Best bug spray — bug repellent for 2020: OFF, Sawyer, and others — Business Insider

The best bug sprays and repellents

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  • Mosquitos and ticks aren’t just annoying bloodsuckers, they’re also dangerous because of the diseases they’re capable of carrying.
  • To avoid getting bitten, it’s smart to pack along a proper bug spray or bug repellent while camping, hiking, backpacking, or while spending any amount of time outdoors.
  • Our top pick, OFF! Deep Woods Bug Spray, is the most effective at repelling insects, according to decades of research (and our own personal use).
  • For those who dislike DEET, Sawyer Premium Insect Repellent with 20% Picaridin is our favorite bug spray without it.

Bug spray isn’t always the first thing you think of when deciding what to pack for a camping or backpacking trip. Despite being often overlooked, it’s a vital addition to anyone’s pack (along with general mosquito repellents) — dealing with swarming bugs or mosquito bites is never an enjoyable way to spend time outdoors.

DEET (diethyltoluamide) remains the most popular bug spray ingredient due to its effectiveness at protecting from ticks, mosquitos, other bugs, and all the diseases they carry. Decades of research prove DEET to be the best for protecting humans from these bugs, though it is toxic to aquatic creatures like fish.

A worthwhile alternative to DEET would be picaridin and permethrin. These ingredients are less toxic but likely just as effective at repelling bugs. The scientific community is still testing these alternatives, though, so DEET remains king.

While chemical bug sprays may or may not harm you, or the flora and fauna you encounter, they’re highly toxic to many aquatic animals, can trash your clothes, and they just smell terrible. Some people are even allergic to them, too.

For anyone sensitive to DEET or other chemical bug sprays, we’ve found a few eco-friendly picks that won’t hurt you or the environment as much as other sprays. Just know that DEET and picaridin are still the most effective at repelling dangerous ticks and mosquitos.

A note to parents: The nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG) does not recommend using any bug spray on children under six months of age but suggests treating clothes with permethrin. After a child reaches six months, picaridin is the safest choice.

To learn more about which compounds are best for you and your needs, visit the EWG’s page on insect repellents.

Here are the best bug sprays:

  • Best bug spray with DEET:OFF! Deep Woods Spray Pump
  • Best bug repellent with picaridin:Sawyer Premium Insect Repellent with 20% Picaridin
  • Best bug spray for clothing:Sawyer Premium Permethrin
  • Best natural bug spray:Repel with Lemon Eucalyptus Oil
  • Best DIY bug repellent ingredients: Oil of lemon eucalyptus , geranium, cedarwood, lavender, rosemary, grapefruit, citronella, garlic, thyme, eucalyptus, peppermint, and lemongrass

Updated on 3/2/2020 by Rick Stella: Updated the introduction to reflect advances in bug spray and bug repellent options, audited each pick to make sure they were still available and safe for consumers to use, and updated prices, links, and formatting. An overhaul of this guide is planned for the upcoming spring/summer months.

The best bug spray with DEET

OFF! Deep Woods Bug Spray has an optimal 25% concentration of DEET that keeps the greatest number of blood-sucking bugs at bay.

Most Americans have probably used OFF! bug spray at some point in their lives, and while the debate over the relative toxicity of DEET still looms at large, research commissioned and/or conducted by the EPA and CDC continues to suggest that for humans, there isn’t much to worry about.

OFF! bug spray will keep blood-sucking insects like mosquitos and ticks well away from you and help you avoid the dangerous illness these bugs pass to humans.

DEET is still the best, most effective bug repellent in the US. The seven-plus decades of research data we have on DEET suggest that its potentially harmful side effects to humans are not that significant. However, that’s not so for aquatic animals, so consider keeping away from the water when wearing it whenever possible.

If you’re going to be wading around in a stream or swimming in the sea, consider going with a combination of Sawyer Picaridin and permethrin if you’re fully-clothed or lemon eucalyptus oil, thyme oil, and geranium oil if you’re just in your bathing suit.

To that point, fishermen and hunters should take note that DEET is a terrible choice for their respective pursuits, and is best left at home not just because it kills fish but because it actively repels them.

Pros: Possibly the most effective bug repellent out there, though picaridin is a close second

Cons: Toxic to aquatic creatures, destroys clothing, smells terrible, and makes you horribly sick if accidentally ingested

The best bug spray without DEET

Sawyer Premium Insect Repellent with 20% Picaridin is safe to use on adults and young kids, plus, it’s almost as effective as DEET at repelling ticks, mosquitos, and other bugs.

Sawyer Premium Insect Repellent with 20% Picaridin is excellent at warding off insects of the gnat, sandfly, and mozzie varieties. Picaridin, the active ingredient found in this spray, has recently been deemed nearly or as effective as DEET in warding off ticks, though we’d like to see more research before we can confidently recommend it as our top pick.

Ticks are a big problem in North America because the continent has the largest contiguous deciduous forest on earth, and it’s just the kind of environment in which the little buggers proliferate. Plus, cases of Lyme disease are on the rise worldwide.

But, for those who choose to avoid DEET for one reason another, we like picaridin as an alternative. While it’s still toxic to the ecosystem, it is considerably less damaging than DEET. Picaridin isn’t half as offensive to the nostrils as products containing DEET, either.

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You can read more about the latest research on picaridin at the National Pesticide Information Center’s website, and on the EPA’s fact list for bug spray.

Pros: Less toxic than DEET, potentially as effective, won’t ruin plastics or plastic-based clothing

Cons: Not yet enough longterm research suggesting its efficacy over DEET, still toxic to wildlife though not as toxic as DEET

The best bug spray for clothing

Sawyer Premium Permethrin doesn’t just repel bugs, it mercilessly kills anything that lands on it.

I don’t like killing anything more than you do, but «live and let live» just doesn’t fly when some pestilent little blood-sucking insect or arachnid threatens to sentence me to a slow, agonizing disease or, you know, death. Sorry little critters, but Lyme Disease and Malaria are no joke.

Permethrin, which is what doctors prescribe to patients with lice and scabies, is an odorless solution that works wonders against most any creepy crawly thing this planet might toss at you. The only shortcoming is that it does not stay on our skin for much longer than 15 minutes, so it’s hardly effective at all unless you’re wearing clothes.

For hunters and anglers, giving off any scent, let alone one so unnatural and odorously offensive as that of DEET is death to their pursuit. In fact, if a serious enough hunter or angler catches you applying the stuff on the way into the woods or out onto the sea, they are likely to make you shower it off, or worse, leave you in the parking lot.

I have a friend who bans both sunscreen and bug spray on their boat because, according to them, the scent it produces on the line makes fish that much more wary of taking a bait. A quick test proved them right.

Sawyer Premium Permethrin is the stuff the hunters I know swear by, and if anyone can attest to its efficacy, I’m sure it’s them. Whenever I go into the woods, I do my best to reach for permethrin because, even though I’m not much of a hunter, DEET can send plenty of animals running. Further, I do happen to be an angler, and I prefer to capture my quarry alive, and free of chemical spoilage.

Sawyer Premium Permethrin is also a good choice for babies and youngsters, so long as they’re well-covered, of course. Campers would also best serve themselves by spraying down tents, hammocks, sleeping bags, and any other fabrics they take camping with a permethrin-based product like Sawyer’s spray repellent.

Pros: Excellent efficacy on clothes and other fabrics

Cons: Evaporates from skin within 15 minutes, kills most insects that set foot on it

The Best Detailing Spray (Review) in 2020

CarGuys Hybrid Wax Sealant

Meguiar’s Ultimate Waterless Wash & Wax

Meguiar’s Ultimate Quick Detailer

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Detailing sprays, quick detailers (QDs), spray waxes – call them what you will, are some of the most versatile products you can have in your car care arsenal. They’re super easy to use and yet make all the difference in the look of your car. They elevate the shine of the entire exterior tremendously and make cleaning dirt, dust and smudges a piece of cake.

So, if you’re looking for an effortless way to make your car look like it’s just been washed and waxed, or to quickly clean it and make it out-of-this-world glossy, look no further than the detailing spray. Of course, there is no one detailing spray that can help you do all that – in fact, the market is absolutely saturated with different detailing spray products, all claiming to be the best, but all with different price tags.

To help you find the best detailing spray and save you time, effort and money from testing out different products, we’ve prepared this top 10 list of the best detailing sprays on the market.

The Best Detailing Spray

One of the most popular detailing products on the market, the CarGuys Hybrid Wax Sealant produces a deep shine and slick surface like no other sealant. The product is safe to apply to every surface of the vehicle, meaning you don’t need to worry about the product damaging your rubber, windows, or anything else for that matter.

The formula works at the nano level and features a patented polymer additive to bring shine and reflection to any car. And does it bring that deep gloss! With just a tiny bit of effort, you can take your car from ok-looking to perfection all neighbors are jealous of. And you can forget about the rainy, dirty days– this sealant produces a slick hydrophobic finish that keeps the car clean-looking and glossy even during and after rain. To use it, all you have to do is spray the product on and then wipe it off.

Produces slick hydrophobic finish and deep shine

Provides durable UV protection

Safe for the entire car exterior

Quick and easy to use

  • Brand CarGuys
  • Model FBA_HW-18OZ-KIT
  • Weight 1.46 lbs

The Meguiar’s Ultimate Waterless Wash and Wax justifies its name – with a no-scratch formula that gently washes and adds wax protection, this product may indeed be the ultimate detailer as it leaves behind a shiny, glossy barrier that protects your car for days.

The formula features an advanced polymer chemistry that helps create reflective, synthetic wax barrier. It’s also spot-free with high-lubricity, meaning it will never scratch the car surface while cleaning it. As a bonus, the formula is waterless, meaning you don’t need a hose, bucket or even rinsing when using it, which makes it ideal for car owners who live in apartments or in areas with water restrictions. Importantly, this car wax polish is safe for all surfaces, including glossy paints, clear coat finishes, polished metals, glass, chrome and plastic trim.

Washes and adds wax protection

Produces glossy, shiny wax protecting barrier

Waterless formula, easy to use

  • Brand Meguiar’s
  • Model G3626
  • Weight 1.19 lbs

If you’re looking for the ultimate shine, check out the Chemical Guys’ gloss spray. Although the product is marketed as a QD too, we found this to work best as a shine and gloss booster.

The product works at a nano-spec level and bounds to surfaces to leave a streak-free gloss and slick and non-stick finish. It’s easy to use as all you have to do is spray it on and then wipe it off to boost your car’s shine. Of course, the formula is safe to use on various surfaces, including all painted surfaces, wheel, plastics, headlights and glass. It’s particularly good for glass actually, as it gently cleans and protects against sun staining and water spots.

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Produces high gloss and shine on all surfaces

Provides long-lasting UV protection

Makes detailing faster

  • Brand Chemical Guys
  • Model WAC_808_16
  • Weight 1.1 lbs

You can say goodbye to rusty brakes and dirty wheels with the Adam’s Deep Wheel Cleaner. This stuff is super-tough on brake rust but gentle and safe on wheels of all types, including chrome, powder coated, clear coated and painted wheels.

This formula dissolves stubborn brake dust and metallic contamination, making it perfect for brake maintenance. At the same time, it cleans perfectly but gently various types of wheels, bringing shine and that freshly-cleaned look to your car. To leave guesswork out of detailing, the product changes color as it works – just spray it on, allow it to do its magic (it will turn deep purple) and lightly scrub and rinse or hose off. As the manufacturer advises, if you’re using the product for the first time, it’s best to test it on a small area first, just to be sure it works for your particular wheels.

Dissolves stubborn brake dust and rust

Gently cleans and shines wheels

Quick and easy to use

  • Brand Adam’s Polishes
  • Model DWC-16
  • Weight 1.25 lbs

One of the best quick detailers on the affordable side, the Meguier’s Ultimate Quick Detailer does it all – it enhances wax protection, removes dust and fingerprints, produces deep shine and leaves a brilliant dark finish. Talk about versatility!

Incorporating hydrophobic polymer technology, this detail spray not only protects your paint finish between washes, but also repels water, meaning your vehicle can survive heavy rains without any smudges. It makes cleaning up light dust and fingerprints easy, while delivering a high surface tension with deep gloss and slick, dark finish. Of course, this QD is safe for all paint types, so no worries there. It’s also easy to use – just shake the product, spray it onto the problem area, clean with a towel and you’re done.

Enhances wax protection

Removes dust and fingertips

Produces hydrophobic coat

Leaves glossy, ultra-dark finish

  • Brand Meguier’s
  • Model G14422
  • Weight 1.1 lbs

If you’re looking for an easy but environment-friendly way to shine your tires to perfection, you need to try the CarGuys Tire Shine Spray. This stuff is non-toxic but provides such a brilliant, deep-wet looking shine it’s hard to believe it’s perfectly safe for the environment!

The formula is boosted with a patented nano polymer additive which helps the product not only shine your tires and provide a UV protectant shield, but last a very, very long time. This also helps your tires stay cleaner for longer as it prevents sling and run-off during high speeds. The spray can be used on tires, vinyl, plastic and faded rubber. As a bonus, it comes inside a complete kit which includes a microfiber applicator that enables you to choose from a wet-looking gloss shine to a rich deep black.

Environment-friendly tire shine spray

Provides UV protection

Produces deep shine and keeps tires clean longer

Comes with a complete auto detail kit for tire shine

  • Brand CarGuys
  • Model TSS-18OZ-KIT
  • Weight 1.7 lbs

Offering incredible shine, extending car protection and making dust and dirt easy to remove, this detail spray may be all you need to keep your car in perfect looking condition – inside and outside. The product, which features the manufacturer’s new boosting technology, is safe to use on the exterior and interior of your car, including door panels, seats, dash and console.

The Adam’s Polishes detail spray extends the life of your wax or sealant coating significantly – in fact, the manufacturer claims it extends protection up to 2 additional months! So use this spray to detail your paint, chrome, grills, wheels and trim, as well as the interior – it will clean everything. This QD comes with two microfiber towels, so all you have to do is spray some product on and wipe it off.

Extends wax and sealant coating

Brings deep shine

Makes cleaning easier and quicker

Safe for exterior and interior

  • Brand Adam’s Polishes
  • Model DS2-16
  • Weight 1.3 lbs

The Griot’s Garage Speed Shine is such a versatile, powerful product, we have no doubt you’ll be keeping it in your car detailing supplies forever if you only try it. This stuff works quickly, cleaning and adding brilliant shine to any car, so it’s perfect for a quick wipe down if you’re always short on time.

The formula contains lubricants that help lift dirt and smudges off the surface easily and quickly (the product has “The Five Minute Detail” on its label for a reason!) and can be used on all painted surfaces, wheels, moldings, matte and vinyl wrapped surfaces. It also adds deep shine and extends the life of your paint. All in all, a truly versatile, easy to use QD that is also affordable.

Helps clean dirt, dust, smudges

Adds deep shine

Safe for all painted surfaces

Quick and easy to use

  • Brand Griot’s Garage
  • Model 11015-P 1
  • Weight 2.55 lbs

If you need an efficient interior detailer that is super-easy to use and doesn’t leave any residue, check out the Turtle Wax ICE Premium Interior Cleaner & Protectant. This detailer is excellent at removing dirt, dust, smudges, food and beverage stains, but unlike most interior detailers, doesn’t leave an oily, greasy film behind.

Thanks to the formula’s UV absorbers or inhibitors, the product will never damage your interior plastics, but will, in fact, help prevent fading, drying and cracking (it is a protectant, after all). Of course, you can also use it on everything else inside your car, including leather, vinyl and composites. The spray comes with two microfiber towels, so all you have to do its shake and spray the product, wipe until clean and then buff dry with the dry side of the towel.

Interior cleaner and protectant

Doesn’t leave residue

Contains UV inhibitors

Easy and quick to use

  • Brand Turtle Wax
  • Model 50728
  • Weight 1.5 lbs

And we’re finishing the list with another interior detailer product, this one from the Adam’s Polishes – a quick and easy detailer that cleans all interior surfaces in no time and also adds UV protection.

The formula is a special blend of polymer, acrylic, wax and UV blocking agents, meaning it cleans, polishes and protects your interiors, including dash, door panels, plastic, leather, vinyl and pretty much anything you can find in your car. The spray doesn’t leave any residue, and actually prevents dust build up thanks to its anti-static formula. Best of all? It actually has a pleasant smell, as it neutralizes odors and leaves a clean, fresh scent behind.

Interior cleaner and protectant

Doesn’t leave residue

  • Brand Adam’s Polishes
  • Model L015
  • Weight 1.05 lbs

Best Detailing Sprays Buying Guide

So there you have it – our list of top detailing products. Clearly, there are many different quick detailing products currently on the market, from exterior-only, to interior-only, to those safe for both exterior and interior. Which product is right for you?

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To help you pick a detailer you’ll be more than satisfied with, we’ve prepared the following features on car detailing, including what to look for when buying a detailing spray and what the benefits of using one are. We also answered some of the frequently asked questions, so make sure you check out that section too to make a fully informed purchasing decision.

What Makes a Good Detailing Spray

To perfectly clean, polish and shine your car, you need good car detailing supplies, including a detailing spray. If you’re looking to only add shine to your car, you have it easy- most QDs will bring glorious shine and gloss to your car’s paint with no problem. But if you’re looking to also clean road grime, dirt, bird droppings and all the other wonderful stuff your poor car has to suffer through, you need a detailer that besides adding gloss, also helps remove dirt easily. And if you also want to spruce up your interior? You need a double-purpose detailer.

So, what does make a good detailing spray? Clearly, that entirely depends on your needs. However, all detailer sprays should:

  • Add some protection to your car wax and paint
  • Bring shine
  • Help clean dust and dirt easier.

A QD should never:

  • Leave streaks and smudges on your car surface
  • Make the surface oily and greasy
  • Damage your car paint or tires

To do the ‘shoulds’ and skip the shouldn’ts’, a good detailing spray needs to have a formula that allows the product to stick to dust and dirt particles and dissolve them. It also needs to contain ingredients that will help it add shine and gloss to car surface, as well as filters for protection against the sun. So what are these ingredients? The most important ones are:

  • Surfactants (for dissolving dirt)
  • Polymers (to add shine and protection)
  • Wax (to leave a thin layer of wax for added protection)
  • UV absorbers (protect the paint and other surfaces against the sun).

Benefits of Using a Detailing Spray

There are many benefits to using a good QD from time to time. Here are some of the major ones:

  • They help clean the car

Road dirt and dust, smudges, rains and bird droppings all leave marks – literally. They can make even a brand new car look like a dirty old, neglected vehicle. But washing your car every week or more is time-consuming and can even be taxing, depending on how dirty your car is. So what is a person who hates dirty cars but has no time to wash them frequently supposed to do? Use detailing sprays, of course.

QDs can help you wipe away dust, dirt, smudges and yes, even bird droppings in no time. They attach to dirt particles and help you remove them easily and quickly. Indeed, a good detailer can clean your exterior, including the tires, as well as most of the interior.

  • They bring shine and gloss

One of the major benefits of using a QD is that it can turn your car from “meh” to “WOW”, and we mean that quite literally.

Detailing sprays can make your car look like a brand new vehicle by bringing tremendous shine and gloss to the surface. Smooth and shiny exteriors elevate the look of a car by a mile.

Detailing sprays top off your wax or paint sealant, thereby providing an additional layer of protection and extending the longevity of your main protectant. Some QDs can extend the life of the car protectant by as long as 2-3 months, so they’re definitely worth considering if you’re serious about your wax or paint job.

Best Detailing Spray FAQ:

Q: Why use a detailing spray?

A: With so many benefits of using a QD, it’s hard to find a single reason to use this product. But if we had to choose one, it would be saving time.

With a good detailing spray, you can drastically reduce car washing and cleaning, thereby saving yourself some time and effort. Instead of spending around an hour every week on car washing and interior cleaning, you can spend 5-10 minutes every few days on quick detailing and have a car that looks like it’s been professionally washed and waxed.

And then there’s of course water saving. Some detailing sprays don’t require any water to work efficiently, which is not only fantastic for everyone, as fresh water is one of Earth’s most precious resources, but it’s perfect if you live in an area with restricted water usage.

Q: What is the best way to apply detailing spray?

A: The best way to apply a QD depends on the product itself (read the label!). Most detailing products are waterless and need only be sprayed on and then wiped off to work. Practically, this is what using a detailing spray looks like:

  • You shake the bottle
  • Spray it on dirty areas
  • Maybe wait a little while for the formula to work (usually necessary for tire detailers)
  • Wipe the product off with a buffer or microfiber towel (in case of baked-on grime, rub a little)
  • Buff dry with a clean, dry side of the towel.

All in all, using a detailing spray is one of the easiest and quickest things you can do to make your vehicle look shiny and polished.

Q: How long does a detailing spray last?

A: How long a detailing product will last depends on a few factors:

  • How well you detail

How well you detail your car can play a huge role in how long the QD spray will last. If you make sure you remove all dust, smudges and spots, your vehicle will be cleaner and shinier for longer than if you spend two minutes wiping that particular blemish off. Take your time (luckily, this is usually not longer than 10 minutes) and really detail your vehicle thoroughly, outside and inside.

  • Your car maintenance

If you wash your car regularly, a spray detail will last much longer than if you rarely wash it. Normally, the better you maintain your vehicle, the better it will look. If you’re a stickler for cleanliness and gloss, it’s best to use detailing sprays every 2-3 days.

  • Where you keep your vehicle

If your car is parked outside all day, even during rain, and your paint is very touch-sensitive, the detailing spray will last shorter. In this case, you may have to detail every single day. However, that’s not always the case — if the level of dust fallout is light, you may be able to go around 2 days without using a spray.

Generally speaking, it’s best to use a detailing spray every 2 to 4 days, depending on your paint job, weather conditions and how well you maintain your car.

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