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Aug. 1, 2021, 10:18 a.m. EDT

How to buy a safer and more effective insect repellent

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Alisa Wolfson

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Insect repellents can deter pests from nibbling, biting, stinging and, well, bugging you while you’re outdoors, but some insect repellents are safer than others, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which studies the safety and efficacy of a variety of consumers products. The group recommends people use repellants with one of three main ingredients: picaridin, DEET and IR3535: “Each of these active ingredients has low safety concerns and is highly effective at preventing bites from a variety of ticks and biting insects,” the organization writes in a report. Among the EWG’s recommended brands are: Sawyer Picardin ($8.70 on Amazon) and OFF! Family Care Clean Feel ($5.14 on Walmart) .

You should also consider where you live to determine what repellent you might need: ”If you face a risk of Lyme or West Nile disease or other insect-borne illnesses, use a higher concentration bug repellent,” writes EWG. Consider a product with picaridin at a 10 to 20% concentration, DEET at a 7-30% concentration, and IR3535 at a 20% concentration,” David Andrews, a senior scientist at EWG , tells MarketWatch. “Choose the higher concentration products for when you plan to spending longer periods of time outdoors.” Here are five specific insect repellents that pros and reviewers recommend.1. Sawyer Picardin ($8.70 on Amazon) Stay mosquito and tick free for up to 12 hours and fly, gnat and chigger free for up to 8 hours with this 20% picaridin fragrance-free solution. Plus, Wirecutter lists this as their top pick for insect repellents because it’s EPA-approved and comes in a bottle that sprays more evenly and accurately than its competitors. Buy on AmazonBuy on Walmart

2. OFF! Family Care Clean Feel ($5.14 on Walmart) This insect repellent is made with picaridin and repels mosquitos in addition to ticks, biting flies, gnats and chiggers. You don’t even have to spray your skin with it, you can spray your clothing with a slow sweeping motion from 6” to 8” away, and it’ll repel the bugs that way too.  Buy on Walmart Buy on Amazon

3. Coleman Insect Repellent SkinSmart DEET-free, $4.87 on Walmart This bug spray with 20% IR3535 ranks highest among Consumer Reports’ tests for bug spray made with IR3535. It provides protection against mosquitoes and ticks for up to 8 hours and Prevention notes that it dries quickly on the skin and gets the job done. Buy on Amazon Buy on Walmart

4. Cutter Backwoods Aerosol Mosquito and Insect Repellent Spray, $4.27 at Home Depot CNN Underscored rates this the best DEET bug spray among its competition. With 25% DEET, they note that this spray isn’t as harsh smelling or greasy as others. It’s sweat-resistant and repels mosquitoes for up to 10 hours. Buy on at Home Depot Buy on Amazon

5. Proven Mosquito and Tick Spray, $7.95 on Amazon This odorless Picaridin solution repels mosquitoes and ticks for up to 12 hours. It’s available in a travel-size 2oz spray bottle, making it convenient to keep in a purse, backpack or fanny pack. And, Wirecutter recommends it as a top option, noting its main disadvantage is the single cap and limited bottle sizes. Buy on Amazon

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