Natural Mosquito Repellents



With the threat of West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) prevalent in the U.S. most people who are outdoors are looking for ways to prevent mosquitoes from biting them.

There are two ways to go about it. Use chemicals or natural repellents.

Synthentic chemicals are effective much of the time but they also pose health hazards to the users.

DEET is the chemical of choice by most consumers. But it must be used cautiously. According to a toxicologist at Oregon State University's Agricultural Experiment Station it should never be placed over cuts, wounds or irritated skin, and should be washed off immediately after returning indoors.

The Duke University Medical Center reports that DEET must be used with caution because it can have damaging effects on brain cells especially with heavy exposure. Symptoms experienced may include memory loss, cognition problems, headache, weakness, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, tremors and shortness of breath, muscle coordination, muscle weakness, and walking. These symptoms may not appear until months or years after use.

Duke University also warns about taking prescription and non-prescription medications when using DEET based products. Something as simple as an over-the-counter antihistamine can interact and cause side effects.

Canadian researchers recently tested human skin cells and found that using sunscreen at the same time as using a DEET based product increases the absorption of DEET.

Mosquito coils are one of the most popular mosquito repellents for patios and backyards. But users should be aware that the Environmental Protection Administration has recalled two types of coils sold in Taiwan that were found to contain the carcinogenic chemical dioxin.

A new chemical based repellent is the clip-on coil. According to a professor of medical entomology at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, the active ingredient in that product is metofluthrin and is a little more toxic than DEET. While the product isn't being applied to the skin or clothing, it does produce a cloud of the repellent around the person wearing the coil.

Another new item is clothing that repels mosquitoes. The fabric has been permeated with an insecticide called permethrin. While made from chrysanthemum flowers, it is still a synthetic man-made insecticide.

On the other hand, natural repellents use herbs and other household products.

Citronella is a well known plant oil that repels mosquitoes.

Plants with lemon scents are very effective in warding off mosquitoes. Lemon eucalyptus, lemongrass, lemon balm and lemon thyme leaves, can be crushed and applied to the skin. Even a lemon based scented detergent has been found somewhat useful. Lemon fresh Joy dish detergent, placed in a white dish, has been found to repel mosquitoes for a small area around it.

Oils from plants including rosemary, cinnamon, rosemary, peppermint, cedar, geranium and cloves are effective at repelling mosquitoes.

Some people spray the original formula Listerine on their skin and swear it keeps mosquitoes at bay.

Scientists at the Entomology Department of Iowa State University have discovered that catnip has mosquito repelling qualities.

Avoid clothing with scents from fabric softeners, perfumes, colognes and other fragrances.

Wear light clothing as mosquitoes are attracted to dark colors.

For more tips and information on repelling mosquitoes visit:

Author: Marilyn Pokorney
Freelance writer of science, nature, animals and the environment.
Also loves crafts, gardening, and reading.
Email: Current address on website