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November 11, 2020  |  Tips & Guides  |  Insect Repellents

Section Hiker: Treating your Clothes with Permethrin

Permethrin is EPA approved for use as an insect repellent when applied to clothing and other textiles.

Treating your Clothes with Permethrin

Permethrin is a pesticide that you spray on clothing to kill black flies, ticks, and mosquitoes but has no harmful side effects on humans if used properly. It is the active ingredient used in Insect Shield and Buzz Off clothing and kills bugs when they land on your clothing. You can buy Permethrin Spray in liquid form and spray it on your own clothes to the same effect. This self-applied form lasts for 4-6 washings. Permethrin was developed by the U.S. military to protect soldiers from insects in the jungle.

You can buy Permethrin Spray on Amazon. A big bottle comes with a spray adapter and will cover 4 complete sets of clothing, including shirts, pants, and socks. You’ll want to read the directions carefully before applying it, but it’s not difficult to do. You need to spray it on the clothes you plan to wear hiking or for any outdoor activity in a windless but well-ventilated place like a garage. Let them dry for a few hours and you’re all set.

I’ve been spraying Permethrin on the clothes that I wear for spring and summer hiking in New Hampshire and Vermont for over 10 years. This has included long sleeve shirts, convertible hiking pants, gaiters, and hiking socks. When you spray the Permethrin on, you want to position the sprayer 6 to 8 inches away from the clothing you plan to treat. Pay particular attention to the cuffs of long pants and shirt sleeves where ticks will try to attack you. It’s also a good idea to spray it on your hat or to buy one that’s already been treated with Permethrin like the Outdoor Research Bugout Brim Hat.

Sawyer’s Permethrin Spray (24 oz) is pre-mixed to the correct concentration so you can apply it to clothing without any preparation. JT Eaton also sells a gallon-size of pre-mixed Permethrin, which is much more economical if you have a large amount of clothing to treat.

I can attest to the effectiveness of Permethrin Spray particularly against mosquitos and ticks. I rarely ever get bitten as long as I wear long-sleeved permethrin-treated shirt and pants when I go hiking in the forest. I love having the sun on my arms and legs as much as the next guy, but I’d rather cover up than catch Lyme disease, which the CDC believes is now 10 times more prevalent than previously reported.

Learn more about Permethrin as a treatment for gear and clothing here: https://sectionhiker.com/treating-your-clothes-with-permethrin/

 

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