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How to Correctly Apply Insect Repellent

Follow these five tips to keep the mosquitoes off and your groove on.


It’s not like you need a degree in zoology to apply insect repellent, but there are a few important techniques to keep in mind. For instance, did you know you can’t just spritz an arm and expect your entire body to repel mosquitoes? It’s true! Nor can you walk through a mist of repellent and hope for the same. Alas, eau de toilette this is not.

1. Have a good spray: Use a slow sweeping motion

Read the instructions to see if you need to shake your OFF!® aerosol. If so, shake first, and then hold it 6-8 inches [15-20cm] away from exposed skin and clothing. Spray in a slow sweeping motion. No need to let it “set”—it works immediately.

What not to do:

  • Don’t apply your protection out of order. The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that sunscreen go on first, followed by insect repellent.
  • Don’t apply on cuts, wounds, or irritated or sunburned skin.
  • Don’t spray in enclosed areas. Spray outdoors.

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2. Get even: Use hands to evenly moisten exposed skin

Use just enough to cover exposed clothing* and skin (see the next step for instructions on applying to the face). Use your hands to evenly moisten exposed skin. Remember those easy-to-forget areas, like the ankles and behind the elbows. And know this, products with a higher percentage of the active ingredient do not offer stronger protection. They just last longer. So choose a product that suits the amount of time you plan to spend outdoors.

*For DEET-based products, do not apply on or near acetate, rayon, spandex, other synthetics (aside from nylon), furniture, plastics, watch crystals, leather and painted or varnished surfaces, including automobiles.

Learn about active ingredients DEET and Picaridin.

3. Face facts: Apply to face with control

Whether you’re protecting your face or children’s faces, this is about applying the product with control. Spray the palm of your hand first, then use just enough to apply to the face and around the ears. Avoid eyes and mouth entirely.

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4. Kids: You’ve got to hand it to them

Keep OFF!® repellent out of children’s reach. Don’t allow children to handle the product themselves and don’t apply it directly to their hands. Instead, follow the same “hands first” method. Spray the palm of your hand first, then put the product on children.

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5. Wear it well: Applying OFF!® repellent to clothing

Mosquitoes can bite through clothing that is not woven tightly enough. Applying repellent to clothing helps prevent bites. Spray shirts, pants, socks and hats―but don’t spray under clothing. To help protect against ticks and chiggers, apply to cuffs, sleeve openings, socks and other openings in outer clothing. Wash all treated clothing before wearing it again.

Note: OFF!® repellent won’t damage cotton, wool or nylon—but if it contains the active ingredient of DEET, do not apply on or near acetate, rayon, spandex, other synthetics (aside from nylon), furniture, plastics, watch crystals, leather and painted or varnished surfaces, including automobiles.

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