Tests show it's strength of active ingredient in mosquito repellents that matters most


As the weather warms up, it’s more important to use insect repellent to ward off pesky mosquitoes and ticks, and the diseases they spread. Consumer Reports put 37 different repellents to the test.


Consumer Reports tested  repellents that contain DEET or other active chemical ingredients like picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus.


To test, panelists stick their arms into cages filled with disease-free mosquitoes.


Years of testing has shown that if a repellent does well against mosquitoes, it generally tends to do well against ticks as well.


So which repellents work best? The tests showed it’s not about which brands performed better, but more about the concentration of the active ingredients.


“We found that concentrations of DEET at 25 to 30 percent are really the best to keep you protected,” said Catherine Roberts, Consumer Reports’ health editor.


Off Deep Woods Sportsmen Insect Repellent IV Dry with 25 percent DEET did an excellent job against mosquitoes. Ben’s with 30 percent DEET was named a “best buy.”


If you prefer wipes, CR recommends Repel Insect Repellent Mosquito Wipes with 30 percent DEET.


“So a lot of folks are worried that DEET might not be safe, but there’s a lot of evidence to show that when you follow the directions on the label and you use it properly, DEET is very effective and safe,” Roberts said.


Consumer Reports also tested repellents that use natural ingredients like citronella, peppermint and soybean oil to keep pests away. Those products performed poorly in CR’s tests.


But, if you are looking to go DEET-free, CR recommends Sawyer Premium with 20 percent picaridin. Another DEET-free alternative is Repel Lemon Eucalyptus Repellent.

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