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The Best Tick Repellent: Is There Anything More Effective than DEET?

At the height of summer, it is advisable to think about precautions against tick bites, as these insects are most active on warm days. The consequences can be most severe, including borreliosis (Lyme disease), black fever, recurrent typhoid, tick-borne paralysis and tularemia. Untimely therapy can lead to disability or even death of the patient. In this article, you will learn which tick repellents are recommended by scientists, whether a natural tick repellent is worth buying, and which modern treatments will best protect you, your dog and your garden from ticks. Here you’ll find TOP-18 effective tick repellents: 10 natural and DEET repellents for humans, 5 repellents for dogs, an insect repellent for clothing & pesticide sprays for yard.

How to prevent tick bites? The general tips are as follows: avoid wooded areas, especially on the shady side, remove leaves and mow high grass near the house, wear light-colored clothes covering hands and feet as much as possible. All these tips are useful, but they do not provide real protection against bites.

 Table of Contents:

The Best Tick Repellent According to the Scientists’ Opinions

How to prevent tick bites? The general tips are as follows: avoid wooded areas, especially on the shady side, remove leaves and mow high grass near the house, wear light-colored clothes covering hands and feet as much as possible. All these tips are useful, but they do not provide real protection against bites.

The scientists think that special tick repellents must be used against these parasites. They are supposed to be applied on skin or clothes and are sold in the form of lotions, creams, gels, aerosols. There are two types of repellents: traditional treatments containing synthetic chemicals and vegetative (or natural) repellents.

According to the information from the University of Arizona and CDC, the active ingredients of effective tick repellents are the same as those of mosquito repellents. “The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend the use of products registered with the EPA: those containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, and oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol products are well established as the most effective active ingredients of repellents.”

CDC recommends Permethrin as a repellent for clothes. It cannot be applied on skin so you should only treat clothes and such objects as a bed canopy with it.

EPA has found out that one-third of the USA population uses DEET-based repellents. They are popular, but are they the most effective commercial products? Are there any decent rivals? Below, we are going to examine the effectiveness of all of the above mentioned ingredients and pick the best products containing them. If you are already aware of this, scroll down to the top 18 Tick Repellents.

Tick Repellents Active Ingredients Review: Is There Anything More Effective than DEET?

Let’s examine in detail what the scientists have to say about the effectiveness and safety of various substances.

Picaridin, also known as KBR 3023, is a synthetic chemical considered to be effective by the USA Center for Disease Control and Prevention. This substance has been invented by the German Bayer AG in 1980s. It is an alternative to DEET and is widely used in Europe.

According to EPA’s Picaridin profile, it has a pleasant odor and does not leave any oil debris. Moreover, Picaridin is low-toxic and only a few cases of skin and eye mucous membrane irritation has been registered after contacting it.

If 5-10% concentration is used (which is acceptable for use on children over six months old), Picaridin’s action will last from 3.5 to 8 hours. To prolong the effect for up to 14 hours, opt for 20% concentration. Picaridin evaporates off the skin slower than DEET does and thus repels ticks for a longer period of time. In addition, the chemical does not destroy plastic.

Various tests conducted in 2004-2010 have shown that Picaridin’s effectiveness is equal to that of DEET’s, and the  EWG have even recommended using this chemical along with DEET against disease vectors.

Permethrin stands out in this list of chemicals. As the National Pesticide Information Center explains, the main difference lies in the fact that this substance not only repels ticks, but also kills them on contact. Permethrin is 2.250 times more toxic for ticks than for humans.

FYI! Permethrin can only be applied on clothes! In no case should you ever apply it directly on your skin. It is the only pesticide approved by EPA for this. The fact that the US Military uses it to treat combat uniforms to protect the military from the disease vectors proves its effectiveness.

If applied properly, Permethrin molecules are tightly attached to fabric fibers, allowing the substance to stay intact even after washing. Moreover, only a small share of it reaches the skin and 1% of that penetrates your body. Permethrin is odorless and does not leave stains on clothes. Its effect will last for up to four weeks after each home treatment, even if you wash your clothes. Also treat your shoes with permethrin!

IR3535 is a substance that has been used in Europe for deer ticks, mosquitoes, body lice, and biting flies repellent for almost 20 years.  EPA claims that “Toxicity tests show that the IR3535 is not harmful when ingested, inhaled, or used on skin”. It is also considerably inferior to DEET in terms of effectiveness.

According to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln scientists, earlier research has shown that IR3535 is able to ensure protection from insects lasting for 4-6 hours, “…but another study performed at USDA laboratories found that 25% IR3535 was 10-100 times less effective than DEET.”

DEET. U.S. EPA has found out that one-third of the USA population uses DEET-repellents. They are considered highly effective and their action has been studied better than that of other repellents. The fact that DEET was synthesized over 70 years ago, i.e. much earlier than other substances, explains why it was examined much more thoroughly.

DEET acts not by killing ticks, but by minimizing their chance of smelling their victim. According to the EPA, initially, DEET was designed for the USA Military in 1946, and has become available in open retail sale since 1957.

Nowadays, over 120 products by 30 brands are registered officially. Despite abundant choice of various treatments based on picaridin and other ingredients, DEET will not give in and is still considered the best repellent. Below, we’ll elaborate on the peculiarities of using DEET-based repellents.

Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus is a trade name of a repelling action substance based on the Australian eucalyptus extract and looks 100% natural. However, according to the EPA, it cannot be considered natural as it is “for commercial use, the active ingredient is chemically synthesized.” The American Spectrum Brands sells products containing this substance under the brand names, Repel and Cutter. Although it can be a fierce competitor to DEET, if highly concentrated, it is inferior to it in terms of duration of tick protection.

Active Ingredients of Tick Repellents: Advantages and Disadvantages

DEETFor humans, is to be applied on skin and clothes.Has been used for almost 70 years, is well-researched. Its effectiveness depends on concentration so you can find protection even in extreme conditions with plenty of insects. It is safe if used properly in moderate amount.Does not kill ticks, only repels them. Can cause side effect if concentrated highly. Can damage certain surfaces (e.g. plastic). Is more useful against mosquitoes than ticks.
PicaridinFor humans, is to be applied on skin and clothes.Has been researched for almost 30 years.  It does not smell and does not destroy the surfaces. Low-toxic, its effect lasts longer than that of DEET as it takes longer (up to 14 hours) to evaporate from the skin.Does not kill ticks, only repels them.
PermethrinFor humans (to be applied on clothes only) dogs,  and garden.Kills and repels ticks. It acts quickly, effectively and lasts long (for weeks, even after washing). Does not damage tissue or synthetic surfaces. And does not leave any smells on dry clothes.Treated clothes require special handling. Is extremely toxic for fish, pollutes water. Use carefully near cats as it is extremely toxic for them as well.
IR3535For humans, is to be applied on skin and clothes.Toxicity tests have shown that IR3535 is harmless if ingested, inhaled or applied on skin.Is less effective than DEET and is the newest repelling substance (has been subject to research for less than 20 years).
Oil of Lemon EucalyptusFor humans (to be applied on skin)The most natural and safest chemical repellent.Only repels ticks. Can compete with other chemical only if highly concentrated. Short-lasting effect.
2-UndecanoneFor humans, is to be applied on skin and clothes, and dogs.A synthesized organic liquid that is considered safe.Only repels ticks. Can compete with other chemicals only if highly concentrated. Short-lasting effect and strong odor.
Garlic OilFor the garden.Repels ticks and decreases their garden population 2x.Limited repelling action:  best effect seen after the first treatment. One-time control measure.
Mixed essential oilsFor humans, dogs and garden.Natural and safe repellent.Limited repelling action. Use carefully on dogs if it contains eugenol. Do not use on cats.
IC2 (rosemary oil)For humans and garden.Natural and safe repellent.Limited repelling action. Most helpful when combined with other active ingredients.
NootkatoneFor humans, dogs and garden.Natural substance that both repels and kills ticks. It is non-toxic to such an extent that it can even be ingested.Nootkatone-based repellents are not openly available for retail sale.

Top-18 Tick Repellents

Below, we will list products, tested by millions of users for years that are available online. For your convenience, we have classified them into effective products for humans tested for years, the same ones for dogs and new experimental natural repellents.

Effective Tick Repellents for Humans, Tested For Years

Sawyer Products Premium Permethrin Clothing Tick Repellent Spray

Sawyer Products Permethrin Insect Repellent Spray for Clothing, Gear & Tents (24 oz) and Permethrin Clothing Insect Repellent Aerosol Spray (9 oz)

It contains 0.5% Permethrin, its effectiveness is equal to 100% DEET products. It repels ticks, chiggers, mites and mosquitoes. Remember that permethrin cannot be applied directly on skin, spray it on clothes only! Its action lasts for up to six weeks (or six washings). The product does not smell on dry clothes and does not leave stains. It is recommended for use when hunting, fishing or engaging in other outdoor activities.

Price: Check current price

Repel 94101 6-Ounce Sportsmen Max Insect Repellent 40-Percent DEET Spray

Today. this is a #1 Best Seller in the Pest Repellents category on from Check current price. It contains 40% DEET and acts for eight hours. It repels not only ticks, but also mosquitoes, gnats, biting flies, chiggers and fleas. Apply Repel only on uncovered body parts and clothes, but never under clothes! Just like any other repellent, it should not be used immediately after showering when skin pores are wide open. In that case. DEET will penetrate skin easier and can cause irritation.

Repel Insect Repellent Sportsman Max Formula, Repels Mosquitoes, Ticks and Gnats, Effective Long-Lasting Protection, 40% DEET (Aerosol) 6 fl Ounce (Pack of 2)

The users are satisfied with the repellents effectiveness and give it a high rating. Repel Max will help you worry less about ticks when you and your kids go camping, hiking, and all other outdoor activities that we love and enjoy.

Price:  Check current price

OFF! Deep Woods Insect Repellent 6 ounce (Pack of 2)

Off Deep Woods Insect Repellent 6 Ounce Spray (2 Pack)

This anti-insect and tick aerosol contains only 25% of DEET. The manufacturer claims that it also repels black flies, sand flies, chiggers, gnats, fleas and no-see-ums. The product description also mentioned that it acts for up to eight hours against mosquitoes. It is unclear from this description, how long its tick repelling effect lasts. In the comments sections, the users mention that the interval between sprayings is about two hours. That is why you will have to repeat sprayings according to the manual.

It can be applied both on skin and fabric (cotton, wool or nylon). The manufacturer recommends also spraying cuffs, socks and around other openings in outer clothing or better tick protection.

Price: (2-pack) Check current price

Repel 100 Insect Repellent, 4 oz. Spray

It repels mosquitoes, ticks, gnats, biting flies, chiggers, no-see-ums and fleas. It is suitable for extreme environment and its action lasts for up to 10 hours, thanks to its maximal possible DEET concentration of 98.11%. Such a powerful spray costs from Check current price.

Repel 100 Insect Repellent, Pump Spray, 4-Fluid Ounces, 10-Hour Protection

Although such concentration is permitted by the US authorities, the experts are doubtful. Sharon I Gripp, Associate of Pesticide Group of the University of Pennsylvania, believes that opting for lower DEET concentration would be a wise decision. In Canada, for instance, it is forbidden to use any products containing over 30% of DEET on people.

However, if you need longest protection (in the tundra, woods or when hunting), this is your best choice. No bloodsucker will ever approach you if you use this effective spray, as the users confirm.

Price:  Check current price

Sawyer Products Premium Insect Repellent with 20% Picaridin

Sawyer manufactures a wide range of powerful repellents based on 20% picaridin. Such concentration lets the substance repel ticks and mosquitoes for up to 14 hours and for up to 8 hours biting flies, gnats, chiggers, and sand flies.

Sawyer Products Permethrin Clothing Insect Repellent and Picaridin Insect Repellent Spray Bundle

Why does it take so long? As we’ve mentioned above, picaridin evaporates off clothes and skin slowly (even slower than DEET). It is non-toxic and can be used for family protection. Out of the entire Sawyer with 20% Picaridin product line, we pick lotion that has the longest effect. You can buy either a small bottle or store a 0.5 gallon lotion dispenser.

Price of ½ gal:  Check current price

Price of 4 ounce:  Check current price.

Repel Lemon Eucalyptus Natural Insect Repellent, Spray

Repel Plant-Based Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent, Mosquito Repellent, Pump Spray, 4 Ounce, (Pack of 2)

This is the most tried and tested repellent spray. Its active ingredient is 30% eucalyptus oil. A bottle promises to protect you from the bloodsuckers for up to six hours. Although few people use this Repel product for actually repelling ticks, the scientists confirm the effectiveness of eucalyptus oil against these insects. The users are also happy that this Repel spray is gentler than DEET.

Price:  Check current price

Cutter Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent from Check current price is similar to this spray. Their main characteristics are identical, but Repel is way more popular.

Let us remind you that the oil of lemon eucalyptus is the most natural repelling action chemical. It is not 100% organic as it is artificially synthesized to meet industrial needs. The CDC experts do not recommend using the oil of lemon eucalyptus on children under 3.

Best Tick Repellents for Dogs: a Collar, a Spray, Drops & Shampoos

It is your personal responsibility to protect your dog from ticks. They bite dogs as frequently as people and the fur makes it far more difficult to notice a bloodsucker. Dogs do not always react distinctly and can suffer in silence while ticks drink their blood. That is why you should use a tick repellent for dogs so you don’t need to check up on your pet after every walk. Pick what’s most convenient for you: a collar, a spray, drops or a shampoo.

Bayer Seresto Flea and Tick Collar for Dogs

This is a #1 Best Seller in the Dog Flea Collars category. It kills ticks on contact and repels them, is convenient and water-resistant. Seresto contains two active ingredients: Imidacloprid (10%) and Flumethrin (4.5%). It acts against ticks and fleas for up to eight months and the customers claim that after using this collar, the ticks do not relapse for six months.

Seresto Large Dog Vet-Recommended Flea & Tick Treatment & Prevention Collar for Dogs Over 18 lbs. | 8 Months Protection

The vets recommend using this collar as a temporary protection. According to the scientists, it cannot be used for over six consecutive days. After that, the collar should be removed and you should either let your dog take a break or find a more powerful parasite repellent.

Price:  Check current price

Vet’s Best Flea & Tick Pet & Home Spray

This spray’s active ingredients are peppermint oil and eugenol (clove oil extract). It is a fast-acting insecticide that is able to kill most parasites on contact. It is so popular that it’s firmly considered to be a #1 best -selling dog spray.

Vet's Best Flea and Tick Home Spray - Dog Flea and Tick Treatment for Home - Plant-Based Formula - Certified Natural Oils,Green - 32 oz

Bear in mind that even natural products, such as Vet’s Best, can cause irritation of your dog’s sensitive skin because it absorbs eugenol very well. So do not overuse the spray and watch your dog’s condition closely. The product can also be used to treat your backyard.

Price:  Check current price

Frontline Plus Flea and Tick Control for Dogs and Puppies

FRONTLINE Plus Flea and Tick Treatment for Large Dogs Up to 45 to 88 lbs., 3 Treatments

These drops contain 9.8% fipronil and 8.8% s-methoprene (IGR). Fipronil is slow-acting poison that affects the parasites’ central nervous system. IGR breaks the tick development cycle. And promises to kill 100% of adult fleas on your pet within 18 hours and 100% of all ticks within 48 hours.

The drops should be applied on your dog’s withers (at the base of the neck, between the shoulder blades). Three portions are supplied for providing protection from the insects for one month. Your pet can feel temporary irritation on the part of its skin where the drops have been applied, so you should watch its condition. The price for the drops varies depending on the dog’s weight as the manufacturer has developed options for all weight groups.

Price:  Check current price

Fipronil has an average rating and the users’ opinions are contradictory. It is most often compared with the following drops by Bayer listed below.

Bayer K9 Advantix II, Flea and Tick Control Treatment for Dogs

These drops are extremely powerful as they contain 44% permethrin as well as imidacloprid and IGR (pyriproxyfen). They repel and kill bloodsuckers on contact. Similarly, apply them on the withers. Note that the product is extremely toxic for fish so never throw a used pack in water in order not to pollute it. These drops also cannot be used on cats as permethrin is lethal for them!

K9 Advantix II XL Dog Vet-Recommended Flea, Tick & Mosquito Treatment & Prevention | Dogs Over 55 lbs. | 6-Mo Supply

“I don’t like putting harsh chemicals like this on my dogs but honestly, it’s the only darn thing that works.” If you follow the manual, you won’t do any harm to your dog. Try it out to feel the difference from your usual tick repellents for dogs.

Price: Check current price

Hartz UltraGuard Rid Flea & Tick Shampoo for Dog with Oatmeal

This shampoo with oatmeal not only kills ticks and fleas, but also softens your pet’s dry and irritated skin. 0.27% Phenothrin (which is a pyrethroid, permethrin’s “distant cousin”) is responsible for killing pests. The users confirm that Hartz is very user-friendly and allows the dogs to remain ticks-free for up to three weeks following the treatment. Regular shampoos have a short-term effect.

Hartz UltraGuard Rid Flea & Tick Oatmeal Dog Shampoo, Model:3270002305

FYI! This shampoo is gentler than drops, but due to containing pyrethroid, it is as dangerous for cats as permethrin is lethal! Remember, this repellent is only for dogs and not for cats!

Price:  Check current price

Natural ingredient shampoo, Wahl Natural Pet Shampoo is more expensive, it costs Check current price. Its advantage is its vegetative ingredients, namely rosemary and peppermint. It protects your dog from ticks, but it is unclear as to what extent. Although the scientists assure that essential oils have repelling action, they are far less effective than chemicals.

Let’s move on from natural repellents for dogs to natural repellents for humans.

Natural Tick Repellents: Sprays, Patches and a Pen

TICK BAN – YAYA Organics Tick Repellent

What does a natural spray have to offer? First, its ingredients are soybean oil, essential oils of: rosemary, peppermint, Texas cedar wood, lemongrass, Himalayan cedar wood, lavender/lavandin, rose geranium, sweet marjoram. It has a pleasant grass smell.

TICK BAN Yaya Organics All Natural Extra Strength Tick Repellent DEET Free - 4 Ounce Spray Bottle

Tick Ban promises to repel not only the subjects of this article, but also black flies, gnats, and other bugs. However, the duration of action is not mentioned on the product’s label. Although the scientists ensure that oil mixes tend to have repelling action, it is likely that it is short-term, so you’d better combine it with other control measures.

Price:  Check current price

Let’s now describe some experimental repellents containing 2-undecanone. Lab experiments have shown that its effectiveness is comparable to that of DEET-based treatments. However, it hasn’t been in use for long enough to make sure these repellents are 100% effective.

BioUD® Insect Repellent & Clothing Treatment Mini Trigger

BioUD spray’s only active ingredient is 2-undecanone. It has an average duration as it promises to repel mosquitoes for 4.5 hours and repel ticks for up to 2 hours. Repeat treatment is then required. It can also be sprayed on clothes for additional insurance.

Everguard ADPG5T Granular Tick & Mosquito Repellent, Tan

BioUD consumers complain of the product’s strong smell. According to them, it is very difficult to get used it and you will not be able to wash it off on the first try. Some of the rare comments are positive, so you can use it to form your own opinion.

Price:  Check current price

BioUD also manufacturers this repellent in the form of a pen available for Check current price. Get the same effect with enhanced convenience! It’s perfect for travelling as it will fit any pocket or bag.

Mosquito Patches Insect Repellent Deet Free

These insect patches are promoted as family protection. The repellent contains oils of citronella, lemon eucalyptus and 2-undecanone. The patches can be attached to your skin, clothes or anywhere. They are even suitable for newborns. Protection is activated by pressing on the patch; it will work for about 10 hours after this.

Mosquito Guard 60 Pack Mosquito Repellent Stickers for Kids - DEET Free Mosquito Repellent Outdoor Patio - Plant Based Mosquito Patches for Kids

So far there isn’t much feedback, and the rating isn’t very high. However, you should definitely try using 24 patches. They are cut-rate, simple and appear safe. Surely, such protection will be useful.

Price:  Check current price

Tick Pesticide for the Yard

Before we’ve mentioned that certain natural insecticides can be used to repel ticks in your yard. Remember that their effectiveness is insufficient in having a substantial impact on parasites. That is why in the spring, when these insects’ activity peaks, you should treat your yard with a tried and powerful chemical. Pick one that kills ticks on contact, such as concentrated permethrin which has both killing and repelling action.

36.8 % Permethrin SFR 32 oz Tick Control Insecticide

Here is a very powerful pest control insecticide containing 36.8% permethrin. A 32 oz bottle can be dissolved into 20 gallons of product and used for treating the outdoors area from various pests. The manufacturer targets not only ticks, but also ants, bees, fleas, aphids, beetles, termites, roaches, chiggers and over 70 other insects.

The users share that they use the dissolved insecticide to treat not only their yard, but also their clothes (concentration ratio is 50:1). Everyone is afraid of Lyme disease, so it’s better to be extra cautious. In addition, permethrin conveniently kills all undesired pests in the backyard and has long-lasting action.

Price:  Check current price

Best Tick Repellents Comparative Chart

ProductTypeActive IngredientsTick Protection
Sawyer Products Clothing Repellent

Tick spray for clothes and other fabric.Permethrin (0.5%)Up to 6 weeks .(6 washings)
Repel 94101 6-Ounce Sportsmen Max Spray

Tick repellent for humans. (apply on clothes and skin)DEET (40%)Up to 8 hours.
OFF! Deep Woods Spray

For humans .(apply on clothes and skin)DEET (25%)2-8 hours.
Repel 100 Spray

For humans .(apply on clothes and skin)DEET (98.11%)Up to 10 hours.
Sawyer Products Premium Repellent Lotion

For humans. (apply on clothes and skin)Picaridin (20%)Up to 14 hours.
Repel Lemon Eucalyptus Spray

For humans. (apply on skin)Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (30%)Up to 6 hours.
Cutter Lemon Eucalyptus

For humans. (apply on skin)Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (30%)Up to 6 hours
Bayer Seresto Flea and Tick Collar for Dogs

For dogs.Imidacloprid (10%), Flumethrin (4.5%)Up to 8 months. (wearing over 6 consecutive days is not recommended)
Vet’s Best Flea & Tick Spray

For dogs and yard.Peppermint oil and eugenol (clove oil extract)Kills ticks on contact.
Frontline Plus Flea and Tick Control (Drops)

For dogs.Fipronil (9.8%) and s-methoprene (IGR, 8.8%)Kill all ticks within 48 hours.
Bayer K9 Advantix II (Drops)

For dogs.Permethrin (44%), Imidacloprid,pyriproxyfen (IGR)Kills and repels for up to one month.
Hartz UltraGuard Rid Shampoo

For dogs.Phenothrin (0.27%)Kills on contact, short-term effect.
Wahl Natural Pet Shampoo

For dogs.Rosemary and peppermint essential oilsShort-term effect.
TICK BAN – YAYA Organic Spray

For humans.Soybean oil, essential oils of rosemary, peppermint, cedar woods, lemongrass, lavender, rose geranium, sweet marjoramShort-term effect.
Mosquito Patches Insect Repellent Deet Free

For humans. (stick on skin and clothes)Oils of citronella, lemon eucalyptus & 2-undecanoneUp to 10 hours.
BioUD® Insect Repellent & Clothing Treatment Spray

For humans. (apply on clothes and skin)2-undecanoneUp to 2 hours.
Bite Blocker Insect Repellent Pen

For humans. (apply on clothes and skin)2-undecanoneUp to 2 hours.
36% Permethrin Insecticide

For yard and clothes treatment.Permethrin (36.8%)Kills ticks on contact and repels them.

Is Natural Tick Repelling the Future or the Past?

Traditional repellents are considered effective and safe if used properly, but not all users like them. Therefore, the scientists are engaged in the development of new products for repelling and killing ticks based on plants and fungi which are natural tick repellents. Such drugs are safer, but the duration of their action is generally shorter than that of chemical analogs. Natural ingredients are constantly being tested. These tests demonstrate their ability to compete with substances such as DEET, but often being competitive requires an increase in concentration.

Unfortunately, everything is still in the lab testing stage. Few products containing these ingredients are sold, and the ones that are available have too few real users’ reviews that do not allow drawing any conclusions or recommending them as a proper means of protection. Below, we’ll summarize these new substances but we won’t risk recommending any of them as reliable or effective. Find the products in our list of the Top-18 Tick Repellents.

Repellents containing such active ingredient as 2-undecanone, are made of Lycopersicon hirsutum (wild tomato) leaves and stem essential oils and scare off ticks. They are to be applied on skin and clothes. Lab tests show that the effectiveness of this product is not lower than that of DEET-based treatments (and in some cases its performance is even superior).

As the Department of Entomology of the University of North Carolina experts note“BioUD with the active ingredient 2-undecanone, originally derived from wild tomato plants, is a new repellent recently registered by the US EPA. Repellent efficacy of BioUD (7.75% 2-undecanone) and DEET (98.11%) was examined in the laboratory using a choice test between repellent-treated and control filter paper surfaces for Amblyomma americanum, Dermacentor variabilis, and Ixodes scapularis. BioUD provided greater repellency against A. americanum and I. scapularis than DEET. No difference was found between BioUD and DEET against D. variabilis.”

Such active ingredient, as Garlic Oil is made of garlic oil and is used to treat lawns and gardens and allows reducing the tick population by 59%. Its effectiveness peaks on the initial treatment, and so the scientists recommend using it for short-term only. A mix of essential oils (rosemary, lemongrass, cedar, mint, thyme and geraniol) also has repellent action. Such a mix can be applied on human skin or sprayed in the garden.

The specialists from Maine Medical Center Research Institute have tested IC2 containing 10% of rosemary oil and compared it to the synthetic bifenthrin. Within two weeks after spraying the lot with IC2 and bifenthrin, no ticks have been found while the lot treated with still water contained plenty of ticks carrying borreliosis. The main advantage of the product based on rosemary oil over bifenthrin lies in its safety.

Nootkatone, distilled from the Alaska yellow cedar essential oil, herbs and citrus plants, not only repels, but also kills ticks. The tests have proven that these relatively low-concentrated organic ingredients can be a potential alternative to synthetic repellents, such as DEET. Metarhizium brunneum/ anisopliae is made of wild fungi, is also able to kill ticks, but unlike Nootkatone, it can only be used to treat gardens and lawns.

What DEET Concentration Should You Choose?

When choosing a repellent, pay attention to the specified concentration level. The concentration of DEET in commercial products (lotions, creams, gels, aerosols, sprays and napkins) varies from 4% to 100%.

For most adults, it is sufficient to use 10% to 35% DEET concentration in order to provide adequate protection in most cases.

As for children, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends repellents with a lower concentration. “Insect repellents containing DEET with a concentration of 10 percent appear to be as safe as products with a concentration of 30 percent when used according to the directions on the product labels.”

Note that using highly concentrated DEET repellents does not guarantee better protection. Higher concentration only means a longer effect, so pick such a repellent taking into account your stay near ticks. Also, such treatments are suitable if your regular repellent evaporates too soon (i.e. if you sweat intensely, when the temperature is high and it is damp). As a rule, repellents work for 1-5 hours, depending on whether you sweat, rub your skin and the amount of repellent applied.

How Safe Is DEET?

DEET does not pose a threat to human health, including children, given the strict compliance with safety regulations. For 70 years of use of DEET, this chemical compound has been thoroughly examined. It consistently demonstrates good safety performance. Although DEET is absorbed into the skin, in case of ingestion, it will be immediately urinated.

Studies have shown that this substance does not accumulate in human or animal bodies. There are cases of diseases caused by DEET, but the reason for this was either improper or excessive and prolonged use of the repellent.

Nevertheless, in some cases, DEET can pose risk when in contact with human skin and eyes, when inhaled or ingested.

The substance can penetrate the lungs when sprayed near humans or in an enclosed space where the vapors remain for a few hours. You can accidentally swallow DEET if you don’t wash the treated hands before meals. Side effects have been recorded when DEET was applied on the skin underneath the clothes.

If DEET gets into your eyes, it can cause irritation, pain and tears. When it remains on your skin long enough, it can also cause irritation, redness and swelling. Ingestion of DEET causes diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. In rare cases it can cause seizures.

Other disadvantages of DEET include a distinct unpleasant odor and skin oiliness when used. It can also damage certain plastic objects, such as sunglasses.

How to Apply Repellents?

Consumers should follow manufacturers’ instructions so as not to do harm to their health. First of all, labels of the products made in the USA must bear EPA registration number where the letter A confirms that the repellent was approved by the Environment Protection Agency of the USA. Section B must list all of the active ingredients specifying their concentration.

Note that the DEET abbreviation is not usually used; instead its chemical name N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide will be stated. Section C will cover the use of the repellent (i.e. whether it can be applied on the skin or used indoors). Possible risks and precaution measures including first-aid can be found under the letter D.

However, there are some general safety rules for the chemicals of which the repellents are made. DEET can be applied directly on the skin or clothes. It is most effective to treat pants and other clothes worn below the waist that can come in contact with ticks. However, DEET can damage certain fabrics or objects (for instance, plastic ones). Children must not use highly concentrated DEET. Don’t apply DEET on your hands or other body parts that can touch your mouth as well as on any wounds or irritated skin. After use, rinse the treated areas well.

Be extremely cautious when using permethrin. As we have already mentioned, such products are aimed specifically at treating clothes and other objects. It’s crucial to follow safety rules and not treat clothes that you are wearing. Use this repellent outdoors or in well-ventilated but not windy spaces.

Hang the treated clothing outside and wear it only when it dries completely. Wash it separately from other outfits. Don’t use the spray near water or flowers. Although permethrin is harmless for dogs, never let your cat near the treated clothes.

Should You Treat Your Yard with Pesticide?

If you spend much time outdoors in the garden, take all the possible measures to protect yourself from tick bites. First, take out any trash, such as household waste and leaves, and mow high grass. Widen the sunlit area as much as possible and minimize the shade where ticks usually breed.

Then you should treat your lot with insecticides. They can kill and/or repel ticks. However, the USA  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn that although special treatments generally reduce tick population, don’t rely solely on spraying insecticides in your garden to protect yourself from infections.

The best chemical pesticide sprays contain pyrethrin, permethrin and such insect growth regulators as pyriproxyfen и fenoxycarb. The manufacturers, however, supply more organic products trying to satisfy the demand for safer ingredients.

Certain chemicals that aren’t pesticides are also able to repel ticks. Garlic, for example, does not kill them, but repels them. Cedar oil is lethal for ticks. Experienced gardeners recommend combining it with garlic to maximize the effect. Remember, that the effectiveness of natural products is inferior to that of chemical ones.

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20 thoughts on “The Best Tick Repellent: Is There Anything More Effective than DEET?”

  1. Can you explain how to get rid of a tick with lime juice? I read about such a method and I wonder whether it is a joke or it actually works.

  2. In the section “how to get rid of ticks on dogs”, you describe the Natural Flea & Tick Control product for pets. I wonder if there are any contraindications to its use.

    1. It all depends on your kid’s age. EPA approves using DEET for protecting kids from pests’ bites without any age restrictions. However, we recommend you to mitigate the risk and not to use DEET-based repellents for babies under 1 year old. Use DEET for older kids, but mind that you should: – Not let the kids play with the repellents. Once it is in a kid’s hands, the chemical is guaranteed to be swallowed. – Try your utmost to only apply the repellent on a kid’s clothes. – Apply it on the skin if more protection is needed, but avoid face, palms and any irritated skin. – Make sure you wash the repellent off your skin once you come home and wash the treated clothing as well.

    1. Yes, as it is a natural and safe product, you can also use it for personal protection. Be careful, though, if you are allergic to citronella or cedar, because the products smells heavily of them! The gardeners will be fans of this thing. The experienced landlords claim that you’ll be able to mown your lawn, decorate your plant and flower beds without being bitten by ticks even once!

  3. How does the Tick Twister works? Is it possible that it will only decapitate the tick and the rest of its body will remain under my skin?

    1. That’s a good question! First of all, you won’t be able to merely twist off a tick’s head as it digs deeper into your skin with its head and mandibles. Second, it is forbidden to twist or pull or a tick! The Center for Disease Control and Prevention representatives explain that you have to carefully pull it out with tweezers. Don’t be abrupt, but do apply force. This will allow you to take out the entire tick without leaving any of its body parts including mandibles, inside. Without any doubt, a Tick Twister will cope with the tasks.

      The fine-tipped tweezers for removing ticks, such as Tick Twister are approved by and recommended for use not only through the word of mouth but also by the scientists and specialists of the US medical departments. The doctors warn us though that should you accidentally pull too hard and leave part of the ticks’ mandibles inside, don’t panic and get them out with tweezers. If you can’t do that, consult a doctor immediately! If you’ve taken out an entire tick, don’t squeeze it (especially with bare hands) and take it to a medical lab instead to have it examined for contamination in order to make sure that the bite didn’t endanger you.

  4. I think the issue of how to get rid of ticks in the yard is now critical as any private house owner with a backyard encounters this pest regularly.

  5. Well, you’d be better off using some repellent and not let this monster enter your place rather than think about how to get rid of ticks.

  6. Getting rid of ticks is a living hell. I have once been bitten by a tick in the woods, and I’ve had enough! I’ll never go back there!

  7. How do you get rid of ticks with a flea & tick control spray for pets? Can you describe the routine performed?

    1. Due to pesticide regulations in U.S. Talstar application is restricted in NY, California, Connecticut and South Dakota. According to the regulation, “In New York State, this product may NOT be applied to any grass or turf area within 100 feet of a water body (lake, pond, river, stream, wetland, or drainage ditch). In New York State, do make a single repeat application of Talstar® P Professional Insecticide if there are signs of renewed insect“.

      Such application restriction are caused by the extensive length of the residual effect (up to 3 months) and high toxicity of bifenthrin, the active component, for bees, plants and animals living in water bodies.

        1. When working with artificial chemicals, make sure you follow the manual supplied with the product! According to it, an ounce of Talstar is dissolved in a gallon of water (this ratio works both for indoor and outdoor use). Remember to follow all of the safety precautions mentioned in the manual: avoid the treated area until the insecticide dries out completely, make sure the food never touches the product etc.

  8. Why buy repellents, if they contain natural products that are in every home. And you can make a repellent for example from essential oils.

    1. Not all repellents have the basic elements – natural. Who does not have children and animals in the house, do not worry about it. It’s easier for me to buy, and I will not worry, I gathered all the components correctly or not.

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