Why Your Citronella Candles Don’t Work

homemade citronella candles

Last weekend we had our first outdoor happy hour with some friends and just like every year, once the sun goes down the mosquitos come out.  And, just like every year, I light up my citronella candles only to be baffled by why they don’t seem to work.

Then, just this week, I realized that the candles I bought didn’t repel the mosquitos for a very obvious reason.  They were citronella, after all.  They touted mosquito repelling qualifiers on the packaging, but one very important factor was missing.  

Instead of containing citronella oil (which is the main deterrent of the prehistoric pests) the candles just were citronella ‘scented’.  Big difference.  It’s the essential oil in the candle that is responsible for keeping insects at bay, not the scent.


After my discovery, I realized that not only would making my own candles work better, but it would actually be a whole hell of a lot cuter. No more ugly jugs of bright yellow wax.  If I was going to make citronella candles, they’d be subtle white soy candles with only the real citronella oil inside.

The materials were easy to gather, Soy wax flakes and wicks from the craft store and citronella oil from a local vitamin shop were purchased in a quick trip.  I had a few little bowls from Anthro at home that I had no clue what to do with, but thought they were adorable, so I hung onto them… and now they’d meet their destiny!

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First, I just stuck the wick (and metal base) to the bottom of the bowl with some double stick tape. Then I propped the wick up against a butter knife so that it stood up straight.

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I melted one pound of wax flakes in a medium mixing bowl over top of a small saucepan of boiling water – similar to a double boiler. The wax melted to look like olive oil in a little less than five minutes.  After it was completely melted, I mixed in 10 drops of citronella oil, then poured the wax into my prepared bowls. **UPDATE** The scent on these was really really subtle, so for my second batch, I up’ed the citronella to 20 drops which seemed to be a perfect amount.

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What resulted was better than I even expected!  The wax hardened into a clean, smooth white surface and smells just wonderfully of citronella.  One pound of wax did both of these candles with just a teeny bit left over.  With any leftover wax, just pour out as much as possible into the trash, then wash the bowl really well with hot water and lots of soap.

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The candles were SO much easier to make than I’d anticipated.  It made me wonder why I don’t make my own candles more often! I cannot wait for our party this weekend to burn these guys and watch the cloud of real citronella oil keep all those little flying blood hounds at bay. Plus, they look pretty awesome too.

Have you ever made your own candles?  How about citronella?

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