How to treat clothes with permethrin
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How to Treat Your Clothes with Permethrin Quickly & Safely

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You’re going to need to know how to treat your clothes with permethrin if you’re going camping in tick country. Lyme disease is no joke, so if we’re in the woods, we’re wearing permethrin-treated clothing.

Permethrin treating clothing

Permethrin treated clothing is the main thing we use for tick and insect repellent. We’ve found that there is only one good way to treat clothing, and that is by spraying.

How to Treat Clothing With Permethrin:

To get started, you will need to choose the outfit (pants, shirt and socks) you want to treat with permethrin. You’ll also need an outdoor space preferably out of the direct sun.

Spraying pants with permethrin

Total Time Needed :



Total Cost:

Less than 20


Required Tools:

– A shaded outdoor space
– Your Outdoor Clothes

Things Needed?

– Permethrin Spray.
– Protective Gloves
– Mask/Respirator

Steps For Treating Clothing With Permethrin:

Permethrin treating clothing
1. Choose Your Outfit

Get one outfit that you want treated. (Pants, shirt, socks)

Get Permethrin at Amazon, Ranger Ready Repellants or REI.

How to Choose Clothing
Permethrin treated clothing drying in the shade
2. Go Outside

Find a well ventilated area out of the sun.

I typically hang our clothes under our umbrella, it’s a perfect shady spot!

Read More
Permethrin spray and nitrile gloves
3. Protect Yourself

Put on gloves, mask/respirator and cover any exposed skin.

What to Wear
Spraying permethrin onto pants
4. Spray Clothes

Spray permethrin onto your clothing, aiming to use 4.5 oz per outfit.

Tip: Place smaller items onto larger items while spraying, this avoids wasting permethrin with overspray.

How Much To Use
Permethrin treated socks drying in the shade
5. Let it Dry

Let clothing dry in the shade for 2 hours.

Clothing is ready to wear as soon as it’s dry. No need to wash your treated clothing in the washing machine.

Drying Clothing

How Long Does Permethrin Last?

Permethrin lasts 6 weeks or 6 washes

You will need to re-treat your clothing every 6 weeks or every 6 washes.
We treat a set of clothes for everyone in our family and keep the “tick clothes” in our camping closet so we don’t wear and wash them unnecessarily.

Permethrin Spray Method:

We buy the Sawyer brand permethrin spray from Amazon, Ranger Ready Repellants or REI. It comes in large bottles with a sprayer, so it’s easy to spray it onto clothing, hiking boots and tents.

Permethrin tick repellent

Treating clothing with permethrin is easy, you just need to spray clothes until they look wet.

Spray your items outside on a non-windy day. Permethrin spray is safe to humans and pets after it dries, but the label says it’s harmful to cats, so stay away from areas where cats are or where cats are going to be. 

Treating Clothing with permethrin spray

Spray your clothing and camping gear until it look wets and then leave your gear in the shade to dry for 2-4 hours. It’s recommended you use 4.5 fluid ounces per “outfit”, which consists of a shirt, pants and socks. 

Do NOT spray the clothes while you are wearing them. 

Permethrin Soak Method:

There are websites that suggest you can apply permethrin indoors with a soak method.

I tried a mock soak with water and I wanted to show you all how to measure out 4.5 oz and pour it onto your items that are in a ziplock bag, but this proved problematic for many reasons.

Reason one is that it didn’t coat the clothing evenly. I put a shirt, pair of pants and socks in a bag, poured in 4.5 oz of water and massaged it in. The clothes came out super spotty. This is not a good method. 

Permethrin soak on outdoor clothes

Another suggestion is to take 4.5 ounces and dilute it into water and then try the plastic bag method. In order to apply permethrin correctly, your outfit needs to have 4.5 ounces of permethrin spray dried on it.

If you have extra liquid in the bag when you’re done, then that product isn’t dried on your clothing and you’ll be lacking the proper protection.

Reason two is needing to have proper application. From what I found, others seem to be buying industrial strength permethrin and diluting it down to the correct level to be used on clothing. 

We cannot and do not recommend doing a permethrin soak.

It’s illegal to use chemicals in a way that it isn’t intended for. Even if you’re willing to risk breaking the law, then you have math to contend with.

It may seem like it’s an easy thing to figure out, but on a post that’s out there, a commenter listed their formula and someone else contended the math and they figured out one of them was using a formula for 5% when they should have been using a formula for 0.5%. That is a massive difference! Again, do not do this.

Getting the Correct Amount

I was going to suggest measuring out 4.5 ounces to transfer to a smaller spray bottle, but the packaging directly says to NOT transfer to a different container. So I do not recommend using a smaller spray bottle to measure out the correct amount for each outfit. 

I did an experiment where I used the sprayer that came with the bottle and sprayed out 4.5 oz of water with it. I got about 100 sprays.

If you want to use my 100 sprays estimation, use 10 sprays per sock, and 40 each for your pants and shirt.

Sprays of Permethrin per item of clothing

For pants, I’d do 5 sprays per pant leg, concentrating on each cuff. Then flip the pants and do it again. You have 10 sprays for the waistband and 10 sprays for the rest of the pants.

For a shirt it’s similar, you’ll do each sleeve, with 5 sprays (concentrating on the cuffs) and then flip it and spray the other side the same way. That’s 20 sprays done, use 10 for the collar and the remaining 10 for the rest of the shirt.

Socks are easy, each side of the sock gets 5 sprays, concentrating on the top of the sock.

When treating your clothes, start with the cuffs first as that’s where ticks will try to get in. 

Treating Hiking Boots with Permethrin

If you’re going to use permethrin insect repellent on your hiking boots, focus a lot on the top of the boots where the ticks would be crawling in an attempt to get into your boots.

Hiking boots for camping

Spray the laces and tongue area of the boots as well if there are gaps where ticks can get into your hiking shoes.

We make sure to treat our son’s hiking boots a second time before the end of the summer because he’s always off running through the underbrush.

What Does Permethrin Guard Against?

The main two kinds of insects that permethrin is an effective repellent for are ticks and mosquitos. The best way to avoid vector-borne disease is to avoid mosquito bites and tick bites in the first place.

Tick-borne diseases like Lyme disease, rocky mountain spotted fever can cause serious health problems.

Illnesses from mosquitoes such as west nile virus and zika virus are can also cause adverse health effects.

Does Permethrin Work?

Recently we went camping and my husband and I were off trail a lot searching for morel mushrooms. We were wearing our tick repellent clothing on all hikes. 

Back at the campsite, he took a shower and changed out of his tick clothes. While sitting at the campfire, he found a tick on him. I was sitting right next to him with my tick clothes on and had no ticks on me. 

Another camper sitting on the other side of me found 3 ticks on her in the next 20 minutes. Same campfire, same time, the only difference was that I was wearing permethrin treated fabric. 

GIven that “recent study” with myself and people I know as human subjects, I’m pretty confident that this repellent keeps ticks away. 

Permethrin Safety

Permethrin is a chemical, so care needs to be taken with the application.

Is Permethrin Safe for Kids and Pets?

Is Permethrin treated clothing safe for kids to wear? Yes, once permethrin insect repellent is dry, it becomes safe. Wearing permethrin treated clothing is safe for kids, adults and even pregnant adults.

The active ingredient is a synthetic chemical that mimics the chrysanthemum flower.

Permethrin isn’t safe around cats, so always apply the spray outside and do not let cats come in contact with liquid permethrin or treated clothing that is still wet.

Permethrin FAQs

If you’re going to be treating your clothes with permethrin, you might have a few questions. We’ve answered the most common ones here:

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