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4 Soaps and Scents That Repel Mosquitoes, Experts Say

These organic options can help keep mosquitoes to a minimum.

Mosquitoes are more than just a backyard nuisance; they're also the world's deadliest animal, transmitting a range of diseases that result in over 700,000 deaths annually. To prevent bites in high-risk areas, DEET and picaridin-based products are considered the gold standard. However, people in low-risk areas could reasonably choose to use organic alternatives such as soaps and scents that repel mosquitoes.

But if your first thought is to reach for a citronella candle, think again: Recent reports have debunked the effectiveness of this popular option. Instead, experts say there are four alternatives that you should try. Read on to learn which scents repel mosquitoes—and get ready for fewer bug bites this summer.

READ THIS NEXT: 5 Plants That Will Keep Mosquitoes Out of Your Yard, According to Pest Experts.

Soaps and Scents That Repel Mosquitoes

1. Lemon Eucalyptus

Lemon eucalyptus oil bottle

Soaps and scented oils made with lemon eucalyptus extracts have been found to be as effective as DEET in repelling mosquitoes, says Bryan Clayton, CEO of GreenPal.

In fact, according to the magazine Science, both DEET and oil of lemon eucalyptus sprays reduced mosquito attraction by 60 percent at a distance of one meter.

2. Peppermint

Peppermint oil with leaves.
Tatevosian Yana / Shutterstock

Peppermint oil should be another tool in your arsenal against mosquito bites, says Clayton, as its strong scent, which is pleasant to humans, is detested by mosquitoes.

And, according to Ricky Young, owner of U.K.-based Young's Pest Control, when you apply it directly to your skin, "the cooling sensation of peppermint is an added bonus on hot days."

There's also another way that peppermint oil may help you keep mosquitoes in check. According to Mosquito Magician, putting a few drops of peppermint oil into standing water will kill any mosquito larva inside within 24 hours.

Dr. Bronner's Pure Castile Soap in peppermint is a popular organic option you can buy in bulk to last all summer long.

3. Neem

Neem oil in glass bottle with neem fruit and green leaf on wooden and blur background on sunny day.
Ninetechno / Shutterstock

Extracted from the seeds of the neem tree, neem oil is a naturally occurring pesticide and insect repellent that's been used for generations, Young says.

However, neem oil appears to be more effective at repelling certain species over others, according to a study published in the Southeast Asian Journal of Tropical Medicine and Public Health.

"Repellent action of neem oil was evaluated against different mosquito species. Two percent neem oil mixed in coconut oil provided 96-100 percent protection from anophelines, 85 percent from Aedes, 37.5 percent from Armigeres whereas it showed a wide range of efficacy from 61-94 percent against Culex species. Therefore, neem oil can be applied as a personal protection measure against mosquito bites," the study states.

4. Lavender

lavender essential oils
iStock / netrun78

Mosquitoes also hate the smell of lavender, says Young, who adds that a good-quality lavender soap can work wonders to deter these pests.

And if you have a lavender plant, which also repels mosquitoes, the dried petals work as an anti-itch solution, Clayton previously told Best Life.

The brand of soap makes a difference, too.

Hand with a washcloth sponge, body in foam of shower gel. Woman taking a shower at bathroom. Life style smiling girl washes in the shower

A recent study conducted by researchers from Virginia Tech found that the brand of soap one uses can both attract and repel mosquitoes.

"Everybody smells different, even after the application of soap; your physiological status, the way you live, what you eat, and the places you go all affect the way you smell," said study co-author and biologist Chloé Lahondère. "And soaps drastically change the way we smell, not only by adding chemicals, but also by causing variations in the emission of compounds that we are already naturally producing."

That said, how a scent or soap brand reacts to a person's mosquito attractiveness is dependent. But, in general, the study found that "Washing with Dove and Simple Truth increased the attractiveness of some (but not all) volunteers, while washing with Native soap tended to repel mosquitoes."

What made a soap unattractive to mosquitoes was its inclusion of "a coconut-scented chemical that is a key component in American Bourbon and a floral compound used to treat scabies and lice."

However, it's important to keep in mind that on the whole, plant-based scents and soaps are only an appropriate mosquito deterrent in areas at low risk of mosquito-borne illnesses.

"Remember that while these soaps can help repel mosquitoes, they are not guaranteed to protect completely against mosquito bites, especially in areas with high mosquito populations or diseases transmitted by mosquitoes," cautions Young. He recommends using additional preventive measures such as mosquito nets, repellent sprays, or full-coverage clothing.

Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more
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