June 30th, 2011

4 DEET-Free Bug Repellents

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green and natural bug repellant

Mosquito Factoid: Did you know that only female mosquitoes bite? They need our human blood in order to lay their eggs.

Female mosquitoes happen to love my family. Wherever we are they find us, especially our legs and ankles. Since we love spending time outdoors, I have been on mission to find a bug repellent that’s safe and actually keeps the bugs away. It’s been no easy task.

Avoid conventionalNatural Bug Repellant bug repellents that contain DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide, diethyltoluamide)

DEET is the most widely used insect repellent in the US and is the leading ingredient in most conventional bug repellants.  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) claims that as long as consumers follow label directions, insect repellents containing DEET aren’t dangerous. The tricky part is following the directions-most of us don’t and we end up applying too much bug repellent and leave it on our skin for far too long. DEET then becomes highly toxic.

Expert’s report that up to 56% of DEET applied to the skin penetrates the skin and about 17% is absorbed into the blood stream. DEET has been known to act as a skin irritant. Long-term exposure to DEET has been linked dangerous health effects even at low doses.  There is also evidence that DEET functions in the same way as deadly nerve gases and dangerous pesticides, by attacking the nervous systems of both insects and mammals.  Previous studies have shown DEET can cause seizures in children.

4 DEET-free bug repellents

There are many natural alternatives to bug repellents containing DEET -most are a combination of several essential oils that are known to deter bugs.

  1. EcoSMART We have been using EcoSmart for a few weeks and it seems to be working well. The main ingredients are wintergreen oil, rosemary oil and geraniol. My kids don’t mind the light scent and the bugs don’t like it at all.
    BITE METER: Few to no bites. Reapplication needed on a regular basis.
  2. Purple Prairie The makers of fabulous Purple Prairie SunStuff have created a bug repellent that comes in a spray or a lotion.  They both are made from a blend of essential oils and plant extracts. The spray is made from a non oily witch hazel and water base. Purple Prairie claims that both work to sooth bites too!
    BITE METER: Jury is out –I haven’t tried this one yet. I will update once this product arrives.
  3. All Terrain Herbal Armor Made from citronella, soybean, peppermint oil, cedar, lemongrass and geranium oil. Rave reviews all around on this one. NOTE: This repellent sprays on as a lotion and then is rubbed into the skin.
    BITE METER:  Not many bites at all. If you don’t mind rubbing on the lotion it works well.
  4. Buzzaway Extreme Contains a blend of wintergreen, citronella, cedarwood, peppermint and lemongrass oils.  Has a strong scent, but not as strong as a bug repellent with DEET.
    BITE METER: Few to no bites. Reapply often and it works well.

How do you keep the bugs away?

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Disclosure: There are a few Amazon Affiliate links in this post. If you happen to order bug repellent through those links it will put a few pennies in my pocket. Thanks!

[Top photo used under Creative Commons from Andrew Magill/Flickr]

[Mosquito photo used under Creative Commons from Leszek Leszczynski/Flickr]


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15 Responses to “4 DEET-Free Bug Repellents”

  1. Lori, for our own yard I love Mosquito Beater. It comes in dry granules with a shaker top that I sprinkle in areas that are often damp, such as where we store the garden hoses. It is also sold as a spray that I attach to the hose and spray around the yard. I’ll spray bushes around the patio, the patio and furniture and around the patio doors. It keeps mosquitos away for hours. I’m amazed at how well it works — there is no need for any personal bug spray when I use these.

  2. Hi Nancy-I would love to try a yard remedy. The concept of not putting bug spray directly on my skin is very appealing! Do you know what’s in it?

  3. This is great information. I have heard the buzz on DEET but never really researched it. I am going on a camping trip in late July so this post will come in very handy.

  4. I use a vinegar and water spritz and it works better than conventional insect repellents. It doesn’t smell any worse either!

  5. Thanks for the great suggestion Donna! Vinegar is so versatile. It can be used for cleaning, cooking and now insect repellent! You’re right-the smell can’t be any worse than conventional repellents.

  6. Let me know which repellents you decide to try Meg. I’m always curious to see how they work for others.

  7. I wish I’d seen this post a few months ago — I got bitten up horribly when I was on the Big Island, Hawaii (next to a rainforest preserve…). Apparently I am now allergic to mosquito bites, since these swelled up into huge red welts. Eventually I learned to cover up with lightweight fabrics, light the citronella torches religiously, and keep a fan near by (mosquitoes are light, so they blow away). If I’m ever back, I’ll try one of your recommendations!

  8. Hi Jennifer-Mosquito bites can be horrible, especially when they turn into red welts. Sorry to hear your trip was filled with big bites. A fan is a great idea-instead of having them buzz around your head when you’re sleeping. Covering up is a also helpful. Let me know if you end of trying one of these DEET-free options.

  9. Thanks for sharing this info, Lori! I’ve had success with citronella candles when seated on a patio but am in search of an effective, non-toxic lotion or spray for times when I’m walking around.

  10. Andrea-citronella candles do seem to work if you are stationary. Try out some of the lotions and sprays I suggested and let me know what you think. I just used EcoSmart again yesterday and it seemed to really work.

  11. Thanks for the deet-free brand suggestions! I have been trying to avoid using bug spray, but sometimes it is SO necessary!

  12. You’re welcome Michelle. Sometimes the mosquitoes are unbearable and bug spray is needed if we want to head outside. DEET-free options do work and are so much safer for all.

  13. [...] sending my son to camp with a DEET free bug repellant. Buzzaway is our bug spray of choice this year. It contains a blend of wintergreen, citronella, [...]

  14. [...] the years I’ve been on a quest to find DEET- free bug repellents and thankfully there are plenty of options. Unfortunately,  I forgot to bring our Buzzawayalong [...]

  15. I don’t know if you’ve heard of Ava Anderson but they have a great one (I’m a consultant). They use all organic ingredients. Catnip oil, aloe, lemon eucalyptus, lemongrass, peppermint oil. Smells and works great.

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About Lori

I’m Lori Popkewitz Alper, a recovering attorney, mom of three and the Founder of Groovy Green Livin. I hope you'll join me as I continue on my journey to live a healthy life. Along the way I just might stop to make some noise about issues that affect the health and safety of our families. Come along with me as I fight for a safer world for all of us. Together we'll discover that simple, small changes in your life can lead to a non-toxic, healthier lifestyle and a greener planet.

Click HERE to contact Lori

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