12

I recently asked over on Judaism.SE about how to keep bees away from a Sukkah. I got a reply that suggested that by hanging dryer sheets around, bees would stay away.

I looked around online and seem to be getting conflicting reports with some attributing it to coincidence, while others swear by it for repelling mosquitoes and other insects as well.

So, do dryer sheets actually repel insects?

  • I've been told that they work by masking your scent, preventing bugs from noticing you and coming over for a snack. But they don't actually work to push bugs away from you. I suspect many other fragarent items would work with a similar effect. (I'm one of those people mesquitos love to bite, and I've used dryer sheets before to some effect) – Rachel Sep 8 '14 at 21:55
5

Not in virtue of their chemical composition, possibly only if they specifically contain an insect repellent a particular

The CDC has a FAQ regarding insect repellents. In particular it states that:

CDC recommends the use of products containing active ingredients which have been registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for use as repellents applied to skin and clothing.

Of the products registered with the EPA, those containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, and some oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol products provide longer-lasting protection.

Also the EPA has a list of recognized active ingredients:

  • Catnip oil -- EPA pesticide regulatory information (Nepeta cataria, also known as catmint) (4 products)
  • Oil of citronella (3 registered products; also used in unregistered products that meet the requirements for exemption from registration) EPA pesticide regulatory information National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC) fact sheet Exit
  • DEET (more than 500 products)
  • IR 3535 -- EPA pesticide regulatory information (3-[N-Butyl-N-acetyl]-aminopropionic acid, ethyl ester) (about 45 products)
  • Picaridin (about 40 products)
  • EPA pesticide regulatory information
  • NPIC fact sheet Exit
  • p-Menthane-3,8-diol -- EPA pesticide regulatory information (also known as Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus) (10 products)
  • 2-undecanone -- EPA pesticide regulatory information (or methyl nonyl ketone) (1 product)

In other words: insect repellents have a specific "active ingredient". A list of such ingredient is kept by an agencies because of safety concerns.

Now: dryer sheets basically are composed of a non-active substrate, one or more softening ingredients and a fragrance, for example Bounce:

enter image description here

http://www.pgproductsafety.com/productsafety/ingredients/household_care/laundary_fabric_care/Bounce/Bounce_Dryer_Sheets_-_All_Varieties.pdf

None of these components is an active insect repellent in the list provided by EPA, except possibly the fragrance -- which is left unspecified. If the dryer sheet is, for example, scented with Citronella, then of course the dryer sheet will be a repellent. PG, the company producing "Bounce" keeps a list of them which contains "Citronella ceylon natural".

Therefore, if a dryer sheet happens to be scented with an insect repellent, it will possibly repel insects. If not, it shouldn't.

  • 1
    Yes, the products recommended by the CDC are effective in repelling mosquitoes, and probably also safe when used as directed. But there may exist alternatives which the CDC has never tested and doesn't know about. Are they equally effective? I have no idea. – unforgettableid Sep 2 '14 at 22:03
  • 2
    Does CDC actually claim that the things NOT listed by them do NOT repel the mosqiotos? If not, then this answer is incorrect. It offers no proof that dryer sheets do not repel, merely that they aren't endorsed as such by CDC. – user5341 Sep 3 '14 at 1:40
  • Also, snopes's dismissal is of exactly the same nature. No actual scientific investigation into most (including dryer sheet) points was made, aside from "DEET works. Therefore (LOGIC FAIL!) nothing else does". – user5341 Sep 3 '14 at 1:42
  • 2
    @DVK "smoke" will not repel mosquitoes, some component of it will -- for example CO2 or maybe the heat. If such a component is identified, and it's safe to use, then the CDC/EPA list will contain it, unless you are arguing that it's not up to date -- which might be, but you can move the same criticsm to any source I can bring. – Sklivvz Sep 3 '14 at 2:59
  • 3
    @Sklivvz - while the edit improved the post quantitatively, it still suffers from the same qualitative logical hole: you are relying on the assumption that EPA's list of ingredients is FULLY EXHAUSTIVE (which clearly isn't possible to prove), without any sign of testing whether dry sheets were explicitly tested for repellent qualities which is the only thing that should matter – user5341 Sep 3 '14 at 15:55
3

They definitely repel fungus gnats. Do they repel other bugs? I have no idea.

Sarah Zielinski, in an article on the Smithsonian magazine website, provides a simple summary of the research.

Cloyd RA, Marley KA, Larson RA, and Arieli B describe the details in a free 2010 journal article published by the American Society for Horticultural Science.

The researchers hypothesize that the bug-repelling ingredient in Bounce® original brand fabric softener dryer sheets may be linalool or beta-citronellol.

But the researchers used fungus gnats in their experiment. I don't know whether or not their findings also apply to bees or mosquitoes.

So, if you want to repel mosquitoes, you're probably better off choosing a product containing DEET. If you want to avoid getting stung by bees, I don't know how to advise you.

  • If it contains the oil of Citronella then it contains a known repellant. However that oil is not necessarily present in dryer sheets (or show that it is). – Sklivvz Sep 3 '14 at 2:26

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .