The $5 DEET-free bug spray to switch to now, not later

Brittany Nims
·3-min read

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Sustainable and natural products get a bad rap for being splurgy and expensive. Some might say you get what you pay for, but this affordable DEET-free bug spray recommendation from Consumer Reports has us reconsidering whether you really do need to pay more for products you can feel good about. (Spoiler: you don’t!)

Ditch the assumption that more expensive equals more effective. In fact, most of the bug sprays tested and reviewed in Consumer Reports’s Insect Repellent Buying Guide ring in under $10, including a top-rated, DEET-free bug spray option that is worth adding to your medicine cabinet.

Repel’s Plant-Based Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent, which rings up for about $5, is the only bug spray made without DEET or picaridin that provided effective protection against mosquitos and ticks, according to the product testing and review site. Instead, it’s formulated with oil of lemon eucalyptus — a naturally occurring compound extracted from the gum eucalyptus tree — to keep bugs at bay.

Credit: Amazon
Credit: Amazon

Buy Now on Amazon

What makes Repel’s lemon eucalyptus bug spray unique is that most of the highly effective bug sprays on the market are made with DEET or picaridin. While both of those ingredients have been deemed safe for use by the EPA when used as directed, there are still plenty of reasons — such as pregnancy, precautions around children, skin sensitivities and odor — that people opt for more natural bug spray alternatives. 

Unfortunately, not all plant-based bug sprays are created equal. Before you reach for a natural insect repellent with active ingredients like rosemary, lemongrass, cedar, cinnamon or citronella, the experts at Consumer Reports caution that oil of lemon eucalyptus was the most effective plant-based ingredient when tested against ticks and mosquitos.

“This pump spray from Repel is not only the best DEET-free repellent but also one of the best-performing of any that CR has tested, DEET-containing products included,” according to Consumer Reports.

Repel’s Plant-Based Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent received a rating of 90 out of 100 from Consumer Reports. Only three other bug sprays, all of which are formulated with DEET, received higher ratings. They include Ben’s Tick & Insect Repellent Wipes, Total Home (CVS) Woodland Scent Insect Repellent and 3M Ultrathon Insect Repellent.

Repel Plant-Based Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent has a 4.4-star rating and more than 22,000 reviews on Amazon, where you can currently find it for about $5.

If you enjoyed this story, read about the sustainable beauty products that are just as cheap as drugstore buys.

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