Change your soap to repel mosquitoes?

Scientists have revealed that mosquitoes are attracted to a certain combination of body odour smells and the soap that that person uses. There is an interplay between the chemicals in soaps and the chemicals in the body odour of each individual person and when the combination is “right” there is more of a repellent effect. Conversely when they are “wrong” they attract mosquitoes. There is, therefore, a strong argument that people should choose soap wisely in reference to this research to see whether it helps repel insects and make their stay in places where mosquitoes are prevalent more pleasant.

Change your soap to help protect against mosquitoes?
Change your soap to help protect against mosquitoes? Image: MikeB

Chloé Lahondère, one of the lead scientists in this study, and somebody who attracts mosquitoes, said:

What was surprising in our results was the importance of the interaction between the specific soap chemicals and the body odour of each specific individual. Some soaps, but not others, would increase the attractiveness of some people but not others.

The study is published in the journal iScience. It involved four volunteers who used four different types of soap: Dove, Native, Dial, and Simple Truth.

Dove and Simple Truth both, in general, increased the attractiveness of some of the volunteers to mosquitoes.

Native had the opposite effect and indeed one volunteer repelled mosquitoes with this combination. They put this down to the fact that the soap contains coconut extracts.

The researchers consider the results important because hundreds of millions, perhaps billions of people are negatively impacted by mosquitoes regularly. Indeed, I have a friend who goes to Thailand for a month each year and one of the things that he dislikes about Thailand is the mosquitoes! I will pass on this information to him.

Mosquitoes have clever neurological wiring to detect humans


The Forbes website breaks it down a bit more. They say that mosquitoes gravitated towards a particular mixture of chemicals in soaps namely: made of alpha-isomethyl ionone, lilial, allyl heptanoate and 4-tert-Butylcyclohexyl acetate. They avoided the following chemicals in soaps: containing benzyl benzoate, gamma-nonalactone and benzaldehyde.

The research was carried out by Virginia Tech. As mentioned above, coconut extract appears to be effective and one of the senior authors of the study and a neurologist, Clément Vinauger said:

I would choose a coconut-scented soap if I wanted to reduce mosquito attraction.

A surprising fact Forbes say is that all the soaps used in the experiment contained limonene which is a mosquito repellent notwithstanding that some of the soaps still increased attractiveness because of the combination of the chemicals in the soap and the person’s body odour. Clearly the combined effect of these chemicals nullified the repellent effect of limonene.

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