Fact Check

Do Bubble Machines Keep Mosquitoes Away?

Hacks for keeping mosquitoes away are a common type of rumor.

Published Sep 7, 2022

Updated Sep 13, 2022
A woman scratches the skin on her forearm. There are many possible causes of itching, including allergic reactions, skin conditions, and infection. Credit: NIAID (Photo by: IMAGE POINT FR/NIH/NIAID/BSIP //Universal Images Group via Getty Images) (Getty Images)
Image Via Getty Images
Claim:
Mosquitoes can be repelled with the use of bubble machines.

Fact Check

Hot weather in many regions of the U.S. in September 2022 meant that many were engaging in the perennial pastime of seeking out remedies for keeping mosquitoes away.

One theory holds that a "hack" to keep them at bay employs a children's toy. Some websites touted a bubble machine as a "home remedy" to keep the bugs away, thus preventing itchy bites. Sources that claim bubble makers keep mosquitoes away argue that the insects don't like the smell of soap.

We haven't found any credible sources that confirm bubble machines repel these insects, however. Because mosquito bites can spread disease, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists a number of preventative measures. Neither soap nor bubble machines are included in that list.

We reached out to the American Mosquito Control Association (AMCA) asking if the organization has any information about bubble machines preventing mosquito bites.

AMCA technical advisor Dan Markowski told Snopes in an email that the prospect seems unlikely. Bubble makers sold to consumers don't create enough wind to interrupt mosquito flight. Here's more information provided by Markowski:

Given that glycerin is a primary component in bubble soaps, I also looked into the literature regarding Glycerin (in this case glycerin oils) as a repellent. And there are some claims of formulated glycerin oils for mosquito repellent to last several hours when applied properly to the skin. But given that bubbles are in the air, and would not uniformly pop to cover a person’s skin, I can't see how it would provide protection. There is also the thought that you could add a repellent to the bubble mixture (like lemongrass oil). That, however, could potentially create more adverse side effects (some people have contact dermatitis from various repellents).

Another point to consider is that people using bubble machines are typically also playing and have increased activity, sweat, and CO2 being exhaled while running around and catching bubbles - all making them more of an attractant to mosquitoes.

Markowski's advice? Wear a personal mosquito repellant and use it according to the instructions on the label. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has a list of such products consumers can reference.

The idea that bubble machines repel insects like mosquitoes is an old but unfounded rumor, often connected to Irish Spring soap.

In 2021, Snopes researched a rumor that hanging Irish Spring soap in a mesh bag will keep flies away, which we were unable to verify. In 2002, we likewise debunked a rumor that Lemon Joy dishwashing soap and Listerine were effective mosquito repellants.

Sources:

“Hey, Who Invited the Mosquitoes?” https://www.unitypoint.org/livewell/article.aspx?id=58ac2c60-01eb-42e8-b4d4-1c6f271b030b. Accessed 7 Sept. 2022.

“Repel Mosquitoes with a Bubble Machine.” Lifehacker, 31 May 2011, https://lifehacker.com/repel-mosquitoes-with-a-bubble-machine-5806950.

“Zika Virus - Protect Yourself from Mosquito Bites.” CDC, 5 Nov. 2014, https://www.cdc.gov/zika/prevention/prevent-mosquito-bites.html.

Updates

Updated to include information from the American Mosquito Control Association.

Bethania Palma is a journalist from the Los Angeles area who started her career as a daily newspaper reporter and has covered everything from crime to government to national politics. She has written for ... read more

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