Insect Repellent: Ratings of Sources
Total of 19 Sources
For an explanation of how we rank reviews, see our ratings criteria page.
Best Way to Keep Bugs at Bay
by Editors of ConsumerReports.org
Our AssessmentEditors at ConsumerReports.org test 10 products containing DEET, picaridin, lemon eucalyptus oil or IR3535; which are the four bug repellents approved by the Environmental Protection Agency. The lineup also includes natural products containing other plant oils. Bug repellents are tested with two species of mosquito common in the U.S. as well as with deer ticks. Four volunteers expose their treated arms to cages full of 200 mosquitoes at five-minute intervals. Effectiveness is measured by the average length of time it takes for the mosquitoes to bite and ticks to crawl onto the testers. Six of the products provide protection for seven hours or longer and have equivalent ratings for likely causing damage to certain materials they come in contact with. Editors provide a description of the odor and feel of the best insect repellents, but don't weigh those factors into the overall ranking.
Laboratory Evaluation of Mosquito Repellents
by Donald R. Barnard and Rui-De Xue
Our AssessmentThis 2004 study by the Journal of Medical Entomology tests four synthetic mosquito repellers and eight natural insect repellents in a laboratory against three species of mosquitoes. Repel Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent, a natural insect repellent, was the most effective on average. BiteBlocker Herbal Insect Repellent Spray, another natural insect repellent, tied for second with Autan and Off! containing 15 percent DEET. These four mosquito repellents prevented biting for an average of seven hours, longer than the other products in the study. The repellents were tested on only two people. Autan isn't sold in the U.S.
Household Products Database -- Pesticides
by Editors of National Institutes of Health
Our AssessmentThe National Institutes of Health provides a database of bug repellents where you can look up ingredients and check the health rating on specific brands. Unfortunately, the majority of the products are Cutter or Repel brands. Product information includes a material safety data sheet with a health rating (from 0 to 4, the lower the better). It's interesting that Repel Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent has a health rating of 2 (moderate), while DEET insect repellents range from 2 down to 1 (slight).
Canadian Recommendations for the Prevention and Treatment of Malaria Among International Travelers
by Editors of Canada Communicable Disease Report
Our AssessmentThis 2004 study (available as a PDF file) published in the Canada Communicable Disease Report offers a chart comparing the effectiveness of many brands of mosquito repellent, along with a rating of the level of testing backing up these claims. 3M Ultrathon and Sawyer Controlled Release, which have encapsulated DEET, last longer than other active ingredients. It's clear there's a direct correlation between higher DEET concentrations and a longer duration of effectiveness. Efficacy ratings of natural insect repellents include oil of lemon eucalyptus, soybean oil and citronella. BiteBlocker Herbal Insect Repellent Spray, which contains 2 percent soybean oil, is about as effective as 10 percent DEET.
Comparative Efficacy of Insect Repellents Against Mosquito Bites
by Mark S. Fradin and John F. Day
Our AssessmentResearchers enlist 15 volunteers to test 16 mosquito repellents, including seven botanical products, four DEET repellents and three repellent wristbands. Because each product is tested three times on all 15 volunteers, the average duration is quite a bit more credible than other tests. The study reveals that products containing DEET provide the longest protection and that higher concentrations increase the protection time. Off! Deep Woods Insect Repellent with 23.8 percent DEET was the most effective, lasting an average of five hours. Sawyer Controlled Release Insect Repellent lasted four hours, and Off! with 6.65 percent DEET (now called Off! FamilyCare Insect Repellent IV Unscented) lasted two hours. Off! with 4.75 percent DEET (now called Off! FamilyCare Insect Repellent III Tropical Fresh) lasted about 90 minutes, one-third the duration of Off! Deep Woods. Two repellent wristbands containing 9.5 percent DEET and one containing 25 percent citronella failed to work for even a minute.
Bug Off! Which Mosquito Repellents Work Best?
by Andria Lisle
Our AssessmentAndria Lisle and friends test nine bug repellents selected after consultation with experts, including a dermatologist and an epidemiologist. Testing is informal, conducted at backyard cookouts and on the bluffs of the Mississippi River. Each mosquito repeller is only tested on one subject and the duration of the test is limited to an evening of activities, rather than determining maximum effective timeframes. This insect repellent review, however, rates each for effectiveness, ease of application, scent and feel on the skin. Off! Botanicals (now discontinued), Repel Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent, and Off! Deep Woods Insect Repellent are the three top-ranked products. Repel Sportsmen kept the mosquitoes away, but was downgraded because it removed paint and ink from the outside of test cans. Products containing natural ingredients receive bonus points in the ranking.
A Buzzworthy Review of DEET-Free Bug Repellents
by Sarah van Schagen
Our AssessmentWriter Sarah van Schagen compares five natural insect repellents, but emphasis is on scent and feel. She says "all of the products performed fairly well when it came to keeping bugs away." She picks Quantum Buzz Away Insect Repellent for its peppermint scent. EcoSmart dries fast and is a close second for its "not unpleasant citronella scent." She dislikes All Terrain Herbal Armor Insect Repellent, Avon Skin So Soft Bath Oil and Repel Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent. We give this review a lower ranking since only a single person's opinion is weighed on the physical properties of these bug repellents, and they appear to be tested only on a single subject.
Which Mosquito Repellents Work Best?
by Editors of Good Housekeeping
Our AssessmentIn this older comparison review, Good Housekeeping magazine editors hire scientists from the University of Florida to test two mosquito repellers. Five test subjects put their arms in cages filled with 80 mosquitoes. Oddly, Off! Deep Woods Insect Repellent with 30 percent DEET only lasted over two hours, much less than other studies we have seen for this product. Cutter Skinsations Insect Repellent with 7 percent DEET lasted one hour.
Bug Off! Get the Straight Dope on the Best Mosquito Repellents
by Berne Broudy
Our AssessmentThis is a useful comparison test of 15 mosquito repellents. The tests use a standard protocol (with a cage of mosquitoes, measuring time to the first bite), but the downside is there is only one test subject. The review is still helpful, however, because it evaluates other factors, such as scent and skin feel, as well as effectiveness. Sawyer MAXI-DEET and 3M Ultrathon Insect Repellent were effective for six hours, and Repel Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent lasted four hours. The 12 repellents lasted three hours or less.
by Editors of Good Housekeeping
Our AssessmentEditors of Good Housekeeping magazine list and describe five types of repellents that create a barrier against mosquitoes rather than using skin application. It isn't clear if the efficacy rates provided are based on testing by Good Housekeeping or simply manufacturers' claims, or how these products were selected.
Insect Repellents: Insect Repellents Compared
by Editors of Which?
Our AssessmentEditors at Which? magazine in the U.K. test 19 mosquito repellers. 3M Ultrathon Insect Repellent 12 Lotion lasts longer than any of the other products and is one of the few tested products available in the U.S. One drawback to the test is that only a single person's arm is used. The two wristbands and one patch product fall near the bottom of the chart in effectiveness.
by Editors of Consumer
Our AssessmentAustralia's version of ConsumerReports.org conducts similar product testing. This recent review compares a product containing 30 percent DEET to five mosquito repellents without DEET on four volunteers. Although the brands included in the test are not sold in the U.S., the results are interesting as a comparison of types of insect repellents. The DEET product provided seven hours of protection, while the two products containing 25 percent picaridin lasted two to three hours. The three natural insect repellents kept mosquitoes at bay for only about an hour. (Insect repellents sold in the U.S. contain a maximum of 20 percent picaridin.)
by Contributors to Drugstore.com
Our AssessmentDrugstore.com publishes ratings and reviews submitted by users of approximately 70 insect repellents. A few natural insect repellents have been reviewed by at least 10 people. Repel Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent receives an average rating of 4 out of 5 stars from 55 users who say it works, but the strong smell is tough for some to tolerate. It seems less effective on no-see-ums. BiteBlocker Organic Xtreme Insect Spray receives 3.5 stars from about 20 users who mostly agree it's effective, but about half say the smell is unpleasant. Nearly all of the dozen reviews of Buzz Away Extreme, which contains citronella and soybean oils, say the odor is strong or too unappealing. Burt's Bees Herbal Insect Repellent averages 3.5 stars from 88 users who are mostly happy with it. It seems to smell better than other natural products, but some say it feels greasy.
by Contributors to Amazon.com
Our AssessmentApproximately 60 mosquito repellents have been reviewed by consumers, but very few have accumulated more than a handful of reviews. Sawyer Permethrin Clothing Insect Repellent Spray has the highest overall rating of 4.7 stars out of five from about 40 users. 3M Ultrathon Insect Repellent 12 Lotion receives an impressive 4.5 stars or higher from about 35 users in two separate listings. Many satisfied reviewers used it for international travel to areas with high populations of biting insects. Repel Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent receives an average of 4.1 stars from about 65 users who highly recommend this natural insect repellent. Burt's Bees Herbal Insect Repellent and BiteBlocker Herbal Insect Repellent Spray are two other natural insect repellents that receive lower ratings. Cutter Advanced Insect Repellent is another non-DEET insect repellent that receives 4.2 stars from about a dozen users who like the smell and non-greasy feel but wish it was longer lasting.
by Contributors to REI.com
Our AssessmentThe outdoor gear retailer REI.com sells a variety of bug repellents for extended outdoor activities. 3M Ultrathon Insect Repellent 12 Lotion receives an overall rating of 4 stars out of 5 from nearly 20 users. Reviewers say it's effective but expensive and greasy feeling. Sawyer Permethrin Clothing Insect Repellent receives an average rating of 4.5 stars from about 15 users who say it keeps mosquitoes and ticks off clothing and tents.
Insect Repellent Reviews
by Contributors to Drugstore.com
Our AssessmentUsers can post their opinions on a wide variety of products at Viewpoints.com. Although about 30 mosquito repellers have been reviewed, only a few have accumulated more than 10 reviews. Sawyer Controlled Release Insect Repellent receives a solid average rating of 4.1 stars out of 5 from about 30 users. Reviewers say after spraying it on clothing or tents, it's effective at keeping flying insects away and killing them. The main downside is you have to wait for it to dry before wearing the treated clothing. OFF! FamilyCare Insect Repellent I Smooth & Dry both receives the same rating from about 15 users who praise the smell and feel, though some wish it lasted longer. Both of these spray products have an odor while applying them that then dissipates.
Buzz Away Extreme Versus Off! Active IV Against the American Dog Tick
by Brooke Witting
Our AssessmentThis is one of the few studies we found that tests insect repellents against dog ticks. A Ph.D. candidate at North Carolina State University conducts a study comparing the effectiveness of Off! Active IV (25 percent DEET) with Quantum Buzz Away Extreme, a soybean oil insect repellent that also uses geranium oil and other plant oils as ingredients. Rather than using human subjects, the tests observe whether or not ticks stay away from treated cloth. The study concludes that Buzz Away Extreme is more effective. The reliability of the study isn't clear, since it's published on the manufacturer's website.
Top 9 Insect and Mosquito Repellents
by Wendy Bumgardner
Our AssessmentThis is only one of many reviews and articles about mosquito repellents by various About.com guides. This article merely ranks nine mosquito repellers without providing insight as to why one is better than the others. Only the top-rated insect repellent, Cutter Advanced, gets a short review. Bumgardner says it "is truly odorless." It's not clear whether the testing she refers to is her own. (Note: ConsumerSearch is owned by About.com, but the two don't share an editorial affiliation.)
Review of Off! Smooth and Dry Insect Repellent
by Faith Lawless
Our AssessmentFaith Lawless, About.com's Makeup Guide, gives OFF! FamilyCare Insect Repellent I Smooth & Dry a perfect 5-star rating after applying it on herself and testing its effectiveness in her garden. She praises the "nice, fresh scent" and says it kept all flying insects away. She was pleased to see this bug repellent didn't mar the self-tanner she had applied the day before. (Note: ConsumerSearch is owned by About.com, but the two don't share an editorial affiliation.)