Do citronella candles work? Thoughts from a candle maker April 17, 2021 09:05

Do citronella candles work? There is a lot of conflicting information out there. Scientific research and popular opinion often seem at odds. As someone who makes a LOT of citronella candles here are three thoughts to help provide a little clarity on the issue: 


1.  What is citronella? 

Citronella CandlesBefore we go any further, it's probably worth talking about what citronella actually is. While the name may imply that citronella comes from a citrus fruit or plant, it is actually derived from lemongrass. It is worth noting that you can buy citronella candles that are made with essential oils, just like ours, or with fragrance oil. For me, in terms of scent, the result is quite different. And while it's just a personal opinion, I think this makes a huge difference in terms of the effectiveness of a citronella candle. Would you expect a bumble bee to pay as much interest in an artificial flower as it does with a real, fresh bloom? 

2. Don't judge a citronella candle by it's label. 

In the UK, it is actually illegal to make any kind of reference to the use of citronella candles to deter mosquitoes. You cannot add an image to 'suggest' or imply outdoor use and you cannot write any kind of description that makes any similar claims. While many people (including me!) use citronella candles in the garden regularly, and lots of customers tell us how much they benefit them when enjoying an evening outside, because there is a lack of research and science to confirm that citronella is a natural deterrent, it is not possible to be able to market a citronella candle in the way you might expect. Also, back to point 1, I've not found a study that compares the different types of citronella on the market - synthetic or natural. And a lot of studies that are published online don't indicate what type of citronella oil is being assessed or the conditions (e.g. is the candle made with a paraffin based wax or a natural one?) All these elements I think make it pretty tricky for the consumer, but also fairly tough for a candle maker! 

3. Why our citronella candle includes our unique blend of citronella & clementine. 

So, with all the above in mind, I decided to develop a range of natural, plant based candles and the first one we ever made was Citronella and Clementine. Why the blend? Well, there are two reasons. Firstly, I find citronella a little bit of an acquired taste. There are other plants and essential oils that have been used for centuries to ward off insects. If you think about traditional potager gardens, those small beds are often surrounded by rosemary or lavender, to deter insects from the main crop encased within. However, clementine was a more personal choice. I think it balances really well with the scent of citronella. It also was added because of my parents. They used to have a little bolt hole in Spain that was surrounded by citrus fruit growing in the surrounding fields. They never had a problem with insects, even in the very height of summer. The farmer decided to remove all of the citrus crops and replace with artichokes. The difference in terms of mosquitoes and insects was huge for my Mum and Dad. So a personal experience also prompted the inclusion of clementine in our citronella candles. And while we know there is absolutely no scientific proof, and we can't claim anything, I always think that if you make something with the very best of intentions, to the very best possible standards you can muster, then you can sleep well at night.  And you are hopefully produce something that people will also love and enjoy. As a small independent company, you really can't ask for more than that. 

 Further info: Find our range of natural, plant based candles. 

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