We Tried 4 Bug Sprays and This Is the Best


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mother applying tick repellent on daughter
Photo credit: Imgorthand/istockphoto

There are a lot of great things about summer. Bugs are not one of them. Pesky insects have the potential to ruin a summer barbecue, turn your festive event into a festival of itchiness, and leave you swatting at the air instead of swatting at a beach ball. So this summer season, get prepared by purchasing a bug spray that works.
close up of woman applying insect repellant in nature
Photo credit: skynesher/istockphoto

DEET has been used as an insect repellent in the United States for more than 50 years. The CDC recommends using a product with at least 20 percent DEET for effective, long-lasting protection against mosquitoes that may transmit the Zika, dengue, chikungunya and West Nile viruses. They also emphasize that natural products containing citronella are not as effective. Contrary to popular belief, DEET does not kill mosquitoes but rather repels them by interfering with the insects' neurons and antennae receptors.
Off! FamilyCare Insect Repellent Smooth & Dry
Photo credit: Courtesy of walmart.com

Price: $5.88 for a 4-ounce aerosol spray at Walmart
Active Ingredients: 15 percent DEET
Scent: Mild
Effectiveness: Good

mother applying tick repellent on son
Photo credit: Imgorthand/istockphoto

OFF!, an SC Johnson company, has been around since 1886 and produces a variety of bug repellents and sprays. Their FamilyCare Smooth & Dry line is more like a powder-dry aerosol deodorant spray. You spritz it on and there's no need to wait for it to dry. The best feature is that it won't damage your clothing. It lasts up to 6 hours and its active ingredient is 15 percent DEET.
Off! Deep Woods Insect Repellent VIII (Dry)
Photo credit: Courtesy of lowes.com

Price: $5.97 for a 4-ounce aerosol spray at Lowe's
Active Ingredients: 25 percent DEET
Scent: Citrus
Effectiveness: Very good

teenagers spraying insect repellant on each other in summer nature
Photo credit: martinedoucet/istockphoto

This repellant received an overall score of 94 on Consumer Reports—and we have to concur. It provides effective protection for up to 8 hours against mosquitoes, ticks, biting flies and chiggers, and of the four products it smells the least offensive with its mild citrus scent. It's a dry spray, so it doesn't feel greasy and should be a go-to product for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. It uses slightly more than the recommended CDC percentage of 20 percent for complete insect coverage.
Cutter Backwoods Insect Repellent
Photo credit: Courtesy of walmart.com

Price: $3.57 for a 6-ounce aerosol spray at Walmart
Active Ingredients: 25 percent DEET
Scent: Faint bug repellent
Effectiveness: Excellent

woman applying bug spray outdoors near camping site
Photo credit: powerofforever/istockphoto

For sweaty, outdoor activities, get Cutter Backwoods Insect Repellent. This product features unscented 25 percent DEET and a 10-hour, sweat-resistant formula. It's effective and a good value for the money for prolonged outdoor activities. It also comes in a dry variety, which is actually less oily than the other brands. Although all the brands smell like bug sprays, even those that say they are "unscented," Cutter Backwoods Insect Repellent was the least offensive, fading after 20 minutes of application.
Repel Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent Spray
Photo credit: Courtesy of target.com

Price: $4.99 for a 4-ounce pump spray at Target
Active Ingredients: Lemon eucalyptus
Scent: Smelly, week-old lemons
Effectiveness: Decent

girl in the forest uses the spray against mosquitoes
Photo credit: itakdalee/istockphoto

Looking for an alternative to the bug sprays containing DEET? Repel Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent Spray contains 40 percent oil of lemon eucalyptus or "citriodiol" a naturally sourced active ingredient. It is also one of the most pungent and unpleasant smelling products we tested. It may be that the bugs also hate the smell and that is why they stay away.
Cutter Backwoods Insect Repellent
Photo credit: Courtesy of walmart.com

Of the four products tested, Cutter Backwoods is the best overall insect repellent. It's cost effective, works longer, and smells the best.

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