The Best Mosquito Repellents (Review & Buying Guide) in 2021
Make bug bites a thing of the past with these powerful and popular mosquito repellents
The Drive and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links. Read more.
BY Corrina Murdoch / LAST UPDATED ON July 13, 2021
Of all the pests you can encounter, mosquitos are some of the most frustrating. Mosquitos can be tough to see, and they often strike without you feeling anything at all. As a result, you’re left with red, irritated, and itchy spots on your skin. But there’s an even bigger concern that can come with a mosquito’s bite: deadly illnesses. Mosquitoes can spread Zika, Dengue, and West Nile viruses, which is why you need to protect yourself with mosquito repellent.
A good, effective mosquito repellent can keep these pests from biting you and help you avoid contracting a dangerous virus. There are plenty of mosquito repellent products to choose from — sprays, lotions, candles, and even tech devices can help keep these bugs at a distance. Check out some of the best below.
Powerful DEET-based spray, this repellent offers full coverage with aerosol application. It works against everything from mosquitoes to ticks.
Effective protection against ticks, fleas, and mosquitoes. Dries well without residue getting left behind. Aerosol can provides good application.
The container requires a cool and dry environment. It is not a waterproof formula, so it requires frequent reapplication.
At a cost-effective rate, this chemical-free repellent works well for sensitive skin. You can easily clean it and use it multiple times.
Does not require frequent reapplication. Avoids chemicals altogether. Can be washed and reused in the future. See-through mesh doesn’t compromise vision.
It is only effective if you are fully covered (jacket, long pants, etc.). Subject to frays and tears in the material itself.
Stylish mosquito repellent that works indoors. Provides efficient waste disposal and uses UV rays to draw mosquitoes forth.
It’s decorative yet functional. The machine attracts both gnats and mosquitoes. It is made of tough materials to provide lasting results.
It works depending on the concentration of bugs. In areas with lots of pests, it may be less effective.
Why Trust Us
Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
Benefits of Mosquito Repellent
- Prevents disease: Tons of health concerns have their roots in mosquitoes. From Zika to Dengue fever, transmission can be avoided by using a proper repellent. This is especially important since there is no way of knowing which mosquitoes are infected.
- Keeps irritation away: Mosquitoes leave behind itchy and swollen sites. This is due to a histemic reaction in the bitten person’s system. By using a repellent, you can avoid the bites (and the resulting itching and scratching).
- Allergy benefits: In some people, the allergic reaction is worse than others. For those with sensitivities to mosquito bites, anything from anaphylaxis to massive swelling can occur. Repellents keep the bugs away and prevent these issues from arising.
- Avoids unpleasantries: From noise and nuisance to dead bugs scattered after a hot day, mosquitoes are a definite pest. Repellents which either distract or deter a mosquito can help you steer clear of these unnecessary experiences.
- Keeps food intact: Whether camping or on a picnic, getting bugs in your food is never enjoyable. A mosquito repellent can help you keep the site free of these winged insects. It prevents damage to your food and your person simultaneously.
Types of Mosquito Repellents
Some odors are particularly off-putting to mosquitoes. Amongst these are lavender, citronella, and rosemary. By sourcing concentrated oils, these repellents avoid heavier-duty options. They work to repel mosquitoes by creating an unpleasant environment for them. You can get natural repellents in all forms. From sprays to lotions to candles, these natural repellents are ideal for homes with small children.
Heavy-duty and proven effective, DEET is a strong chemical that works on a wide range of bugs. While it has come under fire in recent times due to side-effects of long-term use, this chemical is still the traditional bug repellent. It prevents mosquitoes from being able to bite. This type of repellent also works on ticks and other insects.
There are two sub-categories of electronic repellents. The first uses beams of ultraviolet light to attract the mosquitoes and zaps them using an electrical shock. The other sort is a sound-operated piece that uses sonic radiation to prevent mosquitoes from getting within range.
Whether it’s a net or a mesh cover for your face, this type of repellent literally keeps bugs out. It leaves the pests unharmed while offering coverage all the same. The mesh comes in various shapes, letting you either cut it to size or drape it over your sleeping area. It prevents mosquitoes from getting close while avoiding harm altogether.
Providing bug-prevention technology for more than half a decade, OFF! has a wide selection of mosquito repellents. Focused on making outdoors easier, there are options for lawns and camping. A leading selection is the OFF! Deep Woods Insect & Mosquito Repellent.
Based in the US, Thermacell opened its doors in the early 1980s. The company is relatively small, though is a very popular source of modern repellents. Using electricity and radiation to keep mosquitoes away, one of its top products is the Thermacell Patio Shield Lantern.
Mosquito Repellent Pricing
- Under $40: Typically, these repellents are either natural or artificial chemicals. While more affordable, these generally require more frequent reapplication (and thus replacement). You can also find cloth-based repellents in this area.
- $40 and up: Repellents in this range are usually technological in nature. Either they will be plug-in or run on a battery. Both the sonic and ultraviolet repellents generally fall within this range.
In terms of both storage and application, you want a repellent that lasts. Particularly if the need is seasonal, something that lasts on a shelf is important. During use, you want something that won’t wear off prematurely. Even with sprays, you should be able to expect hours of protection from surrounding mosquitoes.
If you spend a lot of time outdoors, you are probably moving around. By opting for a repellent with a wide range of functions, you can avoid walking into mosquitoes. It helps both you and those around you; and, generally, means the repellent is sufficiently powerful. Especially when you opt for an electric tool, you want something that can work based on the room size.
Whether it's chemicals or an electric model, you want to ensure that it is safe for those near you. The chemical types should feature a buffer against damage and should dry well. Electric models should keep the element protected from fingers. This ensures there are no issues while the repellent is in use.
The bottom line is, you want something that works. Whether this is a strong natural oil, a chemical like DEET, sound waves or light, it is important that your repellent is reliable. By finding a repellent that has a powerful enough active mechanism, you can avoid issues with function. This means that the chemical will be well-enough concentrated and the UV/sonic function is powerful enough.
- Bug Disposal: If you plan to use your bug repellent indoors, then you should consider how the bug carcasses get disposed of. Some electric models incorporate trays to make lighter work of this process. However, chemical options usually leave the cleaning entirely up to you.
- Chemical vs. Natural: Depending on whether or not you have sensitive skin, you may wish to look at how you want to approach your repellents. There are many heavy-duty options while there are more moderate, natural solutions. Some resort to innovative ways of staying cool and free of bugs. Others prefer simpler means.
- Waterproof Abilities: Whether you’re camping or in the backyard, you probably want something that can withstand moisture. This is particularly useful for rainy areas where you can leave your repellent vulnerable to washing away or breaking.
- Overall Durability: From spray containers to machine repellents, everything can break. Choose something that is made of strong, reliable materials to avoid the pitfalls or spills. If you opt for something with a sturdy base (whether spray, lotion, or electric) you can get long-lasting results.
The Best Mosquito Repellent Reviews & Recommendations 2021
- Wear socks and long sleeves. By covering your skin with fabric using long-sleeved shirts, you can keep bugs at bay with less repellent.
- Reapply as needed, making sure it doesn’t fully wear off before you add more. This is true for both natural and artificial chemicals.
- Wait inside after application. By letting it sit on your skin for a while, it takes full effect. Then, pack in a backpack that keeps the contents cool.
- Use both an electric and chemical repellent. This keeps you covered both indoors and when you’re spending time outside.
How long should you wait to go outside after you spray mosquito repellent?
A: While you can apply mosquito repellent outdoors, it becomes more effective after about half an hour. By waiting this amount of time, the coverage improves and you can get the full effects of the spray.
What is the most effective mosquito repellent?
A: The most effective mosquito repellent depends on the situation. Since DEET is a long-time favorite, a go-to selection would be the OFF! Deep Woods Insect & Mosquito Repellent. It provides full coverage and is easy to apply, making it an awesome choice for camping and hiking.
How can I stop getting bitten by mosquitoes?
A: There are repellents you can take just about anywhere. From bug removers for vehicles to sprays and candles, you can bring something with you everywhere. Best results come when you use sprays in conjunction with bug repellents for indoors. Together, you get full coverage wherever you go.
Now that you have a full picture of the mosquito repellents available, you can pick the one that’s best for you. By choosing something that you’ll be comfortable using regularly, you can help prevent mosquito bites and stay safe outdoors.