A district‐wide study was undertaken in a rural population of northern Ghana to identify factors influencing the acceptance and use of insecticide‐impregnated bednets (IIBNs). A series of focus group discussions were conducted during 2 years of implementation of IIBNs to gauge community reactions to the introduction of the nets and a structured questionnaire was administered to approximately 2000 randomly selected individuals. Although the IIBNs were accepted and used because they provided protection from mosquito bites, seasonal factors, patterns of use, and questions of cost were key factors likely to influence the dissemination and effectiveness of bednets. Use of the bednets was highly seasonal. Almost all recipients used their IIBNs in the rainy season (99%), corresponding to the period of high mosquito density and 20% used them in the dry seasons, the period of low mosquito density. Mothers with young children were more likely to wash the bednets frequently (because the children soiled the bednets with faeces and urine), resulting in no protection from the insecticide. Provision of wider bednets, or the provision of plastic sheets with the bednets or possible incorporation of the insecticide in washing soaps could improve protection for young children. The success of the promotion of IIBNs in malaria control programmes will depend on the cost of the package and the time of year that it is delivered. Financing mechanisms for individual and village groups are discussed. Social research effectively monitored the intervention in this study, and it should be included as an important component of national malaria control programmes.