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Do Citronella Candles Keep Mosquitoes Away?

At every store and in every article online, you’ve likely seen citronella boasted as an effective mosquito repellent. Citronella oil has been formulated into sprays, lotions, and candles. But does citronella actually work to keep mosquitoes away? If you place a citronella candle outdoors in the summer, the oil burning may aid in repelling mosquitoes and other insects.

However, any effectiveness is short-lived. In fact, 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 that is derived from leaves and grass. This gives the citronella oil a characteristic yellow/brown color with a grassy, floral, and citrus scent. Citronella essential oil is used for many purposes, namely a natural insect repellent, as perfume, as a food additive, to promote wound healing, and even as an antifungal agent. Citronella candles have since become a very popular product that is marketed to repel not only mosquitoes but a variety of other insects as well.

Do Citronella Candles Work?

Citronella actually works to repel insects by masking the scents that otherwise attract bugs. The scent of citronella can make it difficult for mosquitoes to locate you. But just how effective is citronella to keep mosquitoes away? Research has found that citronella oil, when combined with vanillin, can provide mosquito protection for three hours. When combined with DEET, a citronella product can protect you for over six hours. However, citronella candles alone have been found to give barely any protection against mosquitoes.

Can Citronella Plants 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, which could help to keep mosquitoes at bay. When it comes to repelling mosquitoes, it’s important to always rely on more effective and approved methods of prevention.

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