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Repellent Clothing – Frequently Asked Questions

What is repellent clothing?

CDC and EPA recommended, repellent clothes look, smell and feel like any other garments but have a proven factory ­­bonded permethrin repellent within garment fibers. Protection is odorless, invisible and does not significantly change garment feel. Repellency is EPA certified as able to last thru 70 washes. Absent washing, repellency has been demonstrated to last 15 years or more.

How are wearers protected?

Ticks and insects are repelled from covered skin and a small area surrounding garment borders. Ticks, and other crawling bugs that find their way onto repellent garments are disabled and drop from garments within a few minutes.  Protect areas of the body in contact with vegetation to avoid tick bites. Repellent socks and pants/leggings are particularly useful.

How does this repellent method differ from applied repellents?

It’s as easy to apply, and hard to forget, as getting dressed in the morning. Incorporating repellent garments into daily dressing provides day long protection from the start of day. Research shows a 93% reduction in tick bites, against a conventionally protected control group.

Is it Safe?

Unlike most applied repellents, repellent garment technology is intended, and EPA approved, for daily long term use without exclusions for age or medical condition.

First introduced by the US Army in 2002, all troop uniforms feature bonded permethrin, a synthetic form of pyrethrum, found naturally in chrysanthemums. Permethrin is easily broken down by skin oils and therefore poorly absorbed into the body. Permethrin should not be applied directly to the skin as it is ineffective, not dangerous. Permethrin has a long history of use in agriculture, troop protection and, at higher concentration, in drugs for lice and scabies.

Multiple retailers offer repellent clothing, which is best?

All garments claiming repellency thru 70 washes use the same EPA monitored process, performed by the same factories; repellency is essentially the same.  Select garments similar to those you currently wear for at risk activities. The best garments are the ones you’ll wear. 

What’s the best way to wash your factory bonded garments?

BugBeWear recommends you wash and dry your clothing as you would any other garment of similar weight and fiber content.

Per Insect Shield, the combination of water, detergent and agitation is required for the removal of even a percent or two of the bonded repellent. We are unaware of any true science that examines how tweaking each of these variables might alter repellent longevity.  The usefulness of any such science would be limited by washing variables between individual homes (water temperature, Ph, detergent chemistry, and agitation intensity etc.).  In principle though, shortening wash cycles or washing by hand might be impactful. Also note that heat in the dry cycle can be useful in drawing the repellent deeper into fibers and is therefore recommended. Remember, NEVER dry clean your repellent garments as this will remove the repellent.

EPA approval for washing repellent garments with non-repellent garments has not yet been sought and therefore the EPA continues to recommend these garments should be washed separately.

How should garments be stored?

Recognizing that simple forgetfulness has been identified as the most common reason for failure to use repellent, BugBeWear recommends that garments be stored with like kind garment (socks with socks etc.). When so placed they can help remind us to consider repellent needs as we get dressed.