Mosquito repellents with DEET protect best, Consumer Reports tests show

Picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus also effective

Recent rains are welcome, but the mosquitoes - not so much.

They bite, you itch, and they can spread disease.

So, Consumer Reports just tested 53 repellents to find out which protect the best.

To test repellents, brave volunteers stuck their treated arms into cages filled with hundreds of hungry, disease-free mosquitoes.

The volunteers used a standard dose and waited 30 minutes to stick their arms in the cage for five minutes. They counted every time a mosquito landed or bit, and repeated the process until the repellent failed or until eight hours passed.

“A repellent fails our test if a mosquito bites twice in one 5-minute session. Or, if there’s one bite in each of two consecutive 5-minute sessions,” said Consumer Reports Editor Catherine Roberts.

And while the mosquitoes in these tests are disease-free, the ones you’ll encounter might not be.

“Mosquitoes and ticks can spread serious bug-borne diseases like Lyme disease and West Nile virus, and using an effective insect repellent is one really good way of reducing your risk of contracting those diseases,” Roberts said.

Key word there is “effective.” Consumer Reports’ tests found that many of the most effective repellents in fighting against mosquitoes and ticks contained 25% to 30% DEET as its active ingredient.

Repellents Consumer Reports recommends include:

  • 3M Ultrathon Insect Repellent8
  • Ben’s Tick and Insect Repellent Wilderness Formula Pump

Properly applying the repellent is just as important as the kind you use. Follow the directions on the label and use a thin coat on all exposed skin. You can also spray on top of your clothes, but Roberts says don’t apply it under your clothing.

For people who prefer wipes over sprays, Consumer Reports also recommends Ben’s Tick & Insect Repellent Wipes. This also contains 30% DEET.

If you’re wary of DEET, Consumer Reports’ tests found some repellents that contain 20% picaridin or 30% oil of lemon eucalyptus were effective as well -- recommending Repel Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent2 Pump.

To see the full list of Consumer Reports’ recommended insect repellents for 2023 and learn more about the testing process, click here.

About the Author:

As a consumer reporter, Marilyn is all about helping people stay safe and save a buck. Since coming to KSAT in 1985, she’s covered everything from crime to politics, winning awards for her coverage of the Mexican Mafia, Oklahoma tornadoes, children’s transplants, an investigation into voting irregularities and even a hit-and-run Santa Claus.