Do citronella candles work?

Do citronella candles work?

Do citronella candles work against mosquitoes?

Summertime usually means weekends at the beach, backyard barbecues with friends, lazy afternoons by the pool, and, for many households, finding ways to keep pesky mosquitoes at bay. If you’ve invested in insect repellent sprays, foggers, incense, and candles in the fight against mosquitoes, you might be wondering whether citronella—a key essential oil in many mosquito repellent products—actually works. Read on to find out. 

What is citronella?
Citronella is an essential oil that comes from a grass plant of the cymbopogon genus (similar to lemongrass). It’s best known for its natural insect repellent properties. 

With a fresh and citrusy aroma that has invigorating floral notes, oil of citronella has been used for centuries to ward off bugs, treat parasitic infections, lift mood, and as a food flavoring agent. 

Citronella is also used in soaps, perfume, body creams, and cleaning products.

How does citronella repel mosquitoes?

Mosquitoes are attracted to certain compounds present in human sweat, on our skin, and in the carbon dioxide we exhale. In other words, mosquitoes are drawn to the way we smell. Citronella oil works by masking those scents.

It’s not the only oil that helps in the fight against mosquitoes. Another essential oil—oil of lemon eucalyptus, which comes from lemon eucalyptus trees—has also proven effective and safe in masking the scents that attract mosquitoes, with the Environmental Protection Agency registering the oil as an insect repellent that’s safe for human use.

Do citronella candles work against mosquitoes?

Citronella candles work at repelling mosquitoes—to a degree

While citronella candles won’t ward off all mosquitoes, a research paper from Malaria Journal found that, in field studies, they reduced the number of mosquito bites by an enormous 50%.

The effectiveness of citronella candles depends on the concentration of citronella oil, so it’s important to choose candles that don’t skimp on the essential oils. It’s also important to choose candles that offer a long and consistent burn so that the citronella oil casts a steady, invisible shield against pests.


What other non-toxic ingredients work as bug repellents?

One of the most effective insect repellents is an active ingredient called DEET, which has in recent years earned a bad rap because it has been known to cause skin and eye irritation and trigger other sensitivities.

In response, many companies have developed bug sprays that use Picaridin, which is a less irritating insect repellent, and botanical sprays that incorporate mosquito-repelling essential oils such as geranium, lavender, peppermint, cedarwood, lemon eucalyptus, and, yes, citronella.

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