the low concentrations used in repellents. However, the agency warns that 2-undecanone may be harmful to children under three years old and that pregnant or nursing women should avoid it.

Mosquitoes and ticks transmit serious diseases, including Lyme face moisturizer disease, West Nile virus and Zika. Repellents prevent these pests from biting, but don’t kill them. People should always use other preventive methods to protect themselves from ticks, such as performing daily tick checks. And because there are many species of ticks, one repellent won’t necessarily protect you from all of them.


Citronella is a natural mosquito repellent that works well when planted around living areas, placed in outdoor candle holders or used in sprays and oils. It has a strong scent and works by interfering with mosquitoes’ olfactory receptors, explains Mozzie Dome Pest Control. It can also help to deter other unwanted insects like flies and gnats.

The effectiveness of citronella preparations for repelling mosquitoes was evaluated by using a systematic review and meta-analysis. Multiple computerized databases including MEDLINE, EMBASE and Cochrane Central were searched for controlled laboratory experiments that compared citronella products with controls (using either cage or room methods) and reported protection times and percentage repellency. Studies were grouped by method, type of mosquitoes (Aedes, Anopheles and Culex); and citronella product formulations and concentrations.

Citronella candles and wrist bands may offer mild protection, but the oil tends to evaporate quickly and must be reapplied often. For this reason, many experts recommend combining citronella with other repellent ingredients like Picaridin or DEET for optimal results. Alternatively, look for products that combine soybean oil with citronella and other natural oils to get the best of both worlds.