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Chemical vs. Natural Repellents—Which is Best?

Now that spring is in the air, bugs are in the air as well. How do you choose the best way to protect you and your loved ones from aggravating insects? And with mosquito-borne illnesses like Zika and West Nile Virus as part of our reality now, it’s even more important to choose well. When it comes to using natural products versus chemical products, how do you know what is best?

Some people believe that natural is always better. Mosquito repellents derived from natural products, such as plant extracts or essential oils, are often perceived to be healthy choices. But are these options actually effective?

The CDC continues to recommend that the most effective mosquito repellents contain DEET. Botanical-based repellents provided substantially less protection against biting mosquitoes. Citronella, lavender, peppermint, and Melaleuca oils are often lauded as “DEET-free” alternatives and recommended for bug repellent. Studies show, however, that essential oils are much less effective than DEET. Using citronella candles on your deck can provide limited protection, but don’t compare to even a low dose of DEET-based repellent. It’s also important to remember that using undiluted essential oils can be dangerous, especially for young children.

The one exception may be oil of lemon eucalyptus, which has been recommended against West Nile Virus. It’s not the essential oil that is effective, but rather a byproduct of the distillation process of the leaves of Corymbia citridora (commonly known as PMD). The CDC does recommend this natural option, and it may be comparable to DEET in effectiveness. The recommendation of this product should not be interpreted as an endorsement by the CDC of other natural, botanical-based repellents.

DEET-based repellents are considered safe and pose no health risk if used as directed. Millions of people use DEET each year, and there are few examples of adverse health impacts.

The most common mistake people make when choosing a repellent is thinking that the “strength” of the repellent determines how many mosquitoes it will protect them from. This is untrue. The strength, or concentration of active ingredients, such as DEET, determines the length of time the repellent will protect you.

The bottom line is, choose well when keeping your family safe from biting insects. The right chemical protection makes a big difference. The best way to provide an effective bug barrier is to have a professional regularly spray for bugs that are typical for your area. Here at Green Pest Control, we want to make sure you and your family can safely enjoy your yard as usable space this summer. Give us a call today.


CC Image by Bisharahw at Flickr