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Mosquito repelling clothing: does it work?

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Posted at 6:38 PM, May 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-27 18:38:25-04

With Tri-State temperatures warming, concern over the Zika virus is growing, and many people are taking mosquito protection more seriously than ever.

Some clothing companies market specially treated clothes as a way to combat mosquitoes, but are they worth buying?

Our partners at Consumer Reports Magazine just ran some extensive tests to find out.

Shirts Promote Repellent Qualities

Some L.L. Bean and ExOfficio shirts promise to repel mosquitoes and other bugs for up to 70 wash cycles thanks to a chemical called Permethrin.

"Permethrin is a chemical insectidice. It's EPA-approved to protect against a wide range of insects, everything from ticks to moquitoes," Consumer Reports' Jeneen Interlandi said.

Some of the treated shirts cost more than $70. To test them out, Consumer Reports checked new shirts and some that were washed 25 times. Volunteers placed their arms into cages with 200 mosquitoes to test the effectiveness of the clothes.

"All of the Permethrin-treated clothing we tested did stun or kill many mosquitoes that landed, but none were foolproof in preventing mosquito bites," Interlandi said.

Brand new L.L. Bean shirts gave complete protection from bites, but once they were washed, Aedes mosquitoes – which carry the Zika virus – bit three out of four testers.

With both new and washed ExOfficio shirts, all four testers received bites from the Aedes mosquitoes as well as the Culex mosquitoes, which can carry the West Nile virus.

Consumer Reports tried the same test with a regular shirt sprayed with a 30 percent Deet insect repellent. None of the volunteers were bitten.

The companies that make Permethrin-treated clothing say formal studies and field tests show their products are effective. A government expert says the clothing can reduce the number of mosquitoes around those wearing it.

Another Option

However, there is a cheaper option: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say any repellent that works on skin should work for just as long when applied to clothing.

Spray clothes and let the repellent dry before wearing. That way you don't waste your money.

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