Consumer Reports: Top tested insect repellents

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Whether you're headed into the woods or just hanging out in the backyard, Consumer Reports said a good insect repellent is a must. (WLS)

Whether you're headed into the woods or just hanging out in the backyard, Consumer Reports said a good insect repellent is a must.

The best ones can help protect against bites from mosquitoes and ticks which can spread diseases like West Nile and Lyme.

Consumer Reports is out with new testing that reveals which repellants provide the most protection.

To test repellents Consumer Reports enlists brave panelists to stick their arms cages filled with swarming mosquitoes. All disease-free, of course.

Consumer Reports looked at repellents with synthetic chemicals like DEET. As well as ones that contain picaridin and Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus which mimic chemicals found in nature. There were also plant based repellents labeled, "natural" with ingredients like citronella, lemongrass and cedar oils.

"Your best protection against mosquito and tick-borne diseases like West Nile or Lyme is to avoid getting bitten in the first place; that's why an effective insect repellent is so important. The good news is that you should only need one product to protect you against both insects. Our testing indicates that anything that protects you from mosquitoes should also protect you from ticks," said Jeneen Interlandi, Consumer Reports Health Editor.

The best repellents protected for six and a half hours or more while the lowest scoring ones only lasted for two hours or less. Consumer Reports said it's best to avoid the plant based, natural products.

"The thing about 'natural repellents' is that these products are not registered with the EPA. Because the agency deems the chemicals they contain to be of minimal safety risk, they don't bother to evaluate them for safety or effectiveness. What that means is that the companies that make these products dare not required to prove to federal regulators that they work," Interlandi said.

What did make a difference in the tests were the active chemical ingredients.

"Out of a total of 25 products that we've tested, all of the ones that earned our recommendation contained one of just three different active ingredients - and each one at a limited range of concentrations: so 20 percent Picaridin, between 15 percent and 30 percent DEET, or 30 percent Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus," Interlandi said.

Two products with DEET earned top scores - Total Home Woodland Scent Insect Repellent with 30 percent DEET from CVS and OFF! Deep Woods Insect Repellent.

If you want to skip the DEET the $5 Repel Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus formula performed almost as well. Or consider Sawyer Premium Insect Repellent with 20 percent Picaridin.

Consumer Reports said DEET products are safe for everyone including children. It recommends choosing a repellent with 30 percent DEET or less. Even when you are wearing a repellent remember to always do a thorough tick after being outdoors.

All Consumer Reports material Copyright 2017 Consumer Reports, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Consumer Reports is a not-for-profit organization which accepts no advertising. It has no commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site. For more information visit

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