How to Choose the Best Mosquito Repellent

  Sprinkler Magician
  August 29, 2017

Struggling with mosquitoes? An effective mosquito repellent is one way to prevent mosquitoes from biting, but finding the right one can be a challenge. Here’s what you need to know about choosing the best mosquito repellent for you and your family. 

What is Mosquito Repellant?

Mosquito repellent is used to repel mosquitoes, flies, ticks, and other insects. Commonly sprayed directly on the skin, repellent is intended to prevent mosquitoes from biting and is one of the best ways to get rid of mosquitoes around your home

Most mosquito repellents consist of an active ingredient that repels mosquitoes and inactive, or inert, ingredients that dilute the former. The active ingredients in a mosquito repellent, including synthetic and organic formulas, are responsible for the effectiveness of the repellent. Active ingredients make up 5 to 30% of the final product. 

Mosquito Repellent vs Insecticide 

Mosquito repellent is different from insecticide in that repellent is meant to, obviously, repel mosquitoes whereas insecticide is used to kill them. 

Most insecticides kill mosquitoes through systemic, ingested, or contact toxicity, which leads to paralysis and death. Insecticides effectively target the nervous system of mosquitoes, while repellents inhibit them from biting the skin. 

How Does Mosquito Repellent Work?

Mosquito repellent effectively interferes with the mosquito’s homing system. When mosquito repellent is applied, it forms a barrier around the skin, making it difficult for the mosquito to find a human to bite. 

Mosquito repellent is available in creams, lotions, and oils that can be applied directly to the skin. Repellents are also commonly used in aerosols that are sprayed on your skin or clothing. 

How to Choose the Best Mosquito Repellent

There are two options when choosing a mosquito repellent, synthetic or organic. Synthetic repellent is produced using man-made ingredients, while organic repellent is made from all-natural sources. 

What is Synthetic Mosquito Repellent? 

Synthetic repellent is derived from man-made ingredients or synthetic formulas. Most synthetic mosquito repellents contain heavy metals and arsenates, including sulfur, fluorine, and copper.

While not as environmentally sustainable as an organic repellent, synthetics, including DEET, Picaridin, and Permethrin are considered to be some of the most effective options to repel mosquitoes. 


DEET, or diethyltoluamide, is a common active ingredient in mosquito repellent. 

Introduced in the 1940s, DEET is considered the most widely used insecticide in the United States. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, more than one-third of the population uses a mosquito repellent, containing DEET, each year. DEET is not intended to kill, but prevent mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks from biting the skin. 

Is DEET safe to use as a mosquito repellent? 

Though DEET is effective at repelling mosquitos, it’s supposedly linked to several health concerns. In 1998 the EPA conducted a study of the ingredient, which found 46 seizures and four deaths in direct correlation to DEET exposure. However, the study also claimed that a majority of DEET toxicity cases were attributed to misuse of the product in use. 

Another study in 2009 found that DEET inhibits the breakdown of the nervous system chemical responsible for triggering movement and muscle activity in the body. According to the Center for Disease Control, 25% of people that have used a product containing DEET have experienced negative side effects, including:

  • Skin irritation 
  • Numb or burning lips
  • Nausea 
  • Headache
  • Dizziness 


Similar to DEET, picaridin is applied directly to the skin. Picaridin is also frequently used to repel mosquitoes, biting flies, fleas, ticks, and chiggers. It can be found in several products, including:

  • Pump sprays
  • Aerosols 
  • Liquids 
  • Wipes

Picaridin is a synthetic compound resembling the organic compound piperine, which is used to produce black pepper. 

Is Picaridin Safe to Use as a Mosquito Repellent? 

While picaridin doesn’t have quite the same reputation as DEET, it has been known to irritate the skin and eyes. Overall, picaridin is considered practically non-toxic. 


Permethrin is closely related to pyrethrins, which are commonly used in mosquito-repelling solutions. Pyrethrin is an organic compound extracted from the chrysanthemum flower, which can be used on feed crops, food, livestock, pets, structures, buildings, and clothing. Unlike DEET and picaridin, permethrin kills mosquitoes. 

Permethrin is considered a contact insecticide and is combined with a synergist to increase effectiveness. Therefore, when a mosquito comes into contact with it, they’ll experience muscle spasms, paralysis, and eventually death. 

Is Permethrin Safe to Use as a Mosquito Repellent? 

Permethrin is commonly touted as non-toxic because of its biodegradability, however, it should be used sparingly. Permethrin is considered mildly toxic to humans and pets, but extremely toxic to birds, fish, and other aquatic animals. 

Symptoms of permethrin toxicity include headaches, dizziness, and difficulty breathing. Prolonged exposure to permethrin can also trigger life-threatening allergic reactions, heart failure, and severe asthma. 

What is Organic Mosquito Repellent?

Organic mosquito repellents are made from natural sources. However, that doesn’t imply that all organic repellents are completely free of chemicals. While chemicals used in organic repellent must be derived from either a botanical or mineral source, they can be just as harmful, to humans, as a synthetic spray. For example, pyrethrin, the compound extracted from the chrysanthemum flower, is considered organic because of its botanical composition. 

Many organic repellents contain essential oils. Plant-based options, such as lemon eucalyptus, citronella, and peppermint oil, are often combined to create a potent solution. And there’s no threat to your well-being. 

The best essential oils to repel mosquitoes are:

  • Lemon Eucalyptus – One of the more well-known options, lemon eucalyptus oil is proven to be an effective organic mosquito repellent. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, lemon eucalyptus oil was proven to repel 95 percent of mosquitoes for up to three hours. 
  • Citronella – Citronella is a common ingredient in mosquito repellents. Made of herbs, citronella can be just as effective as DEET when formulated correctly. 
  • Geraniol – Geraniol is an alcohol derived from citronella and lemongrass oil. It’s proven to be a potent mosquito repellent for two to four hours, depending on the species of mosquito. 
  • CinnamonCinnamon oil not only repels mosquitoes but kills mosquito eggs and larvae.
  • Calendula Oil – Calendula oil works great to repel mosquitoes. It comes from marigolds and is one of the safest essential oils to put on your skin.

What is the Best Mosquito Repellent?

It’s not easy to say what the absolute best mosquito repellent is for every situation, however we do recommend staying away from synthetic, toxic repellents that could pose a threat to you, your pets, and other beneficial animals and insects. 

All-natural mosquito repellent is becoming more sought after. If you’re looking for a natural, safe, and effective alternative to synthetic repellents, Mosquito Magician has developed an integrated mosquito control system that doesn’t use DEET, picaridin, or permethrin. 

Mosquito Magician’s concentrate is made up of six different essential oils including lemongrass, cedar, rosemary, geraniol, and garlic. When properly combined, all-natural insect repellents protect humans and pets against mosquitoes just as well, if not better, than repellents containing DEET or picaridin. So, there’s no need to apply a potentially harmful solution to eliminate your mosquito problem. 

The Mosquito Magician concentrate can be applied using anything from a hose to a battery sprayer. Our automated spraying system works with your sprinkler to distribute it all around your property.