You’re cruising down the drug store aisle when a pack of citronella candles catches your eye. “Hmm, these could be great to help ward off mosquitoes at my backyard cookout tomorrow,” you may think. But do these kinds of alternative insect repellants actually work?
Not so much, our colleagues at Consumer Reports found out after testing a few options folks might be tempted to buy.
What Doesn’t Work
Citronella candles: They might smell good, but an oscillating fan on high was more effective at keeping bugs away, CR’s testers found.
Wristbands: Though these products are marketed as being safer than lotions or sprays, CR found that bugs immediately started biting in testing.
Indeed, last summer New York went after a number of companies selling ineffective Zika prevention products, including wristbands and patches.
Clip-on fans: Devices that circulate a cloud of repellant might sound like a great idea, but CR says these fans may use potentially dangerous chemicals. They also don’t work as well as CR’s top-rated repellants.
Natural products: While it might sound nice to go natural, the plant-based repellants CR tested only worked for an hour or less.
What You Should Use Instead
Stick with products that contain 15-30% DEET; 20% Picaridin; or 30% oil of lemon eucalyptus, CR recommends.
That’s in line with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which also notes that repellents containing a higher percentage of the active ingredient typically provide longer-lasting protection.