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Treating your Clothes with Permethrin

manufactured by :
Philip Werner

Reviewed by:
On June 9, 2013
Last modified:April 27, 2016


As a treatment for clothing, Permethrin clothing insect repellent does not harm fabrics and is odorless after it dries. Use Permethrin on clothing by itself or with skin-applied repellents to create the ultimate protective, armor-like insect barrier. Permethrin-treatments on clothing are non-toxic to humans and are registered for use by the U.S. EPA.

Sawyer Permethrin - Kills Ticks on Contact

Sawyer Permethrin – Kills Ticks on Contact

Permethrin is a contact pesticide that kills black flies, ticks, and mosquitoes on contact but has no harmful side effects on humans if used properly. It is the active ingredient used in Insect Shield and Buzz Off clothing and kills bugs when they land on your clothing by overloading their nervous system. You can buy Permethrin in liquid form and spray it on your own clothes to the same effect. This self-applied form lasts for 4-6 washings. Permethrin was developed by the U.S. military to protect soldiers from insects in the jungle.

You can buy Permethrin on Amazon. A big bottle comes with a spray adapter and will cover 4 complete sets of clothing, including shirts, pants, and socks. You’ll want to read the directions carefully before applying it, but it’s not difficult to do. You need to spray it on the clothes you plan to wear hiking or for any outdoor activity in a windless but well ventilated place like a garage. Let them dry for a few hours and you’re all set.

Permethrin is EPA approved for use as an insect repellent when applied to clothing and other textiles.

Permethrin is EPA approved for use as an insect repellent when applied to clothing and other textiles.

I’ve been spraying Permethrin on the clothes that I wear for spring and summer hiking in New Hampshire and Vermont for over 7 years. This has included long sleeve shirts, convertible hiking pants, gaiters, and hiking socks. When you spray the Permethrin on, you want to position the sprayer 6 to 8 inches away from the clothing you plan to treat. Pay particular attention to the cuffs of long pants and shirt sleeves where ticks will try to attack you. It’s also a good idea to spray it on your hat or to buy one that’s already been treated with Permethrin like the Outdoor Research Sentinel Brim Hat. which is what I wear.

I can attest to the effectiveness of Permethrin particularly against mosquitos and ticks. I rarely ever get bitten, maybe one or two bites per year, as long as I wear long-sleeved shirt and pants when I go hiking in the forest. I love having the sun on my arms and legs as much as the next guy, but I’d rather cover up than catch Lyme disease, which the CDC believes is now 10 times more prevalent than previously reported. It’s also a good way to prevent Zika carrying mosquitos from biting you as well.

Permethrin is the active ingredient in Ex Officio's BugsAway Clothing Line: Ex Officio BugsAway Ziwa Convertible Pants shown here

Permethrin is the active ingredient in Ex Officio’s BugsAway Clothing Line

More about Permethrin

As a treatment for clothing, Permethrin clothing insect repellent does not harm fabrics and is odorless after it dries. Use Permethrin on clothing by itself or with skin-applied repellents to create the ultimate protective, armor-like insect barrier. Permethrin-treatments on clothing are non-toxic to humans and are registered for use by the U.S. EPA.

The active ingredient, Permethrin, is a synthetic molecule similar to those found in natural pyrethrum, which is taken from the chrysanthemum flower. Not only does this product repel insects, but will actually kill ticks, mosquitoes, chiggers, mites and more than 55 other kinds of insects.

Permethrin insect repellents are for use with clothing, tents, and other gear. During the drying process, it tightly bonds with the fibers of the treated garment. It will not stain or damage clothing, fabrics, plastics, finished surfaces, or any of your outdoor gear.

Permethrin is a contact insecticide, meaning that kills ticks or other insects when it comes in contact with them. It uses the same active ingredient used in hair shampoos for head lice. When applied to clothing, the Permethrin binds to the fabric eliminating the risk of over-exposure to the skin. As a clothing, tent, chairs, or sleeping bag application, Permethrin is very effective at keeping ticks from attaching to you and at reducing the mosquito population in your camping area. While ticks usually find you at the ankle level (be sure to treat the socks and pants) they can also climb bushes and find you at a higher level so be sure to treat your shirt as well if you are around bushes and concerned about ticks.

Sweating and exposure to water do not significantly deteriorate the application. It is primarily the agitation of a washing machine, which deteriorates the Permethrin application as it knocks the molecules loose from the fabric. For best results, Sawyer recommends hand washing and air-drying. When using a conventional washer and drier, use the gentle wash and dry cycles. Loss due to the dryer is limited compared to the detergent and washer agitation. Dry cleaning removes the Permethrin from the fabric.

Permethrin can last up to six weeks including through six weekly washings. All treatments are non-staining and not greasy. Always follow the directions for use on the package label. Factory pre-treated Permethrin clothing however lasts for 70 washings, and is far more convenient if you don’t want to spray your own clothing.

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91 Responses to Treating your Clothes with Permethrin

  1. Earlylite January 6, 2011 at 6:47 am #

    You can use the Sawyer spray-on stuff they sell at REI right from the bottle with minimal contact to your hands. Just pull on thick plastic sandwich bag as a makeshift glove and spray away. I do it in the garage.

  2. David January 6, 2011 at 9:29 am #

    I checked the labels and got some Permethrin from Home Depot. I mixed it with water to the concentration on the Sawyer bottle and soaked my hiking clothes. Other than having to get custom sunglasses for that third eyeball now growing out of my forehead, I haven't noticed any effects on me from the treatment. I haven't been chewed up by bugs, either.

  3. dougb May 29, 2011 at 11:04 pm #

    You can get 10% permethrin and dilute it. It's sold by duravet and is safe for use on animals so that's the brand I use. Dilute 12-1 (to .83%)and soak your clothing in it for at least 3 hours and it's essentially permanent. It's the same method used by the U.S. Army for treating uniforms and it's a lot cheaper than the sawyer method. you can also spray it on, just make sure the garments or tent or mosquito nets or whatever are throroughly wet and put them in a plastic bag afterwards to make sure they stay wet for several hours. Then air dry. Army testing found this method lasts for at least 50 washings.

    • Bruce September 30, 2012 at 10:59 pm #

      that is good information, thanks. I have sprayed it on in a ..05% (1/2 of 1 %) SOLUTION and it works incredibly well. I am so happy with it.

    • lisa April 3, 2015 at 12:06 am #

      10% is not double the Sawyer concentration (of 0.5%), it’s 20X the concentration, just to be clear. If 0.5% works, seems that using a higher concentration is a waste. I guess it depends on where you’re hiking, though…

  4. mom21 July 22, 2011 at 1:06 pm #

    I noticed in the photo that the gentleman was spraying his convertible hiking pants which is my intention as well. However, the bottle says not to use on synthetic fibers. Nylon is a synthetic fiber so I'm just trying to get confirmation from others that the spray won't eat through the pants. I have Northface convertible hikers. Leaving in 72 hrs and am a novice at this. I had to order the pants so if I mess it up I'm pretty much up the creek. Any advice would be much appreciated.

  5. Earlylite July 22, 2011 at 1:13 pm #

    That's me. I've been spraying Permethrin on synthetic hiking pants for years without any issues. It;s DEET mosquito repellent you want to avoid getting on plastic or gore-tex. Different substance entirely.

  6. mom21 July 22, 2011 at 1:21 pm #

    Thank you, sir:) I'm a novice trying to make a 40th b-day trip to Yellowstone. Keep hearing that there are a huge amount of bugs this year and I'm totally freaked. Just had the spray overnighted so we can use it on our hiking clothes and didn't want to destroy anything in the process. I do have another question, on the REI Jungle Juice and Ultrathon repellents they both say don't wear them under clothing. Really hadn't intended to since I'm going to spray the clothes but I'm curious as to why you shouldn't. Any thoughts?

  7. T Vilberg April 9, 2012 at 2:31 pm #

    I read that you want to dilute the 10% stuff down to 0.5% before use. Maybe that’s why the higher concentrations have that warning.

    Also, you can get the 10% concentrate WAY cheaper at a farm store. It’s in the horse-medicine area.

  8. Gentleman Antiquarian April 30, 2012 at 1:55 pm #

    When we went to Ecuador two years ago, my wife, son and I used Permethrin treatment on our clothes and we received very few bites even in the jungle. My son has recently returned from 10 weeks on the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica and, again his Permethrin treated clothes worked a treat. We also slept uner Permethrin treated mosquito nets which seemed to repel most things apart from the cockroaches…

    Couldn’t recommend it highly enough

  9. Sati Houston June 3, 2012 at 11:08 pm #

    Is there any advice on whether the spray solution can be used to soak clothes rather than buying the soak solution? It seems that the soak solution is just diluted down to the 0.5% concentration (of the spray) and then the clothing is saturated with that 0.5% solution; saturation can just be done through soaking rather than spraying right? I’m on a time crunch, so if the spray solution can be used instead I’d love know. Thank you!

    • Earlylite June 3, 2012 at 11:09 pm #

      I’ve always just used the spray – works fine.

    • lisa August 25, 2015 at 10:35 am #

      I know Sati’s comment is quite old, but in case anyone else wonders, permethrin sprayed on clothing (or gear) lasts 6 weeks or 6 washings.

  10. Grandpa June 4, 2012 at 12:21 am #

    I bought some pretty concentrated stuff from a local feed store and diluted it to .5%, put it in a bucket and soaked my clothes, tent, etc. I wore nitrile gloves, wrung it out and hung it up in the shop to dry and then stuck it in the dryer to finish up. I don’t have a long term durability report to give at this time. I just bought a hammock with mosquito net and will give it the soak treatment before we leave on a trip to New England, where I’m sure the skeeters, ticks, and black flies will give it a workout.

    • Onestep June 15, 2012 at 10:12 pm #

      Grandpa, I do the same as you. I buy an insecticide from K-Mart that has 100% permethrin as its only active ingredient and dilute it to 1/2%. Soak my clothes in it, hang ’em to dry, good to go!

  11. dougb June 4, 2012 at 5:07 am #

    You don’t, you use only enough to soak the clothes and let them dry.

  12. Daywriter July 2, 2012 at 11:58 pm #

    answer to mom21 and Earlylite: Why does it say NOT to put Deet underclothes?

    Deet works by evaporation: the smell/Deet-a-cules hover over your skin in the evaporation process and discourage the bugs from biting. Undermeath your clothes — it just fumes next to/into your skin and does NOTHING as far as bugs are concerned. Since Deet does have some toxic or neurological effects on some samll %age of people (especially when used over long periods) it’s just safer and healthier not to use it where it won’t do any good anyway. Hence — USE ON EXPOSED SKIN ONLY.

  13. Trent Whittaker July 25, 2012 at 4:22 pm #

    When using the permethrin spray,
    do you spray both inside and outside
    the clothing?

    • Earlylite July 25, 2012 at 5:53 pm #

      I usually just spray the outside. Suppose you could do both – although it probably soaks through thinner fabrics anyway.

  14. Don Harmening September 7, 2012 at 6:46 pm #

    Does anyone know if heat from a clothes dryer can impair permethrin’s effectiveness? Thanks for any answers.

    • lori December 1, 2012 at 8:42 pm #

      I think you were misled if anyone told you it was organic – I’ve never seen it labeled as such.

      I have not had issues, nor has anyone else I know, including my cat (tho I am careful to never apply it to anything while inside the house, she comes into contact with the treated, dry clothing frequently). It wears out after 6 – 8 washings and needs to be reapplied.

      Since you are not supposed to use it on live people using it on children probably won’t happen to anyone following the directions.

      I’ll keep using it. I think Lyme and other tick borne diseases are likely to cause permanent damage faster than the permethrin will, since I’m not sensitive to it (thank goodness, since it’s the only thing that keeps the ticks off reliably, they walk across DEET treated clothing). I dry my clothes in the dryer after washing treated clothing, but let it air dry when applying the treatment. It’s bonded to the fabric after it’s dried into the fibers.

  15. Deb November 22, 2012 at 1:58 pm #

    You might want to get your facts right about the toxicity of pemethrin.

    Q. Is Permethrin dangerous to my skin?
    A. The warning labels on the cans or bottles are often misunderstood. Your skin metabolizes, or breaks down Permethrin within fifteen minutes of contact with skin. Therefore, it is of no value to you as a personal protection insect repellent when applied to the skin. In addition, the EPA precautionary statement, “Do Not Apply to Skin” indicates that Permethrin is ineffective when applied to skin; therefore, do not apply to skin.

  16. Barrett December 1, 2012 at 6:52 pm #

    I have been using permetherin for two seasons now with no I’ll effects. Although I do not buy the stuff from the hiking stores. It is too expensive in that form. I buy it at mclendons hardware here in Washington. I can buy a bigger bottle for half the cost of the hiking brands. It is in the insecticide catagOry under bedbug killer. I travel to Central America and also hike/backpack. In trave I spray my luggage in and out plus most of my clothes. This way i keep unwanted travelers from coming home with me. I also spray my sleeping bag liner of which I sleep in on the bed of the hotels I stay at. Bedbugs, spiders,mosquitoes and other little biting critters are all part of the game when traveling and I have used this successfully in this approach.
    In hike/backpacking I spray all my clothes, sleeping bag, bag liner, tent and backpack with diet on my exposed skin areas. The permetherin on the tent is a source of entertainment in the evening as I watch bugs land on the mesh trying to get to me, then fall over and off the tent.
    The military has been using it for years and I know you can buy it at feed and tack stores for horses and other animal washings.. I do know it is not good for cats or fish in liquid form.
    Read the instructions, wear Gloves, have ventilation,dry thoroughly, life is better on the trail and abroad

  17. Grandpa December 1, 2012 at 9:44 pm #

    I was going to purchase a concentrated form online and then found out a local feed store had it, although at a slightly higher price than over the internet. I opted to spend my money locally and help out a pretty nice store owner. I know the few bucks I spent with him don’t make much of a difference in the long run but I also got personal attention and benefited from the knowledge of a wise and experienced man.

    I diluted the mixture to the concentration I wanted, and stuffed the clothes in a bucket with the mix and let them stew a few hours. I then hung them up over a plastic work table and squeegeed the runoff back into the bucket. The excess bucket contents got fed to the neighbor’s cat–NO! I put it into a plastic bottle and keep it stored for later use.

  18. Don Harmening December 1, 2012 at 11:28 pm #

    Well, I started this thread and I am so pleased to be learning so much about permethrin from so many people. I treated some socks today and had some extra left over so I re-treated some pants I had treated 2 months ago with it. I don’t think I can overdose my pants, can I?

  19. Earlylite June 9, 2013 at 11:43 am #

    Cool! Expensive for small items, but this would be great for gaiters, pants, and shirts.

  20. Cherry Bomb June 10, 2013 at 7:38 am #

    Thanks for bringing this one out again, makes my job easier! After a 2010 section hike of the PCT, I got really sick, and then sicker. It turned out to be Lyme Disease. Since then, I have been giving Lyme Awareness talks at ADZPCTKO (yes, Lyme and other tick borne diseases are quite prevalent on the west coast!). I will add two things and I am not sure if they were covered in earlier comments, so I apologize if I am repeating information.

    First is toxicity: in wet form is it very toxic (to humans and pets. Once dried however, it is not. Sawyer has a great page explaining how Permethrin works on a more scientific (but for lay people) level. I am happy to link to that page once I find it later.

    Second is treating gear: so obviously I am a little gun-shy about ticks. I actually treat ALL my gear: tent, sleeping bag, pack, gaiters, clothes…I even treated my tyvek ground sheet, ha! So far, this has not affected my gear negatively.

    After going from lots of fun backpacking trips to needing a walker to get down the driveway in order to get the mail, I promote Permethrin like no tomorrow. Especially since we don’t see (or feel) all attached ticks.

    It truly is a safe incredibly effective product and in my opinion should be a part of everyone’s gear routine.

    • Jeff June 10, 2013 at 8:30 pm #

      Wow that sounds terrible. One major fear I have when backpacking is Lymes disease. Is it at a state where you will be using a walking your entire life? What’s the long term prognosis? Sorry to get off track but I live in Northern California and hike sections of the PCT often so this hits close to home for me.

      • Cherry Bomb June 10, 2013 at 11:55 pm #

        I fortunately have made progress after three years of intensive treatment (I had to have a port placed, home nurses, hospitals visits, etc). I no longer need my walker and am planning a hike of the PCT next year (2014) yay!. We are not sure if the brain damage is permanent, but it looks like it.

        Clearly, I’m very frank about my illness and the hell I went through for years. It is not to gain sympathy or pity but hopefully I can impart how important tick born disease awareness is here on the west coast. Nobody really considers it a real threat out here, but it actually is. Permethrin is such an easy and effective step!

        To further protect yourself, think like a tick. They crawl until they reach skin. They come from the ground, not falling out of trees like some think. So in addition to treating clothing and using DEET (I hate that stuff) make sure that the tick wont have an entry point -> tuck shirt into pants, pants into socks or gaiters, etc.. You will look like a huge dork but to me it’s worth it :-)

        I really recommend watching “Under our Skin” which is available on Netflix and Hulu. I know it’s been airing on PBS too.

        Here is a link to the risk map of California is a great resource in itself. I am currently working with a Board Member to train Dr’s that are near the trail to identify and properly treat TBD.

        Knowledge and awareness is power and with the proper precautions, you can have an awesome hike without fear of getting sick. :-)

  21. John Shannon June 12, 2013 at 7:27 pm #

    Thanks for sharing the gear choices.

  22. samouel b June 22, 2013 at 5:17 pm #

    Soaking is a method of providing longer term treatment, as every fiber of cloth is saturated & treated. As the active ingredients wear off of the surface, the underlying fibers emit their reserve.

    Safe for prolong direct skin contact.

    I’ve been doing this for 30 years with no harmful effects (except my skin glows in the dark, I have no hair, my snot is Shrek green and i have a burning sensation when I urinate). JUST KIDDING!

  23. Grandpa June 25, 2013 at 2:44 pm #

    The usual concentration I’ve seen is .5% permethrin. If you find 10% permethrin, you’d mix 1 part of permethrin to 20 parts water.

    You can google “permethrin 10%” and you will get multiple hits for quart size bottles that cost about the same as the Sawyer brand .5% and you get something 20 times more concentrated.

    I was about to order some online and then decided to check a local feed store that supplies items for horse owners. He had a quart in stock for about the same price as I could buy online.

    I mixed up about a half gallon (approx. 3 oz. of permethrin concentrate to two quarts of water), soaked my clothes in it until they were saturated, wrung them out back into the bucket (I used rubber gloves when doing this) and hung the clothes in the garage over a sheet of plastic. The excess that dripped off went back in the bucket later. When the clothes were pretty much dry, I tossed them in the dryer to finish the job.

    The excess permethrin went into some clearly labeled bottles for use later.

    Recently, we car camped with the grandkids in an area at prime tick season. I put some of the bottled permethrin into a hand sprayer and sprayed the ground around the entrance to the tent to try to keep them at bay.

  24. Grandpa June 25, 2013 at 2:45 pm #

    One small correction: .5% would be 1 part permethrin to 19 parts water, not 20. I doubt the difference would matter.

    • lisa July 4, 2013 at 11:20 am #

      Yeah, that gave me pause: wouldn’t .5% in half a gallon (64 oz) be .3 oz, not 3 oz? That’s almost 10X more.

      • Grandpa July 16, 2013 at 1:53 pm #

        .5% would be 3 oz. of the 10% permethrin solution. It’s true that there would only be a total of .3 oz. of actual permethrin in it. I was just giving the formula for mixing up about a half gallon of .5% solution starting from a 10% solution purchased at a feed store. Feed store… hmmmmm… feed this to the little biting bugs!

  25. Doug June 27, 2013 at 12:27 am #

    Spent 10 years in Cameroon, West Africa. Nigeria and France make a pad treated with Permethrin that we set on lamps or other low (5-10 W) heat source to distribute it through the air in our bedrooms and other areas for evening times. Killed mosquitoes mostly. We have had no respiratory ailments or other toxicity results from this exposure. North America is crazy in their fear of these things just because a few people have overdone it in some cases. Am looking to make my own mosquito pads to try here in Canada.

  26. Kevin July 16, 2013 at 1:29 pm #

    Does anyone have an idea how long the treatment would remain effective if I treated, say, a tent, then dried it, then put it in storage for later use?

    Basically, what would be the “shelf-Life” of treated articles? I’ve seen a lot of responses regarding how many washes or how long out on the trail, but nothing yet on this.


  27. lisa July 19, 2013 at 4:32 pm #

    @Hiker, the length of time the insect is in contact with it matters (and, I’m sure, what particular species of insect).

    By the time a tick has landed on you and started crawling around to find a way in, it’s been minutes…the first time I treated my clothes with it I walked in brush ON PURPOSE to get ticks on me so I could watch. From shin-height, one started crawling up. By the time it got to my knee it was walking funny, then it just stumbled around in one place, and finally stopped moving. I’d say that was a total of less than 10 minutes.

    I just left it there and hiked for a while. It hung on, but when I poked it, it was dead and fell off.

    The link above from Cornell University about permethrin really explains things well.

  28. Norine March 21, 2014 at 2:42 pm #

    P.S. ~ This was also a MUCH cheaper way to treat it than paying for individual doctor appointments for each person in order to get the prescription.

  29. Philip Werner March 21, 2014 at 2:42 pm #

    This isn’t for topical use on skin. Just clothing. You’re probably thinking of something else.

    • Bob Koure June 3, 2015 at 11:17 am #

      If you look at the cream/ointment prescribed for scabies you’ll see the active ingredient is permethrin.
      Yeah, the stuff for humans is much better tested, but this’ll work – same way you can close a wound with crazy glue. Surgeons use the same thing (cyanoacrylate), but in different packaging, different applicator.

  30. Paula Plett Dimattio May 13, 2014 at 10:55 pm #

    Thanks to all of you that posted above. Now that I understand a lot more about Permethrin. We live in Central Mass and deal with ticks every year . This will enable me to Treat clothes that I only use for feeding the wood stove with and that way can leave them in the garage away from our cat.

    • Ray May 30, 2014 at 8:19 pm #

      Just an FYI. . . I have been using “Sawyer Premium Insect Repellent 20% Picaridin” in pump spray 4 fl/oz as well as “Natrapel Insect Repellant 8 Hour Wipes” as an addendum to my Rail Riders Insect Shield clothing. BOTH of these products are applied directly to skin per instruction. Both work wonderfully here in the Florida panhandle/rainforest. I have experienced no negative effects from these products. I do find the wipes easier/neater to use than the spray however.

    • ken w June 22, 2014 at 4:36 pm #

      Once treated and dry, clothes are no threat to cats, but do keep kitties away from the liquid and the spray mist. I’m in eastern MA and a co-worker contracted Lyme disease in Ipswitch, apparently a couple years ago and just got it diagnosed. It requires a heavy antibiotic regimen with no guarantee of success; much easier to avoid than treat!!

      • Paula Plett Dimattio June 23, 2014 at 7:52 am #

        Thanks for the heads up Ken. the number of Lyme disease cases are on the rise in the us as we venture outside more than ever before. Unfortunately sometimes the antibiotics aren’t enough to stop all of it. Read a great article in the May issue of prevention. Also on a rather sad note. most MD’s for along time ,don’t look for Lyme to start off with unless you walk in and tell them you have had a bite. A dear sweet friend had been bitten by ticks several years in a row , his house bordering the state forest in CT.Each time he went to the doctors, a barrage of tests followed and three months later was when the doctor checked him for it ,and then treated him. after that followed again the next few years with another bite, after bite, antibiotics ,and then Lyme took its toll on his body and he passed away last year.My own sister said no one dies from it , Well maybe this is an extreme case, but they do is the point and the better equipped you are not to get a bite from a tick the far better off you are .I
        am in central Ma. and we border Fort Deven’s which is all wooded . Our property is at the fence line so we have deer’s, bears’ and what ever wild animals coming through and a wood pile that ticks like to house in.

  31. paul g August 6, 2014 at 5:44 pm #

    Thanks for this article, it eased some of my concerns about using Permethrin. I just treated a couple sets of clothing and I have a question/possible issue regarding application:

    The sprayer that came with the bottle didn’t spray at all. Instead, it only emitted a heavy stream of liquid, which resulted in blotches of Permethrin on the clothing rather than an even application across all of the material. I assumed the sprayer nozzle would emit a mist rather than a stream. Is my experience normal? In order to coat all of the material I ended up using the entire bottle (24 Fl. Oz. Sawyer) on 2.5 outfits. I could not ‘lightly moisten’ the material with this particular sprayer.

    Please let me know if you think my application will be effective. I’m headed out on the Superior Hiking Trail in 48 hours and the bugs are going to be wicked. Thanks for any help!

    • paul g August 7, 2014 at 11:47 am #

      Just to follow up in case anyone else has the problem I did:

      I ended up buying another bottle of the Sawyer Permethrin, but it was the smaller 12 Fl. Oz. version. It came with a sprayer that could be set to either stream or mist. The 24 Fl. Oz. bottle didn’t have this option, only stream. Anyway, I misted the remainder of my clothing/gear. It was much easier and I feel better about the application this time around.

      Thanks again to the author and to all who have commented here.

  32. Bill September 2, 2014 at 8:47 am #

    Another use I’ve heard of is to soak cotton wadding with permethrin, stuff it in toilet paper tubes, and scatter them in dry places around a tick infested area. Mice will find the cotton and take it to line their nests. Your local mice then become instant exterminators, reducing the local tick population for you.

  33. Dale Hughes September 5, 2014 at 12:30 am #

    The cheapest way to buy this stuff is on Amazon. I bought a bottle of Permethrin 32 that dilutes to 80 gallons of .5% solution.
    I soak all my hiking clothes and haven’t had any tick issues since. Buying the super diluted Sawyer products are way too expensive for what you get.

  34. Rich Shires April 21, 2015 at 3:12 pm #

    I bought bulk permethrin at Tractor Supply. It is 10% permethrin. What is the correct amount to mix with water to make a given amount, like 1 gallon? Thank You

    • lisa June 14, 2015 at 10:59 pm #

      If you have a 10% solution, and you’re diluting it to .5%, that’s one part concentrate to 19 parts water. Oh, and add the concentrate to the water, not the other way around–it foams up if you add water to the concentrate (like soap).

    • lisa June 21, 2015 at 1:44 am #

      To make 24 ounces of .5% solution FROM A 10% CONCENTRATE, it’s 1.1 ounces of the 10% permethrin to 22.9 ounces of water. Add the permethrin to the water, not the other way ’round!

  35. NancyP June 1, 2015 at 2:36 pm #

    Bagged my first victim yesterday, with permethrin-treated rather fuzzy wool socks – one dead deer tick found on sock after rinsing the mud out. It works!

  36. Kevin Do June 14, 2015 at 12:27 am #

    Would you recommend reapplying permethrin before each trip? I only washed my clothes once.


    • lisa June 14, 2015 at 1:22 am #

      The directions say it lasts 6 weeks; it would depend more on when it was applied.

  37. Helen June 19, 2015 at 6:36 am #

    Does anyone know what the shelf life of the bottle is?
    Clearing out my shed I found a bottle of Life Systems Permethrin spray I bought at the end of a season and forgot about. Must be about 3 years old. Does anyone know how I can find out whether that’s still going to offer protection? Or should I just go buy new spray?

    Thanks for your help!

  38. mavanderpol June 29, 2015 at 9:04 am #

    Thanks for the article, Phil. Over the weekend I sprayed clothes that we’ll be taking with us on a family trip to Alaska.

  39. psorrenti July 7, 2015 at 7:59 pm #

    Just accidentally washed a treated shirt with other laundry – should I be concerned?

    • Philip Werner July 7, 2015 at 8:02 pm #

      No, I do it all the time and I don’t have mutant children yet.

  40. Professor July 12, 2015 at 7:39 pm #

    Hoping someone sees this post.

    I just did a DIY 3 hour soak on clothes for 4 people (leave for a 100 mile hike July 15th). After all is said and done, I have about 1/2 of a gallon of this stuff left (I diluted down to under 1%-1:14).

    So here is my question, how do I safely dispose of this half gallon? Can I put it in a spray bottle and use it in six months, or do I poor in on my grass (I don’t own cats)? Any suggestions are appreciated.

    P.S. I really didn’t think I would have this much left….should have this part of the plan set before one mixes up a huge batch.

    • ken w July 12, 2015 at 9:00 pm #

      “Please don’t pour it on the grass, that just seems like a bad idea.”

      Agreed. It’s also toxic to fish, so you don’t want it to reach bodies of water. That said, it is a natural plant compound and you can deal with it safely. Be creative. Maybe you can get a garden sprayer and use it to treat areas around your home, like a deck or eaves where wasps and spiders nest. Just use due diligence. It dries to a hard coating which is safe even around cats.

    • Grandpa July 22, 2015 at 5:12 pm #

      After I soaked my clothes, I soaked my tent, hiking shoes, hammock, backpack, etc. The runoff from that was getting a little too dirty for treating clothing so I filtered it through a paint filter to remove debris and put it in a spray bottle for later use. When car camping in tick prone areas, I spray the perimeter of the tent.

  41. lisa July 12, 2015 at 10:10 pm #

    It’s actually NOT a natural plant compound, permethrin is a synthetic version of pyrethrin (the natural one).

  42. lisa July 22, 2015 at 4:50 pm #

    Oh God yes! And SOCKS! Anything you wear–hats and backpacks too (you can skip your undies but I know a guy who just treated his because he was going to be wearing SHORTS). Can also be applied to tents, camp chairs, sleeping bags, mosquito netting, etc.

  43. GL Tirebiter November 22, 2015 at 3:23 pm #

    So how is any product supposed to reach it’s intended target? Magic.
    You worry too much.

  44. Bryan January 28, 2016 at 6:42 pm #

    I’ve read other places that if buying off-;abel hug concentrate to mix on your own for soaking or spraying you need to look for a water based version versus a petroleum based variety. I went to a local agricultural supply store and foundn “Tiger Brand Super 10” which says water bas3d on the label. Ir is NOT 10% as the label led me to believe, it is actually a 2.5% solution. I wanted to soak my hammock, rainfly, and clothing with the soak method, and it worked out great. From other sites, and forums I have heard petroleum based versions can damage synthetics, such as my ENO “parachute material” hammock.
    However, I never tried a petroleum based version, so I can’t personally speak to that.

    I’d love to know if anyone has indeed used a petroleum based version on synthetics, and if so, what the outcome was. Thanks!!

    • lisa January 30, 2016 at 2:17 pm #

      Y’know Sawyer Permethrin contains mineral spirits, which are petroleum products. It is safe and recommended for use on synthetics. Been using it for years on synthetic fibers.
      I don’t know if you can find permethrin in a formulation without petroleum–I think it has to do with its solubility, and needs it in order to keep it insolution.
      “Water-based” does not mean there’s no petroleum products in it. That confusing type of labeling is used a lot in cosmetics–“water based” does not mean “oil free,” for example. It just means there’s more water than oil in it.

  45. Philip Werner January 28, 2016 at 6:50 pm #

    I’ll just stick with Sawyer Permethrin. I know it doesn’t dissolve my synthetic clothes, so I doubt it will dissolve my synthetic hammock.

    • lisa February 1, 2016 at 6:46 pm #

      I’ve been using this version for several years and it has not dissolved any of my synthetic clothing:
      It’s hugely less expensive than the pre-mixed Sawyer’s. Worth it for me, I hike a lot.

  46. ctaya January 30, 2016 at 1:35 pm #

    I remember Sawyer said that its permethrin products are specially formulated to stick to clothes.

    So, would DIY permethrin method work just as good?

  47. George Leroy Tirebiter. January 30, 2016 at 1:59 pm #

    Sawyer products are designed to pick your pocket. This post has been beaten to death.
    Every possible question has been asked repeatedly (no offense). The chances of injury from application of permethrin to your clothes, in any concentration, have to be weighed against the Lyme disease your gonna get if you don’t.
    If some of you are looking for an “organic” way to deter tick bites, there isn’t anything as effective as permethrin.

  48. gary in Lockport February 1, 2016 at 6:17 pm #

    Thanks for all the good info. Going to Haiti next week and also hearing about the Zica (sp) virus makes one think. Saw online what Tractor supply sold, all for livestock. Could not see inside a online Agway store for specific items, so I will have to go visit. So long I can use the livestock stuff safely, that’s good. Mainly want to do clothes only.

  49. Denise February 5, 2016 at 3:01 pm #

    I’m going camping in the British Virgin Islands in march, so am going to treat my clothing with permethrin before I leave. I am planning to rent a tent from the campground where I’m going, so was hoping to find a 3oz can I could bring in my carry on luggage, but I haven’t been able to find a can smaller than 6oz. Any advice where to find?

    • lisa February 5, 2016 at 3:33 pm #

      Sawyer doesn’t make one smaller than 6 oz. You might consider bringing a small bottle of the concentrate (and an empty spray bottle) and mixing it when you’re there.

    • Sandra February 19, 2016 at 6:30 pm #

      Does anybody know if this works scabies

      • lisa February 19, 2016 at 7:00 pm #

        THIS VERSION OF PERMETHRIN IS NOT FOR TREATING SCABIES. It is for treating clothing and gear. The concentration is not the same as creams and lotions used for treating scabies, nor is the carrier. This is not for use on skin!

  50. Isabella Fowler February 9, 2016 at 5:07 am #

    Does anyone know if you can iron clothes after spraying with permethrin? I ironed my husbands shirts and now worry I might have reduced effectiveness of product.

  51. Art Wynne March 12, 2016 at 5:15 pm #

    How safe is Permethrin lotion for use on uncovered/exposed skin?

    • lisa suits March 12, 2016 at 5:46 pm #

      Did you mean to ask about SPRAY, and not lotion? This thread is about the permethrin SPRAY used to treat clothing and gear, not the lotion or cream used to treat human lice, etc.
      That being said, if it will help keep you safe, I’ll answer that what I’ve learned about skin contact with the wet SPRAY solution for clothing is that it is not recommended at all, but the warnings are partly based on safety warning standards. The spray-on solution is not made to be used on skin, so the standard warnings are applied. Another reason is because it is ineffective against insects when applied to skin; apparently it is deactivated by your skin chemistry. That does not make it safe, however.
      There’s over 80 comments in this discussion, a lot of people have put time into finding answers. Tons of good info here, please read. You could also check Sawyer’s website and read the FAQ’s there.

  52. Art Wynne March 12, 2016 at 6:46 pm #

    Thanks Lisa. Yes I appreciate the information in the thread and am now well informed on the efficacy of the spray for clothing. I was moving on to the topic of finding a safe and effective lotion, possibly one that contains Permethrin, for exposed skin. I’m traveling to Puerto Rico and want to take the a protection product for exposed skin with me to avoid/repel mosquitos that might be carrying Zica. Thx for any info you may be able to provide.

  53. Lisa March 12, 2016 at 7:44 pm #

    I’ve been using lemon-eucalyptus oil on exposed skin, works at least as well as DEET (and it isn’t DEET). You might find this site useful:

  54. Jim April 16, 2016 at 8:54 am #

    Rookie move, under-diluted the first time I mixed up a batch to spray on my clothes. Applied it at 1%, rather than 0.5%. Just on my pants, boots, daypack. (Had done socks, t-shirts, shirts with the single bottle of pre-mixed I’d bought, planning to refill with self-mixed) I see one fellow above mentions going 12-1 (.83%) per military approach, so am guessing I’m not in any real danger.

    Should I watch for skin issues, or any other red flags to using over-treated clothes?? I suppose I may just get some extra time out of it, as he suggests the army does…but wanted to see if anyone had any negative experience from over-treatment.

    • lisa April 16, 2016 at 12:25 pm #

      I seriously doubt there would be any issues from mixing it .3% stronger than usual. Not sure if it would last any longer just because it’s a stronger concentration, though, but I can’t find info on what concentration the army uses, or how they “factory treat” it, that makes it last through 50 washings.

      A quick search found some people having bad reactions to it even at recommended strength; no accounting for individual sensitivities.

      After researching this up and down for a long time before deciding to use it myself, in my opinion I’d say you have nothing to worry about (barring any personal sensitivity).

  55. Lynne April 28, 2016 at 12:16 am #

    Hi all, Im from New Zealand and my husband and I are going on a cruise to New Caledonia, we will be visiting 4 of the small islands there and apparently the Zika Virus is around, whats the best advice about protection against mosquitos please.

    • Mike W May 4, 2016 at 8:12 pm #

      Hi Lynne, I am going to Brazil in a little over a month and have done a LOT of research to use the best things for preventing mosquito-borne illness. I found the best thing to use for your clothing is permethrin. I found a SFR rated 36.8% concentrate where you can put about two ounces in one gallon of water. If you want to get technical, you could put in about .66 ounces, but I will use a bit more. I am not concerned about Zika, which is largely propaganda. I am WAAY more concerned about yellow fever and malaria!! The other item I will use is for my skin, which is called Sawyer Picaridin 4oz. spray. You can use that best by spraying on your hands and putting it on most other exposed areas of skin. Just don’t get it near your eyes or lips. You don’t want to put much on your ears either.

  56. Madi May 20, 2016 at 9:36 pm #

    It is essential to let them air dry after treating them, rather than using a dryer?

    • Philip Werner May 20, 2016 at 9:42 pm #

      yes, using a dryer accelerates the decay of the Permethrin coating. More friction. Air drying is recommended.

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