The 9 Best Outdoor Mosquito Repellents for a Bite-Free Night

Our top pick is the Thermacell Patio Shield Mosquito Repeller because it’s sleek, portable, and highly effective.

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Swatting away mosquitoes and dealing with bug bites are two of the most frustrating parts of trying to spend time outdoors. But the good news is that it's easy to keep bugs away from your outdoor oasis, as long as you choose the right type of outdoor mosquito repellent for your space.

To find the best outdoor mosquito repellent, we spent hours researching the various options on the market. While narrowing down the list, we considered factors like type, ingredients, longevity, and overall value. We also spoke with David Price, entomologist at Mosquito Joe, and Abigail Lehner, entomologist for Murphy's Naturals, for their expert insight.

Above all, one of the most important things to remember when repelling mosquitoes is that they breed in standing water. That said, "removing or treating standing water around your house" is a great place to start, Lehner advises. From there, you can determine what further course of action is needed.

The Thermacell Patio Shield Mosquito Repeller is our number one pick for outdoor mosquito repellents. We like its cordless, portable design and scent-free formula—plus, it comes in a wide range of fun color options—all at a reasonable price.

Here are the best outdoor mosquito repellents.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall Outdoor Mosquito Repellent: Thermacell Patio Shield Mosquito Repeller

Best Outdoor Mosquito Repellents
amazon.com

Also available at Walmart and Lowe's.

Who it's for: People looking for a portable mosquito-repelling device that's modern and borderline stylish.

Who it isn't for: People who don't like the idea of having to purchase fuel and insecticide mat refills.

The Thermacell Patio Shield Mosquito Repeller is our top pick because it's so versatile. Its portable design (no cords or batteries required) makes it great for bringing on camping trips and to sporting events, but you can simply place it on your back patio, too. The device emits a heat-activated unscented insecticide (a "synthetic allethrin formula," according to the brand), which creates a 15-foot zone that's protected from mosquitoes. Simply turn it on and place it in the center of your outdoor area—just be sure to do so 15 minutes before going outside to give the device time to heat up.

This DEET-free device is powered by a fuel cartridge and repellent mats that will safeguard you from mosquitoes for 12 and four hours, respectively. Remember that both components need to be replaced, which will require additional purchases in the future, but the device itself will last for many seasons. You might even look forward to using it, thanks to how sleek it'll look on your patio table. It comes in several different colors, including timeless neutrals like white and black and bold hues of blue and yellow.

Product Details:

  • Type: Heat-activated device
  • Active Ingredient: Allethrin
  • Quantity: ‎One device, one cartridge, and three mats

Best Budget Outdoor Mosquito Repellent: Coleman Scented Citronella Tin Candle

Best Outdoor Mosquito Repellents
amazon.com

Also available at Walmart

Who it's for: People who want a budget-friendly and unique alternative to ordinary citronella candles.

Who it isn't for: People who have large backyards or patios and need something bigger.

Don't let the low price of Coleman's Scented Citronella Tin Candle fool you—it works wonders when it comes to keeping away pesky mosquitoes for up to 25 hours. Both kids and adults will appreciate its most compelling feature: The range of unique scents that are a fun alternative to ordinary citronella candles. Scents include campfire, s'mores, and pine, but given the candle's low price, you might want to get the entire lineup because they'll be a hit for entertaining.

We like that these candles have a wooden wick that makes a crackling sound as it burns, which is reminiscent of a cozy fire pit. Each one comes in a retro-looking square tin with rounded edges, which is 100 percent recyclable. The only drawback to this candle is that it's really small (think: travel-size), coming in at six ounces. That said, it's still the most affordable repellent on this list, making it an excellent choice for people who need a more affordable solution.

Product Details:

  • Type: Candle
  • Active Ingredient: Citronella oil
  • Quantity: ‎One

Best Natural Outdoor Mosquito Repellent: Murphy's Naturals Mosquito Repellent Incense Sticks

Best Outdoor Mosquito Repellents
amazon.com

Also available at Grove Collaborative and Target.

Who it's for: People who want a natural repellent for a small area.

Who it isn't for: People who might be put off by the strong scent of essential oils.

Murphy's Naturals Repellent Incense Sticks are designed to keep mosquitoes away with five essential oils: rosemary, peppermint, citronella, lemongrass, and cedarwood. To use the mosquito incense sticks, allow the end to catch a flame for 10 to 20 seconds, then blow it out and place the stick in a holder of your choosing (the brand sells a ceramic one, FYI) where you want to avoid mosquitoes. A single stick covers a 12-foot area and lasts two and a half hours before needing to be replaced.

We appreciate that these incense sticks have a pretty simple ingredient list. They contain 10 percent sustainably sourced essential oils, and the other 90 percent comes from the stick itself, which is made of sawdust.

Product Details:

  • Type: Incense
  • Active Ingredient: Essential oil blend (citronella, rosemary, peppermint, lemongrass, and cedarwood)
  • Quantity: ‎12

RELATED: The 15 Best Places to Buy Outdoor Furniture Online

Best Outdoor Mosquito Repellent Coil: Off! Mosquito Coil

Best Outdoor Mosquito Repellents
amazon.com

Also available at Target and Walmart.

Who it's for: People who like the smell of incense but want something that lasts longer.

Who it isn't for: People who are worried about smelling like smoke after sitting close by.

Spiral-shaped mosquito coils, like this popular option from Off!, are best for semi-confined areas such as porches and patios with a minimal breeze. They offer up to four hours of protection and work pretty similarly to incense sticks. Just light the outer end of a coil until it catches a flame, and keep it burning while you enjoy your time outdoors. A single coil can protect areas up to 10 x 10 feet for four hours.

The active ingredient in these coils is metofluthrin, which produces vapors that repel mosquitoes. The experience of burning it is vastly different for people than it is for pests: It smells like a mini campfire, so you might smell like smoke after sitting nearby. While the coil burns, you store it in the metal tin that comes with the starter pack. Already have a container at home? You can purchase a refill pack that comes with six mosquito-repelling coils. Alternatively, you can purchase other options online to best match your style (we like the A&M Tech Black Mosquito Coil Holder, made of heat-insulated and fire-proofed metal).

Product Details:

  • Type: Coil
  • Active Ingredient: Metofluthrin
  • Quantity: Three for starter pack, six for refill pack

Best Outdoor Mosquito Repellent Candle: Repel Insect Repellent Citronella Candle

Best Outdoor Mosquito Repellents
amazon.com

Also available at Walmart.

Who it's for: People who want a reliable repellent for their deck and patio.

Who it isn't for: People looking for long-lasting protection from mosquitoes.

The three-wick Insect Repellent Citronella Candle from Repel fends off mosquitoes from a short distance while burning evenly and cleanly so that none of it goes to waste. The candle comes in a rustic dark green metal container, and it even has a handle for easy portability. The 20-ounce candle contains three percent citronella oil to help ward off mosquitoes.

Thanks to its large size, this candle provides up to 40 hours of defense—just be sure to place it close by for optimal protection. The brand says you'll get the best results (aka fewer bites) within three feet of the candle. For example, you can use it as a centerpiece if you're socializing around a table with friends. And if you want to maximize protection at a greater distance, consider stocking up on multiple candles so you can place them around the perimeter of your sitting area for a higher level of protection.

Product Details:

  • Type: Candle
  • Active Ingredient: Citronella oil
  • Quantity: Four (single packs available)

Best Outdoor Mosquito Repellent for Water: Summit Responsible Solutions Mosquito Dunks

Best Outdoor Mosquito Repellents
amazon.com

Also available at Walmart, Home Depot, and Lowe's.

Who it's for: People whose outdoor space includes standing water, like a pool or bird bath.

Who it isn't for: People who want a repellent that can be used on patios and porches without water.

The Summit Responsible Solutions Mosquito Dunks are a game-changer for those with standing water in their outdoor space—whether it's a bird bath, a swimming pool, or an outdoor fountain. The most notable thing about these dunks is that they're arguably the easiest mosquito-repellent to use on this list and the most effective. The pack comes with six dunks, each treating 100 square feet of surface water and preventing mosquito breeding for 30 days. They contain naturally occurring Bti, a type of bacteria that only harms mosquito larvae. This means that the dunks will kill mosquitoes early on and you don't have to worry about hurting other types of wildlife or humans.

Removing standing water from your outdoor space to halt the breeding cycle is the first step to controlling your mosquito problem. But if that's not possible—say you refuse to run your bird bath dry—these dunks will get the job done. They're even approved for organic farming operations, per the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which attests that these dunks won't harm crops or water supplies.

Product Details:

  • Type: Dunks
  • Active Ingredient: Bti
  • Quantity: ‎Six

RELATED: The 6 Best Patio Dining Sets for Outdoor Entertaining

Best Outdoor Mosquito Repellent Spray: Cutter Backyard Bug Control Spray Concentrate

Best Outdoor Mosquito Repellents
amazon.com

Also available at Walmart, Home Depot, and Lowe's.

Who it's for: People who want an outdoor mosquito repellent that protects a large area.

Who it isn't for: People who don't have a lawn.

Not only does the Cutter Backyard Bug Control Spray Concentrate target mosquitoes, but also certain types of ants, crickets, and beetles, among other common insects. This makes the spray a smart option for those looking for a stronger solution than a candle, coil, or incense. Just because it's powerful doesn't mean it's complicated to use, thankfully. All you have to do is attach the sprayer to a garden hose, flip the handle, and then spray. It will mix with the water from the hose to treat your lawn, landscape, and other outdoor surfaces up to 5,000 square feet.

This bug spray's active ingredient is the insecticide lambda-cyhalothrin, which is known to control a variety of pests and begins working immediately. To get the best results possible, make sure you closely follow the instructions listed on the bottle. First, the brand recommends treating the area as soon as you first start noticing bugs so that the population doesn't multiply significantly (and make eliminating them more difficult). You also want to ensure that you thoroughly saturate your lawn, trees, shrubs, you name it—they should be wet by the time you're finished spraying.

Product Details:

  • Type: Spray
  • Active Ingredient: Lambda-cyhalothrin
  • Quantity: ‎32 ounces

Best Portable Outdoor Mosquito Repellent: Thermacell MR300 Portable Mosquito Repeller

Best Outdoor Mosquito Repellents
amazon.com

Also available at Walmart.

Who it's for: People looking for a mosquito repellent that's good for travel.

Who it isn't for: People who want to repel mosquitoes while constantly moving—this device works best when it's stationary.

If your calendar is packed with vacations and outdoor adventures this summer, then the Thermacell MR300 Portable Mosquito Repeller deserves a spot on your radar. This mess-free device weighs less than half a pound, making it a lightweight and compact addition to your weekend bag. Similar to the other Thermacell device on our list, this one comes with three repellent mats and one fuel cartridge to get you started.

Once you turn the repeller on, look for the orange glow to ensure it's ready, place it in the center of the area you're in, and wait 15 minutes—then you'll have protection from mosquitoes for four hours (which is when the repellent mat needs to be replaced). This device is most effective when it's stationary, so it might not be the best option for people who want to hook it to a belt clip to use it while actively moving (like while hiking).

Product Details:

  • Type: Heat-activated device
  • Active Ingredient: Allethrin
  • Quantity: One device, three repellent mats, one fuel cartridge

RELATED: This Clever Mosquito Repeller Makes Bugs Disappear in '5 Minutes'—and It's Only $40

Best Outdoor Mosquito Repellent Lantern: Flowtron BK-40D Electronic Insect Killer

Best Outdoor Mosquito Repellents
amazon.com

Also available at Home Depot

Who it's for: People who want a hanging device that actually kills mosquitoes.

Who it isn't for: People who don't want to hear a zapping noise when insects are eliminated.

The name says it all: The Flowtron BK-40D Electronic Insect Killer leaves very few bugs in its wake. Despite how daunting it sounds, this black lantern—measuring 9.7 x 16.5 inches—is rather stylish, too. Unlike other picks on this list that simply repel mosquitoes, the Flowtron lantern will kill them. All you have to do to get it working is plug it into an outlet, and it will start zapping mosquitoes and other insects immediately. It lures them in with a dual combination of UV light and the pesticide octenol and kills them once they get in contact with the electrified grid.

One element that may be satisfying to some people but not others is the zapping sound this device makes when it takes out bugs. It's a little freaky, but you don't have to worry about children, pets, and birds coming in contact with the electrified grid since there is a protective enclosure to prevent them from touching it. Made of weatherproof polycarbonate, the mosquito repellent lantern is built to last, so it won't rust, crack, or fade.

Product Details:

  • Type: Electronic bug zapper
  • Active Ingredient: Octenol
  • Quantity: One lantern

Final Verdict

Our top pick is the Thermacell Patio Shield Mosquito Repeller because it's portable, sleek, and highly effective. The heat-activated device uses cartridges and repellent mats to keep mosquitoes away from your patio or outdoor area for up to 12 hours. But if you're looking for something that uses natural ingredients, we like Murphy's Naturals Mosquito Repellent Incense Sticks. Each pack contains 12 sticks that use a blend of essential oils (citronella, rosemary, peppermint, lemongrass, and cedarwood) to repel mosquitoes.

How to Shop for Outdoor Mosquito Repellent Like a Pro

Type

There are many different types of outdoor mosquito repellents, so there's bound to be one that meets the needs of your unique space and personal preferences. "The most common mosquito repellents I see are DEET-based or based in an oil like lemon eucalyptus or citronella," says Lehner. They come in many forms, from candles and coils for your patio to sprays and tubes meant to treat large areas of your lawn.

Ingredients

It's important to consider your product's active ingredients, which is what will deter mosquitoes from coming too close. We listed the active ingredient below each product on our list, but here are just a few of the most common:

Citronella Oil: Citronella oil is one of the most common ingredients found in mosquito-repelling candles and coils. Just keep in mind that the oil is only effective when the wind isn't blowing, according to The American Mosquito Control Association.

Metofluthrin: A synthetic insect repellent, metofluthrin is featured in the Off! coils on our list. A 2007 study by the Journal of the American Mosquito Control Association deemed it "highly effective at repelling mosquitoes."

Allethrin: Allethrin, the star ingredient in Thermacell devices, works by being released into the air when activated by heat.

Longevity

Whether you're going to be outside for an hour or the entire night, you want an outdoor mosquito repellent that lasts. "Longevity really varies from product to product," says Lehner. "Some last 20 minutes, while others last for hours."

Researching the different types of repellents and how long they last should aid in deciding which one's best for your lifestyle, whether you're a frequent entertainer or an avid camper.

Questions You Might Ask

How do outdoor mosquito repellents work?

Mosquitoes are highly attracted to the carbon dioxide we exhale and our body odors, according to Price. Outdoor repellents mask those scents so that mosquitoes don't want to enter the area. One popular way of doing that is with essential oils.

"Outdoor repellents, like candles, are typically packed with a mosquito repelling oil(s) to deter the mosquitoes in the immediate area," explains Lehner. As they burn, the oil is released into the air which makes mosquitoes less inclined to approach—and bite. However, it's worth noting that by definition, repellents don't actually kill mosquitoes (but insecticides do).

Where should you put mosquito repellent in your yard?

This comes down to how large of an area you're working with. If you're looking to keep away mosquitoes while socializing in a small space with friends or family, Lehner recommends "keeping [the repellent] close to the area you're utilizing, like on a patio table." In that case, repellents like candles or incense should get the job done.

If you're looking for a solution for other parts of your yard that you'd deem mosquito hotspots (say, a source of standing water or low points of land), you should invest in a mosquito-repelling solution that targets larger areas. Mosquito dunks are great for standing water (in the case that you don't want it removed), while bug control sprays are a seasonal solution to eliminating pests before they multiply.

Will outdoor mosquito repellents also repel other bugs?

Many mosquito-repelling products also protect against other bugs like ticks, says Lehner, but it ultimately comes down to the product you choose. To be sure, check the back of the packaging for a list of insects that the product will repel. If you can't find one, research the product's active ingredients to see what bugs they're known to repel.

A general rule of thumb, according to Price, is that repellent-emitting devices will do a good job of keeping smaller flying insects away, while a blend of essential oils should generally repel "various crawling insects and ants"—in addition to mosquitoes, of course.

How else can you keep mosquitoes away from your yard?

The best way to keep mosquitoes away from your yard besides using outdoor mosquito repellent is to "remove or treat standing water," says Lehner, because that's where mosquitoes breed.

According to Price, a good way to find potential mosquito hotspots is to "take a walk around your property and look for anywhere where a bottle cap of water can stand still." Though this may sound weirdly specific, the reason for doing so is because a "female mosquito can lay 20 plus eggs in that little bottle cap of standing water," he says.

Simple ways to avoid standing water around your home are to drill holes in the bottom of potted plants so that they drain adequately, keep gutters clean and flowing, fill in low areas of your lawn, and avoid over-watering your lawns, plants, and bushes, says Price. And depending on what type of pool you have, make sure you keep it treated and circulating because, conveniently, "mosquitoes don't like circulated water."

Take Our Word for It

This article was written by Marisa Petrarca, a contributing writer for Real Simple with over five years of editorial experience crafting product reviews and lifestyle content. To compile this list, she spent hours researching mosquito repellents, considering factors like type, active ingredients, overall value, and more. She also consulted David Price, entomologist at Mosquito Joe, and Abigail Lehner, entomologist for Murphy's Naturals, for tips on how to choose the right outdoor mosquito repellent for you.

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