While summer is usually the time for backyard gatherings, there always seems to be one uninvited guest that shows up and causes a scene.
Creepy, crawly and well, quite annoying, bugs can turn your outdoor oasis into a nightmare … fast. And with more humid conditions inside, they may make their way to your kitchen, bathrooms and anywhere that’s dark and damp.
Various sprays and repellents are useful for keeping mosquitoes, ants and other critters away, but there are so many, it’s tough to figure out what’s really worth it. We spoke with experts and looked through customer reviews to figure out which repellents could save your time outdoors this summer.
Try an odorless repellent
Rather than applying a repellent directly to your skin, you can use a diffuser to fight bugs without the grease. Interior designer Lisa Queen recommends choosing an odorless repellant you can nest somewhere outside and then camouflage. In one client’s backyard, she placed a repellent diffuser inside a stylish, tarnished pitcher with a cloth napkin. This added both color and pattern while being effective.
“Set these as a centerpiece or on a table near where you are working or enjoying your set up, and they do the work of keeping mosquitoes and annoying summer bugs at bay,” she recommends. “They magically use allethrin insect repellent, which is the synthetic form of a natural repellent found in chrysanthemum plants.”
No wonder they’re a favorite of Instagram influencers, too.
Try these: Thermacell Patio Shield Mosquito Repellent ($21.99, originally $24.99; amazon.com)
Thermacell Radius Zone Mosquito Repeller ($49.99; amazon.com)
Take the trash out regularly
When you think of your Bug Fighting Agenda, home expert, builder and the co-star of HGTV’s “Bargain Mansions” Ward Schraeder recommends abiding by the saying “cleanliness is next to godliness.” Or in other words: Have a handle on your trash. Whether this means taking it out regularly to secure containers or finding a storage solution to keeps bugs away, the goal is to eliminate their breeding ground.
“Bugs love hygiene-challenged areas like trash cans, under refrigerators, under the sink and so on,” he says. “Empty and wash your trash cans regularly as a part of your cleaning routine. Make certain that old papers, bottles or other clutter don’t accumulate where crumbs and other food items could possibly collect.”
Or you could use this repellent, which is made to stick on your trashcans to ward off critters.
Try this: Terro T800 Garbage Guard ($8.69; amazon.com)
Invest in magnetic screen doors
As you look for the source of bugs, you may miss a big clue: your screen door. Particularly for those who have kids or dogs who head outdoors often, it’s likely left open for extended periods of time, allowing insects to gather.
Queen says a magnetic door is helpful since you don’t have to worry about closing it. It’ll do the work for you.
Try this: Magzo Magnetic Screen Door (starting at $24.58; amazon.com)
Pack DEET spray for camping
It’s one thing to head outdoors for an hour or so. It’s another to sleep under the starry sky, surrounded by nature. Beautiful, relaxing and fun, camping still requires planning to keep you comfortable and safe. Consider packing a long-lasting spray that features DEET so you can prevent bug bites. If you’d rather avoid DEET for health-related reasons, we’ve got plenty of DEET-free repellents below.
Try this: Cutter Backwoods Dry Aerosol ($4.97; amazon.com)
Place lights away from your outdoor seating
Dining al fresco is one of the best parts of having an outdoor space. Fresh meals cooked on the grill, chilled wine and the stars above. Prevent bugs from crashing the good times by being strategic with the light placement.
Schraeder recommends a string of LED lights located away from where you’re sitting, so the critters will keep away from your hangout area. “The light will spill around the corner and provide an adequate amount of lighting — and ambiance — to enjoy the evening while you cook or socialize without worrying about bugs,” he adds.
Try these: Vanbuskirk 9.8’ LED Plug-in 320 — Bulb Curtain String Light ($47.99, originally $53.99; wayfair.com)
Enbrighten Classic LED Cafe String Lights ($49.99, originally $59.99; amazon.com)
Have fun with it
So while this isn’t a repellent — per se — it does get rid of flying villains in a fun way. Whether you have young children who want in on the action, or you and your partner are bored being stuck at home, Queen says this can make an annoying situation an opportunity to laugh. This Bug-A-Salt literally shoots salt at unwanted flies and bugs around you.
Try this: Bug-A-Salt 2.0 From Skell ($39.95, originally $41.95; amazon.com)
Try a natural bug spray
Wherever you go, throw this 4-ounce natural bug spray into your bag. It’s DEET-free and combines many essential oils, like organic rose geranium, spearmint, lemongrass and peppermint to ward away creepy crawlies. Also, the formula is created by female survivors of human trafficking, prostitution and addiction, so you can feel good giving back to others.
Try this: Thistle Farms Natural Bug Spray ($15.99; amazon.com)
Carry long-lasting spray for hiking
If the mountains are calling you, don’t go without bug repellent. This DEET-free formula is said to be safe enough for children as young as six months and for anyone who’s pregnant (though of course, confer with your doctor before use). A single application is known to last up to eight hours.
Try this: Sawyer Products 20% Picaridin Insect Repellent ($8.95, originally $9.99; amazon.com)
Use a citronella candle
There’s a reason folks buy citronella candles to guard against mosquitoes: they work! Plus, if you place these candles in a tall vase, you can prevent the wind from blowing them out, creating a warm ambiance that’s bug free.
Try this: Coleman Scented Citronella Candle with Wooden Crackle Wick (starting at $2.94; amazon.com)
Install an outdoor fan
If you’re not only trying to repel mosquitoes, but other small bugs, Schraeder recommends creating a breeze via a fan. It may seem obvious, but on windy days, insects can’t fly, so when you create a draft on your patio or in your garden, you keep them away. You can install a ceiling fan, a box-style fan or even a small desk-sized fan for joining Zoom calls outdoors.
Try this: Lasko 20” High Velocity QuickMount ($64.85, originally $78.49; amazon.com)
Test out essential oils
If you’re already burning essential oils to set the mood indoors, why not try it outdoors? Schraeder says many of the good-smelling fragrances you already use can provide valuable assistance in repelling bugs. His top scents to try include lemongrass, lemon eucalyptus, peppermint, clove, cedarwood, sweet orange and geranium.
Try this: Repel Plant-Based Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent ($4.97, originally $7; amazon.com)
Note: The prices above reflect the retailer’s listed prices at the time of publication.