The 10 Best Mosquito Repellents for Outdoor Entertaining

Whether a spray, candle, or cordless device, these favorites provide effective, long-lasting protection that's easy and safe to use.

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Best Mosquito Repellents for Outdoor Entertaining

Food & Wine / Marcus Millan

With warm spring nights, grilling season, and backyard barbecues on the horizon, we can only think of one downside: the pests. Nothing can ruin a patio party like the nagging buzz of mosquitoes. So to keep your gathering pest-free, every host should stock up on a trusty mosquito repellent. But with so many options available, it can be difficult to choose the best one. 

If you plan on hosting a barbecue or entertaining outdoors, fear not! We went on bug patrol to find the best mosquito repellents to keep pests from ruining your good time. These picks provide superior effectiveness, longevity, and ease of use.

From citronella candles and incense sticks to a cordless device that provides a high-tech, invisible shield of protection, check out our full list of the best mosquito repellents for outdoor entertaining. 

Best Overall

Sawyer Products 20% Picaridin Insect Repellent



Pros: This conveniently sized spray is formulated with 20% picaridin, an odorless, non-greasy alternative to DEET.

Cons: At four ounces per bottle, you may run through this formula quickly.

Sawyer’s 20% Picaridin Insect Repellent delivers long-lasting protection against pesky insects like mosquitoes, ticks, flies, and gnats. Formulated with 20% picaridin — an odorless, non-greasy alternative to DEET — you can count on this spray to provide up to 12 hours of protection against mosquitos and eight hours against other bugs. The fragrance-free formula is quick-drying, and the spray bottle is small enough to tuck away in your purse or pocket the next time you’re invited to an outdoor event, or inside a picnic basket for pest-free al fresco dining on the go.

Unlike other sprays that leave a greasy or oily feel, this product provides a dry finish, making it comfortable to wear for extended periods. It’s safe for the whole family, and you can spray it on both your skin and clothing to maximize protection.

Price at time of publish: $9

  • Type: Spray
  • Key repellent: Picaridin
  • Size: 4 fluid ounces

Best Splurge

Wondercide Cedarwood Natural Insect Repellent

Wondercide Cedarwood Natural Insect Repellent


Pros: Easily apply this all-natural, DEET-free spray for quick, effective protection.

Cons: This formula is more expensive than other options of similar size.

To keep pests away next time you host an outdoor party, Wondercide Insect Repellent is a safe option for the whole family. This powerful yet gentle spray is made from natural, sustainable ingredients (this cedarwood option is formulated with cedarwood essential oils) and is safe for people of all ages, including kids, babies, and seniors. Made without harsh chemicals or artificial fragrances, this DEET-free formula is an effective alternative to traditional bug-repellent sprays. It’s shown to repel 98% of mosquitoes as well as common pests like gnats, ticks, fleas, no-see-ums, and spiders, so everyone can enjoy the barbecued brisket and burnt ends without being a feast for bugs themselves.

Price at time of publish: $24

  • Type: Spray 
  • Key repellent: Cedarwood essential oil 
  • Size: 4 fluid ounces

Best Value

Cutter Backwoods Dry Insect Repellent

Cutter Backwoods Dry Insect Repellent


Pros: This sweat-resistant spray is great for summer barbecues and hangouts and is one of the least expensive options available.

Cons: This formula contains DEET.

Next time you’re hosting or attending a backyard barbecue in the dead of summer, stock up on Cutter Backwoods Dry Insect Repellent. This 25% DEET formula is sweat-resistant, so you won’t have to worry about it rubbing off while you grill your best burgers or play a few rounds of cornhole. Never greasy or oily, it’s designed to protect you from mosquitoes and other bugs that may transmit diseases, and it’s also effective against ticks, gnats, chiggers, fleas, and biting flies, creating a barrier against any bug that may try to ruin your outdoor experience. 

Price at time of publish: $5

  • Type: Spray 
  • Key repellent: DEET
  • Size: 4 fluid ounces

Best Natural

Murphy's Naturals Lemon Eucalyptus Oil Insect Repellent Spray

Murphy's Naturals Lemon Eucalyptus Oil Insect Repellent Spray


Pros: This formula is all-natural, with oil of lemon eucalyptus as the primary repellent. 

Cons: Other sprays provide longer-lasting protection.

Murphy's Naturals Lemon Eucalyptus Oil Insect Repellent Spray is one of the best natural mosquito repellents that can perform as well as DEET or picaridin formulas. Made with 30% oil of lemon eucalyptus, this spray offers up to six hours of mosquito protection and four hours of tick protection without harmful chemicals. With no dyes or synthetic fragrances, it's safe to spray on both your skin and clothing. 

Price at time of publish: $20

  • Type: Spray
  • Key repellent: Oil of lemon eucalyptus 
  • Size: 4 fluid ounces

Best Candle

Repel Triple-Wick Citronella Candle

Repel Triple-Wick Citronella Candle


Pros: It provides ample protection instead of spraying a formula on your skin or clothing.

Cons: It’s not the most stylish mosquito repellent to display on your patio or deck.

Citronella candles are one the must-have essentials for outdoor dining loved by chefs. This industrial-grade, 20-ounce candle provides up to 40 hours of protection, plenty to protect your outdoor dinner parties all summer long. Made with citronella oil, it creates an effective insect barrier while burning. The triple-wick, bucket design is portable, so you can move it around your patio or deck to where you need it most. For maximum protection, use several Repel Insect Repellent Candles around your outdoor area to create a perimeter of defense.

Price at time of publish: $16

  • Type: Candle
  • Key repellent: Citronella oil
  • Size: 20 ounces

Best for Patio

Thermacell Patio Shield Mosquito Repeller

Thermacell Patio Shield Mosquito Repeller


Pros: This easy-to-use device offers a smoke- and flame-free alternative to candles. 

Cons: You’ll need to stock up on repellent mats to keep this mosquito repellent ready to go.

Perfect for any outdoor gathering, the easy-to-use, long-lasting Thermacell Patio Shield Mosquito Repeller will keep your party mosquito-free for up to four hours through a 15-foot, invisible zone of coverage. This sleek and cordless repeller is powered by a 12-hour fuel cartridge and uses heat-activated technology to emit a scent-free repellent that drives away mosquitoes as your guests gather around tables and the outdoor bar. It offers an alternative to DEET sprays and lotions and does not produce smoke, flames, or harsh odors. After four hours, simply swap out the repellent mat. 

Price at time of publish: $18

  • Type: Device 
  • Key repellent: Allethrin
  • Size: Includes three repellent mats

Best Incense

Murphy's Naturals Mosquito Repellent Incense Sticks

Murphy's Naturals Mosquito Repellent Incense Sticks


Pros: These mosquito-repellent incense sticks provide up to 12 feet of protection.

Cons: Offering only 2.5 hours of protection, you may need to light a few throughout your gathering. 

Though they'll add to the ambiance and seamlessly blend in outdoor decor like string lights and floor cushions, these stylish incense sticks are tougher than they look. Natural and effective, they provide 2.5 hours of burning time through a combination of plant-based oils, including rosemary, peppermint, citronella, lemongrass, and cedarwood. Simply light each stick and place it in a holder or pot for 12 feet of mosquito-free range. Plus, they’re formulated without petroleum, synthetic fragrances, or harsh chemicals.

Price at time of publish: $24

  • Type: Incense 
  • Key repellent: Citronella, other plant-based oils
  • Size: 12 sticks per tube

Best Outdoor Coil

PIC Mosquito Repelling Coils

PIC Mosquito Repelling Coils


Pros: These coils are easy to use, mess-free, and long-lasting.

Cons: Coils only provide 10 feet of protection. 

Skip the spray or lotion and light up one of these mosquito-repellent coils instead. They’re easy to use and highly effective in keeping pests at bay. Coils burn for up to seven hours, ensuring you can enjoy your outdoor space peacefully. To use, simply separate the two loops, insert the top of the coil stand into the slot in the center of the coil, and light the outer end until it glows. Whether sitting on your porch or hosting a backyard barbeque, these coils are mess-free, long-lasting, and safe. You'll be adding them to the list of outdoor entertaining essentials for summers to come.

Price at time of publish: $18 

  • Type: Coil
  • Key repellent: Pyrethrum
  • Size: 10 per pack

Best Dunks

Summit Responsible Solutions Mosquito Dunks

Summit Responsible Solutions Mosquito Dunks


Pros: These anti-mosquito dunks are great for party hosters with fountains and other standing water displays.

Cons: Dunks don’t repel mosquitoes, so you may still need another form of protection.

While mosquito dunks don't repel mosquitoes, they can prevent them from invading your backyard. Place them in standing water fixtures like birdbaths and gutters (aka the insect's favorite hangouts) to kill larvae for at least 30 days. The beige-colored, doughnut-shaped dunk is designed to float on water and slowly dissolve, releasing a bacterium toxic to all species of mosquito larvae. They’re ideal for people with fountains and other standing water displays in their outdoor space.

Price at time of publish: $11

  • Type: Dunk
  • Key repellent: Bacillus thuringiensis subspecies israelensis 
  • Size: 6 dunks per pack

Best Clip-On

OFF! Clip-On Mosquito Repellent



Pros: This wearable clip-on mosquito repellent is portable, lightweight, and can be easily clipped to your belt, waistband, or purse.

Cons: Because each clip-on only provides enough protection for one person, this is not the most convenient option for someone hosting a large party.

The battery-operated fan emits mosquito repellant, providing up to 12 hours of protection with no skin application required. It'll even keep you cool on those sticky summer nights as you're standing by the grill—they might even become a new favorite grilling tool. The red indicator light will let you know when there are approximately three hours of refill and battery life left, while the quiet, battery-powered fan circulates the repellent all around you, so you don't have to worry about the hassle of sprays or creams. Refilling is simple with the included refill disk, and additional refills are sold separately. 

Price at time of publish: $15

  • Type: Spray
  • Key repellent: Metofluthrin
  • Size: Individual

Factors to Consider


With many types of mosquito repellents available (spray, lotion, candle, incense), choosing the right one comes down to preference. Overall, a spray is one of the easiest options for anyone hosting an outdoor gathering, as it can be shared among people and reapplied as needed. However, candles, coils, and incense are good choices if you’re looking for a repellent that doesn’t require skin contact. Keep in mind that these alternative methods may require multiple applications. For instance, an incense stick may only provide a 10-foot range for a few hours.


One of the biggest debates around mosquito repellents is choosing a natural or chemical formula. Ingredients such as citronella, cedar oil, and lemon eucalyptus are plant-based alternatives but may not be as effective as chemical ingredients like DEET or picaridin and require more frequent reapplication. If you have sensitive skin, consider a natural or low-concentration chemical repellent. 


Consider the length of time you need protection and choose a repellent that provides the necessary coverage. Usual protection lengths vary between two to three hours for incense to up to 12 hours for spray. For outdoor parties, you may want to provide two options: candles or coils set up in the backyard, plus a spray for guests to apply as needed.

Ease of use

Every mosquito repellent offers a level of convenience. Sprays are easy to apply, though they may leave an unpleasant, sticky residue or odor on the skin. Candles, coils, and incense are quick to light but may not provide enough protection. Ultimately, the decision comes down to what you and your guests prefer.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • How do mosquito repellents work?

    Mosquito repellents release targeted chemicals that mask the scents that attract mosquitoes. These chemicals — typically DEET, picaridin, or a natural alternative like citronella or oil of lemon eucalyptus — create a barrier to repel the insects. They confuse and interfere with mosquitos and other bugs like ticks, flies, and gnats, and deter them from landing on your skin. Some products may also contain compounds that interfere with the mosquitoes' sense of smell or that have a taste they find unpleasant.

  • Where should you place mosquito repellent in your yard or on your patio?

    A mosquito repellent should be placed in areas where mosquitoes are likely to be present, such as by standing water, near plants and bushes, in shaded areas (like under patio umbrellas), or around tables of people. The key is to place it where it will have the maximum exposure to the area you want to protect.

  • How often should you use mosquito repellent for yards?

    Many mosquito repellents like sprays, clip-on units, and candles can be used as needed. However, it’s best to follow the repellent’s instructions as options like dunks and coils may have distinct frequency recommendations.

Our Expertise

Clarissa Buch Zilberman is a writer and editor based in Miami. Specializing in lifestyle, business, and travel, her work has appeared in Food & Wine,, Travel + Leisure, and Bon Appétit, among other print and digital titles.

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