What Repels Ticks? Best 5 Tick Repellents

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There are various methods and means to repel ticks and prevent tick bites. But what repels ticks doesn’t always kill them, it may just keep them away. According to the type of active ingredient, tick repellents are divided into two types. One group is the repellents, and the other is the contact poisons.

True repellents have an irritating smell to insects. This makes it difficult for the parasites to find their victims, or it has a deterrent effect so that ticks simply fall off when they come into contact with surfaces (skin or clothing) that have been treated to be repellent.

Contact poisons work differently. If an insect comes into contact with it, it acts quickly and directly on the cellular metabolism and immobilizes or kills the crawling creature.

Tick repellents, whether it is true repellent or insect contact poison, are divided into those that contain synthetically produced active ingredients and those that contain natural active ingredients extracted from plants.

what repels ticks

What Repels Ticks Best?

In terms of their effectiveness, synthetic ones differ significantly from natural ones. So one has to admit when looking for what best repels ticks, that the products that best repel ticks are those that contain synthetically manufactured compounds.

Synthetic products can be divided into ones that contain chemical compounds invented by humans that did not previously exist in nature and those that are synthetically produced but are based on compounds that naturally also occur in plants.

Tick repellents can also be classified according to how they are used. There is a difference between tick-repellent products for humans that are applied topically to the skin and products that are intended to treat surfaces or clothing and products that are only meant for use on pets.

  • Personal Repellents –  (topical repellent) to be applied directly onto the skin or clothing
  • Surface Sprays – to be sprayed onto surfaces or clothing to repel or kill ticks on contact
  • Pet Repellents – only recommended for use on pets and other domestic animals

Repel Sportsmen Max Insect Repellent Pump Spray

Repel Sportsmen Max Insect Repellent is a highly effective insect repellent that contains the active ingredient DEET.

DEET is widely considered as one of the most reliable, effective, and best insect repellents. Its strong insect-repelling effect works against all sorts of biting insects. These include, in particular, mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas.

The active ingredient DEET was developed by the US Army in the 50s, it is not only one of the most effective but also one of the most studied insect repellents. It is classified as safe to use by the EPA – Environmental Protection Agency. However, in rare cases, DEET can cause skin irritation or allergies in some users.

When using any insect repellent whether it contains DEET or any other active ingredient, you need to consider the benefits it against the risks. Contracting a dangerous disease through a mosquito or tick bite is usually far worse and more dangerous than the rare side effects through the repellent.

Key features: Repels and deters biting insects.

Pros: Highly effective against all kinds of biting and stinging bugs.

Last update on 2024-05-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Picaridin Insect Repellent from Sawyer

Sawyer Products Premium Insect Repellent with 20% Picaridin as an active ingredient has been a bestseller for many years. Available as a topical spray or a topical lotion it provides effective and long-lasting protection against mosquitos, sandflies, ticks, and other biting insects.

Picaridin is also highly effective in protecting against biting and stinging bugs. It is nearly as effective as DEET but is usually better tolerated, with fewer irritating side effects. In rare cases, hypersensitivity to the active ingredient could cause itching and redness of the skin right after application.

When using, be careful not to get the product into open wounds or near mucous membranes. Contact with the eyes should also be avoided. Available as lotion and spray. Use only as directed, read the label.

Key features: long-lasting reliable protection against all biting and stinging insects.

Pros: won’t stain fabrics, suitable for the whole family

Last update on 2024-05-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Repel Lemon Eucalyptus Natural Insect Repellent

An alternative to strong synthetic chemical repellents: Repel Lemon Eucalyptus Natural Insect Repellent, which contains only naturally occurring organic compounds extracted from plants.

The main active ingredient of Repel Lemon Eucalyptus Natural Insect Repellent is Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus which is refined from the essential oil of the Australian lemon-scented gum tree (Corymbia citriodora).

Repel insect repellent has a cool and refreshing scent that repels mosquitoes and ticks.

Use as directed, to apply onto clothing and exposed skin. Do not spray directly on the face, instead, spray on the palm of a hand and carefully rub it on the face and neck.

Key features: an essential oil extract from the lemon-eucalyptus tree that repels ticks, mosquitoes, and biting pests.

Pros: all-natural organic ingredients, cool refreshing scent.

Last update on 2024-05-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Insect repellents containing EBAAP, IR 3535

The chemical compound Ethyl-butylacetylaminopropionate (EBAAP) also known under the trade name IR3535 registered by Merck is a newer synthetic insect repellent that protects very effectively against many insects and various ticks.

It has a good skin tolerance and so far no undesirable side effects have been reported when used as recommended.

EBAAP  is a repellent and as such is not toxic to insects, it does not kill them. But for insects and arachnids, the odor of EBAAP is very unpleasant and disturbs the olfactory perception that is essential for the creature’s orientation, so that they avoid the source of the odor.

Key features:  available as a spray, in pump bottles, or as a lotion. Lasting good protection against insects and ticks.

Pros: non-toxic to bees and other beneficial insects. No known side effects, safe to use.

Last update on 2024-05-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Sawyer Premium Clothing Insect Repellent Spray

This bestselling insect repellent is specially designed to treat clothing, tents, or any other outdoor gear. It provides effective protection for anyone who spends time outdoors hunting, fishing or backpacking, or just walking the dog. Permethrin is actually not a repellent but acts as a contact poison to insects and mites.

Permethrin clothing spray will keep you safe from harmful parasites by causing a “hot feet effect” on the bug, which makes them fall off. If they remain in contact with treated surfaces then the permethrin quickly becomes toxic to the parasite and it dies. When sprayed on clothing the effect of the spray will last up to 6 weeks, keeping ticks, fleas, bugs, and any other insects away.

Permethrin spray has anti-staining properties and is odorless.

Key features: Easy to apply to clothing and fabrics, lasts up to 6 weeks.

Pros: provides safe and reliable protection against all sorts of biting pests.

Last update on 2024-05-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Why Use Tick Repellent at all?

In areas where the infestation of these spider-like parasites is high, you should use is the best and most effective tick repellents. That is because ticks can have a whole cocktail of pathogens in their intestines that can be transmitted by a single bite and make you really sick!

One out of ten ticks carries Borrelia bacteria which can possibly transmit Lyme disease if they bite you. The risk of borreliosis after a tick bite is quite high. The CDC estimates there are about to be 300,000 cases of Lyme disease in the United States each year.

About one out of 100 ticks contain one or more other pathogens that can cause dangerous diseases like ehrlichiosis, rickettsia, babesia, etc. In all, there are at least  16 known diseases that can be transmitted by ticks.

Preventing tick bites is way better than long-term treatment, and what repels ticks will likely reduce the risk of tick-borne disease!

How to Use Repellent

The above are some of the most popular and effective tick repellents. They are used by thousands of satisfied customers and they are safe if you use them exactly according to the instructions.

However, if you use a new product for the first time, apply only a small amount and observe your skin for any reactions. Some people may react hypersensitively to certain products!

  • Read the product description and properties carefully
  • Follow the instructions and use only as directed
  • Use only as much as recommended. More doesn’t bring extra protection.
  • Apply carefully and evenly to exposed skin. Do not apply to areas that are covered by clothing.
  • Be careful in the face. Don’t spray it into your face, it is better to spray it on your hands and spread it carefully on your face.
  • Do not apply near the eyes or around the mouth.
  • Must not get into open wounds or on irritated skin.
  • Avoid using near food and avoid inhaling the spray mist.

So choose the best tick repellent and enjoy a safe time outdoors. Remember what repels ticks also repels mosquitos and other bloodsucking pests.

Optimizing Tick Protection

The optimal protection against ticks and insect bites is the combination of highly effective repellent and protective, possibly treated clothing.

Wear light-colored long pants and socks that fall over the ankles. Better, to pull the socks over the pant legs if possible.

That way you are already well protected from the ticks and their bites. However, if you go to areas with extremely high tick populations, treated clothing is definitely recommended.

Mosquito and tick-repellent clothing is usually treated with permethrin. This stuff keeps biting nuisances effectively at bay.

You can either purchase clothing that has already been treated or you can quickly and easily treat your clothing (and a tent or sleeping bag) yourself with products like Sawyers spray, see above.

Since ticks have the first contact with the victim via the lower legs and feet, treated pants and socks are definitely recommended.

Where do Ticks Bite?

Ticks are very small and difficult to find at first. When the little parasite bites, it releases secretions in the wound which have anti-blood-clotting as well as anesthetic qualities. This is why the tick bite itself is not painful and therefore often goes unnoticed for quite a while.

The little pests can bite anywhere, but there are parts of the body that they prefer and that you should take a closer look at. Ticks prefer parts of the body where the skin is thin and that are warm.

In humans, such places are particularly in the back of the knees, areas under the arms, the groin area between the legs, as well as in the neck, along the hairline, or behind the ears.

But they can also attach themselves to unexpected places on the abdomen, chest or between the toes. So you really have to look carefully everywhere.

Where do Ticks Bite

What If You Still Get Bitten

If you still get bitten by a tick it is important to remove the tick as soon as possible. After getting the parasite out, observe the bite site and monitor your body for signs and symptoms. Mark the area with a pen, or take a photo of the bite site, this can help to monitor it for changes.

If, a ring-shaped reddening of the skin appears, around the wound or anywhere on your body, a doctor should be consulted. If you develop flu-like symptoms within a couple of days after a tick bite, such as headache, body aches, fever, fatigue, or generally start to feel sick,  go and see a doctor for clarification.

So, what repels ticks best?

The tick repellents come in synthetic as well as natural kinds. DEET, picaridin, and permethrin are the most commonly found synthetic alternatives. You can apply a few of these repellents to your clothing and a few others to your skin. If you have pets at home, the best way to keep them safe is to spray the tick repellants onto outdoor areas around your house.

Synthetic tick repellents have proven themselves. But why are they being avoided now?

People have been using synthetic tick repellents for years now. The reason for such wide usage is due to its worthfulness. Commercially available repellents that have the highest effectiveness are those that contain synthetically manufactured active ingredients, that’s a fact. They use DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide) or permethrin as the most common ingredients. Permethrin is among the widely used synthetic pesticides for crops worldwide. It is also used in bug sprays and treat clothing, mosquito mesh, and outdoor gear to make them bug resistant.

DEET in higher doses can cause problems. It can vary from headaches, memory loss, breathlessness, skin irritation, and blisters. Behavioral and physiological issues are linked to DEET and Permethrin. However, this requires the use of extremely high doses. As long as you follow the instructions for use exactly then the risks are more manageable. Side effects may occur It is a matter of weighing up the risks of contracting diseases. The chemical composition also holds the ability to contaminate ground, surface, and drinking water.

Synthetic repellents consisting of Cyfluthrin, Permethrin, and Pyrethroids have proven toxic to aquatic life and bees. Cyfluthrin works similarly to DDT and can accumulate in fatty acids. Studies have shown that cyfluthrin might disrupt the liver’s functioning, decrease red blood cells and glucose and cause other harmful effects. Pyrethroids belong to the class of insecticides and might result in asthma-like reactions, nausea, and sensations of burning and itching.

Many studies have proven these symptoms and the effects of such synthetic repellents. Hence, people have begun to choose more natural-based tick repellents.

Natural Alternatives

Recently, many more natural alternatives have emerged as insect repellents compared to synthetic ones.

Essential oils such as lemongrass, cedar, peppermint, and thyme are a few natural alternatives to bug repellents. You can also find some mixtures of such oils commercially as bug repellents.

Lemongrass essential oil is undoubtedly a strong repellent but at a higher concentration. Its effect is known to decline after a couple of hours from its first application.

Garlic plants contain Garlic oil which we can use as a repellent. It might, however, need numerous applications.

One can spray Nootkatone on the lawn and apply it to the clothing. It is not available commercially as of now. The essential oils of some herbs, cedar trees, or fruits consist of an active ingredient of the repellent.

Metarhizium anisopliae fungus is a species of fungi that can kill or repulse ticks. These naturally growing fungi have demonstrated that they are safe for pets, children, and other species of insects. So they cause no harm to non-target species.

Natural-based Synthetic repellents.

Closest to the naturally occurring amino acids, IR3535 is highly effective against ticks.

OLE is a chemically synthesized form of lemon eucalyptus oil. The repellent component, PMD, is derivable only after its processing to concentrate it further. So, the oil of lemon eucalyptus is not the same as the essential oil of lemon eucalyptus.

The CDC even recommends Lemon eucalyptus as a safe and effective natural repellent. But it needs reapplication every couple of hours since they do not last as long as DEET.

How effective are s as compared to synthetic ones?

Various studies and research show that natural tick repellents are not as effective as chemically-based formulas. The experts, therefore, are recommending a combination of synthetic and natural compounds. Combinations with 20% to 30% DEET or 20% Picaridin are the best protection against ticks.

Synthetic repellents may occasionally have side effects or aren’t safe for the environment but certainly, weigh better in protecting from ticks.

What are the other options to avoid Ticks?

If you want to stay away from chemicals yet not fall for the diseases caused by ticks, you must follow certain best practices. Some of the simple ways to avoid ticks are to avoid tick-infested areas during the humid months of the year. Beware of adult ticks that may get active even in the cold month when there is no snow and temperature are above freezing.

Choose outfits on which ticks are easy to spot. Light-colored clothes are helpful and suggested. Follow practices like tucking your shirts inside the pant. Also, tuck your trousers inside the high-raised boots. Remove your clothing after returning from the outdoors. Clothes are better washed and dried at high temperatures.

Follow your return from outdoors with a careful inspection for any ticks attached. Using tweezers is the best method to pluck the ticks away. Ensure you grasp the tick as close to the skin surface as possible. Pull the tick straight back with a uniform force and avoid crushing the body.

Any time spent outdoors in meadows, forests, and fields or even in your yard around your house puts you at risk of a tick “attack”. More so during the warm time of the year. So even on warm days, instead of shorts and Flip-flops, you may want to wear long pants and sturdy shoes, to make it more difficult for ticks to attach. Wear bright clothes as on those crawling ticks can be easier seen than on darker clothing.

No single measure provides 100 percent protection. But using effective tick repellents in combination with other precautions can reduce the risk of a tick bite.

Use insect and tick repellents with care. Always read instructions and use only as recommended.

More Info and Sources:

EPA on Using Insect Repellents Safely:

On Tick Repellents and the Prevention of Tick Bite