image description

DEET-Free Mosquito Repellents


With the 4th of July right around the corner, it’s a good idea to make sure your family is protected from mosquitoes during your outdoor family dinner.

The active ingredient in many conventional mosquito repellents is DEET (chemical name, N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide), a chemical that is toxic to bugs, but one that has come under heavy scrutiny over whether it is safe for people. Stories of adverse reactions are common. (For those who choose to continue to use DEET products, the EPA provides tips tips on reducing your risk.)

We recommend botanically-based repellents over those containing DEET. Our friends at Healthy Child Healthy World have an informational post about “Deet-Free Mosquito Repellents That Work.”

The safer alternatives contain some combination of essential oils and another liquid, like rubbing alcohol, to make it easy to spread or spray on. The most common essential oils used in repellents seem to be citronella, lavender, geraniol (a derivative of the geranium plant), eucalyptus, lemongrass, mint, rosemary and thyme. These type of repellents usually need to be re-applied more frequently, but they are considered much safer (for a full rundown on repellents, check out this article from outdoor gear provider REI).

Visit Healthy Child Healthy World for specific recommendations, and please share your own suggestions for DEET-free alternatives.

Have a Happy (and bug free) Fourth!


Join the Discussion

2 Responses

  1. Audric Moses says:

    we use Summer Survivor (Canada) which is based on Bite Blocker (U.S.).  Works as well as the 4.75% DEET formulas according to independent research in the New England Journal of Medicine. Can buy it online at FunkyBug Naturals.

  2. Judi says:

    I work for the DEET Education program, Washington, and I am a Mom, too.  DEET  is NOT toxic to bugs–it does not kill them. The Am. Academy of Pediatrics guidance is that these products can be used on infants as young as 8 weeks of age in concentrations up to 30%.   This conveys the level of confidence that the medical/scientific community has in the safety and efficacy of these repellents.  If you choose not to use DEET, at least pick one of the three other EPA-registered active ingredients. These have been tested for safety and efficacy. (Essential oils have not.)   Where there are endemic vector-borne diseases, you want something that works. These other three registered ingredients are picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, and IR3535.  For ticks, the CDC recommends a minimum 20% concentration DEET-based repellent.  For mosquitoes, lower concentrations work. Essential oils work only about 20 minutes for mosquitoes…and are known to cause skin issues for many people (sensitivity).  As for DEET safety profiles, the CDC website notes that women who are pregnant who live in areas were vector-borne diseases are endemic (West Nile virus, EEE, dengue, and all of the others) can use these products.  The urban legends associated with DEET are just that.  If you want the science information, call me at 800-789-3300. I will be happy to share and discuss.  The most commonly reported adverse event with DEET-based products is stinging of the eyes (ingredients generally include alcohol).  Splashing with water alleviates that issue entirely should it occur. Always follow label directions for use no matter what product you choose.  Hope this information helps dispel some of the concerns…or at least gives some additional perspectives for consideration.

Connect with Us


Recent Comments


2012 IACP Cookbook Award Finalist


CoomMomPicks Pick of the Year