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How to Repel Mosquitoes

Whether you want to repel mosquitoes from your property for weeks at a time or just prevent mosquito bites for an evening, mosquito repellents are some of the best solutions for controlling these pests. Learn how to choose a repellent, how to ensure maximum effectiveness, and how to keep mosquitoes away with the step-by-step instructions below.

1 Choose a Mosquito Repellent

Mosquitoes instinctively gravitate toward certain natural body emissions like carbon dioxide and lactic acid. The best mosquito repellents work by diffusing these emissions, causing mosquitoes to search for blood meal elsewhere. Mosquito repellents come in various applications, and the one you choose will depend on the scale and longevity of protection you require.

Mosquito Repelling Granules

mosquito repelling granules

Best For: Long-term protection from mosquitoes for large or small areas. Create a mosquito-repelling barrier by sprinkling granules around the perimeter of commonly invaded spaces, such as:

  • houses
  • campsites
  • yards
  • barns
  • patios
  • gardens
  • pool areas
  • warehouses

TIP: Look for a repellent made of natural oils like lemongrass, mint and garlic, which are proven to repel mosquitoes.

Shop Granular Repellents »

Topical Spray & Lotion Repellents

spray bottle

Best For: Short-term personal protection. Mosquito sprays are intended for use on skin and clothing to keep mosquitoes away from the body. The following factors may affect the effectiveness and longevity of personal repellents:

Ultrasonic mole repellents come in two varieties:

  • concentration of active ingredients
  • application frequency and uniformity
  • presence of moisture (i.e. sweat or rain)

TIP: Common active ingredients include DEET, Picaridin, IR3535 and oil of lemon and eucalyptus. Make sure you understand the longevity, efficacy and risk factors of each ingredient before selecting a spray or lotion.

Burning Repellents

burning repellent

Best For: Short-term protection of a small area, such as a picnic table or patio. Burning citronella or pyrethrins releases gas that masks human and animal odor within a fairly close range. The most common burning mosquito repellents include:

  • citronella candles
  • citronella torches
  • mosquito coils

TIP: For best results, position several candles and/or coils around the area to be protected. Burning repellents are best used in windless conditions.

2 Use as Directed

Instruction Manual

In order to achieve maximum repellency and ensure safety when using your mosquito repellent, it's critical that it is applied per the manufacturer's instructions. Important steps to keep in mind include:

  • Sprinkle granules thoroughly at the proper coverage rate. Typically, this can be found on the back of the repellent's label.
  • Apply mosquito repellent sprays and creams to exposed skin and clothing, but not underneath clothing.
  • Keep mosquito repellents away from your eyes, mouth and open cuts.
  • Avoid a fire by fully extinguishing a citronella candle, torch or mosquito coil before abandoning.

3 Eliminate Standing Water


There are thousands of species of mosquitoes, and no single repellent can guarantee repellency for each and every species. However all species require standing water to succeed in an environment, and a lack of water will increase your chances of keeping mosquitoes away.

  • Dispose of, cover or flip over all possible items or containers that can collect water, like cans, tires, jars and buckets.
  • Scrub and change water in items intended to hold water, like birdbaths, vases and your pets' water bowls.
  • Have a professional fill in any tree holes on your property.
  • Clean your gutters regularly.
  • Keep your pool clean and chlorinated, and drain it during the off-season.
  • Ensure your lawn and home have the proper drainage systems.

Expert Tips

  • It's very important to discard or replace any standing water every four days; this is the minimum amount of time it takes for an adult mosquito to emerge from the water after eggs are laid on the surface. Keep in mind, mosquitoes don't need very much water to breed - even a bottle cap can hold enough - so pay close attention to all possible vessels.
  • Wear protective clothing whenever possible when outdoors to keep mosquitoes away from your skin. This is especially important in areas with high mosquito density and/or mosquito-borne disease.
  • Repelling mosquitoes is important at all hours of the day. Although mosquito activity peaks between dusk and dawn, some disease-transmitting species like the Yellow Fever mosquito are known to be daytime biters.
  • It is believed that mosquitoes are more attracted to dark-colored clothing, so as an added measure of protection, wear light colors like white or beige.
  • Marigolds, chrysanthemums, asters and basil are all thought to be plants that repel mosquitoes.
  • In addition to repelling mosquitoes, it's important to take other control measures whenever possible, like exclusion. For more in-depth information about mosquito control, read How to Get Rid of Mosquitoes »
  • For more general repelling tips, read How to Repel »

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