Pest Control: Personal Repellents

Pest Control: Personal Repellents
Keeping mosquitoes, flies, ticks and other biting insects at bay is crucial to maximizing your enjoyment when you're outside during the spring, summer and fall seasons. Fortunately, personal repellents are very effective at stopping pests from bothering you, whether you're relaxing on your patio or hiking through a national forest. Area repellents discourage insects from hanging around your porch while sprays and lotions allow you to coat your clothes and skin to deter bugs from biting. Different types of repellents are effective in different situations, so knowing what to use and when to use it is key to ensuring effectiveness. Keep the following questions in mind as you shop for repellent to find the right one for your needs:

• What types of personal repellents are available?
• What types of area repellents are available?
• How does the concentration of active ingredients affect duration?
• What steps should you take to ensure safe and effective application?
• What repellents can be applied to clothing and other materials, such as sleeping bags?

Personal Repellents, Area Repellents and Usage

Mosquitoes can transmit West Nile virus, ticks can carry Lyme disease and other insects may carry harmful diseases as well. Even if they don't, it's no fun to spend most of your camping trip applying ointment to soothe the itch of a dozen bug bites. Personal and area repellents don't kill insects, but they do use different chemicals to prevent them from biting you by interfering with their senses. Some chemicals are safe to apply to your skin or use in conjunction with sunscreen while others should only be applied to clothing, sleeping bags or tents. Applying repellents correctly will ensure safety and maximum efficacy.
Personal Repellents: Personal repellents come in different forms, including sprays, aerosols, lotions and rub-on sticks. Some are meant to be applied directly to your skin while others are applied to fabrics. DEET is a commonly used and very effective repellent that can safely be applied to skin. It is available in a wide range of concentrations, with stronger concentrations providing greater effectiveness over longer periods of time. Organic products, such as oil of lemon or eucalyptus, may be used on skin as well. Permethrin can be applied to clothing, shoes and camping gear and will remain highly effective even after repeated laundering.

• Personal repellents may be scented or unscented to suit your tastes
• DEET can be found in aerosol, spray and lotion form
• DEET provides longer-lasting protection than most other chemicals
• Pyrethrum both repels and kills insects; it should not be applied to skin

Area Repellents: If you plan to spend an ample amount of time outdoors in one place, area repellents can save you the trouble of applying lotions and sprays to your skin and clothes. These products are particularly effective when used in smaller areas, such as patios and porches. Measure how large the area you plan to use is and consider how long you'll be outside before making a purchase. Citronella candles can be used virtually anywhere and provide hours of protection against pesky mosquitoes. Citronella oil is a natural substance, so it's an excellent alternative if you prefer not to use chemicals.

• Area repellents cover a specified area and work for a certain number of hours
• Use them in your backyard or at a picnic to keep bugs away
• Sprays, foggers, coils and butane cartridges provide a range of options
• Citronella wipes can be used to apply protection to your skin and clothing

Repellent Type



Area Repellent • Candles/Coils
• Foggers
• Sprays
• Torches
• Porches, patios
• Large areas
• Small, concentrated areas
• Porches, patios
Personal Repellent • Aerosol
• Lotion
• Spray
• Stick
• Face, neck, exposed skin
• Exposed skin, clothes
• Clothes
• Hard-to-reach areas

Usage: There are a number of steps you can take to ensure safe and effective use of personal repellents. Avoid spraying repellent into eyes or open cuts and abrasions. If you wish to apply personal repellent to your face, use a lotion, as it's easier to apply precisely than a spray or aerosol. If you're just planning to head out for a short walk, use a repellent with a lower concentration of chemicals. Mosquitoes tend to be more active between dawn and dusk, so you may want to apply stronger repellent if you plan to be out during that period of time. Once you're indoors, wash your skin with soap and water to remove repellent. When applying repellent to children, be sure to take extra care to avoid their eyes and mouth, and do not apply repellent to their hands to prevent them from accidentally ingesting it if they put their hands in their mouths.

• Closely adhere to instructions and recommendations provided with repellents
• Use the lowest concentration of active ingredient that will meet your needs
• Spray aerosol repellents only in well-ventilated areas
• Do not use DEET on children under 2 months of age
• Wear long sleeves, pants and loose clothing to protect against bites
• Wash treated clothing before wearing it again


Permethrin Products: Some products, such as sleeping bags and other camping equipment, may be pretreated with permethrin, providing protection against insects right out of the box.
Citronella Wristbands: If you prefer a more organic repellent that's easy to use, look for citronella wristbands, which slide easily over your wrists to provide protection without the application of chemicals.
Repellent/Sunscreen: If you're camping, hiking or otherwise spending time in bug-infested areas during sunny parts of the day, look for products that combine repellent chemicals with sunscreen to protect against bites and sunburn.