Mosquitoes are annoying, I know, right? That is why today I have brought to you the talk-of-the-town recipe for repelling these pesky flying insects. Yes, DIY citronella candles recipe. Read on to get your hands on my favorite recipe and find out if DIY citronella candles really work?
Mosquitoes: the uninvited summer guests
Mosquitoes are present everywhere on the Earth. They love to feast on our blood while we are having the best of our time outside. Worst, they leave us with itchy red warts as parting gifts. Some of these creatures also spread serious diseases. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, over 700 million people get infected with mosquito-induced viruses every year. Think of malaria, dengue, Zika virus, and West Nile virus. All of this makes partying in the sun a less-than-sunny affair. Hence, it is important to keep this nuisance away from your homes and gardens.
Although you can never get rid of these buzzing insects entirely, there are a few things you can do to reduce their numbers. Keeping windows and door screens is essential to prevent mosquitoes indoors, but have you ever thought about what you can do to keep the bugs at bay outdoors?
How to prevent mosquitoes from invading your garden?
Since these pesky insects thrive best in moist places, start with eliminating their potential breeding ground; water! Keep your garden clean and debris-free; it creates small ponds where mosquitoes can lay eggs. Flush your decorative ponds or fountains with fresh water every few days to prevent their eggs from hatching. Remove everything that can hold water, including empty plant pots, pet bowls, trays, discarded metal containers, old tires, etc. Use fans and mosquito repellent lotions to avoid the bite when you’re sitting outdoors.
Many homeowners also turn to insecticide chemicals to prevent mosquitoes. While these toxic chemicals are effective against mosquito larvae, the effect is always temporary. Also, they can harm beneficial insects such as bees and butterflies. This is where citronella candles come to the rescue. And if you’re looking for an easy step-by-step DIY citronella candle recipe, stay with us to get to the bottom of it.!
But, before you get your hands on DIY citronella candle-making supplies, it is worth asking – “do citronella candles really work, or is it just hype?”
Citronella is a natural insect repellent
There are many synthetic mosquito repellents available in the market. But, if you’re anything like me, you will prefer an all-natural remedy for a problem like mosquitoes.
Some essential oils have been very effective against flying insects. Eucalyptus fights off ticks, patchouli repels fleas, peppermint oil discourages ants, and citronella, most widely-used, is good at keeping mosquitoes at bay. With a homemade citronella candle, you can also avoid potentially harmful chemicals found in popular synthetic bug sprays such as DEET.
The mosquito repellent plant, citronella, is the scented geraniums of the genus Pelargonium citrosum. However, what we know as a citronella essential oil is produced by the leaves and stems of Asian grass, lemongrass plants (Cymbopogon). A completely different genus! So, if people ask you the two smell very similar, the answer is obvious!
Citronella candles are one of the best candles to keep the bugs away. The fragrance notes of citronella candles are citrusy-floral, a pleasant yet pungent mix crafted to repel the disease-carrying mosquitoes. These candles are a deck and patio stable in summer. Plus, they create a little ambiance as the day turns to dusk.
Do citronella candles really work to prevent mosquitoes?
Of all the natural insect repellents, citronella is well-known to ward off mosquitoes. Citronella essential oil contains a generous amount of geraniol, citronellal, and citronellol. These aromatic compounds in citronella oil might smell pleasant to us, but flying insects can’t stand their aroma and keep their distance – making it a perfect outdoor candle for repelling mosquitoes!
Lately, there’s been a lot of research on the effectiveness of citronella candles for repelling mosquitoes. And many blog posts have cited a study claiming citronella candles don’t work. However, that’s not what the study says.
According to the research, one should not rely upon a citronella candle to protect us from Dengue, Zika, or other mosquito-borne diseases.
In an interview, Laurence Zwiebel, a professor of biological science and pharmacology at Vanderbilt University, told senior staff writer at Wirecutter Doug Mahoney that mosquitoes use multiple chemical receptors to interpret the world around them. And essential oils block only a few of those receptors. Hence the effectiveness of the citronella essential oil is subjective in its nature.
Furthermore, citronella candles are only 40 percent effective against mosquitoes. Meaning you still have a 60 percent chance of getting bitten by virus-laden mosquitoes. So, I would also not recommend citronella candles to keep you protected in a high-risk area.
However, the more effective way would be to use it in combination with citronella-based bug spray to deter those pesky mosquitoes and keep your outdoors bug-free!
Also, citronella candles neither keep mosquitoes out of your yard entirely nor do they do anything to prevent mosquitoes from multiplying. These bug-repellent candles are effective only in the immediate area surrounding the candle.
DIY Citronella candle making supplies
Homemade citronella candles are a hundred times better than store-bought candles. These candles are made with 100 percent natural ingredients and smell nice (at least to humans). Plant-based citronella candles make the best gift for the ones who love camping.
Let’s get started with supplies for making DIY citronella candles. You can buy new materials or repurpose old ones at home so that the candles are both efficient and inexpensive. Without further ado, gather up the following supplies;
- Candle containers (glass jars, ceramic jars, mason jar, aluminum tins, clay pots, old cups, etc.)
- Candle wax (I’d prefer plant-based wax, soy wax because I want to keep it all-natural and sustainable)
- Citronella essential oil
- Complimentary essential oil, i.e., eucalyptus
- Double boiler, or you can also use a microwave to melt the wax.
- Candle making accessories including wick stickers or hot glue gun, scissor, thermometer, ladle, popsicle sticks or skewers, and clothespin, etc
- DIY craft to customize your candle containers
Save money and reuse materials from home
Making a DIY citronella candle at home is an amazing opportunity to save some bucks. Here are a few things you can creatively repurpose to make your candle-making experience more sustainable.
Reuse old containers
The best thing about making candles at home is that you can recycle any container lying around the house aimlessly. Rusty metal tin, glass jars, mason jars, ceramic cups, small clay pots all make a suitable candle container to be used in the garden. Glass jar or mason jar would look pretty amazing if you’re giving citronella candles as a gift. Use a pint-sized glass jar (4-6 inches) so that the candle heat doesn’t break the glass. Also, this makes the project quite inexpensive and sustainable without compromising the quality of the wax, wick, or essential oil.
Reuse old wax
Wax is the most important and expensive part of this DIY candle-making project.
You can easily cut these costs down. Scrape out the wax that hasn’t burned completely and melt it back down for your new citronella candles. If you’re into this, freeze your containers overnight. On the following day, take a butter knife to gently peel the wax away from the sides and edges of the container.
Alternatively, you can also place the old container in a water bath and heat the wax till it melts completely. Then, you can use this melted wax in your project.
Make your own candle wick
You can also make candle wicks at home using twine, pieces of cotton (like a sock or old towel), and even shoelaces. Tie the end of your homemade wick to a small metal washer to give it some weight, and wrap the other end around a skewer to center the wick in the container.
Notes about the type of wax for a DIY citronella candle
Each candle wax has its own specific property, which makes it unique in DIY candle making. Parrafin wax, for example, burns faster and produces toxic soot. On the other hand, beeswax burns clean and slow. Plant-based waxes such as soy wax also burn clean at a lower temperature. These waxes also help prevent the heating and cracking of glass containers.
Notes about the wick size and number for a DIY citronella candle
As a general rule of thumb, wide wicks allow the candle wax to burn slower. Also, if you are using a large container (greater than 6 inches), you might need to add more wicks. It would take some trial and experiment to find the perfect combination.
Step by step guide to DIY citronella candles
Follow this step-by-step guide for making mosquito repellent candles and see for yourself how effective these candles are in repelling mosquitoes! The best thing about DIY candles is that they are made with all-natural ingredients, with no harmful chemicals included.
Weigh and melt the wax in a double boiler
To melt the wax, you can use a regular non-stick saucepan (but an old one because you wouldn’t be able to use this saucepan for cooking again). Place it on the scale and zero it. Otherwise, you can also use a double boiler. (We will be using this.)
As I mentioned earlier, I’dwouldn’twouldn’twouldn’t recommend using soy wax to keep the process of making DIY citronella candles as much sustainable as possible. Take the soy wax flakes and weigh the desired amount. Skipping the pesky calculations, you can start making your candles with a ratio of 1:2. In other words, for every 1 ounce (in volume) of fluid, you will need 2 ounces (in weight) of soy wax flakes.
Set up the double boiler and melt the wax flakes with stirring at regular intervals. You can use a wooden stick or popsicle stick as a stirrer. Break off any large chunks by gently pressing with a stirrer and allow the wax to melt completely. The meltdown can take about 30 minutes to one hour.
Be careful once the wax has melted. Its temperature can be as high as 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Turn off the flame/oven and let the melted wax cool to a lower temperature of around 160-140 degrees Fahrenheit.
Measure and fix the wick to the bottom of the container
While our citronella wax is cooling, let’s fix our wick. Whether you are using a repurposed container or bought one from the store, it should be clean and dry. It is also important to measure the right size of the wick. A small wick doesn’t burn evenly, and a large wick might produce soot.
To measure the length of the cotton or wooden wick, hold it next to the glass jar and add a few centimeters on both ends. If you are using a large candle container, you might need to use two or three equally spaced wicks to make a triple wick citronella candle.
To fix the wick to the bottom, you can use wick stickers, heat-safe tape, or a hot glue gun. Gently press the wick to the bottom of the container so that it gets secured in place.
Once secured, wrap the other end of the wick around the pencil, straw, or skewer and tape it. This will help to hold the wick upright at the center of the container. Don’t pull the wick too much; otherwise, the tapes at the bottom can come loose from the container.
Add citronella essential oil to make a DIY citronella candle
Check the temperature of the citronella wax using a glass thermometer; if it has cooled below 180 degrees, scent the candle with citronella essential oil. The calculations are quite simple; 1 ounce of essential oil per pound of wax. You can also add 0.5 ounces of eucalyptus essential oil to enhance the mosquito-repellent properties of the candle.
Many store-bought citronella candles contain lousy citronella oil that doesn’t work. They are synthetically scented and are completely bare of mosquito-repellent properties of natural citronella oil. Also, don’t use the citronella fuel used in tiki torches. Always use high-quality, real citronella oil to get the most out of your DIY citronella candle.
Pour the citronella candle wax
Once the melted wax has cooled to below 160 degrees Fahrenheit, carefully pour the cooled wax into a glass jar. Allow the citronella candle wax to set at room temperature overnight. Slow cooling will ensure there are no cracks or air pockets in the citronella wax. Place the citronella candle in a safe place away from the drafts. Trim the wick to about one-fourth inches.
Get creative with your candles
Your DIY citronella candle is all set and ready to ward off mosquitoes. But if you are going to give it away as a gift, let’s finish it nicely.
You can mix colored crayons when melting the wax flakes to color candles in your favorite shade.
Add a hand-painted lid to your container.
If you use clay pots as a container, paint it with your favorite colors to make it aesthetically beautiful.
You can also wrap twine, add stickers or greeting cards to give your DIY citronella candles your unique touch.
Also, you can place multiple glass jars of citronella candles in a basket or wooden box and give them away as a garden party gift.
What other essential oils can you use instead of citronella oil?
Citronella candles burn with a nice but pungent aroma. To make it smell more pleasant but still effective against flying pests, blend it with other mosquito-repellent essential oils. You can mix the following essential oils in combination with citronella essential oil to your candles;
- Bog Myrtle
- Mandarin orange
Instructions for making DIY citronella candles
If you are making DIY citronella candles for the first time, read these helpful tips to ensure you get the best results.
- Please do not disturb the containers too much and set them away from drafts to cool.
- Wrap a dry washcloth around the container to allow slow cooling. This will also prevent cracks and uneven surfaces.
- Let the candle set for about 48 hours before burning it for the first time.
- Don’t forget to trim the wick before burning. It’s said that candles have a memory! So, the first time you light your DIY citronella candle, keep the flame close to the wax so that a little bit of wax melts and is drawn up to the wick.
- Allow your citronella candle wax to burn evenly to the edges so that there is a wide pool of wax melt before you snuff it out.
- Store citronella candles near the garden or in the garage so you can quickly light them up when you are sitting outdoors.
- Never leave hot wax or burning candles unattended.
I hope that this step-by-step guide to DIY citronella candles helps you to make your bug-repellent candles easily!