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Permethrin tick repellent for clothing
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hwc 1954
Permethrin tick repellent for clothing on 04/12/2014 14:43:03 MDT Print View

OK, I know it's spring. I spray treated a few pieces of hiking clothing (pants, shirt, socks, ballcap) with Permethrin this week.

If you've seen the crazy expensive Insect Shield clothing that Ex-Officio and LLBEAN and others sell, this is clothing that has been factory washed in a permethrin solution. Once dry, this stuff is harmless to people and pets, but kills bugs that land on it. This makes it ideal for tick prevention:


You can also treat your own clothing, using a spray product with 0.5% solution of permethrin:


The only catch is that the cost of this stuff adds up really quickly if you treat all your stuff. The Sawyer spray bottles (24 ounces) are $17 and you can go through one of these in no time if start spraying socks, pants, backpacks, tents.


So what I do is save the empty Sawyer bottle from the first time (so I've got a fully labelled bottle!) and then refill it with a concentrate. You can buy 13.3% concentration which would dilute 1 oz in 24 ounces of water for a 0.5% solution. Or, I just bought it in a 10% solution. I'll put 1 ounce in 20 ounces of water when I refill the spray bottle.

Here's a 16 ounce bottle from Amazon. Same price as the Sawyers and it'll refill the Sawyers bottle 14 times for the price of one bottle of Sawyers:

Permethrin concentrate

Spray outdoors and let it dry before wearing! Do not let cats near the wet or liquid solution. It's safe after it dries. Unlike DEET, it won't destroy plastic or synthetic stuff on your clothing or tents. However, this stuff is NOT for application to your skin (it doesn't work). So this stuff for fabric/gear. DEET for skin.

It lasts for a month of outdoor exposure (UV) and/or 6 washings before it needs to be reapplied. Hiking one or twice a week, one application is probably enough to get through a season, but it's easy enough to respray.

I'll spritz down the tent inner and doors and mesh panels the first time I set it up, making sure to allow time for it to dry before I sleep in it.

I do find that there is a slight odor the day after you first apply the stuff, but it goes away as it completely dries. I put a mark on the inside label of treated shirts, so I can figure out which are bug repellent and which aren't. I treat all hiking socks, boots, pants, and shorts as these are the most likely tick magnets.

Kevin S.
Look at Wal-Mart on 04/12/2014 15:23:19 MDT Print View

Found a couple of 24 oz bottles of sawyer at Wal-mart for 9.89. Just an FYI. Pretty big savings compared to the $17 I usually spend.

It does work good, but I have found more for ticks than anything else. I just got back from a hike in an area know to be thick with ticks - I found several crawling on my pants, but none embedded or attached to skin.

Delmar O'Donnell

Locale: Between Jacinto & Gorgonio
Thanks on 04/12/2014 23:56:22 MDT Print View

Thanks HWC. I was wondering how to do this.

John H
(pastyj) - F

Locale: SE US
Re: Permethrin tick repellent for clothing on 04/13/2014 06:38:34 MDT Print View

Here is another situation where I think pursuing the goal of saving money is potentially hurting the environment, possibly your health, and will end up costing more in the long run.

First, I am a dedicated user of ExOfficio Insect Shield clothing. I have head-to-foot full body covering and have spent a great deal of time in the worst tick and mosquito infested parts of the SE US and can say that I was not bitten once. It works, and works very very well. The studies I have seen show that this clothing retains 92-97% efficiency after 75 washings...this indicates the Permethrin is staying where it belongs and not leeching into our environment. In my opinion, these pre-treated clothes are worth every penny.

The spray-on stuff however states on the bottle that it will only last 4-6 all that Permethrin is going down the drain and out into the world where is it very toxic to (among other things) cats and fish. Or it's leeching out and onto you. Additionally, there is no way of estimating how much is introduced into the world in the form of overspray from application "outside in a well ventilated area", and some of which you have probably inhaled. Finally, from a purely cost perspective, you will soon spend the same amount of money for inferior bug protection.

My opinions are based on quite a bit of personal research and reading, however new studies and science could still prove me wrong.

Edited by pastyj on 04/13/2014 06:44:30 MDT.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Re: Permethrin tick repellent for clothing on 04/13/2014 07:37:19 MDT Print View

The amount used on clothing to go hiking is probably nothing compared to the amount used in agriculture ; ).

Permethrin is used:

as an insecticide
in agriculture, to protect crops
in agriculture, to kill livestock parasites
for industrial/domestic insect control

as an insect repellent or insect screen
in timber treatment

as a personal protective measure (cloth impregnant, used primarily for US military uniforms and mosquito nets)
in pet flea preventative collars or treatment.

Edited by jshann on 04/13/2014 07:43:28 MDT.

Glenn S

Locale: Snowhere, MN
Re: Re: Permethrin tick repellent for clothing on 04/13/2014 07:46:57 MDT Print View

I'm not too concerned about overspray, or leeching into the environment, or any of that other stuff, since that's basically what this product is supposed to do. Spray it on cattle, dogs, chickens, around your yard, where ever. Just not on the pet cat, and it's only bad for cats before it dries, after that, it's fine. The actual labeling says it's "A long-lasting livestock and premise spray that provides knockdown, broad-spectrum insecticidal effectiveness".

So it might not be as cost effective, at least according to the manufactures who either say it lasts forever, or you have to reapply it often so buy lots. But after I'm done soaking my shoes, socks, and pants with pockets I like, I'll use the rest for its intended purpose and spray my patio blocks. If I can kill all the ants that keep undermining my patio, that alone would be priceless.

Edited by Glenn64 on 04/13/2014 07:52:39 MDT.

Michael Gunderloy
(ffmike) - MLife
Re: Re: Permethrin tick repellent for clothing on 04/13/2014 12:02:48 MDT Print View

"The spray-on stuff however states on the bottle that it will only last 4-6 all that Permethrin is going down the drain and out into the world where is it very toxic to (among other things) cats and fish. Or it's leeching out and onto you."

Or else it's breaking down into simpler compounds from sun/detergent exposure. Not that I know one way or the other, just pointing out another possibility. (And I still pay attention to good ventilation!)

John H
(pastyj) - F

Locale: SE US
Re: Re: Re: Permethrin tick repellent for clothing on 04/13/2014 12:13:49 MDT Print View

>>I'm not too concerned about overspray, or leeching into the environment, or any of that other stuff...

The great thing about living in America is everybody gets to make their own decisions. I'm not criticizing or saying anyone's opinion is inferior to mine...Just sharing a point of view.

Since Wikipedia: was quoted, here is a snippet from a little further down the page:

  • Permethrin is extremely toxic to fish and aquatic life in general, so extreme care must be taken when using products containing permethrin near water sources.

  • Permethrin is also highly toxic to cats, and flea and tick-repellent formulas intended and labeled for (the more resistant) dogs may contain permethrin and cause feline permethrin toxicosis in cats.

  • Very high doses will have tangible neurotoxic effects on mammals and birds, including human beings.

Permethrin is listed as a "restricted use" substance by the United States Environmental Protection Agency due to its high toxicity to aquatic organisms.

Due to high toxicity for aquatic life, permethrin and permethrin-contaminated water should be properly disposed. Permethrin is quite stable, having a half life of 51–71 days in an aqueous environment exposed to light. It is also highly persistent in soil.

Make certain to check out the "Human Toxicology" section, particularly the part about "Carcinogenic action in nasal mucosal cells due to inhalation exposure is suspected".

Edited by pastyj on 04/13/2014 12:23:02 MDT.

Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Re: Re: Re: Re: Permethrin tick repellent for clothing on 04/13/2014 12:22:00 MDT Print View

Not necessarily the most affordable option in regards to up front cost but Insect Shield will treat your clothes and claim that it'll last 70 washings.

hwc 1954
# washings on 04/13/2014 22:14:21 MDT Print View

The number of washings is largely irrelevant. In tests of military uniforms treated with a wash-in product versus factory coating, the wash-in was about the same after 50 washes as the factory-coating was after 100 washes. The factory coating definitely lasts longer, but both methods have residual effect on bugs for many washings.

If you washed your hiking gear every week and hiked 52 weeks a year, you'd have to reapply the spray after two years. Realistically, you'd be retreating every 3 to 5 years. After one re-treatment, you'd be even-up with the factory coating.

This is perhaps relevant to military uniforms that get washed every two days, probably not so much for hiking gear.

The toxicity to cats is in the concentrated liquid form. You certainly would not want to them to drink the spray solution. It's not toxic to cats in its dry form on clothing.

Sean Nordeen
(Miner) - F

Locale: SoCAL
Permethrin tick repellent for clothing on 04/14/2014 15:39:16 MDT Print View

"The spray-on stuff however states on the bottle that it will only last 4-6 washings..." It says that, but my experience is says it lasts a bit longer. The clothing I spray treated on the PCT at the beginning of the Sierra Nevada, was clearly still working for me almost 2 months later in the Sisters Wilderness of Oregon despite being washed about 9-10 times. I can't comment about it lasting any longer since the bugs died out after that. But that says to me that it should last the summer which is good enough for what I need them for.

That said, I've recently bought some pretreated clothing when its a choice between equivalents since I bought into the hype that it will last almost the life of the clothing. But time will tell.

Edited by Miner on 04/14/2014 15:41:13 MDT.

hwc 1954
army documents on 04/14/2014 16:29:53 MDT Print View

Here's the military handbook on insect protection:

Starting on page 30 are four methods of permethren treatment: soaking in liquid solution, aerosol spray can, liquid pressure sprayer, and factory treatment.

They claim mosquito protection for up to 50 washings for all these methods except the aerosol can, which is claimed for 6 washings (against mosquitos).

The difference between soaking and the spray method I use is a question of how wet you get the fabric. With the soaking, you are completely saturating the fabric on all sides. With the spray, you are wetting the outside of the garment, which has some benefits and disadvantages. It also depends on the fabric. Wicking Tech t-shirts, for example, get very saturated thru the material from spraying.

I'm happy to put more solution on the outside of the clothes, less on the inside, even if it means I have to retreat once or twice a year.

Certainly, if some of the factory treated clothes fit your style and price range, that's a fantastic way to get permethrin protection. Ex-officio gets $50 for treated tech t-shirt. That's a little rich for my blood. I usually pay $15 at TJMaxx. So spraying them myself, I can get three for the price of one Ex-Officio Bug Shield.

terry a thompson
(terry588) - MLife

Locale: West
Re: Permethrin tick repellent for clothing on 04/14/2014 17:43:35 MDT Print View

I bought a bottle of Permethrin concentrate at the local feed & grain store and mix it with water. I use the same consistency as the Sawyers. The concentrate cost was $8.00 for 8 oz. I have used it for 5 years and have only used about half of the bottle. I have to treat my cloths at least 6 times a season because I hike 3 times a week and take at least one long hike (200- 500 miles) per season.
For me it has done a great job of keeping the ticks and mosquito's away.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Re: Permethrin tick repellent for clothing on 04/14/2014 18:00:31 MDT Print View

I got a bottle of Sawyer. Maybe spray my gaiters and boots once a year. Maybe my pants. After a few years most of the bottle is left. I should probably get rid of it because it becomes ineffective after a while.

If I got a bottle of concentrate, it would be 95% full when I had to get rid of it. When I dilute it for use, I'll tend to get some on myself.

If permethrin lasts 5 or 10 washings, and I do maybe 15 trips per year so I do 15 washings, maybe that's 1 or 2 applications per year. No ticks in winter. One bottle of Sawyer lasts a long time.

It depends on how many ticks you'll get exposed to. In my area not a big problem.

hwc 1954
3 ounce per garment on 04/14/2014 18:31:13 MDT Print View

Sawyer recommends 3 ounces per garment, 6 ounces per "outfit"). Which means that one 24 ounce spray bottle will treat 4 shirts and 4 pair of pants. That's about what my experience has been. I try to really wet the stuff I'm spraying. Definitely more than a light spritz.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: 3 ounce per garment on 04/14/2014 18:33:29 MDT Print View

I use maybe 3 ounces total for boots and gaiters, once a year, so that's 8 years.

If I also did pants, it would be only 4 years.

But, not that many ticks here.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Permethrin tick repellent for clothing on 04/14/2014 18:39:31 MDT Print View

On one shirt, I sprayed about one ounce of the stuff, and I could smell it for the next two weeks. It kept the bugs away.


Derek M.
(dmusashe) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Permethrin tick repellent for clothing on 04/15/2014 00:52:21 MDT Print View

With treated clothing, do you need to worry about getting the permethrin in your eyes? In other words, would I need to worry about not rubbing my eyes with a portion of the clothing, etc?

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Re: Re: Re: Permethrin tick repellent for clothing on 04/15/2014 05:17:03 MDT Print View

From the gov'ment:

hwc 1954
Dry on clothes on 04/15/2014 11:05:41 MDT Print View

Once it's completely dry on your clothing, it's pretty tightly bonded to the fabric and doesn't come off easily. You wouldn't have to worry about it getting in your eyes, certainly the the way you have be a little careful once you've lathered up in DEET. I guess the exception might be if you had just treated the clothing and got caught in a drenching rain. I suppose the water from the clothing must have some permethrin in it at that point, but it would be a pretty low concentration.