Buying Guide

Best Insect Repellents For You: Area and Personal Repellents

Personal vs. Area Insect Repellents

Personal and area insect repellents don't kill insects; they 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.


Personal repellents come in different forms, including bug spray, 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 spray can be applied to clothing, shoes and camping gear and will remain highly effective even after repeated laundering. It shouldn't be used on skin.


  • 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, but it can act as a skin irritant for some people.
  • Pyrethrum both repels and kills insects; it should not be applied to skin.


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 the size of the area 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.


  • Area insect repellents and traps cover a specified area and work for a set 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 Types

Area Repellent


Format:

  • Candles, coils
  • Foggers
  • Sprays
  • Torches



Ideal for:

  • Porches, patios
  • Large and small, concentrated areas



Personal Repellent


Format:

  • Aerosol
  • Lotion
  • Spray
  • Stick


Ideal for:

  • Face, neck, exposed skin
  • Clothes
  • Hard-to-reach areas
Safety & Options

Since the majority of pest repellents contain chemicals, wash your skin with soap and water immediately upon returning indoors to remove them. Take extra care when applying to children’s arms and hands so they don’t put the chemicals in their mouth.

  

  • Mosquitoes tend to be more active between dawn and dusk, so apply stronger repellent if you plan to be out during that period of time.
  • 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 them again.
  • Some products, such as sleeping bags and other camping equipment, may be pretreated with permethrin, providing protection against insects right out of the box.
  • If you prefer a more organic repellent that's easy to use, citronella wristbands slide easily over your wrists to provide protection without the application of chemicals.
  • For prolonged periods spent outdoors, look for products that combine repellent chemicals with sunscreen to protect against bites and sunburn.