Permethrin Clothing Treatment: A DIY Guide (Save Money!)

Want to give your family the best protection against ticks and mosquitoes this summer? DIY permethrin clothing treatment is easier than you'd think.

Tick season is going to be especially bad this year. More ticks = more tick bites = greater risk of contracting Lyme Disease or another tick-borne illness. And as I noted in my last post, permethrin clothing treatment is your best bet to keep ticks away.

Of course, you can buy clothing commercially treated with permethrin for both adults and children. If you’re a grownup who spends a lot of time outdoors (camping, hiking, gardening, etc.), then commercially-treated clothes are a super investment.

You can also send your favorite outdoor attire to InsectShield and have them apply permethrin to your clothes for you.

But given how quickly kids outgrow clothing, you may prefer to DIY permethrin clothing treatment on their summer attire.

I recently tried this, and so far we’ve been very pleased with the results.

About DIY Permethrin Clothing Treatment

Applying permethrin to fabric on your own at home is different from buying commercially-treated clothing in several ways.

  • Buying commercially-treated clothes is generally more expensive; an entire outfit (top/bottom/socks/hat or bandanna) can easily add up to $100 or more, especially for adults.
  • However, commercially-treated clothing retains its insect and tick repellency for the life of the item (60-70 washings).
  • DIY permethrin treatments on clothing only last 6 weeks/6 washings. Ideally, you need to wash the clothing separately on the gentle cycle (or by hand), because wash-cycle agitation will strip the repellency from the clothing faster.
  • However, for the cost of one permethrin-treated shirt, you can buy enough spray to treat multiple outfits.
  • Especially if your needs are more short-term (a single summer camping trip or vacation-in-buggy-surroundings), DIY-treating clothing your family already owns can be easier, faster, and more cost-effective.
This was only about half the clothing I treated recently; as soon as I laid it all out, I realized my 24-ounce bottle wasn’t enough.

Getting ready to apply permethrin

First, figure out what you want to treat. Gather it all and pile it up.

  • Think not only tops and bottoms, but also hats/bandanas (head coverings), backpacks, etc.
  • And don’t forget footwear! Mosquitoes may fly, but ticks crawl – usually upward starting near ground level. So make sure you treat not only your clothing, but also your socks and shoes.
  • Besides the girls’ clothes for day camp (which are all labeled with nametags anyway), I bought them a new 6-pack of gray sport socks to treat. Ticks will be easier to spot on these socks than the girls’ everyday black/navy/brown school socks. And the fact that the new socks are different than their others means it will be easier to keep track of which ones are the treated socks.

Then count up how many “outfits” or “items” you have, and do the math. (A pair of socks or shoes counts as one item; an “outfit” = two items.)

I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for Amazon Prime’s free two-day shipping. Waited til this bottle came and then just treated everything all at once.
  • According to the directions, you’ll need 3 ounces of liquid permethrin to treat each “item.” Even if it’s tiny kids’ clothing. Permethrin clothing treatment success apparently depends on applying three ounces to each item, regardless of how large or small the item is.
  • At first I bought a 24-ounce spray bottle of permethrin, enough to treat 8 items/4 outfits. But as I quickly realized, this wasn’t enough if I was going to do three day-camp outfits per girl, plus socks/hats/shoes/backpacks.
  • So I then bought a one-gallon spray container – enough to finish treatment #1, with leftover to retreat halfway through the summer, once the initial six weeks’ protection period has ended.

Tips for applying permethrin

What you’ll need, besides the clothing and the spray:

  • A calm day outside – no wind. You need to do this in a well-ventilated area.
  • A place to do the spraying, and a nearby way to hang the clothes while they dry.
  • At least a day between when you’re doing the treating and when you plan to wear your newly-treated items.

I laid out my stuff to spray on a back deck, and started a stopwatch on my phone. After spraying the side facing up on each piece for 30 seconds (as per the directions) I flipped over each piece to spray the other side. Then I spread out the clothes just inside the door, on the drying rack that usually holds the girls’ snow-covered gear in winter.

In contrast, my friend Iris hung each item to spray on its own hanger and sprayed them, one at a time, just outside her garage with the door open. As soon as she’d treated each piece, she hung it on the wire shelving at the back of her garage to dry overnight.

The “overnight” part is important. The sprays we used each said they should be dry in 2 hours, or 4 in especially humid conditions. It wasn’t particularly humid where we live during the week that Iris and I were doing this recently. But the clothes took a lot longer than 4 hours to dry completely. (Maybe because applying the required 3 ounces per item on smaller kids’ attire = more liquid on a smaller space = longer to dry?)

Other tips to consider


  • Have cats? Keep them far away from this process! Apparently liquid permethrin is highly toxic to cats. (Once it’s dry, it poses no danger to them.)
  • To preserve the effect of the treatment for the full 6 weeks, you’re supposed to store the clothing separately, in a black trash bag. Given how humid summer can be, I opted instead for a non-transparent plastic bin with a snap-on lid. (This will also make it easier for Daddy, who was working when I did the treatment, to dress Essie in her treated outfits during her week of day camp when I’m at a conference.)
  • I also noted the day I did the first permethrin clothing treatment on the kitchen calendar, and set a digital reminder on my phone for the six-week mark. That way, I won’t forget when it’s time to reapply permethrin to get us through the rest of the summer.

Have you done your own permethrin clothing treatment at home? How did it go? Let us know in the comments!

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41 thoughts on “Permethrin Clothing Treatment: A DIY Guide (Save Money!)”

  1. First got introduced to permethrin when I was working in dermatology for Galderma, very nice idea I think after so many years still permethrin is the best antidote for many mites….this is a good idea….! will use this for my daughter..! thanks.

  2. I had no idea this product even existed! I am so scared of ticks, I need to do this before we travel to areas with high tick rates!

  3. I live in one of the highest areas of Lyme disease in the United States and Permethrin is used often. The agency I work for pays for clothes to be treated by InsectShield and my husband, who is a hunter, treats his clothing often. After my first tick bite of the season, I’d better start treating my clothes sooner rather than later this season.

    1. Super Mom Hacks

      Wait a minute – your employer PAYS to get your clothes treated for you??? That is so sweet! Yes, time to get to it for the season, now that it’s getting warmer…

  4. My mother in law was using this on her son’s clothing because he is an avid hunter. We have so many ticks around here, last year, I was appalled to find at least one every night on somebody. We have barn cats, so I think that might be some of the problem but I am seriously thinking of treating the yard this year. The clothing treatment idea is also something to think about.

    1. Super Mom Hacks

      Yesss if you have a pet that goes outside, then that is a whole other layer of protection…at least they have pet treatments for that!

  5. I agree so much with you about how fast the kids grow. As for permethrin, I honestly never heard of it before, but it sounds very useful (especially in this DIY guide).

  6. I must admit this is totally new to me! I had no idea such a product existed, but I definitely appreciate your guide and tips! My children go frequently into the woods and I am always worried about Thicks!

    1. I had no idea that there were these kinds of treatments for warding off ticks. Thanks for the detailed DIY.

    2. Super Mom Hacks

      Especially since the territory of ticks that carry dangerous diseases is becoming more a global thing, versus geographically isolated. I worry a lot less now that I treat a special wardrobe of “playing outside” clothes for my girls each summer!

  7. I did not know that tick repellent clothing was a thing! We thankfully have never had a tick experience, but I know that a lot of people who live where we do have, so we will have to try this out.

    1. Super Mom Hacks

      It is the BEST way to protect your family!!! I know of too many people who’ve gotten infected with Lyme disease from tick bites…NOT FUN.

  8. very interesting, I have actually never considered getting pretreated clothes or treating them myself. As an exterminator I would say I would have to err on the side of caution considering I use this regularly and I wear gloves and gear so I don’t get sick. It is definitely interesting though. If my kids were still in scouts I might even try this.

    1. Super Mom Hacks

      It is a must-do for scout camp, far as I’m concerned. I feel so much better knowing my girls have this extra layer of protection keeping ticks off them!

  9. Thankfully ticks are not that common in most parts of the UK! I’ve never thought of treating clothes with insect repellant… will look into it as it may be better for my daughter who has sensitive skin to put it in her clothing rather than on her skin!

    1. Super Mom Hacks

      Definitely worth looking into! And you’d be surprised how widespread ticks that carry Lyme disease (and other nasty illnesses) are becoming…Yes, this is DEF a good plan for those with sensitive skin, too!

    1. Super Mom Hacks

      It really is, esp. compared to buying the pre-treated clothes – a reasonable investment for grownups, but NOT for kids with how fast they grow!

  10. I’ve never heard of this before, but it sounds like a great idea. And awesome tip about the shoes, I don’t know if I would have thought about that. We have always told the boys to check themselves over after we go on a hike before they get in the shower.

    1. Super Mom Hacks

      I hadn’t either, until I began researching tick-bite prevention a few years ago for a friend who asked. She was visiting from South America for a year with her family; alas, her daughter got bitten by a tick AND got Lyme Disease before they returned to Peru. So this info did not come in time for them, but that’s all the more reason I think it’s important to spread the word as widely as possible. Tick-borne illnesses are nothing to mess with!

    1. Haha, then we hail from the same place (I was born an hour from Lyme) – I had known about it before I researched this piece and the one that preceded it, but had no idea before the previous post (on best ways to avoid tick bites) that it was SO effective against ticks, mosquitoes, etc. Now I treat all my girls’ outdoor play/camping clothes at the start of the summer, and again later in the season – it’s so nice NOT to have to worry quite so much when they’re playing outside! (Treating socks and shoes is the real game-changer because if ticks are climbing up you, they’ll die before they get too far!)

    1. Isn’t it wonderful? My hubby and I each have enough permanently treated clothes for a camping trip now in our sizes, but DIY-ing is SO much more affordable for stuff that kids outgrow so fast!

  11. great thank you. I have a small can of the Sawyer brand. It just says how many ounces to spray but they didn’t say an actual “time”. THANK YOU for this post. It has been super helpful!

    1. Huh, that’s weird – all the bottles I have used have a time suggestion but they are definitely the larger ones. So glad this was helpful for you! 🙂

    1. Hey Alicia – if you’ve bought some permethrin already, this should be in the instructions that come with the packaging – I haven’t done mine yet this year but if I recall correctly, the gallon spray I used last year (the one you’ll see in the pics throughout this post) recommended 30 seconds per side – double-check the instructions on your spray, though, in case it’s different. (For all I know, it may be different for different sprayer/applicator types!) Warning: this will seem like WAY TOO MUCH re: saturation point of the fabric (esp. if it’s a “quick dry” fabric), and you’ll have to allow for a little dry time before flipping over to do the other side! – another reason I like spreading out a big pile of things and doing them all at once, piece by piece 🙂

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