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Using DEET: How Insect Repellent Works

Learn what DEET is and how insect repellent works so you can better protect your family from mosquitoes.

What is DEET, and how do OFF!® repellents help to protect against mosquitoes?

No one wants their time outside ruined by mosquitoes. Luckily, there is a wide range of mosquito repellents that can provide the protection you need. Which one is right for you and your family? We’re here to help.

Do all mosquito repellents work?

Unfortunately, all repellents are not created equal. That’s why you want to make sure any repellent you use contains ingredients that are tested and proven to repel mosquitos. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends repellents that contain active ingredients such as DEET because they are effective at protecting against mosquitoes that may carry diseases like Zika.

What is DEET?

Originally developed in 1944 by the US Department of Agriculture, diethyltoluamide, or simply DEET, is an active ingredient in many insect repellents. DEET is effective in repelling mosquitoes, ticks, fleas and many other biting insects.

How does DEET work?

DEET works to confuse and interfere with the receptors on a mosquito’s antennae, which deters mosquitoes from landing on the skin and biting. These receptors are used to detect body heat, carbon dioxide and skin chemicals when seeking out prey.

How much DEET do I need to stay protected?

It all depends on what you’ll be doing and for how long. The higher the percentage of DEET, the longer the product will remain active. That said, the percentage of DEET doesn’t increase the amount of repelling power, just the length of time it will last.

For reference, a repellent containing 15% DEET typically provides up to six hours of mosquito protection, while a repellent with 25% DEET typically provides up to 8 hours of mosquito protection.

Check out all of our OFF!® Products to find the right repellent for you.


Does sunscreen stop mosquito repellents from working?

No, though DEET can decrease sunscreen’s ability to do its job. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends first applying the sunscreen and then the insect repellent. Reapply both as instructed on the labels.

Are there any effective alternatives to DEET?

Sure, OFF!® Clean Feel Insect Repellent I uses picaridin, another effective ingredient that fights mosquitoes.

OFF!® also has area repellents such as the OFF!® Mosquito Lamp.

Now that you know how insect repellent works, arm yourself with the right protection to make the most of the outdoors.