The Citronella Candle That Actually Kept My Summer Patio Party Mosquito-Free
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When it comes to keeping bugs at bay, there is one product we keep coming back to: citronella candles. Are they the most effective at getting rid of every single mosquito buzzing around outside? No, but they are DEET- and harmful chemicals-free because the key ingredient in the candles is pure citronella oil. They do work, though. Here’s how: Citronella is derived from the essential oils derived from two grass varieties, which work together to repel mosquitoes naturally. In other words, mosquitos hate the smell of citronella so much that they won’t bug you (get it?) as much as they would without the candle nearby.
The thing is, though: They aren’t 100% full-proof—especially if you’re outdoors where mosquitos are, dare we say, overpopulated. However, you’ll notice way fewer mosquitos flying around your face and landing on your bare arms than you would without the candle. Bugs are so small that they can break through anything—even smells they hate.
So, are citronella candles worth it? We’d say so—mainly because they’re not a huge financial investment. In fact, the most expensive pick on our list is $95. The cheapest is $12. So if you’re on the fence and want to test the citronella theory, opt for one of the cheaper ones. If you don’t like them, you only lose $12. If you do, maybe you’ll snag another that’s made with more citronella oil. What do you have to lose?
Concrete Citronella & Geranium Candle
This elegant candle may only be four inches tall, but it weighs a whopping three pounds, courtesy of the solid concrete votive. It's made of a palm and paraffin wax blend that smells of geranium, rose, eucalyptus, oakmoss, and cedar, and, of course, citronella. With three wicks, the scent will definitely waft far enough to keep the bugs away.
Diptyque Citronnelle Scented Candle
Available in multiple sizes, patterns, and even sets, this Iwaxlife candle can burn for up to 75 hours, so if you plan on having a summer soirée or two outdoors, feel free to place a few of these on the table. The best part is that, because it's made of soy wax, it's smokeless, so you wont have to strain your eyes trying to see your friends through black, smokey billows.
Wilmette Citronella Candle
Whether you get the Wilmette candle with one, three, or five wicks, it will come with its own natural wood stand. The stand, which boasts a Noguchi feel, coupled with the matte, curved white vessel, feels very midcentury modern. It's also not so aggressively on-theme that it wouldn't fit in your maximalist or colorful space. "I have the three-wick version of this candle and can attest that it does actually work. It also does not smell like citronella, which can be a bit too strong for me," Associate Shopping Editor Jessica Cherner says. "It smells more like citrus with an herby undertone."
Large Citronella Candle
This 16-ounce candle, which comes in a hammered brass votive and includes a decorative lid, is made with 8% pure citronella oil, so yes, it does smell a bit strong. That means it will work, though! For context, most citronella candles contain around 6% of the pure oil. Because it smells so strong, we recommend using it outdoors only. It can burn for up to 80 hours, so feel free to use it at quite a few dinner parties before having to replace it.
Citronella Candles, Set of 6
This set of Sur La Table 1.76-ounce citronella candles is more about function than fashion, hence the simple high-gloss glass votives, but they do work. In fact, they're not exactly meant to be decorative. If you are having an al fresco dinner party, place a few of these in the middle of the table and the rest at the corners. No matter how delicious your spread is, the bugs will keep away.
Flower Market Citronella Candle
On the other end of the spectrum, this MacKenzie-Childs citronella candle is all about fashion (although it does actually work.) It's also big (with a nine-inch diameter), which we'd consider a good thing—especially if you're using it outdoors on a large dining table. You can also feel free to just leave it outside because the candle sits in a galvanized metal container—decorated with the brand's iconic Flower Market pattern—and includes a wood lid that protects it from the elements. Of course, you may want to bring it back inside during hurricane season, but it can withstand some light rain.
Hanging Glass Citronella Candle
Decorate your outdoor dining table with a few of these colorful citronella candles or hang them from a tree in your backyard. Aside from the beautiful aesthetic, this candle is an all-natural find that combines citronella oil with other summer-scented oils (think eucalyptus, lime, and jasmine, among others). There are also no harmful chemicals or DEET.
Ceramic Citronella + Thyme Candle
Keep this hand-painted terracotta ceramic vessel on your front porch and enjoy the surprisingly light citronella scent with hints of thyme, lemongrass, lemon, orange, eucalyptus, and bamboo essential oils. It's all poured into recycled vegetable wax, so it's guilt-free and sustainable.
Do citronella candles really repel mosquitoes?
Yes, citronella candles really do repel mosquitoes, but not 100%. Even the EPA-approved repellents like DEET and picaridin, which are definitely effective at keeping bugs at bay, don't keep all of the bugs away from you. There's nothing, not even doors and windows, that actually get rid of any bug that could fly your way. Here's why: Bugs are so small that there will always be exceptions to the proverbial rule. For instance, if you have a screen on your open window, you'll see way fewer bugs then you would if you didn't have a screen at all, but you will still see the stray bug of two every now and then. Back to citronella candles: Mosquitos really do not like the scent of citronella, so they are quite effective at keeping them away, but don't forget that you're outside where bugs are aplenty. There are also no barriers outdoors, so even if you're sitting right next to a citronella candle, you may still see a few mosquitos—though way less than you would without the candle.
What to Look for in a Citronella Candle
Even though a citronella candle isn't a massive financial undertaking, you should still get the best one for you and your space. When picking out a bug-repelling mosquito, consider the following three elements: size, burn time, and oil concentration.
Size: This may be obvious, but the bigger your space, the bigger candle you should get. If you'll be using citronella candles at a long farm table, a one-ounce candle wont make much of a difference. On the other hand, if you're using your candle to keep mosquitos away from your kitchen sink, there's no need to opt for a massive candle.
Burn Time: Depending on what you'll be using your candle for, consider the burn time. If you plan on lighting one for the entirety of late-night parties, you'll want to get candles with burn times of 30 hours or longer. Thirty hours may seem like a long time, but if the burn time is any less, you'll have to replace the candle at least a few times over the course of the summer.
Oil Concentration: The key ingredient in citronella candles is citronella. The higher concentration of oil, the more effective it will be in keeping mosquitos away from you, but most candles won't contain more than 8% citronella oil. It's naturally derived from two grass varieties, but breathing in such a high concentration of citronella on the regular isn't great for you.
Why trust us?
From getting rid of fruit flies to keeping gnats out of the home, the House Beautiful shopping editors are pretty adept at creating a bug-less environment. We, like most people, also don't want bugs in our spaces, so we put plenty of research into the best citronella candles to keep our homes mosquito-free.
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