How Permethrin-Treated Clothing Repels Ticks, Mosquitoes, and Other Bugs

Summer bugs

Nothing ruins the endorphin buzz of a backcountry adventure like discovering a tick burrowing into your hair or skin at the end of the day. (Or worse, finding one in your bed the next morning.) It’s more than an annoyance — tick-borne illness is on the rise, causing issues like rash and fever, as well as chronic illnesses like Lyme disease and other viruses.

Unless you’ve stumbled upon a tick repellent that actually works, prevention usually means a choice between jumping in a nearby lake in hopes of drowning any toxic hitchhikers or asking a friend to pick through your hair and beard like a mother gorilla caring for her young. However, a new fabric technology prevents ticks from latching on.

Legendary outdoor outfitter L.L. Bean, in cooperation with Burlington, launched a line of insect-repellent outdoor wear — shirts, pants, socks, and hoodies — treated with permethrin, a substance that is basically a nerve agent for bugs. Other manufacturers like Ex Officio and Duluth Trading Company have followed suit, but, according to a Consumer Reports test that focused on mosquitoes, L.L. Bean garments were most effective.

ll bean shirt

Permethrin, a medicated lotion made from a synthesized extract of the chrysanthemum flower, has been around since the 1970s. Listed on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines, it deters insects by disrupting their neurons. Don’t worry, though — the EPA has rated this substance perfectly safe at the level allowed for clothing (0.52 percent, if you’re curious). Moreover, field testing from manufacturers and consumers alike has shown that the permethrin doesn’t leach from fabric onto the skin. As to its effectiveness, reviewers say they rely on these garments for everything from hunting and fishing to yard work. Some have even said that the aura of permethrin-treated clothing wards off bugs from uncovered areas of the body, such as hands and face.

If you’re thinking this is more or less the same as your uncle’s technique of soaking his fishing shirt in DEET, think again. Permethrin-treated clothing undergoes a sophisticated process where the substance is actually bound to the fabric during manufacture. This also means that the bug repellent won’t dissipate after a few washes — you can launder permethrin-treated clothes just the same as everything else you own. Tumble-dry them, iron them, even bleach them, and they’ll still perform. And if you’ve ever been downwind of a heavy sweater covered in commercial bug repellent, you’ll be happy to learn that permethrin-treated clothes don’t stink.

It should be noted that permethrin won’t necessarily prevent bugs from landing on you, but it is proven to knock them dead within a matter of minutes. So you’re doing good for the world, as well as protecting yourself.

If they do land on your or your stuff, may we suggest these fun (and often ridiculous) bug-killing weapons?

Living

Peek Inside NoDa House, a Reimagining of Traditional Mill Houses with a Modern Twist

NoDa House has all of the mid-century modern goodness we love about Eichlers but with a modern twist.
Fashion & Style

The Best Men’s Parkas for Braving the Cold

The parka is the undisputed heavy hitter of any winter outerwear lineup.
Grooming

These Gyms Have the Best Grooming Products and Amenities

A good gym will have enough great grooming goods to relieve you of a kettlebell’s worth of product from your gym bag.
Auto

Aston Martin Wants Its Flying Car Concept to Be Your New Commuter

"Air travel will be a crucial part in the future of transportation ... We need to look at alternative solutions to reduce congestion, cut pollution, and improve mobility.”
Food & Drink

Nanopresso is the Go-Anywhere Personal Espresso Machine You Need Now

If you've got hot water, coffee, and a Nanopresso, you can make espresso anywhere.
Outdoors

11 Best Pocket Knives for Everyday Carry

Whether you consider yourself a present-day MacGyver or are just looking for a useful piece of gear, we've got you covered.
Fashion & Style

Lems Trailhead Hiking Shoe Is Just as at Home on the Trail as It Is at the Taproom

Lems Trailhead hikers were designed to take you seamlessly from mountain to Main Street.
Culture

Where to Try Axe Throwing, Your New Favorite Sport

While we’ve been throwing axes at stuff since the first one was made, axe throwing as a sport developed where many great things do: a guy’s backyard in Canada.
Outdoors

L.L. Bean Teams Up with Main Craft Breweries for New Beer and Boot Collab

You can win a free pair of boots by simply enjoying some beer. Incredible, we know.
Travel

The Best Travel and Adventure Documentaries on Netflix Right Now

If you're reading this, you're staring at a screen. Wouldn't you rather be exploring a different part of the world than the Internet? So get inspired.
Outdoors

Everything You Need to Know to Get Your Scuba Diving Certification

Once you get past the sharks and kraken, it's surprisingly easy to master.
Outdoors

This Eco-Friendly Trekking Pole Plants Seeds as You Hike

FytoStick is a smart and efficient way to diminish your carbon footprint by playing Johnny Appleseed.
Outdoors

Prep Like a Survivalist With the 4 Best Bug-Out Bags

Hurricanes, locust swarms, alien invasion — no matter where you live, you’re at risk.
Food & Drink

How to Clean a Fish: A Quick Reference Guide

Knowing how to clean a fish is essential for anglers and aspiring chefs. These simple instructions and tools can help you prep your catch in no time.