Do the Most Common Mosquito Repellents Actually Work?

Do the Most Common Mosquito Repellents Actually Work on

Good intentions don’t stop mosquitos

Alas, wishing doesn’t make it so – and it would appear that some of the most hyped mosquito repellent spray alternatives don’t really deliver on their promise to keep these biting pests away from us.

It’s not that they don’t work at all. They’re just not as effective as other options. We’re drawn to these alternatives because we’d rather use natural substances, or do something as simple as slip on a wristband. The challenge is that these popular common alternatives just aren’t as effective as mosquito protection using automatic misting systems.


The National Pesticide Information Center describes the oil of citronella as a naturally occurring insect and animal repellent that’s distilled from the grass. It’s not harmful to humans. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows it as a food additive and flavoring agent.

Unlike other pesticides, citronella used as candles or in torches does not kill mosquitos. It instead masks the scent that mosquitos and other insects find attractive. People concerned about the environment are proponents of citronella as a mosquito repellent because it’s nontoxic to birds and only slightly toxic to fish.

A recent study looking at the efficacy of insect repellents was published by the Journal of Insect Science. The study tested five wearable devices, as well as citronella candles, as methods to repel the Aedes aegypti mosquito – which is known to carry the Zika virus. The study concluded that citronella candles had no effect.


You’ve probably seen the TV commercials for these interesting devices. Several manufacturers now offer a clip-on mini fan that you can fasten on to your wrist or belt. The fan circulates a natural repellent like citronella or a manmade pesticide such as metofluthrin.

Consumer Reports concluded that these clip-on circulating fans actually were less effective at repelling mosquitos than traditional insect repellent sprays. Perhaps even more alarming is that metofluthrin is classified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a neurotoxin and potential carcinogen.

Consumer Reports may not be a fan of the clip-on version, but University of Florida Professor of Entomology Jonathan Day says that mosquitos have problems flying even in a slight wind. So, while the mini clip-on fan won’t accomplish much, using full-sized box fans or ceiling fans on your pool deck may be helpful at repelling mosquitos.

Protective clothing

Of all the alternative ways to prevent mosquito bites, this approach turns out to be the most effective. A growing number of companies offer clothing designed to protect you from mosquitos and other biting insects. This clothing is made of material that prevents mosquitos from biting through it.

Another option is to spray clothing with an insecticide known as permethrin, which kills most insects on contact. In fact, this is an approach recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).


There are many types of mosquito repellent wristbands on the market, and this is probably the one we all wish would actually be effective because it’s so easy to use. You just slip it on.

Consumer Reports says that these supposed repellent devices are marketed as being safer for use because you don’t apply anything to your skin or clothes. During testing, the organization determined wristbands to be ineffective. Mosquitos started biting test subjects immediately.

Some wristbands use alternative natural repellent substances such as citronella, while others utilize N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide, also called DEET, which is a proven effective mosquito repellent. DEET can only repel mosquitos when it makes contact with them. So, mosquitos have the opportunity to feast upon you everywhere except for the wristband. It’s for this reason that Consumer Reports had to share the bad news.

These common mosquito repellent approaches do have their proponents. In all cases, the active ingredient involved does have some capacity to offer help in keeping mosquitos at bay. In most cases, however, the approach just isn’t effective enough.

Diseases such as Zika that are carried by mosquitos are making the search for highly effective repellent solutions a growing priority for families that enjoy spending time outdoors. Many are turning to mosquito misting systems that automatically work for you all the time. Learn more about this solution.

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