Using Repellents Effectively

To get the best results from a repellent, you have to apply it properly. DEET-based repellents are the gold standard against which all others are measured. They come in a variety of pleasant-smelling, easy-to-use formulations that help prevent mosquito and tick bites more effectively than virtually anything else on the market today.

First, carefully read and follow label directions for the product you’re using. DEET-based repellents have an EPA registration number on the label*. For further information about repellent use, visit and

If you need assistance with selecting the best insect repellent to suit your needs, you can use the EPA Insect Repellent Search Tool located here.

Where and how to apply repellent

  • Apply repellent to all exposed skin areas and/or clothing following label directions.
  • When you use an aerosol and pump spray, spray a little on your skin and then use your hand to smooth it evenly over the area. A mosquito can find an unprotected spot the size of a dime.
  • Don’t spray randomly in the air – repellents won’t harm flying insects and spraying in the air near your body won’t get enough repellent on your skin or clothing to be effective.

Product forms and how to use them

  • Aerosols and pump sprays are best for treating clothing to get an even application. Don't over apply on clothing or skin—you don’t need to saturate or soak. More is not better.
  • Liquids, creams, lotions, towelettes and sticks can be used to apply more precisely to exposed skin.
  • Don't apply to skin under clothing unless the bugs are biting through the clothing. Don't apply to eyes, lips or mouth or over cuts, wounds or irritated skin.
  • Don't apply more frequently than directed on the product label.
  • DEET-based products are safe to use on cotton, nylon and other fabrics. Avoid spraying it on rayon, leather or plastics as it could cause surface damage.
  • After your outdoor activity, wash repellent-treated skin with soap and water.

Tips for applying repellents to children

Adults should apply repellent on younger children. You can use these products containing up to 30% concentration on youngsters as young as two months of age. For more details, please see What is the best way to apply DEET-based repellents on a child?


  • Reapply when mosquitoes/ticks/gnats or other biting insects begin to be troublesome again. Parents who use a higher concentration than their children are using need to keep and eye on the children because insects will be biting them well before they bother the adults. This happens because higher concentration products provide longer lasting protection.

Higher Concentrations

  • Use a higher concentration product (20% or higher) for protection from ticks.
  • Use higher concentrations for longer periods of protection between applications and in situations where populations of biting insects are high.

*Registered under Vertellus Performance Materials Inc., D/B/A Morflex, Inc.