Why some bug sprays are better than others | Consumer Reports

When you check out any pharmacy, or sporting goods store, or browse online, you’re sure to find a variety of insect repellents, all claiming to thwart pesky and sometimes dangerous bugs like mosquitoes and ticks.

But do they all work?

We’re working for you to explain why some repellents are much better than others.

With a quick internet search, you can find easy do-it-yourself homemade insect repellent concoctions.

And while the idea of using a repellent with more natural ingredients might sound appealing - Consumer Reports has a warning: the risks are just not worth it.

“Mosquitoes and ticks spread dangerous diseases like West Nile and Lyme - so it’s super important you use an insect repellent that actually works,” Catherine Roberts, a science journalist with CR said.

“Homemade repellents haven’t been tested for efficacy or safety. So there’s no guarantee that they’ll work. And ingredients like essential oils can cause skin irritation or allergic reactions,” she said.

For years, CR has tested many varieties of insect repellents, including many with natural ingredients.

Each time the results are similar: the most effective repellents include those that contain 25 to 30 percent deet.

“Our tests also found that some non-deet repellents, like those that contain 30 percent oil of lemon eucalyptus or 20 percent picaridin, worked too - though not as consistently as deet,” Roberts said.

Two repellents CR recommends? 3M Ultrathon Insect Repellent8 and Ben’s Tick and Insect Repellent Wilderness Formula Pump.

Both provide excellent protection based on CR’s rigorous tests.

How about repellent alternatives that you don’t put on your skin that claim to keep the bugs away?

“When it comes to things like citronella candles, wristbands and sonic repellents- there’s just very little evidence that shows that any of these really work,” Roberts said.

CR said some proven tips to help keep mosquitoes and ticks at bay is to keep your yard free of containers filled with water, and keep your lawn mowed and free of leaves and other debris.

CR recommends another simple solution: an oscillating fan creates air movement that can cool you and keep bugs away.

About the Authors:

Alli Graham came aboard the digital team as an evening digital content producer in June 2022.