Consumer Reports tests top insect repellents

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Whether it's at camp, hiking, or even hanging out in the backyard, many people plan to spend a lot of time outdoors this summer.

No matter what you do, it's important to protect yourself from ticks and mosquitoes. Consumer Reports has just released its latest test results.

Bug-borne diseases are on the rise all across the country. And it's not just the ones you may have heard of like, the West Nile virus, Lyme disease, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. New ones are sprouting up.

"According to the CDC, at least nine mosquito and tick-borne diseases have been reported for the first time in the U.S. since 2004. So it's really important to protect yourself against these diseases," said Consumer Reports' Catherine Roberts.

But which insect repellent should you buy? To answer that question, CR applied a standard dose of repellent to testers' skin, and after 30 minutes, the willing testers put their arms in cages filled with 200 disease-free mosquitoes.

"Our testing paints a pretty clear picture, no matter the brand or what kind of repellent you're using, products made with 15 to 30% DEET worked the best," said Roberts.

Two of CR's best buy options are: Total Home (CVS) Woodland Scent Insect Repellent and 3M Ultrathon Insect Repellent8.

The EPA said DEET has been thoroughly tested and is safe when properly used. But if you're still looking for a non-DEET alternative, Roberts has a suggestion.

"Products with 30% oil of lemon eucalyptus are good alternatives, and we also have a few high scorers that contain 20% picaridin," he said.

No matter which repellent you choose, to be effective, it has to be applied properly. Use a thin coat on all exposed skin.

You can also spray on top of your clothes, but don't apply under your clothing.

And be sure to wash your hands after applying and wash off the repellent after returning indoors.

CR tests also showed that products that are effective against mosquitoes are also effective against ticks.

Copyright © 2021 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.