There are very few chemical compounds that keep bed bugs from entering an area. Research published in the Journal of Economic Entomology (December 2013) in an article title "Repellency of Selected Chemicals Against the Bed Bug" lists DEET (see chart below for best products) and natural compounds under development by Bedoukian Research )isolongifolanone, 3-methyl-5-hexyl-2-cyclohexenone, propyl dihydrojasmonate and Y-methyl tridecalactone show "strong repellency against bed bugs."
Research has shown that sprays that contain at least 25% DEET can repel bed bugs. Follow the manufacturers directions for DEET sprays in terms of skin safety or if they will stain fabric or furniture.
Repellent sprays are best used in areas where you suspect or know that bed bugs are present.
Bed bug repellents vs. sprays
Bed bug repellents keep bed bugs away from a specific area for a limited period of time. They do not kill bed bugs. For example, if you spray a bed, the bed bugs will avoid the bed, but seek to hide in areas near that bed that have not been treated.
A better approach for an infestation is to purchase a bed bug kit that contains 2 types of sprays:
Residual Spray: when sprayed creates an invisible field that kills bed bugs when the insect crosses through the treated area
best Bed Bug REpellent for skin
Effective bed bug repellents for skin contains at least 25% DEET. It is the main ingredient found in name brand products such as OFF (95% DEET) and Bug Barrier Insect Repellent (100% DEET). Research has shown that products with high concentrations of DEET (97%) show 83% per cent repellency after 8 hours and 93% repellency after 3 hours.
When looking for what repels bed bugs on skin, the answer are products that contain DEET at >25%.
Bed Bug Repellent Spray
does DEET Kill Bed Bugs?
DEET does not kill bed bugs.
Does DEET Repel Bed Bugs?
DEET is an effective and research proven bed bug repellent at concentrations >25%. Use according to manufacturers instructions.
Does Sound repel Bed Beds?
According to research by R.W. Hofstetter and K.M. Yturralde shows that the four ultrasonic bed bug repellent devices do not work. They do not attract or repel bed bugs. (Journal of Economic Entolology 105: 2107-2114, 2012)
Isolongifolenone has a strong repellent action (Want 2013).
Diatomaceous Earth (Bed Bug Dust) is somewhat repellent when spread in a thin layer on surfaces
Diatomaceous Earth is a natural product that has some repellent properties. It also kills bed bugs when the dust attaches to insects.
natural products that do Not repel bed bugs
The following products do not repel bed bugs:
tea tree oil
Readers of the Bed Bugs Handbook have reported that Avon Skin So Soft keeps bed bugs from biting. We have not been able to find any research to support (or deny) that the product works in this way.
do insecticides repel bed bugs?
Insecticides that are common ingredients in bed bug insecticides do not repel bed bugs. Chemicals tested include pyrethroids and Chlorfenapyr. (Moore, D. J., and D. M. Miller. 2006. Laboratory evaluations of insecticide product efficacy for control of Cimex lectularius. Journal of Economic Entomology 99: 2080–2086)