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The 12 Best Mosquito Repellents to Keep Your Family Protected

Take the bite out of mosquito season with one of these best mosquito repellents you can buy.  

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Mosquito Repellents, via (3)

How to choose the best bug repellant

Ah, the sweet summer months are now upon us, which means picnics in the park, fun BBQ ideas, backyard games, days at the pool…and mosquitoes. Hopefully, you don’t live in one of the most mosquito-infested cities in the U.S., but if you consider your backyard an oasis and love to lounge on outdoor furniture, chances are, you’ll get bitten.

Mosquitoes can ruin your evening on the patio and leave you itching and scratching for days. Luckily, there are plenty of safe and simple ways to keep mosquitoes at bay, from plants that repel mosquitoes and natural bug repellents to mosquito-repelling lawn treatments and EPA-approved bug sprays. The challenge is to pick the right one.

“When choosing a personal repellent, make sure you match your insect repellent to the environment you are going to be in, as well as your activity,” says Tania Elliott, MD, an internist, allergist, and immunologist. “Different repellents offer a varied range of active ingredients, strengths, and lengths of protection.” Keep in mind: “The higher the percentage of the active ingredient (i.e. DEET), the longer one application will last,” she adds.

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Containers of OFF! brand insect repellent on a store shelf in New York on Thursday, January 28, 2016. The World Health Organization warns that the Aedes aegypti mosquito-borne Zika virus is spreading rapidly and now can be found from Argentina to the Southern United States. The virus can cause microcephaly and other problems in fetuses when contracted by pregnant mothers. (�� Richard B. Levine) (Photo by Richard Levine/Corbis via Getty Images)Richard Levine/Getty Images

Key ingredients to look for in a bug spray

The mosquito repellent you use in your yard should not be the same kind you use on your body.

For skin:

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these mosquito repellent ingredients are EPA-approved and safe for use—even by pregnant or breastfeeding women:

  • DEET, which is suitable for babies over two months, according to the CDC
  • Picaridin
  • Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), which is not suitable for kids under the age of three, according to the CDC
  • Para-menthane-diol (PMD), which is not suitable for kids under the age of three, according to the CDC
  • 2-undecanone

For yards and large areas: The above ingredients won’t be as effective on large spaces. These are the recommended active ingredients for large-scale adult mosquito treatments in residential settings:

  • Pyrethrins
  • Permethrin
  • Piperonyl butoxide

You may also want to invest in one of these best bug zappers.

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dad and son use mosquito spray.Spraying insect repellent on skin outdoorgalitskaya/Getty Images

How to properly apply bug spray

“Many people don’t know how to properly apply personal insect repellent,” Dr. Elliot notes—because yes, there’s a “right” and “wrong” way to do it. “It’s best to put it on your hands first, then rub the repellent in to ensure you don’t miss any spots,” she explains. “This is especially important to remember if you have kids,” she says. Just don’t forget to wash your hands afterward!

Also, if you’re using both sunscreen and bug spray, the CDC recommends applying the sunscreen first and the mosquito repellent second.

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overhead view of little girl in baby pool outsideJustin Pumfrey/Getty Images

Natural ways to deter mosquitoes

If you’re looking for a natural way to repel mosquitoes, take these steps:

  • Drain any standing bodies of water. This one is the most important steps, since mosquitoes need water to breed, and standing water might contain mosquito larvae. Whether it’s collected in your kid’s outdoor toys or the saucer of an outdoor planter, dump it out.
  • Use yellow-hued lightbulbs outside. Bright white lights can attract mosquitoes, so switching over to yellow-hued bulbs will help minimize these pests.
  • Wear protective clothing. According to the CDC, you don’t need to apply bug spray to any areas of your body covered with clothes, so long pants and long sleeves aren’t a bad idea—as long as you can stand the heat! For extra protection, consider wearing clothing treated with permethrin (it’s an insecticide that kills bugs and mosquitoes and lasts through multiple washes).
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Best mosquito repellants for skin

Off Deep Woods Bug Spray & Mosquito Repellentvia

1. OFF! Deep Woods Bug Spray & Mosquito Repellent

This mosquito repellent is best for everyday use. The 25 percent DEET works to form a vapor barrier around your skin, keeping mosquitoes from landing (and biting!). While DEET can be oily, this dry spray is specially formulated so it doesn’t leave a greasy, sticky residue, making it ideal for outdoor fun.

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Sawyer Products 20 Percent Picaridin Insect Repellent Lotionvia

2. Sawyer Products 20% Picaridin Insect Repellent Lotion

With up to 14 hours of mosquito-repelling power, this product is best for camping trips. Whether you’re out on the trails or fishing by the lake, the Picaridin in this mosquito repellent not only keeps them away, but it also keeps them from biting, according to the National Pesticide Information Center. And since it’s a non-greasy lotion, it’s easy to rub on. Bonus: It repels ticks and chiggers, too.

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Cutter Backwoods Pest Repellentvia

3. Cutter Backwoods Pest Repellent

“For those days when you’ll be hiking and/or outside for quite some time, I recommend products from the Cutter Backwoods collection, which includes a high DEET option for those sweaty, buggy days,” Dr. Elliott says. Cutter Backwoods Pest Repellent contains 25 percent DEET and lasts for up to 10 hours.

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Bug Bam Mosquito Bandsvia

4. Bug Bam! Mosquito Bands

Slide on one of these bands on your wrist anytime you’re headed toward water—they’re waterproof, making them perfect for days at the lake, kayaking, or any other water-focused activity. Made with lemongrass, peppermint, and citronella, these bands deter mosquitoes naturally—plus they’re sweat-proof, and last for 100 straight hours.

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Best repellent for clothing, gear, and on-the-go adventures

Sawyer Products Premium Permethrin Insect Repellent For Clothing Gear And Tentsvia

5. Sawyer Products Premium Permethrin Insect Repellent for Clothing, Gear & Tents

Arm yourself and your belongings against mosquitoes with this mosquito repellent specifically designed to be applied to clothing and gear. The permethrin actually bonds directly to fabric fibers (don’t worry, it doesn’t stain and dries odorless) and will last up to six weeks or six washings.

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Thermacell Mr300 Portable Mosquito Repellervia

6. Thermacell MR300 Portable Mosquito Repeller

Whether you stash it in your backpack or carry it with you while hiking, this handy little gadget is the best portable mosquito repeller you can find. It uses the same mosquito-repelling ingredients and technology that makes the larger Thermacell Patio Shield Mosquito Repeller so popular. Even though it’s smaller, it still covers the same 15-foot radius.

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Best mosquito repellent for yards

Cutter Backyard Bug Controlvia

7. Cutter Backyard Bug Control

The best all-around mosquito repellent for yards is Cutter Backyard Bug Control because it’s so easy to use! You just attach it to your hose, start spraying, and the active ingredient (Lambda-cyhalothrin) will go to work. Even better: You can get away with doing it just once a season since the results last up to three months.

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Thermacell Patio Shield Mosquito Repellervia

8. Thermacell Patio Shield Mosquito Repeller

This best mosquito repeller for patios is a #1 Best Seller on Amazon for a reason: It really works. The device heats unscented replaceable mats containing a type of pyrethrins called d-cis/trans allethrin that naturally repel mosquitoes. Each mat works for four hours and covers a 15-foot radius, so just one device can keep your outdoor seating area bug-free. You can also get it in a chic lantern version, too.

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Cutter 95783 Citronella Candlevia

9. Cutter 95783 Citronella Candle

This best-budget mosquito repellent is a tried-and-true classic. Just one bucket has 30 hours of burn time so you get a lot of bang for your bucket. The citronella oil in these candles works to naturally deter mosquitoes while creating a pretty glow on your patio table.

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The best all-natural mosquito repellents

Cutter Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellentvia

10. Cutter Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent

“My go-to for families with small children when there is a desire to use something DEET-free is Cutter Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent,” Dr. Elliott says. Eucalyptus oil is a natural mosquito repellent, and this one purports to last up to six hours.

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Murphys Naturals Mosquito Repellent Incense Sticksvia

11. Murphy’s Naturals Mosquito Repellent Incense Sticks

These all-natural mosquito repellent incense sticks are best for times when you’ll only be outdoors for an hour or two. Each stick burns for 2.5 hours and contains five types of essential oils that deter bugs, including citronella, lemongrass, rosemary, cedarwood, and peppermint oils.

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Wondercide Flea Tick And Mosquito Yard Sprayvia

12. Wondercide Flea, Tick, and Mosquito Yard Spray

This yard mosquito and tick repellent is best for people with pets. Its all-natural insect repelling formula is made of essential oils, so it’s safe for your dog to run around in. Attach it to your hose and spray anything and everything in sight, from your grass and dog house to your garden veggies and siding.

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Maryn Liles
Maryn is a home and travel expert who’s covered everything from the best robotic vacuums to the most remote destinations around the world. She's also the founder of Connected Content Co.—an SEO and creative content agency that's done work for Reader's Digest, HGTV, Walmart, Better Homes & Gardens and others. When she's not writing, you can find her working on her latest home DIY project, out for a hike or dancing around the house to 80s jams.