Mosquitoes and ticks spread more disease and destruction throughout the world than any other animal. Even if you don’t get an infected bite or a transmitted disease, bites are still itchy and irritating. If you live in a humid and damp area, the summer might be completely ruined by the number of insects around.
For the past half century, the most commonly used ingredient in insect repellent has been DEET. In fact, it used to be the only CDC-approved ingredient to repel insects. The FDA has approved the use of DEET in everyone except infants under the age of two months old, assuming they aren’t exposed to large concentrations of the chemical. This includes ingesting it or getting it in the eyes.
There are some health concerns that have been raised about DEET, though. Many health agencies consider the chemical safe. A great deal of research has been done, and there haven’t been significant health consequences linked to DEET usage in low concentrations. That said, overexposure to DEET can lead to neurological issues, and it’s possible for people to develop allergic reactions to the chemical, though this is exceedingly uncommon.
Health concerns aren’t the only reason that some people prefer to avoid DEET. DEET is notorious for having an extremely strong odor for humans and mosquitoes alike. It functions by confusing the sensory receptors of mosquitoes with a barrier of sense blockage. But to do this, the chemical emits a smell that’s best known as, simply, the “bug spray smell.”
Some people have more sensitive noses than others and can’t abide the smell. Others experience skin reactions because their skin is sensitive to synthetic chemical compounds. Another issue is that DEET can sometimes damage and degrade materials like clothing, fishing line, backpacks, hunting gear, and other necessities.
Whatever the reason, you might be wondering if there are alternatives to DEET.
The answer: Yes!
Best DEET Free Mosquito Repellent
|Product||Type of Product||Volume||Method of Repelling|
Our Best Pick
|Spray||4 ounces||Lemon eucalyptus|
Alternative Active Ingredients to DEET
In 2005, a chemical called Picaridin was approved by the CDC for use in insect repellents. Tests have shown that Picaridin has almost the same level of effectiveness as DEET when getting rid of mosquitoes, and it is even more effective than DEET at repelling certain types of ticks. If you live in a place like the Northeast, where ticks and lyme disease are often a greater concern than mosquitoes, you’ll want to lean toward Picaridin formulas.
Lemon and Eucalyptus Oil
Oil of lemon and eucalyptus, otherwise abbreviated OLE, is the only naturally derived ingredient that the CDC has approved as a repellent for mosquitoes. Many natural insect repellents claim to use a combination of essential oils as their active ingredients. However, if they lack OLE, then their active ingredients have not sustained enough research to be recommended by the CDC.
When you’re looking for natural mosquito repellents, always look for OLE first. There may be other essential oils mixed in to the formula to help repel other types of insects more effectively, but OLE must be a part of the list if you want to purchase something effective.
The CDC cautions that OLE should never be used on children below the age of three. If your child is under the age of three, DEET is a much safer and more scientifically-backed alternative. DEET shouldn’t be used on infants under two months of age, but after that, there aren’t any problems.
#1. Sawyer Fisherman’s Formula Insect Repelling Spray with Picaridin
This Sawyer product is mainly designed for fishermen, but it can be used by people engaging in all sorts of different outdoor activities. If you’re going fishing, hiking, camping, biking, running, or otherwise enjoying spaces that include mosquitoes, the Picaridin formula can help.
The Picaridin has a 20 percent concentration as recommended by the CDC. Fishermen can benefit from Picaridin over DEET for a number of different reasons. The biggest one is that Picaridin doesn’t harm plastic it comes into contact with. By contrast, DEET might cause damage to a person’s fishing line, fishing pole, tackle box, and any other plastic items they have around.
In addition to protecting against mosquito bites, the spray can protect against bites from fleas, biting flies, gnats, and several species of tick. It is available in spray bottles of both four-ounce sizes and half-ounce sizes.
#2. Repel Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent
This is one of many plant-based insect repellents on the market. Since it uses lemon eucalyptus oil, you can be confident that the CDC has approved the active ingredients as being effective. Each spray bottle comes with four ounces of formula. You can purchase packs of just one bottle at a time, or you can get a two-pack or six-pack.
Your clothes and other materials will be safe thanks to the DEET-free chemical composition. You shouldn’t use this formula with children under the age of three years. For everyone else, though, the formula can help repel mosquitoes and protect you for six hours at a time. As far as natural repellents go, this is a long time to last, so you won’t have to constantly reapply the spray.
Since the repellent doesn’t use DEET, it doesn’t have the same strong odor associated with traditional bug spray. Instead, it’s formulated with a refreshing and cool scent that is pleasant to inhale. The scent barrier it creates can help keep away the mosquitoes that carry the Chikungunya, Dengue, West Nile, and Zika viruses.
The lemon eucalyptus oil formula provides protection but doesn’t leave any greasy or sticky residue behind. If you dislike the tacky sensation or residue of traditional bug spray, you might want to give this one a try.
#3. Natrapel 12 Hour Insect Repellent
This DEET-free spray has the longest-lasting working time on the list. One application can protect you from mosquitoes and other bugs for a maximum of twelve hours. In addition, each can comes with six ounces of formula, so you receive more per bottle than with either of the other options.
The formula adheres to the 20 percent Picaridin concentration recommended by the CDC. Like other Picaridin products, the spray can repel mosquitoes, ticks, black flies, gnats, and a variety of other biting pests.
Applying the spray is easy thanks to the ergonomic design of the can. The Eco-Spray design is better for the environment than many other options, allowing you to continuously spray your skin and clothes without releasing aerosols that harm the air. Studies have indicated that the formula can last for twelve hours. For some people, it remains effective at least partially even beyond that.
Like other Picaridin products, the spray is safer for your gear than DEET-based sprays. It’s a good choice for fishermen, hunters, and anyone else who’s planning to use plastics during their outdoor adventures. The spray has earned recommendations from multiple groups of outdoor adventurers.
The full twelve hours of protection will typically last against ticks and mosquitoes, which are the two insects to be most concerned about. They’re the ones that spread the most serious diseases. Other bugs will also be repelled, but the repelling nature of the spray tends to last for only eight hours with other insects.
When you’re looking for DEET-free mosquito repellents, the most common active ingredients are Picaridin and OLE. Oil of lemon and eucalyptus is the one natural ingredient approved by the CDC for insect repellent, but it should never be used on young children. Picaridin is a more synthetic chemical that has been proven more effective than DEET in tick repelling and nearly as effective as DEET in mosquito repelling.
The Sawyer Products fisherman’s formula insect repellent is an effective spray that uses a 20 percent Picaridin concentration. Natrapel uses the same 20 percent concentration, which has been recommended by the CDC for safe insect repelling.
Of the items on the list, Natrapel works the longest. It has been tested and proven to last for up to twelve hours, while most competing sprays work for around six.
For those who want a formula with natural ingredients, the Repel plant-based spray uses OLE to function as an effective insect repellent. Repel is the top manufacturer of all kinds of insect repellent, including both DEET and DEET-free products. This particular concentration helps repel mosquitoes and other biting insects for a maximum of six hours.