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

EWG’s 2018 Guide to Bug Repellents : Top Repellent Choices

Top Choices

Repellent Chemical

General Effectiveness*

Pros*

Cons*

Picaridin

A 5-10% concentration can protect against ticks and mosquitoes for five to 12 hours. A 20% concentration product provides all-day protection from mosquitoes and ticks.

* Odorless
* Non-irritating
* Does not melt plastic
* No known major health concerns

*Most recently EPA-approved active ingredient, which means less time on the market compared to other ingredients

*Less extensive safety testing than DEET

 

DEET

A less than 10% concentration can protect against ticks and mosquitos for one to two hours. A 20 to 30% concentration product provides all-day protection from mosquitoes and ticks.

* Effective against wide range of pests
* Widely used with few serious adverse reactions
* Concentrations of 10 to 30% provide lasting protection against many species

* Need to limit concentration used on children
* Strong eye irritant
* Melts some plastic and damages some fabrics
* In a few cases neurological symptoms have been reported
* Avoid products with more than 30% DEET – try time-release products when you need multi-hour protection

IR3535

A 20% concentration can provide eight hours of mosquito protection and six to 12 hours of tick protection.

* Structurally similar to amino acid alanine
* Long presence on European market
* Good safety profile

* Concentrations less than 10% may not be effective
* Avoid brands with added sunscreen 
* Serious eye irritant
* Melts some plastic and damages some fabrics

 

* 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 EPA registration approvals for labeling. Actual protection time varies in field tests. Experiment to see which products work for you to repel bugs in your area.

Other Good Repellent Choices

Repellent Chemical

General Effectiveness*

Pros*

Cons*

Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus with enhanced PMD concentration

 

 

30% concentration (19% PMD) provides up to six hours of protection against mosquitoes and ticks.

 

* Most effective botanical ingredient

 

* Not for use on children 3 and younger
* Can irritate lungs
* Possible allergens

 

PMD

10% provides two hours of protection against mosquitoes and ticks.

* Lower allergen concern than botanical-based product

* Not for use on children 3 and younger
* Can irritate lungs
* No higher concentration on the market

2-undecanone (Methyl Nonyl Ketone)

7.5% concentration offers four hours of mosquito and two hours of tick protection.

* As effective as DEET in some tests

* Limited product options

 

* 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 EPA registration approvals for labeling. Actual protection time varies in field tests. Experiment to see which products work for you to repel bugs in your area.