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10 best mosquito repellents to keep bites at bay while home or away

From DEET rollers to all-natural sprays, fend off insects with our top picks

Tamara Hinson
Tuesday 09 April 2024 13:28 BST
We sought out the soggy areas mosquitos know and love to put each product to the test
We sought out the soggy areas mosquitos know and love to put each product to the test (The Independent)
Our Top Picks

First thing first, let’s bust some myths about ways to repel mosquitos. As humans whose blood seems to be especially appealing to biting insects, we’ve tried every old wives’ tale in the book, whether it’s eating huge quantities of asparagus (really?) or upping our intake of vitamin B. But when it comes to warding off those pesky mosquitos, nothing, barring commercially produced mosquito repellent, has worked.

The vitamin B theory is the one we hear the most, which is why we roped in an expert to disprove this myth once and for all: “You may have heard the claim that increasing your vitamin B intake can reduce the likelihood of mosquito bites,” says Carolina Goncalves, superintendent pharmacist at Pharmica. “However, research relating to this claim suggests that vitamin B does nothing to repel mosquitoes.”

So, once you’ve ditched the veg and vits, and decided on the repellent route, it’s time to think about ingredients. In our experience, only a handful of natural repellents work (and we’ve included the best ones here), and we’ve never been afraid of a liberal spritz of DEET. Admittedly, it might not have the most pleasant smell, but mozzies hate the stuff.

Don’t assume DEET will upset your skin either – these days, clever formulations mean DEET-based sprays are unlikely to lead to irritation. But if you’re concerned, simply opt for a repellent with a lower percentage of DEET, or try an alternative with an active ingredient such as icaridin (paradin), which is “deemed both safe and effective”, says Goncalves.

Finally, wondering how to help mosquito bites heal (after all, there’ll always be a handful of determined ones that get through)? “It’s important to avoid scratching the bitten area,” says Goncalves. “Scratching can open up the wound and lead to an infection. You can apply hydrocortisone cream or ointment to the bite, although it’s important not to apply it if the skin is broken, as this can make irritation worse.”

How we tested

Our testing took place in hot, humid conditions, and we deliberately sought out soggy areas (such as canals, rivers and areas of still water, which mozzies love most). The fact that our bites were minimal is a tribute to the following sprays, although we also took other factors into account, including the ease of application (we’re now suckers for a roll-on repellent), scent and the overall bottle design.

The best mosquito repellents for 2024 are:

  • Best mosquito repellent overall – Jungle Formula maximum pump spray: ?9, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best budget mosquito repellent – Superdrug buzz off insect repellent: ?4.49, Superdrug.com
  • Best for kids – Puressentiel bite and sting spray repellent + soothing: ?13.58, Amazon.co.uk

Jungle Formula maximum pump spray

Jungle Formula maximum any destination pump spray.png
  • Best: Overall
  • Size: 90ml
  • Active ingredient: 50 per cent DEET
  • Hours of protection: Up to nine hours
  • Why we love it
    • 50 per cent DEET
    • Easy to apply

This spray contains 50 per cent DEET but lacks the harsh metallic scent we typically associate with products containing this amount of the bug-busting chemical.

We loved the bottle – the pump spray required enough pressure that it was almost impossible to depress accidentally (nobody likes DEET leaks, after all), but it was still easy to use, even with hot, sweaty hands.

The clear liquid had plenty of slip, which made covering large areas a breeze, and we loved the promise of protection for up to nine hours. Hard to prove, but the lack of bites after a full day in an area where mozzies were known to lurk meant we had full faith in this claim.

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Superdrug buzz off insect repellent

Superdrug buzz off insect repellent.png
  • Best: Budget mosquito repellent
  • Size: 50ml
  • Active ingredient: 27.5 per cent DEET
  • Hours of protection: Up to four hours
  • Why we love it
    • 27.5 per cent DEET
    • Powerful aerosol spray

Another can that earned top marks in the style stakes, thanks to its leaf-adorned exterior and the cheery combo of yellow and green. This mossie spray also promises to ward off a wide range of other bugs, too, including midges, for up to four hours.

It contains 27.5 per cent DEET – just enough to provide a decent level of protection, but probably not enough to protect you on a hike through the Amazon rainforest.

The aerosol dispenser was surprisingly powerful and enabled us to cover large areas in a matter of seconds. After all, mosquito-spray application is hardly the kind of holiday activity we want to devote much time to.

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Boots repel maximum 50% DEET and PMD roll-on

Boots repel maximum 50% DEET & PMD roll-on.png
  • Best: No-nonsense bug-busting
  • Size: 50ml
  • Active ingredient: 50 per cent DEET
  • Hours of protection: Up to eight hours
  • Why we love it
    • 50 per cent DEET
  • Take note
    • Roll-on can be more difficult to apply

One problem with aerosol and pump-spray repellents is the difficulty in controlling the spray – trust us, your fellow travellers certainly don’t want a faceful of repellent, especially ones containing DEET. This is precisely why we loved the roll-on version of Boots’ famously strong DEET-based repellent, which offered the best of both worlds. We could take a topical approach to application (for some reason, mosquitos always seem to go for our lower legs, and ignore the rest of our bodies), rather than a full-body dousing. Roll on the roll-ons, we say.

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Boots repel maximum DEET and PMD aerosol

Boots repel maximum DEET & PMD aerosol.png
  • Best: Sweat-proof repellent
  • Size: 125ml
  • Active ingredient: 50 per cent DEET
  • Hours of protection: Up to eight hours
  • Why we love it
    • 50 per cent DEET
  • Take note
    • Overkill if you’re not travelling

Full disclosure – this has been our go-to product for years. We’ve relied on it during sweaty hikes through forests in Thailand and treks through the Peruvian rainforest.

It packs a punch, with 50 per cent DEET and a scent that doesn’t let you forget its key ingredient. So, when it comes to bug-busting, this is one of the best, and the only reason we’re not giving a higher ranking is because its strength means it’s a spray best saved for tropical areas.

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Boots repel holiday and home aerosol

Boots repel holiday and home aerosol.png
  • Best: For long-lasting protection
  • Size: 50ml
  • Active ingredient: 20 per cent icaridin
  • Hours of protection: Up to five hours
  • Why we love it
    • Environmentally friendly
    • Smells pleasant
  • Take note
    • Weaker than a DEET repellent

This sunshine-yellow can screams holiday, although it’s designed for use at home, too. It offers medium-high protection for up to five hours, making it suitable for use in notoriously mozzie-prone areas (although a disclaimer says it’s not suitable for tropical regions), as well as in the UK.

It’s a DEET-free product, which explains the surprisingly pleasant smell – a hit of lemon blended with a chemical tang that is nigh on impossible to avoid when it comes to mosquito repellents.

We loved the consistency of this one – a clear, light liquid without a hint of greasiness. The best bit? It kept us bite-free for long beyond the promised five hours. Sign up for an email notification when it comes back in stock.

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Jungle Formula dry protect

Jungle Formula dry protect aerosol.png
  • Best: Non-sticky formula
  • Size: 125ml
  • Active ingredient: 20 per cent icardin
  • Hours of protection: Up to seven hours
  • Why we love it
    • Non-sticky formulation
    • Seven hours of protection

Nothing is worse than a greasy, sticky mosquito repellent. In the past, we’ve encountered sprays that are so sticky, mozzies have actually stuck to our arm, which we presume made their blood-sucking work significantly easier. Luckily, Jungle Formula’s dry protect formula lives up to its name – there’s not a hint of tackiness or stickiness, and the spray dried in a nano-second.

It’s a DEET-free repellent that offers seven hours of protection, and another spray that has a surprisingly pleasant smell.

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Jungle Formula maximum aerosol

Jungle Formula maximum aerosol.png
  • Best: For families
  • Size: 125ml
  • Active ingredient: 50 per cent DEET
  • Hours of protection: Up to nine hours
  • Why we love it
    • Great for sensitive skin
    • Quick to apply

This is an aerosol version of the pump bottle product we mentioned earlier, and although we loved the benefits of a pump (including the reduced risk of leaks), the wider distribution area meant this spray enabled us to cover much larger areas (and multiple people) in less time.

The finer, lighter spray – even though it’s the same product – meant we felt more confident using this on our notoriously sensitive skin. What’s more, it offered the same staying power (or at least, that’s what the lack of bites suggests) as the pump version.

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Incognito insect repellent

Incognito insect repellent.png
  • Best: For a natural approach
  • Size: 100ml
  • Active ingredient: 20 per cent Citrepel
  • Hours of protection: Up to eight hours
  • Why we love it
    • Environmentally friendly
    • All-natural ingredients

There’s something rather fearsome about this sleek, black bottle – if we were a mosquito, we’d be daunted by the mere sight of it.

It’s DEET-free and relies on all-natural ingredients, including Citrepel (derived from oil of lemon eucalyptus), to repel mosquitos – plus, according to the blurb, sandflies, horseflies, ticks and midges. We can confirm none of the aforementioned bugs took a bite out of us.

Its consistency is marginally thicker than the other sprays, and although we were surprised by the white hue of the liquid, it was quickly absorbed without a trace of the greasiness we feared.

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A.Vogel neem herbal insect repellent spray

A.Vogel neem insect repellent spray.png
  • Best: DEET-free protection
  • Size: 50ml
  • Active ingredient: Neem (percentage not provided)
  • Hours of protection: About three hours
  • Why we love it
    • Chemical-free
  • Take note
    • Only 50ml per bottle

If you’re sceptical about the natural approach when it comes to mosquito repellent, A. Vogel’s offering might just convince you. It’s DEET-free and contains neem, a natural repellent, which shouldn’t irritate even the most sensitive skin.

The spray – which has an inoffensive, almost peppery scent – dried immediately, and our bite-free status boosted our faith in chemical-free options. Another advantage is that, despite the tiny bottle – it contains just 50ml – a little goes a long way, making it ideal for short-haul holidays when you’re travelling with hand luggage only.

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Puressentiel bite and sting spray repellent + soothing

Puressentiel bite & sting spray repellent + soothing.png
  • Best: For kids
  • Size: 75ml
  • Active ingredient: Citriodiol (percentage not provided)
  • Hours of protection: Up to seven hours
  • Why we love it
    • Citriodiol-based
    • Delicate scent

Another great repellent for anyone keen to take a chemical-free approach, this plant-based spray (citriodiol, which is derived from lemon eucalyptus essential oil, is the main ingredient) is a brilliant option for all the family. Plus, its delicate scent means kids won’t do a runner the second they clap eyes on the bottle.

And it gets better – in the event of a rogue bite (or pre-existing ones), this spray can also be used to soothe and calm skin, thanks to a powerful blend of five essential oils: tea tree, citronella java, lavandin grosso, niaouli and peppermint.

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The verdict: Mosquito repellent

We’re big fans of Jungle Formula, admittedly, but we didn’t let that sway us – we approached our testing with total impartiality. But the Jungle Formula maximum pump spray still got the gold star, simply because it ticked all the boxes: it was easy to apply, kept mosquitos at bay and didn’t irritate our (extremely sensitive) skin. Forclaz gets a shout-out for its ability to repel mosquitos with a pocket-sized option, which had a fragrance that was actually pleasant. Boots’ repel maximum 50% DEET & PMD roll-on bags the third spot for its user-friendly roll-on applicator and the fact its bug-busting properties lasted all day.

For more holiday essentials, check out our pick of the best sunscreens for your body

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