Listerine for mosquitoes? Word on the street has it buzzing about Listerine being your go-to pleasant-smelling mosquito barrier for your next barbeque session, but does a few spritz in the air really keep mosquitoes away? Or is it just another one of those outdoor rumors started by people who are looking for cheaper solutions?
We’re about to find out if Listerine can crawl its way from your bathroom medicine cabinet to your hiking backpack (stay tuned!)
Table of Contents
Where Did It All Start?
While it’s virtually impossible to pinpoint a wildfire rumor where it all originated, the chances of it starting in the warmer, wet climates are quite high.There are at least 50 to 100 million people who are directly affected by mosquitoes and the diseases they carry in specific countries that meet the little critters’ ideal temperature.
For those who find the maintenance of mosquito traps a bit too heavy to keep on a regular basis, people got creative and thought of cheaper ways to ward off these tiny, flying demons.
Their unusual ingredients are mostly inspired by day-to-day products we use at home. And for some reason, they found Listerine as one of their top-leading candidates. As a matter of fact, this has reached all ends of the world that even Arnie Mason, a former TV and radio broadcaster has even joined in the hype train.
Listerine for Mosquitoes: The “Perfect” Recipe
Arnie Mason’s “Mosquito-Gone Listerine Special
There are a number of versions for the “Mosquito-Gone Listerine Especial”. For Arnie Mason, his version is completed with 3 basic household ingredients. These are Epsom salts, beer, and of course, Listerine.
Although his intent for his homemade D.I.Y wasn’t meant to be applied to human skin and was more for his bushes, tree, and lawn, he has sworn that the household things he has put together works like a charm for his garden and is “unhealthy for bugs” in an article published by WECT.
Listerine + Lemon Scented Joy
On the other side of the spectrum, a lot of peeps are saying that Listerine, combined with Lemon Scented Joy, is the best way to make your homemade anti-mosquito spray.
As what the claim goes, all you have to do is to easily spray it on your body, and it automatically kills them when they’re near. Also, if you mix things up with cayenne pepper, then it’ll eliminate ANY bugs. But if you prefer to keep it simple, you can always just grab your Listerine at home and start spraying it all over your body.
Dissecting The Ingredients: Are The Chemicals Effective Mosquito Repellent?
It’s been bothering me why these people are sticking by this approach as their means of repelling bugs and mosquitoes (aside from the fact that it’s cheap) so I’ve decided to take a look at each of the popular ingredient.
Looking at what Arnie has to say about all this, he may be onto something. Epsom salts are actually well-known by gardeners as fertilizer since it contains magnesium. Note: It’s only effective when used in small amounts!
Beer has also been used by plenty of D.I.Y enthusiasts as a means of repelling bugs and mosquitoes as well – unfortunately, there aren’t enough credible sources on the internet to back this information up.
And finally, we have Listerine. Mason’s case is quite different from the rest (Listerine for plants is a serious no-go as it has high alcohol content) but it’s a fair shot to see what Listerine has to offer for human application.
So, What Makes Listerine Effective For Mosquitoes?
Surprisingly enough, it’s not that only “Listerine” itself is effective against mosquitoes, but it’s what’s in it that actually repels. The main key ingredient is called eucalyptol, and this is not only exclusive to Listerine. It can be found in a number of commercial mouthwashes.
This can be found in botanical repellents as its active ingredient. Also, there are a number of strong studies that show lemon eucalyptus is an effective insecticide.
You don’t have to take my word for it, the pros at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said it themselves, alongside with DEET and picaridin.
A study done by London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine has also proven this fact to be true in their own research (in fact it’s more effective than DEET). The researchers have highlighted it to be extremely effective and safe for human use.
So Um, Listerine for Mosquitoes?
The idea of having Listerine as a mosquito repellent sound like a dream for any homeowner; However, eucalyptol usually has a 75% compound concentration, while Listerine only contains below 1%.
Let’s not forget that Listerine has other ingredients as well, such as water and alcohol. Due to this, it has the tendency of evaporating quickly.
Bottomline: Going for commercial repellents is a much better option than going for the cheap, homemade alternative.
It may repel mosquitoes, but because of the other ingredients, its time of effectivity is cut short. So you’re probably better off getting yourself a legit mosquito repellant, like a propane trap or a fogger.
Fact check: Listerine products don't kill mosquitoes
The claim: Listerine products kill mosquitoes.
A Facebook user claims that while at a backyard gathering, he witnessed another attendee spray an area with the mouthwash Listerine to kill mosquitoes.
"I was at a deck party awhile back, and the bugs were having a ball biting everyone," the individual wrote on the post. "A man at the party sprayed the lawn and deck floor with Listerine, and the little demons disappeared. "
Listerine claim has lingered
The claim about Listerine as protection against mosquitoes has gained a lot of traction on the Internet.
A July 2017Hunker.com article stated: "If you hate the smell of insecticides and store-bought repellents, you can try to rid yourself of these pests by using Listerine, which will leave behind a much fresher and minty smell." The article did not spell out why the product is useful as an insect repellent.
More:Fact check: Limes spiked with cloves are not effective in repelling mosquitoes
An article in liveabout.com said the primary active ingredient in Listerine is eucalyptol. This element is "a derivative of eucalyptus oil, which in turn is commonly used in botanical insect repellents." That would fuel confidence in the ability of the popular mouthwash products to fend off mosquitoes.
But here's, well, the rub.
The writer of the liveabout.com article said the "various clinical studies" showing Listerine repels mosquitoes used samples of substances with much higher concentrations of the essential eucalyptus-based oils and compounds. The tests conducted "in these studies contained much higher concentrations of the essential oil than that found in Listerine Antiseptic — 40 percent to 75 percent concentrations as opposed to Listerine's .092 percent."
Mosquito Review also debunked the claim.
"There are many, many websites that spread the rumor of Listerine being a good repellent for mosquitoes and other bugs, but these claims are unfounded," wrote a reviewer in Mosquito Review.
That posting also noted the need for higher quantities of eucalyptol in regards to fighting off insects.
"Listerine could, theoretically, be used as low-grade repellent for a very short amount of time, as that 1% eucalyptol may have some effect," the article concluded. "However, the alcohol and water will cause it to evaporate shortly after applying. At best, you’re looking at a good 30-40 minutes of outside work before needing to reapply."
More:Fact check: Genetically modified mosquitoes are cleared for release in the US
Further, a Listerine customer care agent said the company believes using Listerine to repel or kill mosquitoes would be a "misuse" of their products.
"We certainly don't claim that," the agent said. "That would be a misuse because we don't support that claim."
To repel mosquitoes, you would have to apply Listerine to the skin, the agent continued, and the company does "not recommend" using the product other than as directed on product labels.
Now, the customer care agent said the company can't say for certain Listerine "doesn't work for that sometimes" but instead the Listerine's position is its products should only be used for the purposes stated on the product.
Our rating: False
At most, Listerine could provide a brief buffer against mosquito bites. But the evidence is the product does not contain enough of the essential compounds to truly provide protection against mosquito bites. In addition, it is always wise to use products as the companies that produce them recommend.
Our fact-check sources:
View CommentsSours: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/factcheck/2020/07/11/fact-check-listerine-products-dont-kill-mosquitoes/5409389002/
Listerine is often referred to as a cheap, homemade alternative to commercial repellent products due to it containing eucalyptol, a chemical that is heavily used for commercial repellents. However, these commercial repellents tend to use a 75% compound combination of eucalyptol, whereas Listerine tends to only use 1%(1, 2).
This low concentration is made less effective with the water and alcohol that it’s mixed with. Overall, Listerine, if effective, will only be effective for a very short time before wearing off(2), making it a less-than-stellar choice for serious repelling.
There are many, many websites that spread the rumor of Listerine being a good repellent for mosquitoes and other bugs, but these claims are unfounded(3). The rumor started in the early 2000’s with a random chain email that got spread around the world(4), and somehow, this chain email became a staple of bored local news stations.
However, Listerine could, theoretically, be used as low-grade repellent for a very short amount of time, as that 1% eucalyptol may have some effect. However, the alcohol and water will cause it to evaporate shortly after applying. At best, you’re looking at a good 30-40 minutes of outside work before needing to reapply.
If you can, definitely jump for a commercial repellent or any other DIY method, but I don’t recommend Listerine. You want something that will not only last a long time, but will also do a good job of repelling mosquitoes. Listerine has no evidence of being as effective as other DIY counterparts like vinegar or lemon balm, and Listerine definitely can’t compete with DEET products.
Forms of Listerine and Where to Get Them
Listerine is available in most stores in some form, either as mouthwash or toothpaste. Wherever you get your hygienic products is where you’ll find a bottle of Listerine. However, you’re going to have more use using it as actual mouthwash than a repellent.
Sources claim to find yourself an original bottle of Listerine. No, not the blue one! The yellow bottles of Listerine, as these are free of bleaching agents that reduce its ability to repel mosquitoes(5).
Once you have the liquid bottle, fill a spray bottle with the Listerine. After you fill the bottle, spray the Listerine on surfaces you want mosquitoes to stay away from. Don’t spray yourself with it!
If you are committed to using Listerine as a mosquito repellent, you can mix it with a couple of other ingredients to create an ok repellent.
The combination is a bit strange, requiring:
- Stale beer
- Epsom salt
The goal is to create a concoction similar to a weed killer (6). All you need to do is combine equal parts of each ingredient, mix them, then add yeast for every gallon of the concoction. Then voila! You have your ok-ish mosquito repellent. Do the same as you would with the Listerine-only spray.
While I made it clear that Listerine shouldn’t be your go-to, it’s ok for short trips outside or temporary exposure to mosquitoes. However, if you’re in an area that is absolutely infested with mosquitoes, Listerine won’t be effective. Actually, it would be about as effective as a BB gun to a kevlar vest.
On the plus side, you’ll at least be able to freshen up your breath if it doesn’t repel the mosquitoes.
1 – insecthobbyist.com – “The idea of having Listerine as a mosquito repellent sound like a dream for any homeowner; However, eucalyptol usually has a 75% compound concentration, while Listerine only contains below 1%. Let’s not forget that Listerine has other ingredients as well, such as water and alcohol. Due to this, it has the tendency of evaporating quickly.”
2 – nytimes.com – “Several studies, including one by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, have found that eucalyptus-based repellents can be extremely effective, and nontoxic to humans. But they often contain the compound in concentrations as high as 75 percent; the concentration in mouthwash is usually below 1 percent. Mouthwashes also contain water and alcohol, so they tend to evaporate quickly.”
3 – thriftyfun.com – “The best and least toxic way to rid your outdoor area of nasty mosquitoes is with Listerine (the original Amber colored kind.) Simply pour the Listerine into a spray bottle and spray the porch, deck or the area around where people hang out.”
4 – liveabout.com – “…Viral message circulating via email and social media claims spraying an outside area with Listerine mouthwash repels and/or kills every mosquito in the vicinity.”
5 – hunker.com – “Fill a spray bottle with one cup of Listerine. Original yellow Listerine works best for this; avoid generic versions with bleaching agents. Listerine can be found at drug stores and supermarkets.”
6 – doityourself.com – “Combine in the container equal parts stale beer, epsom (or sea) salt, and Listerine (or other mouthwash). Then, add a half package of yeast for every gallon of beer mixture. Shake well and allow to sit, stirring occasionally, until the salt and yeast have dissolved into the mixture.”
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