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EWG’s 2018 Guide to Bug Repellents
July 17, 2018

EWG’s 2018 Guide to Bug Repellents : Other Repellent Options & Options to Avoid

Other Repellent Options

Repellent Chemical

General Effectiveness*

Pros*

Cons*

Citronella

4.2% concentration provides one hour of mosquito and tick protection.

* Botanical ingredient

* Less effective than other repellent ingredients
* Frequent application may be necessary
* May cause allergic skin reactions
* Ineffective against Asian tiger mosquitoes

Catnip oil

7% and 15% concentrations offer seven hours of mosquito protection, but no tick protection.

* Botanical ingredient

* Hard to find

Botanical blends

Little testing data available. Many tested blends do not repel Asian tiger mosquitos and other aggressive species.

* Botanical ingredient
* Some geranium oil and soybean oil mixtures provide lasting bug protection

* Exempt from EPA registration and testing   
* Effectiveness varies depending on mosquito species
* Frequent reapplication necessary
* May cause allergic skin reactions

 * The general effectiveness, pros and cons columns in the table refer generically to products formulated with the ingredient listed and do not make explicit claims on the quality or performance of any specific product. Effectiveness estimates are drawn from peer-reviewed literature and the EPA registration approvals for labeling. Actual protection time varies in field tests. Experiment to see which products work for you for the bugs in your area. 

 

Toxic or Ineffective Repellent Options

 

Product

Why?

Try Instead

Bug zappers

They are ineffective and expensive, may attract more mosquitos to the area and may kill beneficial bugs.

Drain standing water, check window screens and stay indoors when insects swarm. Use repellent as needed on exposed skin.

Yard bug treatments

They don’t provide lasting protection, require more pesticides than skin repellents

Clip-on repellents, Insecticide fans

They pose inhalation hazards, and the ingredients metofluthrin and allethrin are more toxic than skin products. 

Ceiling or standing fans can keep mosquitoes from landing on people.

Repellent candles

They pose inhalation hazards, and are less effective than skin or clothing treatments.

Cover up with light-colored clothes. Use repellent as needed on exposed skin.

Pure essential oils

These can cause serious irritation and allergies.

Use products formulated for skin use. Test them on a small area before applying widely.

Repellent Wristbands

They are less effective than skin or clothing treatments, and have a limited radius of effectiveness.

Try applying repellent on the cuffs of clothing to protect your hands and wrists from bites.