How to Make Citronella Candles to Keep All the Bugs Away

By Alexa Erickson

There’s nothing quite as frustrating as sitting outside to relax at dusk only to be attacked by mosquitoes. If you live in a buggy area where mosquitoes make themselves at home in your backyard, you know that having citronella on hand is a must.

If you’ve ever wanted to learn about exactly what makes citronella so effective at warding off itchy bug bites later on and how to take advantage of it yourself by making your own citronella candles, we have you covered! This guide will teach you a little bit more about citronella and how to make citronella candles to ward off mosquitoes so you can enjoy your next bonfire in peace (and bug bite-free!).

purple scissors cutting white candle's wick

Photo via Julien K., Hometalk Team

What is Citronella?

Citronella is a member of the geranium plant. The foliage on the plant, when crushed, yields a lemon-scented oil that’s most commonly used as an insect repellent. The oil has also been used for centuries to treat rashes, infections, and other health conditions.

Citronella is a diluted ingredient used in candles, which you’ll learn how to make below, and is also used in diffusers, massage oils and creams, sprays, and incense sticks.

Safety Warning

Citronella can be used diluted in carrier oils, but its oil should never be applied directly to the skin. The oil can be irritating to skin and eyes and frequent exposure can cause skin allergies.

Bugs that Citronella Repels

Citronella oil helps repel biting insects, including mosquitoes and biting or sand flies. It does so by masking the scent of humans. The strong scent of citronella confuses an insect’s senses, leading them in search of another target.

Flies are also deterred by candles, as they tend to turn the other direction when confronted with flames and smoke.

chopsticks holding up candle wick in glass jars

Photo via Sarinasala1

How to Make Citronella Candles

A great alternative to slathering chemicals on your skin, citronella candles offer a safe and effective way to deter mosquitoes. However, many commercial citronella candles are scented synthetically, which doesn’t offer the strong citronella scent required to do the job. Thankfully, homemade citronella candles are easy to make. Here’s how!

Tools and Materials Needed

Step 1: Glue Wick to Bottom of Jar

With your warmed-up hot glue gun, place a dollop of hot glue in the bottom of the inside of your Mason jar, then carefully place the wick in, the tab side sticking to the glue. Let the tip of the wick rest over the top of the jar while you make the wax.

Step 2: Melt the Wax

Place the wax in the double boiler and turn on the burner to medium. Once the wax has liquified, stir in about three drops of citronella oil per cup of wax.

Step 3: Pour the Wax

Pour the wax into the jar. You can use chopsticks to keep the wick centered as you fill the jar by steadying the excess wick above the jar between the chopsticks.

Step 4: Let Cool, Cut the Wicks

Allow your new citronella candle to cool for 48 hours undisturbed before burning it. Trim the wick to about 1/4 inch above wax level before lighting it.

More Scents that Repel Bugs

While citronella alone can ward off biting insects, why not increase your candle’s power by adding in other essential oils known to repel bugs? Simply add a drop or two of the following essential oils to add more scent to your citronella candle—along with more bug-fighting power:

  • Lavender oil
  • Clove oil
  • Lemon eucalyptus oil
  • Cinnamon oil
  • Tea tree oil
  • Thyme oil
  • Neem oil
  • Greek catnip oil

The Power of Lemon Eucalyptus

One study found that a mixture containing lemon eucalyptus oil ensured more than 95 percent protection from mosquitoes for three hours.

How to Use Your Citronella Candle

A citronella candle is a great way to add ambient lighting to your alfresco experience while keeping mosquitoes at bay. Here are some creative ways to display your citronella candles around your backyard oasis:

  • Dress up your citronella jars by wrapping them in burlap or twine for a rustic look, then place them on your patio table.
  • Make a bunch of candles in different sized and shaped jars, and scatter them around your patio, paying special attention to seating areas.
  • Double the power of the scent by placing citronella plant container gardens around your space. But beware: These plants are toxic to pets, so keep them out of reach of your furry friends.
  • Put the candles in hanging jars to display on shepherd hooks surrounding your patio.
  • Utilize them in your outdoor tablescape.

Have you made your own citronella candles before? Share your experience below!

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