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Deet and Deet-free Repellants

Use Natural Repellants and/or Deet

The lasting power of natural mosquito repellent may not be as long as those repellents that contain DEET or other such chemicals, but their repellent qualities are a safer choice, and that in itself is worth the extra effort involved in more frequent application.

Natural Oils

The most common natural mosquito repellents are essential oils of varying types. The most effective are said to be citronella oil and clove oil. It is important to be careful when using clove oil as it is a skin irritant, so it must be diluted and used sparingly. Other effective oils include lemon, eucalyptus, cinnamon, castor, rosemary, cedar, and peppermint. When using any essential oil as a natural mosquito repellent, remember that they are solely for external use. Be sure to test the oil on a small patch of skin before applying it fully to ensure that you are not allergic to it.


Another scientifically-proven natural mosquito repellent is garlic. If you like to relax in your backyard, but it is crowded with buzzing pests, commercial garlic sprays are available… It is important to consult your doctor before using garlic as an insect repellent as it contains high amounts of allicin and could cause allergic reactions and/or skin problems. If slathering yourself or your garden with garlic is unappealing to you, you could add garlic to your daily diet. If a large amount of garlic is ingested, the odor tends to seep out of the body’s pores, acting as a natural barrier against mosquitoes.

The essential oils that work well against mosquitoes are:

  • cinnamon oil
  • lemon eucalyptus oil
  • citronella oil
  • castor oil

Safe carrier oils and alcohols include:

  • olive oil
  • sunflower oil
  • any other cooking oil
  • witch hazel
  • vodka

Natural Mosquito Repellent Recipe

Mix the essential oil with the carrier oil or alcohol. Rub or spray the natural insect repellent onto skin or clothing, using care to avoid the sensitive eye area. You'll need to re-apply the natural product after about an hour or after swimming or exercise. Unused natural insect repellent may be stored in a dark bottle, away from heat or sunlight.

An effective formula is:

·        Citronella Oil - natural plant oil that has been registered as a natural insect repellent in the United States since 1948. The United States Environmental Protection Agency considers citronella oil to be a natural biopesticide with a non-toxic mode of action.

·        Lemongrass Oil - also natural plant oil that has long been used in tropical and subtropical regions as a natural insect repellent.

·        Peppermint Oil - has also long been used as a natural bug repellent, and is particularly good for keeping mosquitoes away.

·        Vanillin - not artificial vanilla, but the real stuff that we know acts as a natural bug repellent.

·        Deionized Water


A well-known natural mosquito repellent. The oils from the plant are used to make lotions, sprays, and candles.

A University of Guelph study assessed the effectiveness of 3% citronella candles and 5% citronella incense in protecting subjects from bites.

They found that subjects who were positioned near the citronella candles had 42.3% less bites and those near the citronella incense had 24.2% fewer bites.

Based on these results, citronella candles shouldn't be used as a stand-alone repellent, all

Keep in mind that natural plant oils typically need to be re-applied on a regular basis, as they wear off more quickly than conventional bug sprays that contain DEET and other harsh chemicals.

Also, be sure to re-apply regularly in the following circumstances that may lower repellent effectiveness:

·        Dilution by rain or swimming

·        Quick evaporation due to wind and/or high temperatures

 though they may help in combination with topical repellents.

DEET-Free Insect Repellents

Although insect repellents with DEET work great and are thought to be safe to use on children, there are still many parents who prefer DEET-free insect repellents. Many older reports associate DEET with possible toxic side effects, including seizures. DEET has been found to be safe to use, though, even on young children. Still, a DEET-free insect repellent is fine to use if you prefer it and it works for your child.

Popular insect repellents that are DEET-free include:

  • Avon Skin So Soft Bug Guard Insect Repellent
  • OFF! Botanicals Plant Based Insect Repellent (oil of lemon eucalyptus)
  • Cutter Advanced Insect Repellent (Picaridin)
  • Bull Frog Mosquito Coast
  • Burt's Bees Herbal Insect Repellent (Lemongrass Oil, Citronella Oil, Rosemary Oil)
  • California Baby Bug Repellent Spray with Citronella
  • Repel Plant Based Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent

Remember that, according their labels, products with oil of lemon eucalyptus (e.g. OFF! Botanicals) should not be used on children under age three.

Picaridin is another chemical ingredient found in repellents and is not a natural product. It is thought to be as effective as DEET and can be another option for parents looking for an alternative to DEET to consider.

Is DEET safe?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under six years of age are not exposed to repellents that contain more than 10 percent DEET. The Academy also recommends that infants less than two months old are not exposed to any DEET whatsoever.

The active ingredient in most chemical-based mosquito repellents is DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide), developed by the US military in the 1940s. This powerful chemical is absorbed readily into the skin, and should be used with caution.
Common side-effects to DEET-based products include rash, swelling, itching and eye-irritation. often due to over-application. For safer use, consider the following:
~ The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that repellents used on children contain no more than 10% DEET. Parents should assist children in applying DEET-based products.
~ Lotions can be applied more effectively than sprays. Only a thin layer should be used
~ Be careful to avoid areas near the eyes or mouth.
~ Wash skin exposed to DEET after coming in from mosquito areas.
~ Minimize exposed skin areas by wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants, if possible.

Recent research suggests that DEET products, used sparingly for brief periods, are relatively safe. Other research points to toxic encephalopathy associated with use of DEET insect repellents. Experts warn that DEET shouldn’t be used in combination with sun-screen because DEET shouldn’t be reapplied often.

Insect Repellents with DEET<