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Treating your Clothes with Permethrin

Permethrin is a pesticide that you spray on clothing to kill black flies, ticks, and mosquitoes but has no harmful side effects on humans if used properly. It is the active ingredient used in Insect Shield and Buzz Off clothing and kills bugs when they land on your clothing. You can buy Permethrin Spray in liquid form and spray it on your own clothes to the same effect. This self-applied form lasts for 4-6 washings. Permethrin was developed by the U.S. military to protect soldiers from insects in the jungle.

You can buy Permethrin Spray on Amazon. A big bottle comes with a spray adapter and will cover 4 complete sets of clothing, including shirts, pants, and socks. You’ll want to read the directions carefully before applying it, but it’s not difficult to do. You need to spray it on the clothes you plan to wear hiking or for any outdoor activity in a windless but well-ventilated place like a garage. Let them dry for a few hours and you’re all set.

I’ve been spraying Permethrin on the clothes that I wear for spring and summer hiking in New Hampshire and Vermont for over 10 years. This has included long sleeve shirts, convertible hiking pants, gaiters, and hiking socks. When you spray the Permethrin on, you want to position the sprayer 6 to 8 inches away from the clothing you plan to treat. Pay particular attention to the cuffs of long pants and shirt sleeves where ticks will try to attack you. It’s also a good idea to spray it on your hat or to buy one that’s already been treated with Permethrin like the Outdoor Research Bugout Brim Hat.

Sawyer’s Permethrin Spray (24 oz) is pre-mixed to the correct concentration so you can apply it to clothing without any preparation. JT Eaton also sells a gallon-size of pre-mixed Permethrin, which is much more economical if you have a large amount of clothing to treat.

I can attest to the effectiveness of Permethrin Spray particularly against mosquitos and ticks. I rarely ever get bitten as long as I wear long-sleeved permethrin-treated shirt and pants when I go hiking in the forest. I love having the sun on my arms and legs as much as the next guy, but I’d rather cover up than catch Lyme disease, which the CDC believes is now 10 times more prevalent than previously reported.

Learn more about Permethrin as a treatment for gear and clothing here.

LAST UPDATED

May 6, 2022

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Section Hiker

Media Mentions from Section Hiker

Philip Werner is a full-time outdoor author and backpacker who resides in New England. His website SectionHiker.com is ranked as the #1 Hiking and Backpacking Blog on the internet by AdventureJunkies.com in 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021.

The name of this site, Section Hiker, refers to the Long Trail which I section hiked in 2008 and the Applachian Trail that I’m still working through. To date, I’ve completed 1400 miles of the AT and hope to complete all of the sections between Georgia and Maine someday. I’ve also hiked thru-hiked the TGO Challenge (Coast-to-Coast across Scotland) twice and I’m currently section hiking the Cape Wrath Trail, also in Scotland.

MEDIA MENTIONS

Of all the creepy crawlers, ticks keep me on high alert. They can be very tiny in the nymph stage and difficult to see. They love to hang out in tall grasses along the trail and hitch a ride on hikers passing by. I plan on treating most of my clothes and gear with Sawyer Permethrin.

Joanne Gigliotti

MEDIA MENTIONS

Ultra-compact and lightweight

House Grail
Media Mentions from House Grail

MEDIA MENTIONS

I would often just drink directly from the sawyer squeeze if I was feeling lazy- which by the way works wonderfully.

Rachel McVittie