A good tip for preventing mosquito bites when outdoors, according to the EPA, is to wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and socks. And for good measure, tuck them in so that there aren’t any gaps where mosquitoes can get through to exposed skin.
But maybe you noticed that you’re still getting itchy bites on your arms and legs, even though you’ve already covered them up with long sleeves and pants.
That’s because mosquitoes can, in fact, bite through certain types of clothes.
How Do Mosquitoes Bite Through Clothes?
The needle-like mouth of a mosquito, also called a proboscis, contains a sophisticated system of six thin stylets that each pierce the skin in search of blood vessels to feed on.
Depending on the species, the diameter of a mosquito’s proboscis ranges from 40 to 100 microns, which is extremely narrow. For comparison, the average diameter of a human hair is 100 microns.
This tiny size allows mosquitoes to easily penetrate thin, stretchy, and loosely woven fabrics by poking their proboscises through the tiny gaps that exist between interwoven fibers.
What kind of fabric your clothes are made of is an important factor when it comes to the likelihood of being bitten through by mosquitoes.
Fabrics with fewer gaps in between fibers offer better protection against mosquitoes. On the other hand, fabrics with many or larger gaps offer less protection.
In general, fabrics that are thick, tightly-woven, and/or are constructed with overlapping layers are difficult for mosquitoes to bite through. Examples include:
Fabrics that are thin, knitted, stretchy, and/or skin-tight are much easier for mosquitoes to bite through. Examples include:
So What Kind of Clothing Should You Wear?
Although mosquitoes are capable of biting through clothes, they much prefer exposed skin — at least when given the choice.
So the first thing to do is to follow the EPA’s suggestion of wearing long-sleeve shirts, long pants, and socks to cover up as much skin as possible. Covering up makes you less attractive to mosquitoes, compelling them to look elsewhere for easier targets.
If you’re planning to spend a lot of time outdoors, or if you live in a particularly mosquito-infested area, then opt for clothing made with thick, tightly-woven fabrics like the ones we discussed above. Anything that you can’t thread a piece of hair through — like denim jeans, for example — is impenetrable to mosquitoes.
Loose-fitting clothing also protects against mosquito bites. Large folds and creases help prevent the mosquitoes’ proboscises from reaching your skin.
Lastly, wear multiple layers. Layering up significantly reduces the size and number of gaps that mosquitoes can get through.
What About Spraying Mosquito Repellant on Your Clothes?
Yes, spraying mosquito repellant on clothing before going outside can certainly provide you with an extra layer of security.
Insect repellents like DEET, for example, can be safely applied to the outside of your clothes. When doing so, it’s important to carefully follow the label instructions in order to avoid health risks.
Nowadays, there are also special types of clothing that come pre-treated with permethrin. Permethrin is a pesticide with a knockdown effect against mosquitoes, meaning that mosquitoes are either incapacitated or killed after coming into contact with the clothing.