The Best Bug Sprays and Insect Repellents, According to Ratings and Reviews
Spending time outdoors is a rite of passage during the summertime. Unfortunately, so are bug bites. And every summer, I peruse up and down the aisles of every store searching for a repellent that claims to be the best. What makes the best bug spray? Some bottles advertise DEET, some advertise without. Which one is sweat proof, safest for kids, and which one is going to leave a strong smell? These are the questions we all ask. And finally, we have some answers!
We’ve narrowed down the best bug spray to snag this summer that will, hopefully, keep your whole family bite free. Whether you’re camping deep in the woods for a weekend or maybe your kids spend their days outdoors playing ball, these repellents are highly rated and reviewed.
What is DEET?
You probably see a lot of bug sprays and insect repellents offering an amount of DEET, or no DEET at all. So, what's the difference? According to the American Mosquito Control Association, DEET (N-Diethyl-3-Methylbenzamide) is the most effective active ingredient in an insect repellent. A 10% DEET-based repellent will typically last 90 minutes or so whereas a repellent with 30% DEET will last 5-6 hours.
And if you’re worried about those little ones, the American Academy of Pediatrics claims products containing up to 30% DEET is safe for children. Anything above 30% is too much. If you're looking for DEET-free, the CDC and EPA also suggests looking for Picaridin spray, or those with oil of lemon-eucalyptus in them.
A 20% DEET Premium Controlled-Release Lotion will work well against mosquitoes, but Dr. Zimring says he prefers the 20% Picaridin lotion since it also protects against ticks, gnats, chiggers, and flies. (In both instances, he recommends Sawyer brand.)
Part of spending time outside means battling ticks, mosquitoes, and other biting insects. For this, Nelson swears by permethrin.
And out of the products we tested, Dr. Zeichner highly recommends Sawyer Products 20% Picaridin Insect Repellent.