Cirque Meadows by Adam Johnson

Mosquito Repellents for Adults: Which Repellent is Best?

photo of adult spraying repellent

The best way to avoid mosquitoes is to stay indoors after dusk and to stay away from wet places where mosquitoes thrive. Of course, in the summer it's likely that you want to be outside, often at the peak mosquito hours.

Because West Nile virus will return every summer, it's essential that you do all that you can to prevent being bitten by a West Nile virus-infected mosquito as you enjoy your summer activities. When you are outside, choose a repellent that best fits your needs for that situation. Mosquito repellents are not all the same. Some brands have different ingredients than others. A repellent made for adults may not be the right choice for kids, or one repellent may only offer a half hour of protection while another gives five hours of protection.

When you are choosing a repellent, read the label and look for one that has been approved by the CDC and that is effective against culex mosquitoes, the ones that carry West Nile infection. Also, ask yourself the following questions so you know what is right for you:

  • How long will it work?
    You do not need a repellent that is good for six hours if you're only going to be outside for 20 minutes.
  • What is the active ingredient?
    If you'd rather not use a chemical repellent, you may be able to find a natural repellent that is effective against culex mosquitoes that will work for you.
  • Where and when am I using it?
    You might not need the strongest of repellents early in the day when there aren't many mosquitoes around looking for a blood meal.
  • Who will be using it?
    You? Your baby? Your eight year old child?


  • Apply repellent only to exposed skin, never under clothing.
  • Never use repellent over cuts or irritated skin.
  • Do not apply to eyes and mouth.
  • Never let children handle repellents.
  • Do not spray in an enclosed area.
  • When you come back inside, wash the repellent off thoroughly.
  • Always follow directions listed on the label.
  • Don't over-apply repellent. Use only what you need and what is recommended on the label.
  • Do not use a repellent that is combined with sunscreen. The sunscreen will need to be reapplied more often than the repellent so you might end up using too much repellent Always read the label.

The chart below lists the active ingredients available in repellents you can purchase at most drug stores, grocery stores, outdoor equipment stores, and online. Brand name is not as important as the active ingredient you choose, one that should be effective against culex mosquitoes.

Active Ingredient Protection Time
DEET 25% up to 8 hours
DEET 23% up to 8 hours
Picaridin 10% 6-8 hours
Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus up to 6 hours
Picaridin 7% up to 4 hours
Picaridin 5% 3 - 4 hours
Plant oils (soybean, lemongrass, cedar, citronella, etc) 10 mins – 2 hours
DEET 7% Up to 2 hours
Citronella Oil 10 minutes

Products containing DEET, oil of lemon eucalyptus, and picaridin and IR3535 are registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and have been shown to be effective against culex mosquitoes, the type that carry West Nile virus.

For more detailed information on repellents, visit the following websites:

Background Image: Cirque Meadows by Adam Johnson. All rights reserved.