Insect Repellent Products

Which Mosquito Repellents Work Best

A wide variety of insect repellent products are available. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the use of products containing active ingredients which have been registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for use as repellents applied to skin and clothing.

When the EPA registers a repellent, they evaluate the product for efficacy and potential effects on human beings and the environment. The EPA registration means that the EPA does not expect a product, when used according to the instructions label, to cause unreasonable adverse effects to human health or the environment.

Long-Lasting Active Ingredients

Of the active ingredients registered with the EPA, two have demonstrated a higher degree of efficacy in the peer-reviewed, scientific literature.* Products containing these active ingredients typically provide longer-lasting protection than others:
  • DEET (Chemical Name: N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide or N,N-diethyl-3-methyl-benzamide)
  • Picaridin (KBR 3023, Chemical Name: 2-(2-hydroxyethyl)-1-piperidinecarboxylic acid 1-methylpropyl ester)
Products containing these active ingredients typically provide reasonably long-lasting protection:
  • Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus* or PMD (Chemical Name: para-Menthane-3,8-diol) the synthesized version of oil of lemon eucalyptus
  • IR3535 (Chemical Name: 3-[N-Butyl-N-acetyl]-aminopropionic acid, ethyl ester)
Oil of lemon eucalyptus [p-menthane 3,8-diol (PMD)], a plant based repellent, is also registered with the EPA. In two recent scientific publications, when oil of lemon eucalyptus was tested against mosquitoes found in the U.S. it provided protection similar to repellents with low concentrations of DEET.

These recommendations are for domestic use in the United States. See the CDC Travelers’ Health website for specific recommendations concerning protection from insects when traveling outside the United States.

Non-Skin Protection

In addition, certain products which contain permethrin are recommended for use on clothing, shoes, bed nets, and camping gear, and are registered with the EPA for this use. Permethrin is highly effective as an insecticide and as a repellent. Permethrin-treated clothing repels and kills ticks, mosquitoes, and other arthropods and retains this effect after repeated laundering. The permethrin insecticide should be reapplied following the label instructions. Some commercial products are available pretreated with permethrin. Permethrin is not to be used directly on the skin.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): The CDC is a source of information on disease control, and their Internet website includes a listing of state health departments. Call 972-221-6400.