According to a recent study, using soap may actually increase human attractiveness to mosquitoes, contradicting the common belief that soap could mask our scent and thus ward off these pests.
The research, spearheaded by Clément Vinauger at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, found that mosquitoes were drawn to individuals who had washed with three out of the four soap brands examined. The researchers theorized that this unexpected attraction could be because mosquitoes, when not consuming blood, take in sugar from plant nectars, which are reminiscent of the fragrances in soap.
As Vinauger put it, by applying these soap scents onto our bodies, we essentially smell both like humans and flowers simultaneously, much like smelling both coffee and muffins at once – a combination that is highly attractive.
The researchers also noted that the attractiveness of soap varies among individuals, possibly because each person’s unique odor interacts differently with the soaps. The same person could become even more appealing to mosquitoes after washing with one type of soap and yet repel mosquitoes when washed with another soap. This finding suggests that the choice of soap might contribute to why some people are more prone to mosquito bites than others.
The study was published in the journal iScience and involved four volunteers who provided fabric samples worn either unwashed or after washing with one of four different soap brands: Dial, Dove, Native, and Simple Truth. Female mosquitoes were then observed landing on these fabric samples, indicating their preference.
The results showed that washing with Dove, Dial, and Simple Truth increased some individuals’ attractiveness to mosquitoes. Conversely, Native soap seemed to repel mosquitoes. The researchers speculated that the coconut scent in Native soap could explain this repellency, as there is some evidence that coconut oils naturally deter mosquitoes.