Medically reviewed by Deborah Weatherspoon, Ph.D., R.N., CRNA, specialty in pain management — Written by Corey Whelan on August 24, 2020

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Mosquito bites aren’t just an itchy nuisance. Mosquitoes can transmit parasites, worms, viruses, and deadly diseases through their bites.

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Wearing protective clothing may help you avoid getting bitten, provided the fabric and fit are impenetrable by mosquitoes.

In this article, we’ll explain what types of clothing to wear and which to avoid. We’ll also discuss other ways to reduce mosquito bites.

Mosquitoes have six sharp, long mouthparts that can pierce lightweight fabrics as easily as they do skin. These mouthparts are known as the proboscis.

Fabrics such as gauze or spandex can easily be penetrated by a mosquito’s proboscis, allowing them to siphon off your blood while they inject you with saliva.

This table shows a list of fabrics and the protection they offer.

FabricPoor protectionMedium protectionStrong protection
spandex (lycra)x
gingham, medium-weight cottonsx
silk cotton blendsx
tight-knit woolx
nylon ripstopx

Fit and shape of clothing matters

In order for a mosquito to make contact with skin under clothing, the fabric must be skintight or close fitting, such as yoga pants, lightweight undershirts, or tights.

If you’re wearing loose clothing made from an impenetrable fabric, mosquitoes won’t be able to bite you unless they’re able to get into the garment.

Try to avoid wearing items with loose necklines and bell sleeves, or short pants that expose bare ankles.

Color of clothing makes a difference

The color of clothing also matters. Mosquitoes are attracted to heat, and dark colors hold in heat more than light colors do.

Light-colored clothing tends to reflect heat off. This means mosquitoes are less likely to notice you in a white or pale yellow garment than they will if you’re wearing black, brown, or navy.

Spraying clothing with mosquito repellent helps

Since mosquitoes are attracted to the smell of human sweat, spraying clothing and exposed skin with mosquito repellent can help.

Repellents such as DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide), and picaridin mask the smell of human sweat.

You can also buy clothing treated with permethrin

You can buy ready-made clothing that has been treated with permethrin. Permethrin isn’t technically an insect repellent — it’s an insecticide, designed to kill or incapacitate mosquitoes on contact.

Wearing clothing made with permethrin hasn’t been proven to provide complete protection from mosquito bites. Some manufacturers of permethrin-treated clothing suggest that a repellent, such as DEET, should also be used.

The combination of DEET and permethrin-treated clothing may provide close to 100 percent effectiveness against mosquitoes.

There’s no data indicating that detergents of any kind will help make clothing mosquito-proof.

Some mosquito repellents can be used on top of clothing, on exposed skin, or under clothing.

When using repellents directly on skin, avoid getting it in the eyes or other mucus membranes.

Do not use repellents or insecticides on babies or children without consulting their pediatrician. Do not use products meant for people on pets.

Repellents you can spray on skin include:

DEET. This repellent can be sprayed on top of clothing or on skin.Picaridin. Picaridin can be sprayed on top of clothing or on skin.IR3535. This repellent can be sprayed on top of clothing or on skin.

Permethrin precautions

Some mosquito repellents, such as permethrin, shouldn’t be used on skin or inhaled.

In addition to buying pretreated clothes, you can purchase permethrin spray to treat your clothing yourself. Make sure to only use permethrin sold for this purpose, and not the kind meant for agricultural use.

The correct way to treat clothing with permethrin is:

Hang your clothes outdoors.Do not inhale permethrin spray during application.Wearing gloves, spray the entire garment according to package directions, until completely damp.Let clothes dry completely before wearing them.

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Avoiding mosquitoes doesn’t mean you have to eliminate time spent outdoors. Techniques for preventing bites include:

Use mosquito netting. These tightly-woven nets are often made from polyester. You can find hats with mosquito netting that you can pull down over your face. Suspended mosquito netting is also used indoors to cover people while they sleep.Wear closed-toe shoes and socks.Tuck your pants into socks, making sure there’s no gap of exposed skin.Wear long-sleeved shirts with buttoned or Velcro cuffs.Avoid areas with standing bodies of stagnant water, as they’re breeding grounds for mosquitoes. These include wading pools, bird baths, clogged rain gutters, and puddles.