Is DEET Safe for My Gear?

Andy McVey

For years, golfers, outdoorsmen, hunters, anglers and families have relied on bug sprays containing DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide) to prevent bug bites when enjoying the outdoors. However, concerns around the long-term health implications of DEET and its other unique characteristics — unpleasant smell, sticky feeling on skin — have propelled many daily repellent users to search for a friendlier, yet equally effective alternative.

More importantly, for those of us who venture out loaded down with hunting, fishing or camping gear, DEET is highly corrosive to clothing and a broad range of materials including plastic, rubber, leather, latex, vinyl, spandex, elastic, rayon and auto paint. With repetitive, prolonged exposure to DEET repellent, your favorite gear is in danger. You love getting new toys, but c’mon, that doesn’t mean you want to say goodbye before it’s time. 

Have no fear, outdoor lovers and sportsmen, Picaridin 20% provides a safe and effective alternative to DEET. Ranger Ready is a Picaridin insect repellent that is safe and non-corrosive to gear.

Protecting Outdoor Gear from DEET

Switching to a non-corrosive insect repellent like Ranger Ready with Picaridin is the first step to protecting your gear and keeping any surrounding materials that might be susceptible to DEET in the best condition possible. It’s also a good idea to apply the repellent far away from cars and any gear you will be using.

Always wash or wipe down your gear upon returning from any outdoor adventure, especially if you’ve been wearing insect repellent. We’ve found that a 2-to-1 mixture of water to white vinegar with a few drops of added dish soap works best for most plastic and non-porous surfaces.

Promptly wash all clothing and clean leather and vinyl with specialized conditioners. Be sure to consult the manufacturer’s care instructions before applying any cleansers or liquids to precision optics, specialized technology or electronics.  

Here are some items with particularly high risk from being damaged by exposure to DEET:

is deet safe for my gear chart describing dangers of deet

What Makes DEET Bad for Gear?

DEET is a neurotoxin which is often considered the source for its associated health concerns. However, the reason DEET is so dangerous to outdoor gear and sporting equipment is because it is also a plasticizer.

A plasticizer is a substance (typically a solvent) that is added to synthetic, resin-based materials to promote elasticity or flexibility. So when DEET comes in contact with materials like plastic, rubber, latex, vinyl, spandex, elastic, rayon and auto paint, it interacts with the chemical bonds within those substances. Prolonged or excessive exposure to DEET, and such materials can start to break down, leaving prized gear corroded and even damaged.

Safe and Effective Alternative to DEET 

We’ve already mentioned the benefits of choosing a Picaridin insect repellent like Ranger Ready for its more friendly usage experience and gear-safe characteristics. With 12 hours of mosquito and tick protection, and the ability to keep away biting flies, gnats, chiggers, midges and no-see-ums for up to 10 hours, Picaridin is the proven safe and effective alternative to DEET. It’s the right choice for anyone who values the outdoors and wants to keep their gear in the best shape possible.

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