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Do Citronella Candles Keep Mosquitoes Away?

You’ve likely seen citronella boosted as a possible all natural mosquito repellent. Citronella oil has been formulated into sprays, lotions, and candles. But does citronella actually work? 

If you place a citronella candle outdoors in the summer, the oil burning may aid in repelling mosquitoes and other insects. However, the effectiveness may be short-lived. Some research has shown that citronella candles may only be effective for a couple of hours. 

Person lighting citronella candle

What is Citronella?

Citronella is a naturally occurring oil derived from leaves and grass. It has a yellow/brown color with a grassy, floral, citrus scent. Aside from repelling insects, citronella is also used as a perfume, food additive, analgesic, and antifungal agent. Citronella candles have since become a very popular product marketed to repel mosquitoes and other insects.

Do Citronella Candles Actually Work?

Many believe that citronella candles work because mosquitoes have an aversion to citronella. This isn’t true. Citronella doesn’t actually “repel” anything – it actually just masks the scents that would otherwise attract bugs. This makes it difficult for bugs to locate you. 

But just how effective is citronella to keep mosquitoes away? Research has shown that citronella oil, when combined with vanillin, can provide mosquito protection for three hours. When combined with DEET, citronella can protect you for over six hours. Citronella candles alone, however, have been shown to give barely any protection against mosquitoes.

Can Citronella Plants Help Repel Mosquitoes?

Citronella plants, typically sold as lemon-scented geraniums, do not repel mosquitoes. It is the oil within the leaves that contains the properties needed to repel mosquitoes. The leaves must be crushed or rubbed to extract the oil. Outside of the oil within the leaves, the plant itself has no mosquito-repelling qualities whatsoever. 

In conclusion, when it comes to repelling mosquitoes, citronella oil is better than nothing, but it’s far from an effective solution. It’s best to pair the citronella oil with other mosquito deterrents, such as DEET or vanillin. With that said, professional mosquito control treatments are the best way to keep mosquitoes away from your property.

Do Citronella Candles Keep Mosquitoes Away in Central Tennessee

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