As you can see by glancing over USEPA's list (short excerpt shown above), of 618 registered, brand-name mosquito and tick repellent products sold in the USA, "DEET" is the sole active ingredient in 553 (89%) of the products, ranging in weight percent from five (5%) to ninety eight (98.3%). There is no apparent correlation between "protection time" in hours and the DEET content, per EPA listing data. As for the other 65 registered products which use non-DEET active ingredients...read on.Active ingredients offered in the remainder of registered repellants (11%) are:
- 2-undecanone (5 products)
- Citronella (2 products)
- Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (5 products)
- Picaridin (27 products)
- IR3535 (21 products)
- p-Methane-3,8-diol (3 products)
What varies more than anything is packaging and price per unit of weight or volume.
How does one choose?
When I worked in the woods, near the end of the week, our group would pour remnants of our miscellaneous liquid repellents into a big glass bottle, shake it up, and then share to soak our hat brims, shirt cuffs, scarves, and pant legs. Sort of a joke, because it was all the same, ingredient-wise; but, that way no one ran out. I never saw a difference either way.
DEET is toxic enough that you don't want to get it in your mouth or on your lips or eyes. And, it's not a good thing for children to be exposed to repeatedly, especially at high concentration. That said, who wants to gamble on relying only on one of the non-DEET alternatives after all the preparation and investment for a backwoods trip?
I'd live to hear peoples comments about how effective they think the alternatives are.