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Do Citronella Candles Keep Mosquitoes Away?

Citronella oil, a common ingredient in various repellents, is marketed widely in the form of sprays, lotions, and candles. But how effective are citronella candles at keeping mosquitoes at bay? While lighting a citronella candle outdoors may provide some temporary relief from mosquitoes and other insects, their effectiveness is generally short-lived, often lasting just a few hours.

Person lighting citronella candle

What is Citronella?

Derived from the leaves and stems of certain grass species, citronella oil is a versatile natural product. It is yellow to brown in color and has a distinctive grassy, floral, and citrusy scent. Apart from being a popular natural insect repellent, citronella is also used in perfumes, as a food flavoring, and in medicinal applications to aid wound healing and combat fungal infections. Citronella candles are especially popular, claimed to repel not just mosquitoes but also other pests.

Do Citronella Candles Work?

Citronella works primarily by masking smells that attract insects, making it harder for mosquitoes to locate targets. Studies suggest that citronella oil, especially when enhanced with vanillin, can extend mosquito protection to about three hours. Moreover, formulas combining citronella with DEET can provide extended protection for upwards of six hours. However, in isolation, citronella candles offer minimal protection against mosquito bites.

Can Citronella Plants Repel Mosquitoes?

While citronella plants are often marketed as mosquito repellents, their effectiveness is limited. The mosquito-repelling properties are in the oil, which is released when the plant’s leaves are crushed. Simply having the plant in your garden won’t ward off mosquitoes effectively. For more reliable mosquito control, it’s recommended to use proven repellents and control methods.

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