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Consumer Reports: Top-performing insect repellents

Posted at 9:01 AM, Jun 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-03 12:01:05-04

TUCSON, Ariz. - At Consumer Reports’ insect repellent testing lab, sprays, lotions and wipes are put to the test. To test effectiveness at keeping mosquitoes and ticks away, willing panelists stick their arms into cages filled with disease-free mosquitoes.

“The number of bug borne diseases like West Nile virus, Lyme disease, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is increasing, and the number of places in the U.S. that they're spreading to is also on the rise," says Consumer Reports Health Editor, Catherine Roberts.

The good news is that CR tests show that products that are effective against mosquitoes, are also effective against ticks. Many of the highest-rated products contain DEET at concentrations of 15-30%.

CR’s two top rated repellents contain DEET. Ben’s Tick and Insect Repellent Wipes and Total Home Woodland Scent Insect Repellent.

“Research has shown that deet is safe when used as directed. But if you’re worried about it and are looking for something more natural, our testing shows that products whose active ingredients are essential oils all earned a rating of “Poor” for protection against mosquitoes," says Roberts.

If you don’t want to use deet, a better option than essential oil repellents are products containing 20% picaridin or 30% oil of lemon eucalyptus. Research suggests both are safe, though OLE shouldn’t be used on children under three years old.

Consumer Reports also wants to remind you, that to get the best protection from any of these repellents, you must apply them properly. So follow the directions on the label.