People hate mosquitoes, and so companies make a lot of anti-mosquito things: candles, wristbands, chemical and herbal sprays—even electronic devices. But if you want to keep mosquitoes off your bare skin this summer, you really just need two things: bug spray and a fan.
The many alternatives either don’t work, or aren’t worth your time. Citronella candles aren’t significantly more effective than regular candles, which, as you might guess, don’t do much to ward off mosquitoes. Those light-up bug zappers aren’t helpful, because mosquitoes don’t care about light. Wristbands only keep mosquitoes off your wrists, so unless you’re weaving them into a full-body jumpsuit, they aren’t much help. You get the idea. We explore these disappointing truths in more depth here.
So what does work? Two things, one chemical and one not.
The only kind of bug spray that really works on mosquitoes
First, bug spray. I know, you’re shocked. DEET really works, and so do picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus. If a mosquito repellent spray (especially a “natural” one) doesn’t have one of these ingredients, it’s probably no good. The easiest way to tell which products are legit without memorizing a list? Check the back of the label for an EPA registration number.
Keep away mosquitoes without using chemicals
Second, a fan. If you’re hanging out on the porch and don’t want to spray anything on yourself—or if you did use the spray but they’re still flying around you and getting on your nerves—just set up a box fan. You can get one for about 20 bucks at a hardware store, which is less than you’d spend on, what, four mostly-useless citronella candles? Mosquitoes are weak flyers, which is why they surround you when the air is stagnant and soupy. Set up a fan—or take advantage of a natural breeze—and you’ll keep them at bay.
Besides these effective strategies, there are a couple more that I didn’t mention because they’re no-brainers: wear long sleeves and pants if you can stand them, and stay inside if you don’t need to be out. I know, those are no fun. So if you want to enjoy your porch beers in shorts and a tank top, get yourself some bug spray and plug in a fan.
This article was originally published in July 2020 and updated on June 24, 2021 to align the content with current Lifehacker style.