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Permethrin, a Top Choice for Tick Control

By Brodie SwisherSeptember 9, 2022

When I think about the negative impact a tick bite can have on a person, I immediately think of an old friend from my high school days. She was diagnosed with Lyme Disease back in our early teenage years. At the time, she battled the worst case of Lyme Disease in the country. And she continues to face serious struggles with it to this day. Her story, as well as those from many other friends battling Lyme Disease, have opened my eyes to just how serious a tick bite can be.

Lyme Disease, as well as Alpha-gal Syndrome (AGS), are two hot topics these days when it comes to health hazards found in the whitetail woods. The lesser known, Alpha-gal, has been in the spotlight more and more these days as a number of high-profile hunters have been diagnosed in recent years.

The Alpha-gal allergy, also known as the red meat allergy or tick bite allergy, is believed to be triggered by the lone star tick. It’s a serious, and potentially life-threatening allergy that can be found in meat (pork, beef, venison, etc.) and products made from mammals. 

What’s the best solution for preventing these illnesses during your hunting and outdoor adventures? The answer is, Permethrin. 

The stuff works like nothing else when it comes to keeping the ticks away. The key is to treat your clothes with a product like Sawyer Permethrin Fabric Treatment ahead of your hunt. But there are some things you need to know about using permethrin before you put it to use this season.

We reached out to our friends at Sawyer for more info on the permethrin product, and they had just about every question covered. Check out the info below for a look at what you need to know before you get started with permethrin. 

Everything You Need To Know About Permethrin For Tick Control
Permethrin is a game changer when it comes to keeping ticks off your clothing and gear, but there are some things you need to know before you use it.

What is Permethrin?

Permethrin is a synthetic version of the Chrysanthemum flower’s natural insect repellent pyrethrin. The naturally occurring version breaks down rather quickly in sunlight but Sawyer’s pharmaceutical grade, synthetic Permethrin can last 6 weeks or 6 washings on clothing and other fabrics, making it a fantastic odorless barrier of protection from mosquitoes and ticks.

How Harmful are Permethrin Fumes While Treating Clothes?

It is recommended that treating clothing with the permethrin aerosol be performed outdoors. If the treatment is accidentally carried out indoors, no adverse health effects are expected based upon calculations of inhaled dose.

However, individuals with breathing problems, such as asthma, may be at greater risk. The odor arising from treating fabric with permethrin is mostly from the aerosol propellants rather than from the insect repellent itself.

How To Keep Ticks Off Your Body
It's important to keep your body protected from ticks. Ticks carry a number of diseases, any one of which can be debilitating in the worst case.

Can Permethrin Cause Skin Irritation from Repeated Use?

Studies in animals have demonstrated that no skin irritation or sensitization is expected following direct application. In a controlled human study, permethrin did not cause significant skin irritation or sensitization when tested on 200 subjects. No significant skin effects are expected from wearing permethrin-treated clothing.

Will Permethrin Ruin My Clothes or Equipment?

No. Permethrin will not damage clothes or equipment. Unlike DEET, which may harm some fabrics and materials, Permethrin is compatible for use even on fragile fabrics such as silk, plus all synthetics and waterproof membrane fabrics. 

Permethrin will not affect plastics or finishes. If in doubt, try a sample on an obscure surface area, especially on delicates and check it after 24 hours of exposure. Sawyer Permethrin Insect Repellent is odorless, non-greasy, and non-staining after it dries.

Permethrin can be harmful to aquatic creatures such as fish, so do not spray Permethrin around fish aquariums.

Everything You Need To Know About Permethrin For Tick Control
Permethrin is designed to safely treat your clothing and gear prior to the hunt.

How Much Permethrin Comes Off Clothing When Laundered?

A strong bond is formed between permethrin and most fabrics. In fact, some insect repellency was observed in military uniforms following 50 launderings. However, the uniforms were treated using an absorption method instead of the aerosol can. 

In studies performed by the U.S. Army, about 20 to 30 percent of the permethrin treatment was removed after the first laundering. Thereafter, about 3 to 5 percent was lost to each cycle through ten launderings.

Sawyer Permethrin - What You Need to Know

  • How to Use It – Add a layer of protection to your clothing and gear with Permethrin insect and tick repellent spray — perfect for use on shirts, jackets, pants, socks, shoes, boots, sleeping bags, tents, netting, when outdoors, camping, hunting, or on travel.
  • Protection from Diseases  Repels mosquitoes which may carry the Zika Virus, Yellow Fever, Dengue, and Chikungunya. Repels and kills ticks which may carry Lyme Disease and other tick-borne illnesses. 
  • Bonded to Fabric – Once your treatment of Sawyer Permethrin has fully dried and bonded with your fabric fibers, the amount that can come out via physical contact or water exposure is indeterminately small. It is extended UV exposure or the heavy agitation of a washing machine that degrades the insect repellent treatment, much like the dye in a t-shirt.
  • Can it be Applied to Dogs? – Sawyer Permethrin can be applied to dogs to help control fleas and lice for 35 days and against ticks for 6 weeks. Official application instructions for use on dogs can be found at sawyer.com/dogs.
Everything You Need To Know About Permethrin For Tick Control
Keep your dog protected with Permethrin, too!
  • How Long Does it Last? – Permethrin spray bonds to fabric fibers for up to 6 weeks or through 6 washings (whichever comes first) and won’t stain or damage clothing, fabrics, plastics, finished surfaces, or outdoor gear; odorless after drying.
  • Does it Have an Odor? – Sawyer Permethrin is 100% odorless after drying. It does not harm any fabrics or finishes and can be applied to fabrics as sensitive as silk.
  • Greater Tick Protection – Reduce likelihood of a tick bite by 73.6 times by treating shoes and socks with Permethrin (University of Rhode Island study – 2011).

Final Thoughts

Most of us take tickborne illnesses for granted until it hits close to home. But once you realize how big of an impact diseases and allergies like Lyme and Alpha-gal can have, you’ll likely push to take the extra steps to stay protected. 

Keep your family protected this hunting season by treating your clothing and boots with permethrin. See more at www.sawyer.com

Brodie Swisher
Brodie Swisher is a world champion game caller, outdoor writer, seminar speaker and Editor for Bowhunting.com. Brodie and his family live in the Kentucky Lake area of west Tennessee.
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