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The Best Bug Repellents

Everyone should avoid bug bites. For a bug repellent that’s safe and effective—and that won’t stink or leave a puddle of oil on your skin—skip the DEET and get a picaridin formula, like Sawyer Products Premium Insect Repellent with 20 percent picaridin. It’s the best bottle of bug spray we found after testing 17 repellents and talking to everyone—from the EPA to the American Mosquito Control Association. One fact to establish up front: There’s no evidence that mosquitoes can transmit the coronavirus—but the diseases that biting insects do carry ain’t no picnic either.

Our Pick: Sawyer Products Premium Insect Repellent

The best bug repellent

Our research led us to seek a spray with a 20 percent concentration of picaridin, a repellent chemical that’s as effective as DEET but without the drawbacks. Sawyer is our favorite, but any repellent with 20 percent picaridin should have the same effectiveness. We zeroed in on Sawyer Products Premium Insect Repellent with 20 percent picaridin in particular because its smart bottle design makes it easy to apply evenly and accurately. Its pump spray is less likely than aerosol competitors’ to overspray or leave a puddle on your skin, and its secure, two-capped design prevents accidental leaks inside a backpack or other bag. Sawyer’s repellent is widely available in a variety of sizes—smaller ones for the backpack and a larger size to keep by the front door.

Continue reading more of the bug repellent reviews written by Doug Mahoney here.

LAST UPDATED

December 3, 2023

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Wirecutter’s mission is to recommend what really matters. Each year, we independently test and review thousands of products to help you find just what you need. Our goal is to save you time and eliminate the stress of shopping, whether you’re looking for everyday gear or gifts for loved ones.

We strive to be the most trusted product recommendation service around, and we work with total editorial independence. We won’t post a recommendation unless our writers and editors have deemed something the best through rigorous reporting and testing.

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This repellent is easy to apply and effective without staining clothes.

Eating Well
Media Mentions from Eating Well

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Sawyer Picaridin Insect Repellent uses 20 percent picaridin to protect against ticks, mosquitoes, black flies, gnats, and other biting insects. It provides up to 12 hours of protection, so a little bit goes a long way.

Maggie Slepian

Media Mentions

Sawyer’s 20% Picaridin Insect Repellent delivers long-lasting protection against pesky insects like mosquitoes, ticks, flies, and gnats. Formulated with 20% picaridin — an odorless, non-greasy alternative to DEET — you can count on this spray to provide up to 12 hours of protection against mosquitos and eight hours against other bugs.

Clarissa Buch Zilberman