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The Different Types of Mosquito Spray and How To Safely Use Them

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Home > Blog >  The Different Types of Mosquito Spray and How To Safely Use Them

As summer approaches, more time is spent outdoors and the risks of being bitten by mosquitoes and other insects become higher. To avoid getting bitten and to dodge the dangers that mosquitos can pose to you and your family, it is important to know your options when it comes to insect repellent and how to use it most effectively.

Types of Mosquito Spray


Developed by the United States army in 1946, DEET has been used as an effective mosquito spray ever since. In fact, an estimated thirty-percent of Americans use DEET every single year. This reliable and highly popular mosquito repellent is sold by many major brand names and comes in the form of bug and mosquito spray, lotion and more. Although it is popular, there are many people who are wary of this particular repellent, as some have reported bad reactions to the ingredient. While some may react poorly to DEET, it is still one of the most effective insect repellents on the market and is generally safe to use for most people.

Myths Surrounding DEET

There are many misconceptions about DEET and its safety for use as a mosquito spray. Some have claimed in the past that DEET will soak through the skin when applied topically and affect your nervous system and brain. However, this claim is not based on research. Over the past twenty years, DEET has been researched many times, each time with the same result: DEET is safe to use on the skin with no evidence of harm to the nervous system. Another common misconception about DEET is that it will kill mosquitos. This is untrue, as DEET does not kill mosquitos, but only repels them. DEET will interfere with receptors on the mosquitos antennae and mouth parts, deterring the insects from landing on you and biting. Some also incorrectly believe that it is the smell of DEET which mosquitos do not like. The science of how DEET actually works continues to evolve, but there has been no research to prove that it is the smell of DEET which repels mosquitos. What is known though is that DEET creates a vapor barrier between mosquito and the skin, making it harder for these annoying insects to land on your body.

Mosquito spray containing DEET comes in concentrations from 5% to 100%. It might seem as though products with higher concentrations of DEET will be more effective than those with lower concentrations, however that is not the case. Under most circumstance, products with a DEET concentration of 10% to 35% will provide the adequate protection you need against mosquitos. In very high concentrations, DEET can sometimes cause mild irritation to the skin with prolonged application, so the lowest effective percentage should be used and especially on children.


For those seeking a mosquito spray that does not contain DEET, IR-3535 might be a good alternative. This type of mosquito repellent offers benefits to users that repellents like DEET cannot. IR-3535 is a very safe alternative to DEET and other repellents, as adverse affects or toxicity have never been reported. There are also cosmetic benefits of IR-3535. Repellents that use this ingredient are colorless, non-greasy and lightweight. They are also essentially invisible once dry.

IR-3535 was developed by a German pharmaceutical company in the early 1970s. In 1979, IR-3535 became available to consumers in Europe and then in Asia in the 1980s. IR-3535 was registered with the United States Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, in 1999, making it available to American consumers. This ingredient is used in more than 150 insect repellent products across the world and can be found in the form of bug and mosquito spray, lotions, sticks, powders, creams, gels and more. The concentrations of IR-3535 differ from DEET, as mosquito spray containing IR-3535 can only be formulated using up to 20% of the ingredient. Even though few bug repellents in America use IR-3535, it has become popular due to its reputation of being safe while still effective.


Another alternative ingredient to the popular DEET containing insect repellents is Picaridin. Mosquito spray containing Picaridin is equally as effective as DEET and thought to pose less health risks. Created in the 1980s, Picaridin has been widely used in European and Asian countries, but only became available in the United States in 2005. Products containing Picaridin can be used to repel many different insects including mosquitos, ticks, chiggers and fleas. These products come in a variety of forms including sprays and wipes. Today, there are approximately two dozen types of mosquito spray in the United States that contain Picaridin.

Like DEET, Picaridin does not kill bugs and mosquitos, but instead only repels them and deters them from biting by forming a vapor barrier on the skin. This barrier makes it less likely that mosquitos will smell what attracts them to humans. The effectiveness of Picaridin can be compared to roughly a 10% concentration of DEET. This makes Picaridin an effective alternative to DEET and other repellents. Picaridin comes in concentrations of 7% to 20% and when using formulas containing only 7% of Picaridin, you will find up to two hours of protection from mosquitos and other bugs. Impressively, products containing a 20% Picaridin concentration will provide up to 12 hours of protection. Unlike DEET, the maximum percentage of Picaridin in a product will provide maximum staying power and defense against mosquitos. Mosquito spray containing Picaridin is also thought to be more enjoyable to use by consumers, as it is odorless, non greasy and does not cause irritation to the skin. Another benefit of Picaridin is that it can be used on your clothes or outdoor gear. While DEET is a plasticizer, meaning it can melt plastic, Picaridin is not. This means that DEET is not safe to use on your clothes or outdoor gear, while Picaridin will offer protection to your skin, clothes and any other items you would like to protect from mosquitos and other insects.


Unlike the aforementioned insect repellents, permethrin is not for use on skin and is only intended to be used on clothing and outdoor gear. First registered with the United States Environmental Protection Agency in 1979, permethrin is an insecticide that is used to control mosquitos in a variety of ways. Not only can permethrin be used to repel mosquitos from your clothing and gear, but is also used in public health mosquito programs, in buildings and structures, on flea collars and cattle ear tags and in flea treatments for dogs. The staying power of permethrin is far superior to that of DEET. Permethrin can last on clothing for at least two weeks, even through multiple laundry cycles. Using DEET mosquito spray on your skin and permethrin on your clothing is thought to be a great combination for protection against mosquitos and other insects. Permethrin comes in the form of bug and mosquito spray, powder and liquid.

Unlike other mosquito repellents which only deter bugs, permethrin can kill insects if they come into contact with it. Permethrin will cause muscle spasms, paralysis and death as it affects the nervous system of any affected insects. Fortunately, permethrin is more dangerous for insects than it is for humans and dogs, as insects are not able to break down the ingredient as quickly. It is worth noting that permethrin is more toxic to cats, as they aren’t able to break it down as effectively as dogs. If you have a pet cat, be cautious when using permethrin.

Natural Mosquito Spray

If you want to avoid using chemicals such as DEET or Picaridin in defense against mosquitos, there are a few natural mosquito sprays on the market that have been shown to deter insect bites. However, natural mosquito spray and repellent have not shown to be as effective as products contenting ingredients like DEET and Picaridin. These natural repellents will generally contain plant-based essential oils such as rosemary, cedar, lemongrass and citronella and should be applied with caution on children.

Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus

Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, or OLE, is one of the most effective natural insect repellents. Products containing this ingredient have been tested for the effectiveness in mosquito defense in the United States and were found to provide similar protection to products contenting 15%-20% concentrations of DEET. Be aware that lemon eucalyptus oil and Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, are not the same ingredient. When used in concentrations of 30%, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus products have proven to keep mosquitos and ticks away for seven hours. These products have not been tested on children under three years of age, so use on this age group is strong discouraged, as temporary eye injury is possible.


2-Undecanone is an oily, natural repellent that deters pests through an ingredient sourced from wild tomato. This natural repellent has proven to be so effective that it is now registered with the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Studies have shown that 2-Undecanone is more successful at warding off deer ticks and lone star ticks than products which contain DEET. You will find two hours of protection from ticks and four hours of protection from mosquitos when using 2-Undecanone as an insect repellent. Repellents containing 7.75% 2-Undecanone are thought to be the most effective. This ingredient is also used to repel cats, dogs and even raccoons, so be careful when using 2-Undecanone around your pets.

The Correct Way To Apply Mosquito Spray

There are are right and wrong ways to apply mosquito spray. To ensure that you are applying your insect repellent in a way that will effectively ward off bugs and other critters, follow the crucial steps below. Straying from these methods can actually cause harm to you or your child and decrease the efficacy of the insect repellent.

Apply Your Sunscreen First

If you are also going to apply sunscreen when outdoors, rub the sunscreen in first and let it absorb into your skin. Once your sunscreen is absorbed you can then apply your mosquito spray. You do not need to reapply the insect repellent when reapplying your sunscreen after prolonged time spent in the sun. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, does not recommend using products that contain both sunscreen and bug repellent. This is because sunscreen needs to be applied more frequently than mosquito spray which could result in unnecessarily applying more bug spray than you need.

Do Not Use Mosquito Spray Under Your Clothes

When applying mosquito spray, you only need to use the repellent on exposed areas of your skin. If you will be outdoors in locations with a high population of mosquitos, wear long pants and long sleeves to protect as much of your skin as possible. Only use bug repellent on the remaining exposed areas, such as your face. You should also always spray your clothes with bug spray tan an additional defense against mosquitos and other insects.

Use Only The Amount of Bug Repellent Necessary

It is important to cover every area of exposed skin while outdoors, as some mosquitos and other insects are aggressive biters. To evenly apply your mosquito spray, shake the container well and spray from four to eight inches away onto your exposed skin, but do not use too much. A thin layer of repellent is enough to protect you from mosquitos. You should also avoid inhaling the repellent, so find a ventilated space to apply. Do not apply bug repellent near open flames.

Do Not Spray Bug Repellent Directly on Your Face

To apply bug repellent on your face, first spray the product into your hands and then gently rub it on your face, neck and ears, avoiding your eyes and nostrils. Avoid applying bug repellent to open cuts or broken skin.

Make Sure To Apply Bug Repellent To Your Ankles

Mosquitos are most attracted to certain areas of the body and especially the ankles and feet. Don’t forget to apply insect and mosquito spray to these areas to ensure you are fully protected.

Be Careful When Applying Bug Spray on Children

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns against applying insect repellent directly to the skin of children who are younger than two months old. Even for children who are older than two months, it is not recommended to apply bug spray directly to their skin. Instead, spray the repellent into your hands first and then apply to children. Do not apply bug repellent to children’s hands, as they tend to put their fingers into their eyes and mouths.

Only Reapply Bug Spray When Absolutely Necessary

To avoid over use of insect repellent, only reapply if necessary. If you’ve applied bug spray but notice that after time you are starting to get bitten again, it’s time to reapply. After you return indoors, make sure to wash any skin on which you applied repellent with soap and water. Always wash repellent-treated clothing in an isolated load before wearing them again.

Using your new knowledge of the types of insect repellents and how to properly use them, you can now enjoy your summer outdoors without the dangers and annoyances of mosquito and other insect bites.

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