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Do Citronella Candles Really Work? The science-backed answer.

Citronella candles are a popular choice for those looking to enjoy their indoor and outdoor spaces without the annoyance of buzzing insects. But do these candles live up to their reputation? This article delves deep into the world of natural citronella candles, exploring whether they really work, the best types to choose from, and even considering other, more effective, natural oils like eucalyptus citriodora.

What is Citronella?

Citronella oil is a natural oil extracted from the leaves and stems of various Cymbopogon species, commonly known as lemongrass. This oil is famous for its ability to repel insects, which is why you’ll often find it in products designed for outdoor use, such as candles and sprays.

The effectiveness of citronella oil comes from its active components, citronellol and geraniol. These compounds emit a fragrance that is pleasant to humans but highly unpleasant to many insects, particularly mosquitoes and other biting insects. When these insects detect the scent of citronella, they are likely to stay away, which is what makes citronella-based products a favourite during warm weather when insects are most active.

Additionally, citronella oil is considered safe for use around children and pets, which adds to its popularity as a natural insect repellent choice. Unlike chemical repellents that can contain harmful ingredients, citronella offers a more environmentally friendly and health-conscious option. This makes it an ideal choice for those who prefer to avoid synthetic chemicals in their homes and gardens.

Moreover, the oil is not only used for repelling insects but also has antibacterial and antifungal properties, adding to its versatility. Its fresh, uplifting scent has also made it a popular component in perfumes, soaps, and skincare products, demonstrating its appeal beyond just insect repellency.

How Do Citronella Candles Work?

When you light a citronella candle, the heat causes the citronella oil within the wax to vaporise. This vapour, or smoke, disperses into the air, spreading the citronella’s scent. This scent creates an invisible barrier that masks the smells humans emit, which are usually attractive to mosquitoes and other biting insects. By masking these scents, citronella candles help reduce the likelihood that insects will come close enough to bother or bite you.

The success of citronella candles can be quite variable, largely influenced by environmental conditions. For instance, on a windy day, the breeze can quickly disperse the smoke, diluting its effectiveness and reducing the protected area. Similarly, the size of the space you’re trying to protect also matters. A small candle might be sufficient for a tiny patio, but larger areas might require several strategically placed candles to achieve the desired effect. This means that for optimal protection, it’s essential to consider both the number and placement of candles according to the specific outdoor setting.

Choosing the Best Citronella Candle

When it comes to picking the right citronella candle to keep the bugs at bay, several factors should influence your decision:

Wax Type: The type of wax used in the candle can affect how well the citronella scent is released into the air. Natural soy wax is often preferred over paraffin wax for a few reasons. Soy wax is a cleaner-burning, renewable resource that tends to burn more slowly and evenly. This slower burn allows for a more gradual release of the citronella oil, maintaining a consistent barrier against insects.

Concentration of Oil: The effectiveness of a citronella candle heavily depends on how much citronella oil it contains. Candles with a higher concentration of this essential oil tend to be more effective at repelling insects. This is because they produce a stronger scent that is more likely to mask the smells that attract pests.

Size and Burn Time: The size of the candle and how long it can burn are crucial, especially if you plan to spend extended periods outside. Larger candles not only provide a broader area of coverage but also have longer burn times, so you won’t have to replace them as frequently. For continuous protection throughout the evening, it’s worthwhile to choose candles that promise extended burn times, ensuring your outdoor activities remain uninterrupted by pesky insects.

Combination of Different Oils: The effectiveness of essential oils in repelling mosquitoes is a topic of increasing interest, especially when people seek natural alternatives to chemical repellents. Various essential oils have been studied for their mosquito-repellent properties, each with varying degrees of success. Essential oils repel mosquitoes by confusing their olfactory system. The strong scents interfere with mosquitoes’ ability to detect carbon dioxide and lactic acid, which are emitted by humans and are crucial for mosquitoes to locate their next meal. Some oils might even have a dual effect, repelling adult mosquitoes and inhibiting larval development.

Essential OilEffectivenessActive IngredientAdditional Benefits
CitronellaGoodCitronellolPleasant scent
LemongrassModerateCitralStress relief
CedarwoodModerateCedrolSoothing aroma
PeppermintModerateMentholCooling sensation
Eucalyptus CitriodoraExcellentPMDHighly effective

Efficacy of Natural Citronella Candles

Natural citronella candles can be a practical option for repelling insects, particularly mosquitoes. However, their effectiveness isn’t guaranteed and can vary considerably. One of the main factors influencing their performance is the concentration of citronella oil within the candle. Candles with a higher concentration of citronella oil generally produce a stronger scent barrier that is more effective at keeping insects at bay.

Additionally, environmental factors play a significant role in how well these candles work. For instance, air movement, such as a breeze or wind, can disperse the citronella scent more quickly, reducing the candle’s effectiveness by spreading the scent too thin to be a deterrent. The effectiveness also scales with the number of candles used; using multiple candles can help create a more comprehensive protective barrier around a larger area, improving the overall impact. To achieve the best results, it’s important to strategically place an adequate number of citronella candles around the area you wish to protect, taking into account both the environmental conditions and the size of the space.

Game Changing Eucalyptus Citriodora Oil

Eucalyptus citriodora, also known as lemon eucalyptus, is a powerful player in the realm of natural mosquito repellents. This essential oil is derived from the leaves of the Eucalyptus citriodora tree, and it has gained attention for its high effectiveness against mosquitoes. A significant eucalyptus citriodora study done in 2011 points out that the key component of eucalyptus citriodora oil, known as PMD (p-menthane-3,8-diol), is particularly adept at keeping mosquitoes away.

Another study conducted in 2014 concluded that a high concentration of eucalyptus citriodora oil provided more than 95% protection against mosquitoes.

PMD is so effective that it’s often used as the main ingredient in many commercial insect repellents. The reason for its effectiveness lies in its ability to interfere with mosquitoes’ sense of smell, effectively masking scents that would normally attract them. This disruption makes it difficult for these pests to locate their target – us.

Moreover, eucalyptus citriodora is considered a safer alternative to synthetic chemicals often found in insect repellents. Its natural origin and lower risk of skin irritation make it a preferred choice for families and individuals who are cautious about chemical exposure. It can be used on its own or combined with other natural oils like citronella to enhance the overall protective effect. Integrating eucalyptus citriodora into repellent products not only provides effective protection against mosquitoes but also offers a pleasantly fresh, lemony scent, making it a dual-purpose essential oil that enhances the environment while keeping pests at bay.

What about Synthetic Citronella Candles?


Synthetic citronella candles offer several benefits that make them a popular choice among consumers. Firstly, they tend to be more affordable compared to candles made with natural citronella oil. This makes them an accessible option for those looking to enjoy outdoor activities without spending too much. Additionally, these candles often mimic the refreshing scent of natural citronella quite effectively, making them just as pleasant to use. They’re also readily available in most stores and come in a variety of shapes and designs, allowing for versatility in outdoor decor. Whether you’re planning a backyard barbecue or a quiet evening on the patio, synthetic citronella candles can enhance the ambience while offering a degree of insect protection.


Despite their advantages, synthetic citronella candles come with some significant drawbacks. One of the main concerns is their chemical composition. These candles often contain synthetic fragrances and other chemicals that, when burned, can release potentially harmful compounds into the air. Prolonged inhalation of these chemicals might pose health risks, particularly in enclosed spaces or when used frequently over long periods. This aspect can be particularly concerning for families with young children, elderly relatives, or pets.

Furthermore, synthetic citronella candles are not the best choice for those looking to minimise their environmental impact. Unlike natural candles, which typically use biodegradable and renewable resources, synthetic candles can contribute to environmental pollution both during production and after disposal. This makes them less appealing to eco-conscious consumers who prioritise sustainable and environmentally friendly products.

Why Choose Natural Candle Over Synthetic?

Health and Environmental Impact

Choosing natural candles over synthetic options has significant benefits for both health and the environment. Natural candles are made from pure, plant-based ingredients like soy wax and essential oils, which burn cleaner and produce fewer pollutants than the petroleum-based paraffin wax used in many synthetic candles. This means fewer toxins are released into the air, reducing potential health risks such as respiratory issues or allergic reactions. Additionally, because they are made from renewable resources, natural candles have a smaller environmental footprint, supporting sustainability efforts and minimising waste and pollution.


Natural compounds in essential oils, such as those found in eucalyptus citriodora, are often more effective at repelling mosquitoes than their synthetic counterparts. These oils contain active ingredients that naturally deter insects without the need for harmful chemicals. Moreover, these natural repellents tend to be more pleasant to the senses and less likely to cause skin irritations, making them a safer and more enjoyable choice for outdoor protection against mosquitoes. This effectiveness, combined with their non-toxic nature, makes natural candles a superior choice for those looking to keep their environments mosquito-free in a healthier, more eco-friendly way.

Snug Scent Natural Citronella Candle

At Snug Scent, we’ve crafted a premium natural citronella candle with eucalyptus citriodora oil that stands out for its superior quality and effectiveness. Our 300g candle, made from natural soy wax, features a double wick design, ensuring a more efficient and even burn. This design not only enhances the candle’s ability to distribute a rich blend of essential oils – including citronella, cedarwood, peppermint, lemongrass, and a high concentration of eucalyptus citriodora – but also maximises scent vaporisation for more effective protection. With a generous burn time of 60 hours, our candle provides long-lasting defence against mosquitoes, making it an ideal choice for prolonged outdoor activities. The combination of these powerful natural oils in our carefully formulated candle offers a robust barrier against pests, allowing you to enjoy your outdoor spaces with peace and comfort.


Choosing the correct type of candle and understanding the various factors that influence its performance are essential steps to ensure you can enjoy your outdoor activities without the annoyance of insects. While citronella candles offer a degree of relief from mosquitoes, they should not be relied upon as the sole form of protection. For enhanced effectiveness, consider using more expensive candles with Eucalyptus Citriodora or pairing citronella candles with other mosquito-repelling strategies, such as mosquito nets or personal repellents.

Enjoy the great outdoors with confidence, knowing you’re well protected by the best natural solutions.

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