Early on in our experience with the mysterious bugs we found out about Kleen-Free enzyme cleaner and ordered it. It didn’t solve our problem, (see this post to see what did), but it did provide a lot of relief by giving us a product we could spray on our skin to relieve the creepy-crawly feeling for a while. When we used it in a bath and it gave us one of the best night’s sleep we had experienced since the problem had started. The problem is that Kleen-Free is expensive, very expensive in the quantities you need to combat this problem. This has lead us to search for alternatives and to try several different products. I’d like to summarize our results for the benefit of others and to this end, I have ranked the products in my order of preference based on four criteria – effectiveness, cost, versatility, and odor.
- Bug Arrest – At $40 per gallon of concentrate this product is approximately 1/2 the cost of the next closest alternative. This low cost, combined with its good effectiveness make it the overall winner for dealing with invisible (unseen) biting bugs. This is not to say that Bug Arrest is a perfect product, it has one glaring problem that is hard to ignore – odor. However, the odor fades rapidly which makes it bearable and allows Bug Arrest to win this shootout. Effectiveness (5 out of 10 points) – None of the enzyme solutions are cures which is what I would require for a 10 point rating, however they do help and 5 out of 10 means that Bug Arrest ties for first place in the effectiveness category. Not too soapy, stops creepy-crawlies in their tracks, and seems to work for baths as well.
Cost (6 out of 10 points) – Relatively cheap, nearly 1/2 the cost of Kleen-Free and it is used in identical concentrations, Bug Arrest wins first place in this category.
Versatility (7 out of 10 points) – It sprays on clear and can be used as a cleaner with respectable results. We use it on fresh stains such as coffee, oil, etc since we keep it easily accessable.
Odor (3 out of 10 points) – Imagine some fish, no, make that fish that has been dead for a day or two. Now add a wet dog and have it roll in the dead fish. Now relax and take in the resulting aroma. Congratulations, you have now experienced Bug Arrest. It smells that bad. The good news is that it isn’t the worst product, and that the smell fades quickly so that you can use it without worry provided there will be some time before you see anyone else.
- Kleen-Free – A very good product that works well against the bugs and doubles as an excellent cleaner that doesn’t smell too bad. Unfortunately it is quite expensive at $75 / gallon, especially when you consider how much you will use with a cup per bath and the rest at an 8 to 1 mix with water for spraying it on yourself. Effectiveness (5 out of 10 points) – Very good for an enzyme cleaner, tied with Bug Arrest. Be careful though, we found anything less then an 8 to 1 mix seemed to be ineffective.
Cost (3 out of 10 points) – Quite expensive when you consider how much you will be using, though still the second best cleaner from a cost and concentration standpoint.
Versatility (9 out of 10 points) – Kleen-Free is a fantastic cleaner. My daughter spilled some (cold) coffee on a fairly new white shirt she was wearing. Not having anything at my disposal I decided to spray Kleen-Free on it and hope for the best. Within minutes (5-10) the stain was gone, completely gone. We were amazed and have continued to be very pleased with the cleaning ability of this product.
Odor (6 out of 10 points) – Kleen-Free has a unique odor that is not exactly unpleasent, but not something you would want to smell like either. Fortunately the odor is pretty mild and dissipates quickly. If you leave it mixed for a few days it starts to get a fermented smell though that grows stronger over time, so only mix up what you need for the next day or two.
- EcoVie – We had high hopes for this product when we ordered it, having read good things from others about its effectiveness. It is quite expensive at nearly $110/gallon after currency and metric conversions. The product is a rather noxious looking brown liquid that smells like a plywood factory (very unpleasent). It can and does stain things, so spot spraying with clothes on is difficult. The one bright spot is that it seems to help when you use it in a bath, and is relatively cost-effective when used that way since you put in only a small quantity per bath. Effectiveness (3 out of 10 points) – It helps when used in a bath, though it didn’t seem to work as well for us as Kleen-Free. Use as a spritz is very limited since it stains things.
Cost (4 out of 10 points) – Expensive to purchase, but you use less of it for bathing so it is less expensive per-bath then Kleen-Free.
Versatility (1 out of 10 points) – Forget about using this product to clean, though you will probably need a cleaner after you use it.
Odor (2 out of 10 points) – If you have never had the misfortune of smelling a paper or plywood factory then opening a bottle of EcoVie will let you experience it. The odor is strong, unpleasent, and manages to last for a while.
- Bi-O-Kleen Bac-Out – Literally a breath of fresh air in a category of products that smell unpleasent to varying degrees. Available in spray bottles at natural product stores or in a 5 gallon bucket for $20 / gallon. This product is not concentrated though, so you use it straight, making it the most expensive product of the group (you need 8 gallons to equal one bottle of Bug Arrest or Kleen-Free, which would cost $160 if you could buy it by the gallon). Given its limited effectiveness and high cost it should only be considered as a stopgap product until something else arrives. Effectiveness (2 out of 10 points) – It worked ok for the bugs, though less effective then either Bug Arrest or Kleen-Free, and soaped up into a lather which is very inconvienent when you are spraying it on your skin.
Cost (1 out of 10 points) – Since it is not concentrated it is very expensive when compared to the other products.
Versatility (7 out of 10 points) – Obviously since this product is sold as a cleaner it can be used for cleaning, however in our experience it seems less effective at cleaning then Kleen-Free, right about at the level of Bug Arrest, except that it foams up to aid in scrubbing.
Odor (10 out of 10 points) – Bac-Out smells great. It includes natural lime scent so it doesn’t smell like an artificial smelling cleaner, it smells like a key-lime pie.
We found enzyme cleaners to be best for spraying on yourself when you need relief from a crawling sensation. At the right concentrations you can mist it on your skin, let it sit for 30 – 60 seconds, then re-dress and enjoy relief for a while. They are also useful for bathing, though all of the products are expensive and might not be the best choice for everyday use. Some of the manufacturers recommend using them for laundry. We found Kleen-Free to be ineffective at getting rid of the bugs in the laundry. Amonnia and Borax work much better. We also tried Kleen-Free in our humidifier at about a 15 to 1 concentration and found that it did nothing, and that the humidity caused the bugs to multiply like crazy. Bad idea, don’t use your humidifier during this problem no matter what you put in it.