Tags: Health Topics | zika | dengue | repellent | bug spray

The Best Bug Sprays — How Does Yours Rate?

Image: The Best Bug Sprays — How Does Yours Rate?

By    |   Tuesday, 18 Jul 2017 02:40 PM

With Zika still a very real threat to the United States (the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the risk is actually more widespread now) people are more nervous than ever about whether their bug sprays are doing what they're supposed to do. And let's face it — aside from the obviously dangerous diseases including Zika, chikungunya, dengue, and Lyme, bloodsucking pests can ruin your vacation. That's a big deal too.

That's why Consumer Reports' latest round of tests on the effectiveness of repellents is so important.

Here's the buzz: The tests covered all manner of repellents: sprays and lotions, branded and generic, and chemical and "natural." All were tested against day-biting as well as night-biting nuisances.

Consumer Reports found that not only ingredients mattered, but also concentrations as well. Among the products that received a thumbs up only three ingredients hit the mark: deet (short for N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide a synthesized chemical;), picaridin (a lab-made compound similar to a derivative of black pepper) , and lemon eucalyptus oil (OLE).

Researchers found that "natural" on the label didn't mean effective — in fact, none of the "natural' products tested proved effective, with the exception of those containing oil of lemon eucalyptus. They advise to stay away from ingredients such as cedar, citronella, lemon grass, and rosemary — biters may appreciate the spice you are adding to the menu, but you are risking diseases from pests such as mosquitoes and ticks.

Consumer Reports also tested for endurance (the highest rated lasted for 6.5 hours; the lowest 2) and effectiveness.

Here's a sampling of some that fared well and a few that didn’t do so well (rated on a point scale, with 100 possible points). For a complete listing of all products that were tested, go here.

1. Total Home, a product by CVS, scored the highest with 95. Its active ingredient is deet (30 percent), and it repels ticks as well as mosquitoes and other nasty biters. Total Home is an aerosol spray.

2. A more familiar product, Off! Deep Woods Insect Repellent VII Dry came in second with a score of 94. It also contained deet, although at a lower percentage (25 percent), is an aerosol, and was very effective at keeping mosquitoes and other biters away.

3. Repel comes in third on the list of effectiveness, with a respectable score of 91 out of 100. It's a pump spray, unlike the aerosols of 1 and 2, and it relies on oil of lemon eucalyptus (30 percent) to ward off pests.

4. Ben's is an aerosol that says it wards off Aedes aegypti (Zika-carrying mosquito) right on the label, though all high-scorers on this list also were effective against the Aedes aegypti. Consumer Reports gives it a solid 88, probably due to its 30 percent deet content, and it fights hard to push back against mosquitoes, ticks, and other blood snatchers.

5. Sawyer's spray pump contains 20 percent picaridin and has earned an overall score of 84 for effectiveness. Sawyer promises to ward off mosquitoes and deer ticks.

Here are five at the bottom end of the ratings chart:

21. EcoSmart, a pump spray, received an overall score of 5. The active ingredients included geraniol, 1 percent; and rosemary oil, cinnamon, and lemon grass oil all at .5 percent.

22. California Baby also came in with a score of 5. Its label claims "Natural Bug Blend Repellent," and it contains citronella, cedar, and lemon grass among other ingredients.

23. A Sawyer lotion came in with a rating of 4, even though it contained 20 percent picaridin. Testers cited "poor performance at repelling mosquitoes." Stick with Sawyer's spray pump for better performance.

24. A product produced by Target, Up & Up, received a poor score of 4 as well. It contained citronella, soybean oil, and potassium sorbate among its active ingredients.

25. A HOMS product, "Organic Bite Blocker," contained similar ingredients as the four previous less-than-stellar performers — soybean oil and geranium oil — and received an overall score of 3.

Two other products are worth a mention — not so much for performance, as for popularity. Cutter's Skinsations Insect Repellent scored a 21, with 7 percent deet; and Avon's Skin-So-Soft Bug Guard weighed in with a respectable 56, with 10 percent picaridin.

Of course, with Zika making headlines, mosquitoes top the hate list, but they aren't the only bloodsuckers to be wary of. Ticks are common in many states in the summer, and it's a relief to know that the effective sprays on this list bar those biters as well.

Many scientists thought cold weather would slow down Zika carriers, but Old Man Winter failed to take down the hardy Aedes aegypti. In fact, in the spring and fall of 2016, the CDC reported 38 new counties in the United States with the presence of the Aedes aegypti — including in states as far north as Michigan and New Hampshire. That's reason alone to stock up on some of the effective sprays on the Consumer Reports' list. Keep the biters at bay. Hello, summer.

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With Zika still a threat, bug sprays and repellents are more important than ever. And with dengue fever, chikungunya, and Lyme disease spread by mosquitoes and ticks, it's time to grab a can. Summer is here.
zika, dengue, repellent, bug spray
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Tuesday, 18 Jul 2017 02:40 PM
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