Natural Insect Repellent – does it work? We test 7 types of repellent.

natural Insect repellent

When we left Australia, one of the things I brought with me was plenty of natural mosquito repellent and some mosquito repellent bands. I brought some Deet based repellent as well just in case the natural stuff didn’t cut it, but I prefer to avoid putting on Deet – my philosophy is to avoid additional chemicals where possible!

We have road tested at least seven kinds of repellent in some gnarly locations in the first 12 months of travel through Latin America and today we bring you the mosquito repellent results.

Bugs lock - Natural Mosquito Repellent

Bugs Lock (wrist/ankle bands)

Thoughts: I ordered a bunch of these on eBay after some research. Figured that if they worked it would save me spraying myself with all that goo. They are made of colourful felt with a little plastic snap and soaked in natural repellent type ingredients like citronella.

Of the 10 I received many of them were bright pink, and about 3 of the snaps were missing a piece. You are supposed to wear one on your wrist and one on your ankle for full coverage.

Results: John didn’t think they worked at all (maybe because they were pink), I think they did keep the mozzies away although they are very impractical as they are not designed to get wet.

So if you are hiking through streams or tend to just jump in the shower or river – which apparently I do – they are ruined and you have to throw it away and get a new one.

Repellent: 2/5
Application: 5/5
Longevity: 1/5
Health: 5/5

 Mozzie F.O.

Mosquito F.O! (pump spray)

Thoughts: I bought this is a little natural health shop in Bondi and it had such a strong message I thought I would give it a try. It is a very liquidy natural repellent delivered in a pump spray bottle and we used it in Venezuela where there were bugs the size of my arm – seriously.

Results: This stuff actually works a treat and we save our fresh tasty legs from many a bite. The only downside with this is that it doesn’t last as long as some other repellents and washes off in the rain, we would always take it with us and reapply it from time to time.

Repellent: 5/5
Application: 3/5
Longevity: 2/5
Health: 5/5

 Bushman insect repellent with DEET

Bushman Plus Water Resistant (80% Deet with sunscreen)

Thoughts: We tried to avoid using this completely, 80% Deet is just too toxic, you can’t wear it for more than 3 days in a row and you have to avoid getting it on any nylon in your clothing (it can melt parts of your shoes!). But we carried it around for several months in case our happy natural repellents didn’t cut the mustard.

Results: Only used it once, it works exactly as it should but we threw it away after finding the essential oil ones worked fine too. I can’t imagine the kinds of environments where this much Deet would be a necessity as we have never encountered them.

Repellent: 5/5
Application: 5/5
Longevity: 5/5
Health: 0/5

 OFF Family - Insect Repellent

Off Family with aloe vera (cream)

Thoughts: We got this in the supermarket in Colombia prior to a 5 day hike to Ciudad Perdida – The Lost City. This jungle trek is notorious for 3 kinds of vicious mosquitos (including enormous ones they call “the helicopters”). It is a thin milky cream and it pours out if you are not careful when you are using it.

Results: This was the main repellent we used on the hike and we didn’t get bitten! We were careful to reapply after walking in streams etc. and after excessive sweating as the thinness of the cream is not confidence inspiring.

Repellent: 5/5
Application: 2/5
Longevity: 4/5
Health: 3/5

 Nopikex - Insect Repellent

Nopikex (square soap – 22% Deet)

Thoughts: We heard about this stuff from other hikers. Apparently the Colombian army use it for protection in their jungle missions. We used this when we stayed in the Costa Rican jungle and there were thousands of mosquitoes – we could see dozens each morning hovering around our mosquito net drooling.

It is a small white block of soap. Just add water, lather up and rub on where you want to protect. We would coat ourselves once in the morning and once at night while in the jungle.

Results: This stuff totally works and is our favourite repellent for intense mosquito activity, like hiking or anything in the jungle. Because it is soap it stays on if you sweat which is a real bonus, you can just rub it around again. It has no odor and once it is on you can forget about it.

Repellent: 5/5
Application: 5/5
Longevity: 5/5
Health: 2/5

 Fly Out - Natural Insect Repellent

Fly Out (pump spray)

Thoughts: We bought this in Mexico and it is all natural ingredients, it has a good spray and a strong odor from the citronella. It is a natural repellent and there is loads in the bottle.

Results: This works great, and does what it is supposed to. We have been using it for months and the added bonus is that you can spray it on other things as well as your skin. The only problem with this one is that I lost the lid and now it leaks when we travel.

Repellent: 5/5
Application: 3/5
Longevity: 4/5
Health: 5/5

 Off - Deep Woods - Insect Repellent

Off Deep Woods (spray can)

Thoughts: We bought this in Utila as the no-see-ums are vicious. It was the only option in the shop so we bought it without too much thought. It wasn’t until we got it home that we realised it was 25% Deet. It is a pressurised spray can and it goes on without having to rub it in. This is one to avoid breathing in, so don’t put it on in an enclosed space.

Results: It is stinky and toxic but you don’t get bitten! It lasts for a long time.

Repellent: 5/5
Application: 5/5
Longevity: 5/5
Health: 0/5

There you have it!

For natural repellents, we found both Mosquito F.O. (Australia) and Fly Out (Mexico) were great natural repellents that we have used in very infested areas with great success. These are the ones we use the most and they are great for your general sit around outside at night type of cover.

They both are pump sprays and the only downside was that with all the travel we lost the lids in both cases – we had to keep them in a Ziplock bag because they would leak when bashed about in a backpack. With these we just remember to use them more often and they are a great alternative to Deet and other nasty chemicals.

Our favourite for jungle, hiking and intense mosquito situations is Nopikex. Even though it has Deet (and sometimes Permethrine) which I normally avoid, the application means that it lasts all day, even if you are sweating. This is definitely a bonus when hiking in the hot Colombian jungle with helicopter mosquitoes.

18 thoughts on “Natural Insect Repellent – does it work? We test 7 types of repellent.”

  1. Jungle Magic Mosquito Banditz are also one of the effective among all the above mentioned medically coated with
    Citronella oil is a mosquito repellent for anti mosquito effect
    outdoors. These bands are 100% natural, non-toxic and chemical free.
    Every band has a special compartment that stores Citronella oil, the
    aroma of which protects children acting as effective mosquito repellent
    when they are outdoor. Puncture the compartments depending on the
    intensity of the mosquitoes in the vicinity. These Mosquito Repellent
    band have been tested by a government certified external laboratory
    bases which they are certified safe for use by children.

    Reply
  2. Please cite the scientific peer-reviewed evidence that shows DEET to be toxic. DEET has been used for nearly 70 years (invented in the 50s by the US Army) and it’s track record is extremely good. You can only imagine the billions of applications in real world use and there has been no evidence of harm except in extremely rare incidences. Also, deet interacts negatively with Nylon not rubber. Deet is not suppose to be sprayed on clothing anyways (with some exception that its sometimes recommended to spray around socks to repel ticks). Peanut butter is natural and kills people every year…. Aspirin has a worse track record than DEET and is considered one of the safest OTC drugs out there (and is also “natural”) Articles like these are lazy. It’s also been shown through many trials that most of the “natural” repellents do not work, except Lemon Eucalyptus, which is effective but not nearly as long (1-2 hours instead of the 4-8 hours DEET provides). Do your research.

    Reply
    • Davis, DEET has many warnings about it’s hazards, you can find information in many places on and offline. You may believe it is fine and that is great for you, I say go for it! I personally try to avoid products that require so many warnings. DEET in high percentages have been banned in certain countries. Your arguments regarding peanut butter allergies make no sense to me, sorry. But I accept that you have these beliefs and if you like I can send you my old bottle of DEET because I no longer need it :)

      Reply
  3. Thanks for the article! We’re in Townsville and waging war against the mozzies and sand flies. Any ideas on where we can buy Mosquito F.O. to give it a go? I cannot seem to be able to find it online. Cheers!
    Monique

    Reply
  4. Interesting article. I work at a lab that tests repellents and guides clients through EPA registration for products to be sold in US markets. For many it comes as a surprise you cant just bottle something and begin selling it, it has to be EPA approved. If you have a product you believe in you should check us out http://www.carroll-loye.com/

    Reply
  5. Thanks so much for this very useful post! Will advertise your link on our blog at http://www.earthikes.com (check it out next year when it’s fully up and running as you will find a whole database of trails on there for new adventures!) This post will help quite a few of us. One which I have tried is MooGoo’s insect repellent. It’s not bad, worked pretty well to keep mosquitoes and wasps far from me!

    Reply

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