Science and TechAnimals and Insects


Soap scents could make mosquitoes more, less attracted to you

Researchers found that the soap you use could make mosquitoes more or less attracted to you.
Researchers at Virginia Tech are experimenting with mosquitoes and their scent preferences with certain soaps.
Posted at 5:29 PM, May 17, 2023

Could the soap you use be attracting more mosquitoes?

Researchers at Virginia Tech tested four soaps, having volunteers wash one forearm sleeve with soap and leaving the other unwashed.

The sleeves were then put in cups in a container with mosquitoes.

“Then we would look at how many mosquitoes would land on either cup to quantify their preference,” said Clement Vinauger, an assistant professor at Virginia Tech. The soaps tested were popular options chosen by Americans.

In three of the four soaps tested, the soap increased the attractiveness to mosquitoes. These soaps were fruity or flowery scented.

One deterred them more than the unwashed sample — a coconut-scented soap.

A close look at a mosquito.

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"There are other studies in literature showing that coconut oil derivative chemicals ... they tend to repel a lot of blood feeding insects," Vinauger said.

Researchers said there is still more work to be done, including more soap tests on more volunteers to determine patterns with certain scents. Each person has different body chemicals as well, which is a factor.

"It's really about the specific chemical combinations that occur," Vinauger said.

So if you are prone to mosquito bites, what can you do? Researchers say soap can’t replace traditional repellents, but you can try changing what soap you use.

"Maybe you should consider exploring different and testing different soaps," he said.

Soap is only one aspect. Other scented products, like laundry detergent, could also play a role.

Mosquitoes spread a number of viruses including Zika,  malaria and West Nile. Severe cases of mosquito-borne diseases can lead to death.

In 2019, 409,000 people died from malaria, according to the CDC.