6 Mosquito Repellent Hacks That Actually Work, Experts Say
You may want to keep extra dish detergent on hand this summer.
Mosquitoes—and their itchy, irritating bites—can be one of the most unpleasant aspects of summertime. This is especially true for those of us who are prone to attracting the insects, or who live in areas where they're transmitting diseases. For these reasons, many people have taken it upon themselves to come up with clever ways to keep mosquitoes at bay, from grating a certain name-brand soap to taking dangerous steps with coffee grounds. But do these mosquito repellent hacks work? We spoke with pest experts to find out. Read on for their thoughts on these viral trends, and advice on actually repelling mosquitoes.
Grating Irish Spring soap
Of all the mosquito repellent hacks making the rounds on social media, this is the one that has probably garnered the most attention this summer.
"All you need to do is grate some Irish Spring soap … and place it on the ground outside," says @damyralynch in a recent TikTok video.
While this method hasn't been scientifically proven, Shannon Harlow-Ellis, associate certified entomologist and technical specialist at Mosquito Joe, a Neighborly company, notes that Irish Spring soap contains picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus.
"These are two ingredients that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends looking for when deciding on a mosquito repellent," she says. "Therefore, Irish Spring soap could be an effective mosquito repellent hack."
Emma Grace Crumbley, entomologist at Mosquito Squad, adds that this method is non-toxic and won't harm your plants. However, she does caution that you'll need quite a lot of soap shavings (which you'll have to shave yourself) to cover large areas of your yard.
"It has also been suggested that this method may be more effective against rodents than insects," Crumbley points out.
Using Vicks VapoRub
According to TikToker @_ceo_of_randomness, mosquitoes hate the scent of Vicks VapoRub and Mentholatum, two over-the-counter topical ointments.
She suggests putting a spoonful of each into an old spray bottle, then filling it with very hot water. "You could even spray it on your legs," she says, adding that it smells great.
Crumbley shares that using Vicks is a mosquito-repellent hack that's been around for a while, as people cite the menthol, camphor, and eucalyptus oils as scents the insects dislike.
"It is known that mosquitoes do not like certain scents, so it's not unreasonable to think that rubbing scented ointment on the skin would discourage a mosquito from biting you," she explains. "It could also be possible that the slickness of the petroleum jelly on the skin also discourages mosquitoes from landing and biting you."
Again, this has not been scientifically proven, and Crumbly warns that it should not be used on your lawn, "as the ingredients in VapoRub are toxic to dogs and wildlife even when diluted."
Coffee is another household item that's been popular as a mosquito repellent hack on TikTok as of late. While some people are merely sprinkling ground coffee along the periphery of their lawns, others are lighting it on fire until it smokes. The hack here is that the strong scent masks human scents that would otherwise attract the insects to people.
Right off the bat, we're going to say that the latter method is dangerous and should not be used.
"There is some research that suggests that mosquitoes are repelled by coffee," shares Crumbly. "However, coffee grounds can be very attractive to other animals such as birds or, in extreme cases, bears. While this method requires simple ingredients that are commonly found in the household and can promote plant growth, I recommend considering other DIY alternatives to reduce the risk of attracting other animals to your yard."
As an alternative, Harlow-Ellis suggests using garlic (toxic to dogs and cats, however), thyme oil/thyme leaves, and citronella plants as items that deter mosquitoes with their scents.
If you do want to use the coffee hack, consider it if you notice mosquitoes indoors.
Filling bowls with citronella oil
Speaking of citronella, another hack that's become popular is to put citronella oil in a small bowl with a cotton ball and leave it in the area you're sitting.
But Crumbley says that in order to make this effective, you'd need a lot of bowls placed around your yard, which means a lot of citronella oil (read=expensive).
"Citronella oils are also toxic to pets, so you'll need to practice caution when using this method so as not to harm your furry friends," she adds.
Harlow-Ellis agrees that the bowl method is probably not the best, but she does say that "using a blend of essential oils like citronella and lemongrass can be an effective way to repel flying insects." She adds, "You can simply apply them to your exposed skin or use oil diffusers."
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Making a dish detergent "bath"
TikToker @martinarreaga shared a video showing herself mixing Dawn dish detergent, apple cider vinegar, sugar, and water in aluminum foil trays, then placing the trays in problematic areas to repel mosquitoes and flies.
"This hack is similar to an entomology technique used to catch bugs in the field called 'pan trapping,'" shares Crumbley. "The idea is to put water with a little soap in a colorful bowl—something the target insect can see, like solid blue or red. The color attracts the insect to land on the water or drink from it, but the soap in the water breaks the water tension and causes the insect to fall in and drown. In this hack, apple cider vinegar seems like the attractant, but the procedure is the same."
"Most DIY mosquito repellents should incorporate a base such as vinegar, witch hazel, coconut oil, or isopropyl alcohol with an essential oil," adds Harlow-Ellis.
For a homemade rosemary repellent, she advises mixing 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, 1/4 cup water, and 40 drops of rosemary essential oil. Or, for an even simpler repellent, she shares that you can simply mix 1/3 cup of coconut oil with 15 drops of peppermint essential oil.
Filling buckets with water and mosquito donuts
This isn't as much of a hack, since mosquito donuts are a product readily available at most home and garden stores, but it seems TikTokers have really taken to them.
The popular brand name is Mosquito Dunks, and as Summit Chemical explains, they look "like a small, beige donut which floats on standing water. As [it] slowly dissolves, it releases a bacterium which is toxic to all species of mosquito larvae."
And since mosquitoes love nothing more than standing water, they're quick to take a dip in the solution.
TikTok user @thegarbagequeen notes that she lives in the South and has a problem with mosquitoes every year. "This year, I'm trying Mosquito Dunks," she says. "Unlike mosquito foggers, these don't kill every other insect in your yard."
Fellow TikToker @dianealber filled large buckets about a third of the way with water, placed one donut in each, and then set the buckets around the periphery of her yard. "It is pet safe," she adds, "so if a pet accidentally drinks the water, it's OK."
When it comes to this hack, Crumbley is a fan. "Even though mosquito donuts only affect larvae, controlling mosquito breeding grounds is crucial to managing your mosquito population," she says. "I recommend pairing this with other control strategies for the best results."
More tips on safely repelling mosquitoes
"Several parts of mosquito control can be DIY projects," according to Crumbley. "Removing standing water, keeping a tidy yard, and treating water fixtures with mosquito donuts all help reduce the number of mosquitoes living and breeding in your lawn."
"However, experimental 'hacks' involving spraying chemicals and essential oils around your property can be dangerous if untested and done incorrectly," she adds. "The best way to implement mosquito life hacks is to use them with professional pest treatment."