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Consumer Reports: Clothing that claims to ward off mosquitoes

Posted at 11:56 AM, May 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-26 11:56:26-04

Specially treated clothing promises to protect you from mosquitoes. With so many people concerned about the Zika virus, sales are up. The clothing doesn’t come cheap. Some of the shirts cost more than 70 dollars. Consumer Reports tested to see if they’re worth buying.

Some L-L Bean and ExOfficio shirts promise to repel mosquitoes and other bugs for up to 70 washings with something called permethrin.

“Permethrin is a chemical insecticide. It’s EPA-approved to protect against a wide range of insects — everything from ticks to mosquitoes,” says Consumer Reports Health Editor Jeneen Interlandi.

Consumer Reports tested to see how well the shirts prevent mosquito bites, both when new and after being washed 25 times.

Volunteers put their arms into cages with 200 mosquitoes.

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

The volunteers were not bitten when wearing the new L-L Bean shirt, but after the shirt had been washed, Aedes mosquitoes — the kind that carry the Zika virus — bit three out of four testers.

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

Consumer Reports contacted the companies that make the permethrin treatment, Insect Shield and Burlington. Both cited formal studies and field-testing data to underscore the effectiveness of their products.

And a government expert says the clothing can reduce the number of mosquitoes right around you.

There is another way protect yourself, according to the CDC. Any repellent that works on your skin should work for just as long when applied to clothing.

Consumer Reports tried the same test with a regular shirt sprayed with a 30 percent deet insect repellent. None of the volunteers got bitten. If you do try this, Consumer Reports advises spraying your clothes before you put them on and waiting until they’re completely dry.