Sometimes it seems like going outside for a family meal can mean we’re the ones on the menu. If you’re tired of mosquitos and other annoying pests, then try these homemade citronella candles. That way you can eat your grilled chicken in peace!
Citronella scented candles are a safe, non-toxic way to beat back mosquitos and other flying insects. It’s very similar to these homemade beeswax candles but with added essential oils. They also add a nice ambiance to your outdoor space, especially at sunset.
Does Citronella Oil Work?
According to the EPA, citronella oil has been used as a natural insect repellant for humans for over 50 years. It’s so safe they haven’t had any reports of adverse incidents. Citronella is a cousin of lemongrass, so it has a similar scent. A 2014 study found citronella bug repellents worked as well as DEET. The only caveat was the natural bug spray needed applied more often.
While outdoor citronella candles are a popular choice, there may be an even better mosquito repellent candle option.
Studies suggest lemon eucalyptus essential oil may work even better. Since essential oils have a synergistic effect, this recipe uses both. Virginian cedarwood is another great DEET free insect repellent option.
It’s worth noting that oil of lemon eucalyptus is a tested, EPA-approved plant-based insect repellent. Lemon eucalyptus essential oil comes from the distilled plant, not an extract. While both are great for outdoor use, they’re not the same thing. The essential oil doesn’t have the extensive testing and approval, but there’s still evidence it’s effective.
Why Make Your Own Citronella Candles?
First off, because DIY projects are fun! While conventional candles may not be as toxic as insecticides like DEET, they still have some pitfalls. You can easily find a clean burn triple wick citronella candle at Amazon or almost any big box store during the summer. However, they feature soy wax in those decorative metal buckets. Even “natural soy” is often GMO. Personally, I prefer the scent and benefits of beeswax for my candles.
No Time to DIY?
If you don’t want to make them yourself, this company sells small beeswax and citronella candles. They also have larger citronella candles in a jar that are a blend of coconut oil, beeswax, and essential oils for a longer burn time. Plus they have other beeswax candle options and sizes, like tea light candles.
How To Make Citronella Candles
This recipe makes 2, 12-ounce bucket candles or 3, 8-ounce candles. The 8-ounce size is the size of the half-pint mason jars. You could even make little votive candles if you want, but they’d naturally burn faster. Citronella bucket candles just have a certain feel to them and add to the outdoor living decor.
Candles make a great tabletop decoration for your next summer get-together or outdoor family time.
Choosing the Best Wick
Since beeswax candles are slow burning, they require thicker, sturdier wicks than paraffin candles. How a wick burns varies depending on many factors, including the container size and how refined the beeswax is.
I’ve shared which wicks have worked for me using refined beeswax in the recipe below. You may need to experiment to find the perfect size for your wax/container combo.
I found that using a 1 pound beeswax bar wasn’t enough to fill the buckets up. If you don’t mind them not being as full, you can just use 1 pound of beeswax, 1/2 cup of coconut oil, and 1 teaspoon of each essential oil.
DIY Beeswax Citronella Candles
- 2 12-ounce Metal buckets (or 3 half-pint mason jars)
- Metal pitcher (or clean metal coffee can)
- 60-ply #4 candle wick (cut into 2-3, 6-inch pieces)
- 1 and ⅓ lb beeswax bar
- ½ cup coconut oil
- 3 TBSP coconut oil
- 1-2 tsp citronella essential oil
- 1-2 tsp lemon eucalyptus essential oil
- Put the beeswax and coconut oil into the metal pitcher or a coffee can.
- Place the pitcher in the pot and fill it with several inches of water. Don't fill it so high that the boiling water will bubble over into the pitcher.
- Bring the water to a boil and gently boil until the beeswax is completely melted. You can grate the beeswax before melting if desired to speed up the process. My bar took about 50 minutes to fully melt.
- Stir in the essential oils with a chopstick or bamboo skewer.
- Pour some of the melted wax mixture onto the bottom of each bucket or jar and press the end of a wick into the wax. You can use a skewer to make sure it's placed correctly by pushing the wick down and holding it there for a few seconds.
- Cool until the wax is solid enough to hold the wick in place (about 5-10 minutes).
- Wrap the top end of the wick around a bamboo skewer until it's taut with the skewer resting across the top of the bucket. Use a small piece of tape to keep the wick from slipping off of the skewer.
- Hold onto the skewer and pour the melted wax evenly into both buckets. Leave about an inch of space at the top.
- Reposition the skewer holding the wick as needed so it's in the center of the jar and let cool completely.
- After 24 hours trim the wicks to 1/2 inch. Don't trim it any shorter than this or the candle will have a smaller flame and it's more likely to tunnel. After you light the candle, if it's flickering wildly or smoking, simply blow it out, trim the wick a bit more, and re-light.
- During the first burn keep the candle lit for a few hours, or until the entire surface has melted.
- If your candles crack while cooling here’s an easy fix. Heat the oven to 300 degrees, place the candles inside, then turn the oven off. Once the candles have completely cooled in the oven, the crack should be filled in.
- If you’re using the mason jars one wick in the middle works well. I used two wicks for the buckets though since the surface area is a little wider.
Frequently Asked Questions
How many candles do I need in my yard?
The short answer is, it depends. It depends on the size of your yard, how many bugs you naturally have outside, and how much wind there is. You may find you’ll need more candles on a windy day.
Are these safe to burn near children?
Both lemon eucalyptus and citronella essential oils are considered safe to use around kids.
Have you ever used citronella candles before? Do you find they work well for you? Leave a comment and let us know!
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