May 12, 2023 – After testing four popular body soaps, researchers at Virginia Tech found that three brands could potentially increase how attractive someone smells to mosquitoes, while one soap was less preferred by the disease-spreading insects.
The bottom line is that mosquitoes clearly preferred fruit- and flower-scented soap, and disliked coconut-scented soap. Just how much they prefer a soap scent depends on how the soap interacts with a person’s natural body odor, the study showed.
Approximately 60% of how someone smells is due to the soap they use, versus about 40% of a person’s scent arising from natural body odors, researchers said.
The findings were published this week in the journal iScience.
The soaps tested were Dial, Dove, Native, and Simple Truth. They were selected because they are the preferred brands of 53% of people in the U.S., researchers explained.
Four volunteers had their scents chemically extracted before washing and after washing with each of the four soaps.
Next, caged mosquitoes were exposed to the various scents, and their preferences were recorded. The mosquitoes clearly preferred some volunteers’ unwashed scents more than others.
The soaps also affected how attractive someone smelled to the mosquitoes. Dove and Simple Truth soaps were sometimes preferred by mosquitoes, with mixed results depending on the volunteer. That suggests an interaction between the volunteer’s body scent and the soap chemistry, researchers wrote.
All the mosquitoes disliked the Native soap scent.
“Just by changing soap scents, someone who already attracts mosquitoes at a higher-than-average rate could further amplify or decrease that attraction,” said researcher and assistant professor of biochemistry Clément Vinauger, PhD, in a statement.
The Dial, Dove, and Simple Truth soaps used had fruity or flowery scents, while Native had a coconut scent, researchers reported. They suggested that the scent profile of coconut oil may be a mosquito deterrent.
The specific soaps used in the study were Dial Body Wash Marula Oil, Dove Deep Moisture Nourishing Body Wash, Simple Truth Organic Honey Blossom Baby Shampoo & Body Wash, and Native Coconut and Vanilla Body Wash.
Researchers said they plan to expand their study to include more participants and more types of soaps, as well as other scented products like deodorant and laundry detergent.