Bug Off! Make Your Own Citronella Candles

Ah, these lazy, crazy, hazy days of summer. Fire up the grill, mix up a pitcher of Tom Collins or whatever it is people are drinking these days, and let’s hit the backyard. We play corn hole, the kids play in the sprinkler. This is what summer is all about. For about five minutes. And then the scourge of summer descends.

Mosquitoes have been around for over thirty million years. You don’t get that kind of longevity without being good at what you do. What mosquitoes are good at is sucking blood and when these little vampires show up at your picnic, it’s time to pack up the potato salad.

There are plenty of chemicals available for discouraging mosquitoes, but I’ve never been too excited about spraying synthetics on my plants, much less on my skin. When I need to send these nasty, disease-bearing, party-wrecking pests packing, I much prefer a natural solution. So, how do you solve a problem like mosquito?

Essential oils are a long-used solution for invading insects. Eucalyptus wards off ticks. Ants hate peppermint oil and patchouli keeps fleas at bay. Perhaps best known, citronella oil, extracted from a grass related to lemongrass, is very, very good at keeping mosquitoes from crashing your party. It is a common ingredient in bug sprays and, once the scent is in the air, mosquitoes keep their distance. Citronella candles are a great way to keep the mosquitoes away without having to slather your guests with repellent every few hours, plus they add a little ambiance around the deck as dusk descends.

Unfortunately, many of the commercially sold “citronella” candles just plain don’t work. Looking closely, a candle labeled “citronella scented” might be scented synthetically, containing none of the natural citronella oil needed to do the job. Once again, if you want the job done right, it might be time to DIY.

These homemade citronella candles are fun to make and the containers may be decorated to fit any backyard decor. When purchasing citronella oil, make sure to use essential oil, not the fuel one you might find for tiki torches. It can be easily found in health food stores or online, and a few drops added to your candles will keep the deck mosquito-free all evening long.


Step 1

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Select canning jars of any shape or size to house your citronella candles. Start by anchoring a wick to the bottom of each jar using sturdy tape or hot glue.

Step 2

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Once wicks are affixed, keep jars in the oven set to its lowest temperature until the wax is ready. Warm jars will ensure the wax will cool evenly and prevent any mishaps should your wax be too hot when pouring.

Step 3

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Wax may come in bar form or flaked. Bear in mind, the volume of flaked wax will reduce to about one half when in solid form.

Step 4

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In a double boiler or a mixing bowl nestled atop a pot of boiling water, melt the wax. Once liquid, it will be clear and resemble olive oil.

Step 5

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Stir in citronella oil, adding roughly three drops per cup of wax.

Step 6

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For a colorful candle, stir in an old crayon or two. When adding color, be aware the cooled wax will be much paler than it appears in liquid form.

Step 7

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Pour wax into prepared jars and use pencils or some of the hundreds of leftover chopsticks you can’t seem to throw away to keep the wicks centered in the jar.

Step 8

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Once the candles have cooled, trim the wicks to half an inch or so from the surface of the candle.

Step 9

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Burn candles strategically around the deck or yard to create a mosquito-free zone. And pour me another Tom Collins, would you?


  • Mason jars
  • Pre-made wicks
  • Sturdy tape or hot glue
  • Soy wax
  • Citronella oil (look for essential oil)
  • Crayons (optional)


  • Double boiler or a large pot and metal mixing bowl
  • Scissors
About Mick Telkamp 


A former Midwesterner living in North Carolina, I write about my adventures in backyard chicken-keeping and suburban homesteading over at HGTVGardens, and my exploits in the culture of Southern cooking ...

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31 Responses

  1. Awesome blog! Do you have any recommendations for aspiring writers? I’m planning to start my own blog soon but I’m a little lost on everything. Would you propose starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so many choices out there that I’m completely confused .. Any tips? Thank you!

  2. Random Accent says:

    Can you tell me what is the RRL (Review of Realated Literatures) for this? Please, and thanks.

  3. new year says:

    i found here an usefull content thanks for sharing. new year 2016 happy new year 2016 se

  4. MommyM says:

    You can buy the citronella oil at any health food store (we have Natural Grocers), You can also buy it online if that is your only option.

  5. Emily says:

    Can someone tell me where to buy the citronella oil? Is that something I can buy at a store or would I need to order it online? Thanks!

  6. Charie says:

    Hi everyone! I have a problem with the wicks. They burn straight down leaving a hole in the middle of the candle. Any suggestions?

    • Mike says:

      I don't mean to be rude, but PLEASE do not follow this "guide." It lists many not safe practices while not giving warnings. NEVER use crayons to color wax. It is absolutely not the correct way. Crayons use pigments to "color" the wax. Pigments aren't soluble and don't actually act as dye does. Using crayons will actually clog your wick and make it burn strangely, if at all. Another probable reason your candles are tunneling is that the wick is not the correct size/type for your wax/jar size/jar type/fragrance.

  7. tia says:

    so has anyone actually used this to see if it works? i need to know
    for my outdoor reception in 2 weeks

  8. Crystal says:

    @ Shane. Really? You shouldn't call someone a name that you can't even spell. You should appoligize for that. It would be like me calling you an IDIOT and spelling it (idot) see how that would kinda make me the IDIOT? Yeah hopefully you get the picture but I seriously doubt it.

  9. HD G-ma says:

    Really Shane?? On a DIY site?? Go to some 'political' page & take out your frustrations!!!! and w/your spelling you call someone else 'DUM'?? (psst… it's d u m b ) Try to have a NICE day

  10. Naina says:

    Citronella oil is the best mosquito repellent… I use Mosquito Banditz by Jungle Magic, they also contains citronella oil and really works very well… Now my kids are safe from mosquito bites. And I am tension free…

  11. drewbob says:

    If the mossies do get by the scent and still sting you, I've found tea tree oil to be an outstanding relief from the itch of their bite.

  12. Nathan says:

    I know it's not exact science, but is it roughly 3 drops per cup of wax flakes or per cup of liquid wax?

  13. Patti says:

    I am assuming you could use Beeswax….but I am wondering if you can use Food colouring (ie from Horton's Spice Mills) instead of crayons to add colour, or does it have to be a wax/oil? I am wondering if using a food colouring would affect the consistency and not let the candle 'dry' completely? I just found another great idea for making candles…instead of doing it on the stovetop, use a slow cooker! Definitely going to try this idea, as you wouldn't have to watch/stir it as often while you are filling your candles! I'd love to hear about different ways to add colour and smells from anyone who has 'tried and tested' methods!

  14. Name says:

    Really cool,you could pack a few for camping.

  15. cannvan says:

    This so easy i think I can do it. I live in the midwest, mosquitos are definitely a problem. Thanks Mick!

  16. dawnmcnary says:

    Love it….never had real issue with Mosquitos in Dallas area, but this summer in New England…WHOLE ' other story!! And the store bought candles never seem to work…with this option being so easy..really interested to see if it works! Thanks for sharing!

  17. Rya says:

    I'm so going to try this…today, here we go, burned hands…at least, yet, will try :-)

  18. 540sam says:

    Does anyone know if adding this to the Tiki torch oil will work also?

  19. Pamela O says:

    Fantastic and easy step by step instructions! Thank you for sharing this great summer time necessity for anyone who enjoys those wonderful summer evenings, sans the pests that accompany said outdoor time. I love the crayon idea! Can any other coloring be added to give the candles their beautiful color? Or is only wax to wax coloring useful for this recipe? I also noticed soy flakes or bars in the ingredients list. Can any wax product be used, like paraffin wax or regular candle wax, or can only soy wax be used so that absorption of the citronella is evenly carried throughout the candle? Thanks for any further tips to help me make up some of these wonderful candles.

    Pamela O
    Citrus Heights, Ca.

    • emma says:

      i'm not sure about the different types of waxes, but if you go to most craft stores, they should have different dyes that you can pour into the melted wax that work wonders. kinda like the Easter Egg or food coloring kits you can get, but made just for candles.

    • Claire says:

      I use the stubs and leftovers from candles that I have burned in the house. It doesn't really matter what the scent/color is from the candle leftovers are. Just melt them down and add the citronella oil.

  20. TheDesigNest says:

    Never realized that my store bought citronella candles don't work b/c they use synthetic citronella. great step by step!

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