DoD Insect Repellent System
and Insect Repellent Treatment of Military Uniforms
What is the DoD Insect Repellent System?
The DoD Insect Repellent System is a safe and proven method to reduce disease and annoyance associated with insects.
The system incorporates:
Insect repellent on the uniform
DoD approved repellent on exposed skin
A properly worn uniform
Using permethrin-treated bed nets when
Using all elements of this system will provide maximum protection and is the safest way to prevent attack from nuisance and disease-carrying insects.
What are the insect repellent treatment options for combat/utility uniforms?
The Army/Air Force Advanced Combat Uniform (ACU-OCP), Flame Resistant Army Combat Uniform (FRACU), Improved Hot Weather Combat Uniform (IHWCU), Marine Corps Combat Utility Uniform (MCCUU), Marine Corps Tropical Combat Uniform (MCTCU), Marine Corps Flame Resistant Combat Ensemble (FRCE), and the Enhanced FRCE are factory-treated with permethrin. These uniforms are issued to Soldiers/Airmen/Marines and are available for purchase at Military Clothing Sales Stores. All factory-treated uniforms will have a sewn-in label on both the trouser and coat indicating that the garment has been treated with insect repellent. New uniforms will also have a removable hang-tag attached that indicates the uniform is insect repellent treated. The factory treatment of uniforms means one less task for military personnel as they prepare to deploy or conduct training.
Army Combat Shirts (ACS) and Army Combat Pants (ACP) are not currently factory-treated and cannot be treated using field treatment methods. Evaluations of these uniforms using factory treated etofenprox are ongoing.
The uniform's label states that the factory treatment remains effective for 25 or washings; however, independent research proves that the ACU and MCCUU provide >90% bite protection for up to 50 washings. The FRACU and IHWCU provide >75% bite protection for up to 50 washings.
Presently no factory-treated Navy uniforms are available.
NOTE: Dry cleaning a permethrin-treated uniform will remove the permethrin from the fabric, and the uniform will no longer be effective against insects.
Dry cleaning permethrin-treated uniforms is not recommended.
Field treatment options:
The Ripstop Airman Battle Uniform (Ripstop ABU) and the Navy Working Uniform (Desert NWU II / Green NWU III) can be permethrin treated before wearing using either the 40% Permethrin Individual Dynamic Absorption (IDA) Kit (NSN 6840-01-345-0237), the 0.5% permethrin aerosol can (NSN 6840-01-278-1336), or 0.5% permethrin trigger spray (NSN 6840-01-692-7397). The Navy Blue Coveralls may only be treated with the aerosol or trigger spray method. The IDA Kit can last up to 50 washings while both 0.5% permethrin versions should be reapplied after six weeks or the sixth washing. These are the only treatment options that individual Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines are authorized to use to field treat their uniforms. When applying permethrin, always read and follow the label directions. Never apply permethrin to the skin. There are currently no field treatment options available for applying etofenprox to clothing.
Treating uniforms using concentrated permethrin (40%) with a 2-gallon sprayer is only authorized for DoD-certified pesticide applicators. Additionally, 40% permethrin is no longer being manufactured for 2-gallon applications. Only the bottles remaining in stock are available. If permethrin concentrate is not available, use IDA kits as a substitute.
Factory-treated uniforms, Nomex®, and other flame-resistant uniforms should never be field treated with insect repellent.
here to see the latest Uniform Insect Repellent Treatment Matrix from the Armed Forces Pest Management Board.
What is considered a "properly worn combat uniform"?
Worn properly, military combat uniforms act as a physical barrier against nuisance pests and disease carrying vectors such as mosquitoes and ticks. Wear the uniforms with the sleeves rolled down, pants tucked into boots and undershirts tucked into pants. Because mosquitoes can bite through fabric, even if insect repellent treated, wear the uniform loosely. Insect repellent treated uniforms do not provide protection to exposed skin; protect exposed skin with an approved topical skin repellent such as DEET, Picaridin or IR3535.
Physical Fitness Uniforms are not insect repellent treated and provide little protection against insects. Approved topical skin repellents should be used on exposed skin if wearing PTs outdoors in areas with nuisance pests or potential disease vectors. Personnel should avoid/minimize outside activities while wearing shorts and t-shirts in areas with nuisance pests and vectors.
What about insecticide treatment of civilian clothing?
Permethrin can be applied to civilian clothing (shirts, pants, and socks), and it is compatible with almost all fabrics; however, it has an easier time bonding with cottons, wools, and synthetic blends. Recommended civilian clothing should consist of long sleeve shirts and pants made from tightly-woven fabric to provide the most protection. In addition to the 0.5% permethrin 6oz aerosol can from Sawyer (NSN 6840-01-278-1336), a Sawyer 0.5% permethrin 12oz trigger spray dispenser (NSN 6840-01-692-7397) has been approved for DoD use. The trigger spray is more transportable by air due to its unpressurized container. These products provide up to 6 weeks (or 6 launderings) of protection against ticks, chiggers, mites, and mosquitoes. The aerosol can will treat one complete outfit with 1/4th remaining to treat other gear while the trigger spray will treat two complete outfits.
Always follow the label directions when treating civilian clothing. Click to watch a video of
Treating Civilian Clothing with Permethrin using the aerosol can.
What standard military insect repellent products are available for use on exposed skin?
Approved military insect repellents for exposed skin come in a variety of formulations:
- Ultrathon™ (NSN 6840-01-284-3982), 33%
DEET lotion, protects up to 12 hours.
- Ultra 30™ Insect Repellent Lotion (NSN 6840-01-
584-8393), 30% Lipo DEET, protects up to 12 hours
- Cutter® pump spray (NSN 6840-01-584-8598),
25% DEET, protects up to 10 hours.
- Natrapel® pump spray (NSN 6840-01-619-4795),
20% Picaridin, protects up to 8 hours.
- Coleman® SkinSmart pump spray (NSN 6840-01-
656-7707), 20% IR3535, protects up to 8 hours.
- Bullseye® pump spray (NSN 6840-01-656-7707),
20% IR3535, protects up to 8 hours.
Use of trademark name(s) does not imply endorsement by the U.S. DoD, but is intended only to assist in the identification of a specific product.
Note: Do not apply insect repellent to the eyes, lips, or to sensitive or damaged skin.
Are insect repellent treated uniforms safe?
- There are no known adverse health risk associated with wearing insect repellent treated uniforms.
- Both permethrin and etofenprox are Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registered for use with a variety
of applications including food/feed crops, livestock, Public Health mosquito abatement programs, pets, and
- After thorough research proving the safety of permethrin, the EPA registered it as an insect repellent for use
on clothing, and the US Food and Drug Administration approved it for medical treatments of head lice and
scabies. In 2016 the EPA registered etofenprox for use as an insect repellent on Military uniforms.
- Based upon the best science and studies performed to date, the EPA has determined that wearing or coming
in contact with permethrin or etofenprox-treated uniforms is unlikely to cause adverse health effects.
- As of 2023, permethrin and etofenprox are the only insect repellents approved for the treatment of clothing
Other Frequently Asked Questions
Which uniforms are insect repellent-treated?
The Army/Air Force Advanced Combat Uniform (ACU-OCP), Flame Resistant Army Combat Uniform (FRACU), Improved Hot Weather Combat Uniform (IHWCU), Marine Corps Combat Utility Uniform (MCCUU), Marine Corps Tropical Combat Uniform (MCTCU), Marine Corps Flame Resistant Combat Ensemble (FRCE), and the Enhanced FRCE are factory-treated with permethrin or etofenprox. These uniforms are issued to service members and are available for purchase at Military Clothing Sales Stores. All factory-treated uniforms will have a sewn-in label indicating that the garment has been treated with insect repellent. New uniforms will also have a removable hang-tag attached that indicates the uniform is insect repellent-treated. Army Combat Shirts (ACS) and Army Combat Pants (ACP) are not currently factory-treated and cannot be treated using field treatment methods.
Why is it so important that all service members wear insect repellent-treated uniforms?
The DoD’s policy is to provide the best protection for our service members’ health and well-being. By factory-treating uniforms with insect repellent, the DoD is providing a product that will enhance Force Health Protection and Readiness. The treated uniforms protect service members from insect and tick-borne diseases while in garrison, training, and non-combat deployed environments worldwide. Service members should continue to properly protect themselves against insect bites and diseases by wearing their uniform with sleeves rolled down, closing all openings in clothing that might let in insects, tucking pants into boots and undershirt into pants, and wearing loose-fitting uniforms.
Are insect repellent-treated uniforms safe to wear every day?
There are no known adverse health risks associated with wearing insect repellent-treated uniforms. Currently there are two insect repellent treatments that can be applied to uniforms in the factory, permethrin and etofenprox. Both permethrin and etofenprox are Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registered for use with a variety of applications including food/feed crops, livestock, Public Health mosquito abatement programs, pets, and clothing. Based upon the best science and studies performed to date, the EPA has determined that wearing or coming in contact with insect repellent-treated uniforms is unlikely to cause adverse health effects.
Why is factory treating uniforms with insect repellent an improvement?
Factory treatment of uniforms with insect repellents eliminates the need for service members to treat their own uniforms. The factory treatment uses special binders to ensure that enough repellent is retained in the uniform’s fabric to protect against mosquito, tick, fly, chigger, and midge bites for the lifetime of the uniform. Factory treatment guarantees that a safe and effective amount of repellent is precisely applied to each uniform. The guesswork about who is protected by a treated uniform is removed. Factory treatment eliminates the potential risk of increased exposure to service members applying concentrated liquid products to their uniforms. Factory treatment also eliminates environmental concerns associated with the use and disposal of field-applied products.
How do I know if my uniforms have been factory treated with insect repellent?
Insect repellent treated uniforms can be identified by checking the hangtags and reading the labels sewn into the coat and trousers. Both will indicate that the uniform has been factory-treated with insect repellent. Treated and untreated uniforms are identical on the outside. The insect repellent-treatment is invisible, odorless, colorless and does not change the feel of the uniform.
Are there any special instructions for taking care of my repellent-treated uniforms?
Research has shown that the insect repellent-treated uniforms provide protection for the expected life of the uniform (50 washes). Bite protection is reduced with washing. Insect repellent-treated uniforms should be washed with a mild cold water detergent and dried on low heat. Do not use bleach, bleach alternatives, fabric softener, or starch. Do not dry clean or commercially hot press the uniform. Dry cleaning will significantly reduce the bite protection, fade the colors, and weaken the fibers of the uniform, causing it to wear out sooner. Do not apply additional permethrin or etofenprox to the insect repellent-treated uniforms; the original factory treatment provides protection for the expected lifetime of the uniform.
Will the insect repellent transfer to other clothes in the washing machine?
The EPA label states insect repellent-treated civilian and military garments, whether individually or factory-treated, should be washed separately from other garments. However, recent studies have shown that only very tiny amounts of residue will transfer to other garments in the wash. The factory treatment process tightly bonds the insect repellent to the fibers of the uniform, which helps maintain the insect-repelling properties. service members should follow instructions on use and care lable of the uniform.
Should I be concerned about wearing my repellent-treated uniform around my family and pets?
As the only repellents that are EPA-registered to treat clothing, permethrin and etofenprox have earned an excellent safety record. The EPA concluded that all of the potential adverse health risks, including cancer and non-cancer risks, when wearing treated uniforms were below the Agency's level of concern (extremely low). Since 2003, well-known companies that market outdoor gear and clothing have offered permethrin-treated clothing for toddlers, children, and adults. The amount of insect repellent applied to the uniform does cause danger to humans and pets.
What if I am pregnant or nursing? Will wearing my repellent-treated uniform harm my baby?
While there are no indications of adverse health effects to mother or child from permethrin or etofenprox-treated clothing, female service members that are pregnant, nursing, or trying to get pregnant are authorized to wear untreated uniforms or maternity uniforms. Service members must see their health care provider to obtain a medical profile exempting the wear of an insect repellent-treated uniform. For Army Soldiers, a medical profile allows the individual to special-order a non-treated uniform through the Army Military Clothing Sales Store prior to, or after, the wear of a non-treated maternity uniform.
Should individuals with sensitive skin be concerned about wearing repellent-treated uniforms?
The weight of evidence in the medical literature indicates that wearing an insect repellent-treated uniform is unlikely to cause skin sensitization, skin irritation, or other skin effects in humans. Factory treatment is superior to field treatment because the factory process strongly bonds the insect repellent onto the fibers of the uniform, which results in significantly less insect repellent coming into contact with a service member's skin. To prevent skin irritation, service members should wash new uniforms prior to wearing to remove any residual fabric finishes. Should skin irritation occur after washing the uniform, consult with a health care provider to address any concerns associated with wearing an insect repellent-treated uniform.
Whom can I contact if I have any questions or concerns about insect repellent-treated uniforms?