The 8 Best Tick Repellents of 2022

OFF!’s Deep Woods Insect Repllent is your summer go-to for tick prevention

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It’s important to protect yourself from ticks with some kind of repellent product while you are spending time outdoors, where they thrive. When shopping for tick repellents, note that they can  can include a number of different ingredients, including DEET and picaridin, and can be applied in a number of different ways, such as via spray, lotion, or towelette. According to California-based dermatologist Caren Campbell, MD, there’s no increased risk of allergic reaction to any of the common tick repellent ingredients, and it doesn’t really matter how you apply it: just apply it. We researched dozens of tick repellants and reviewed them based on their key ingredients, form, dosage, application frequency, and price. 

Reviewed & Approved

Our top pick when it comes to finding a safe and effective tick repellent spray is the OFF! Deep Woods Insect Repellent. If you’re concerned about your sensitive skin and its reaction to harsh repellant chemicals, we recommend trying the Ranger Ready Picaridin 20% Tick & Insect Repellent, which is made with sensitive skin in mind. 


Here are the best tick repellants on the market today.

Best Overall

OFF! Deep Woods Bug Spray & Mosquito Repellent

5
OFF! Deep Woods Bug Spray & Mosquito Repellent

Amazon

Pros
  • Protects against ticks and other biting insects

  • Goes on dry, not greasy

  • Safe for the whole family

Cons
  • No re-application guidance 

  • DEET sprays can damage fabric

Who else recommends it? Women's Health also picked OFF! Bug Spray & Mosquito Repellent.

What do buyers say? 91% of 27,100+ Amazon reviewers rated this product 4 stars or above.

We think the best overall tick repellent should cover a lot of bases: it should be easy and convenient to apply, it should be safe for everyone in your family to use, and it should work well. That’s why OFF! Deep Woods Insect Repellent is our best overall pick: it keeps ticks, mosquitoes, and other biting insects away from you with 25 percent DEET, which is a high-enough concentration to last about five hours.

We also like the way this version of OFF! Deep Woods is formulated to spray on and absorb dry, eliminating that yucky, greasy feeling that many insect repellents leave behind.

Price at time of publication: $13

Ingredients: DEET 25% | Dosage: Hold container six to eight inches from your body, and spray liberally in a continuous motion | Application Frequency: Not specified

Best Budget

Repel Tick Defense Unscented Aerosol

Repel Tick Defense Unscented

Amazon

Pros
  • Unscented

  • Can be applied to skin or clothing

  • Won’t damage fabrics

Cons
  • Lower concentration of Picaridin

Insect repellents using DEET can only be applied to your skin and a few natural fabrics like cotton and wool, because DEET can stain or damage synthetic fabrics and other materials. That means if you want to apply a tick repellent to your body and your clothing, you may need to opt for two different types of products–unless you go with this picaridin spray from Repel, which can be applied to both.

Picaridin doesn’t carry the same risk of damaging fabrics, so you can grab a single canister of this 15 percent Repel spray (which is already priced super-affordably) and use it on exposed skin and your clothing or shoes. No buying two separate products, and no blanching at the cost when it comes time to replace the canister—at this price point, you can stock up and enjoy the great outdoors all summer long.

Price at time of publication: $8

Ingredients: Picaridin 15% | Dosage: Hold container four to six inches from your body, and spray until skin or clothing is slightly moistened | Application frequency: Every 10 hours

Best for Sensitive Skin

Ranger Ready Picaridin 20% Tick & Insect Repellent, Scent Zero

Ranger Ready Picaridin 20% Tick & Insect Repellent, Scent Zero

Amazon

Pros
  • No added scents or fragrances

  • 360-degree pump spray for targeted application

  • Won’t damage fabrics

Cons
  • Oily feeling

  • Bottle and packaging are prone to leakage

People with sensitive skin won’t necessarily see any kind of reaction when using DEET-based products, but in general, picaridin is considered a gentler insect repellent option without being any less effective. The reason why we chose the Ranger Ready spray over other picaridin sprays, though, is because it’s also unscented: often, the cause of contact dermatitis in people with skin allergies is the fragrance added to give the product a specific scent.

With no added fragrances, the Ranger Ready spray is less likely to trigger any reactions, but just as likely to keep away pesky ticks and mosquitoes as a DEET-based spray, earning our pick for sensitive skin types.

Price at time of publication: $12

Ingredients: Picaridin 20% | Dosage: Hold container four to six inches away from skin, spray liberally, and then apply to clothing, if desired | Application Frequency: Every 12 hours for ticks and mosquitoes, 8 hours for other biting insects

Best Wipe

Cutter All Family Mosquito Wipes

Cutter All Family Mosquito Wipes

Amazon

Pros
  • Easy to apply to sensitive places like face

  • Resealable and portable package

Cons
  • Only 15 wipes per package

  • Lower concentration of DEET

If you need to apply tick repellent to a small, focused part of your body (think forehead or ears), a wipe can do the trick much more easily than a spray can, giving you the targeted coverage you need.

We like the Cutter All Family Mosquito Wipes for this purpose, since they come in a resealable package to prevent drying out and have just the right amount of saturation. They’re also great for wiggly kids and, with a lower concentration of DEET they can reduce your child’s overall exposure to the chemical. Just keep in mind that lower concentrations of DEET mean that you have to reapply more frequently, but for family outings to the park, a little bit of DEET may be all you need.

Price at time of publication: $7

Ingredients: DEET 7.5% | Dosage: Wipe towelette(s) evenly over exposed skin | Application frequency: Unspecified

Best Smelling

Cutter Skinsations Insect and Mosquito Repellent

Cutter Bug Spray

Home Depot

Pros
  • Aloe and vitamin E soften skin

  • Fresh, clean scent

  • Safe for the whole family

Cons
  • Lower concentration of DEET

You don’t want to come home from a hike with a tick bite, but you also don’t want to come home smelling like a walking citronella candle. With a fresh and clean scent, the Skinsations Insect Repellent by Cutter is the best of both worlds: it contains 7.5 percent DEET for effective tick and mosquito protection but is formulated to have a less-stinky smell than many of its competitors. As a bonus, Skinsations is also made with aloe and vitamin E, so it’s less likely to make your skin feel dry and sticky.

Price at time of publication: $8

Ingredients: DEET 7% | Dosage: Hold container six to eight inches from your body, and spray liberally in a sweeping motion | Application Frequency: Unspecified

Best Natural

Murphy's Naturals Lemon Eucalyptus Oil Insect Repellent

5
Murphy's Lemon Eucalyptus Oil

Amazon

Pros
  • Plant-based and DEET-free

  • Safe for fabrics

  • OLE is an EPA-registered repellent

Cons
  • Only four hours of tick protection

  • Overpowering scent

According to Walter Schrading, MD, director of the University of Alabama at Birmingham Office of Wilderness Medicine, natural tick repellents don’t work as well as chemical-based ones, but they do still have some effectiveness. This is especially true for oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), which is one of the EPA’s registered insect repellent ingredients, meaning it’s been tested for safety and effectiveness. 

“Oil of lemon eucalyptus works similarly to low concentrations of DEET, at least for mosquitoes,” Dr. Schrading says. 

The makers of Murphy’s Naturals Lemon Eucalyptus Oil Insect Repellent Spray claim their product can also repel ticks for about four hours, which is comparable to about 20 percent DEET. It’s safe to use on fabrics and is a largely effective, plant-based way to ward off biting insects. We want to note, however, that even though OLE is considered a “natural” way to repel ticks, it’s not recommended for use in children under age three.

Price at time of publication: $22

Ingredients: Oil of lemon eucalyptus 30% | Dosage: Apply to exposed skin and clothing; spread evenly with your hand make sure all exposed skin is covered | Application Frequency: Every four to eight hours, depending on type of tick

Best with Picaridin

Sawyer Products Picaridin Continuous Spray Insect Repellent

4.5
Picaridin Continuous Spray Insect Repellent

Amazon

Pros
  • Lotion application for full coverage

  • Non-greasy feeling

  • Long-lasting, effective protection

Cons
  • Lotion takes longer to apply than spray

If you’re not a fan of getting a mouthful of bug spray every time you try to protect yourself outdoors from ticks, we recommend trying a lotion-based repellent. Insect repellent lotions usually contain picaridin, not DEET, and we like this one from Sawyer Products because it’s easy to apply, doesn’t smell terrible, and even comes in convenient single-use packets in addition to larger bottles for on-the-go protection.

If lotion isn’t your thing, however, Sawyer Products also offers 20 percent picaridin protection in the form of a pump spray and continuous spray, so there’s something for everyone here.

Price at time of publication: $16

Ingredients: Picaridin 20% | Dosage: Apply a thin layer of lotion to exposed skin, rubbing it in until absorbed | Application Frequency: Every eight hours for ticks, and every 14 hours for mosquitoes

Best for Clothing

Sawyer Products Premium Permethrin Insect Repellent

Sawyer Premium Permethrin Spray

Amazon

Pros
  • Won’t stain or damage most surfaces

  • Lasts for six weeks or six washes

  • Repels ticks and mosquitoes

Cons
  • Has to be used in advance so it can dry

  • Cannot be applied on or near skin

Both of the experts we spoke to recommended treating your clothing with permethrin if you’re really serious about tick repellent. Because you can treat your clothing for long-term protection and apply a different, skin-safe repellent for short-term outings, you’ll be doubling up on your overall protection against ticks every time you go outside.

The Sawyer Products Premium Permethrin treatment is easy to use: simply spray the outer front and back of your clothing (while it’s off your body and in a ventilated area), and allow everything to dry for a few hours. From there, the treatment will last for six weeks or through six washings, whichever comes first. Then you can re-treat again if you want. Just be sure not to use permethrin on your skin or put on treated clothes while they’re still wet—permethrin is only for fabrics, not use on the skin.

Price at time of publication: $22

Ingredients: Permethrin 0.5% | Dosage: Hold bottle six to eight inches from clothing and spray in a wide, sweeping motion, front and back, for about 30 seconds; use in a well-ventilated area; allow to dry for two to four hours | Application Frequency: Every six weeks or after six washes, whichever comes first

Final Verdict

For safe and effective protection against ticks in an easy-to-apply formula, we recommend OFF! Deep Woods Insect Repellent Dry which contains 25 percent DEET–a safe amount for the entire family to use and protects you from mosquitoes, biting flies, gnats, and chiggers.
If you prefer to use a picaridin-based tick repellent, we recommend Sawyer Products 20% Lotion; picaridin is just as effective as DEET, but it sometimes considered a bit gentler.

How We Selected

To find the best tick repellents on the market today, we asked a dermatologist and wilderness medicine physician for tips on how to shop for safe and effective products. They told us to stick with repellents containing EPA-registered ingredients and to keep an eye on the percentages of ingredients included in the product for maximum safety and effectiveness.

Both experts said that the method of application—such as spray versus lotion—doesn’t matter as much as simply choosing the method you will reliably use. With that in mind, we scoured the internet for crowd-favorite tick repellents with the most reliable ingredients, plus added bonus features like easy, convenient application and pleasant scent. 

What to Look for in Tick Repellents

Ingredients 

There are several EPA-registered ingredients that can be found in tick repellents. The most common ones are DEET, picaridin, lemon eucalyptus oil, and IR3535. These ingredients are preferred over unregistered products, because the EPA has evaluated them for both safety and effectiveness and has approved them for use in children and pregnant women. 

There are also several unregistered products listed on the EPA’s website that have been approved for safety but not necessarily effectiveness, such as citronella oil, cedar oil, and geranium oil. These products may or may not work as well as registered repellents in protecting you from ticks, but you can generally consider them safe to use.

You can also add an extra layer of protection to your clothing with an application of permethrin, but you can’t use permethrin in place of tick repellent, says Dr. Schrading: “Permethrin is an insecticide of low toxicity to mammals and is not an insect repellant, per se—it should be applied to surfaces, like clothing and tents, not applied to the skin.”

Method of Application

Dr. Campbell says that contact allergens are not commonly seen with repellents that you apply to your skin or your clothing, and there are no specific ingredients or methods of application she recommends avoiding if you have sensitive skin. Whether you choose a lotion, spray, or towelette is largely up to you. Feel free to choose whatever method is most convenient, but keep in mind that some applications will be better suited to certain situations.

DEET, for example, can stain clothing, warns Dr. Schrading, so if you don’t want to take chances with your outfit, you may want to opt for a wipe (or a picaridin-based lotion). On the other hand, lotions can be difficult to apply when you’re out in the middle of the woods, so if you’re looking for a product you can quickly apply on the go, a spray might be the easiest.

Effectiveness

How effective a tick repellent product is depends partly on the percentage of the active ingredient. According to Dr. Schrading, DEET is the most effective insect repellent, and a product with 25 percent DEET can provide about four to eight hours of protection. 

FYI, the higher the percentage of the active repelling ingredient, the longer your protection will last, but that doesn’t mean you should always opt for the highest-percentage product available. These ingredients are still chemicals, and they can have side effects at high doses. A DEET percentage between 10 and 30 percent is generally considered all that’s needed for reliable protection, and anything over 30 percent is not considered safe for use in children.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Do tick repellents prevent other types of bug bites?

    According to Dr. Schrading, yes: tick repellents will repel mosquitoes and often other insects as well. The exact pests you will be able to ward off with a repellent depend on the specific brand and its ingredients, but many insect repellents fight back against biting flies, fleas, and gnats as well.

  • How often should you apply tick repellent?

    You should always follow the application instructions on the specific repellent you’re using. Some only last a few hours, while others can last up to eight or 12 hours. More isn’t always better when it comes to tick repellent, either: you certainly want to use enough to protect yourself, but you should take care not to overapply.

  • What should you do if you find a tick on your body?

    You should remove it right away, says Dr. Schrading, following these steps outlined by the CDC:

    1. Use clean tweezers to grab hold of the tick as close to the skin's surface as you can.
    2. Pull upward gently but with steady pressure.
    3. Once the tick has been removed, clean the bite, and wash your hands with rubbing alcohol, hand sanitizer, or soap and water.


    This is the best practice, obviously—you may not always have access to tweezers and disinfectant when you’re out and about. Do the best you can to remove the tick with any thin, firm item you have, but Dr. Schrading warns to never crush a tick with your fingers. That can increase your risk of infection. 
    Keep in mind that finding a tick on you isn't an immediate cause for panic: “Ticks that have been on or embedded less than 24 hours are very unlikely to transmit disease,” says Dr. Schrading. 
    The bottom line? Stay calm, remove the tick, clean the bite area, and keep an eye out for tick-related illness symptoms for the next few weeks.

  • Where and when are ticks most prevalent?

    “Ticks can be present year-round but are much more common in warmer months, usually April to September,” says Dr. Campbell. “Ticks live in grassy, wooded areas and can also live on animals that spend time in grassy, wooded areas, so use repellant if you or your pet are spending time in high-risk areas.”

Why Trust Verywell Health

Sarah Bradley has been writing health content since 2017—everything from product roundups and illness FAQs to nutrition explainers and the dish on diet trends. She knows how important it is to receive trustworthy and expert-approved advice about over-the-counter products that manage everyday health conditions, from GI issues and allergies to chronic headaches and joint pain.

11 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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