Does Citronella Work? (Pros and Cons Revealed!)

By: Peter
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does citronella work

Nothing can ruin the sunny weather quite like mosquitoes.

The troublesome insects will fly looking to suck blood from both humans and animals. A bite can also be a little painful on your skin.

Not only that, but they carry various viruses and diseases. For instance, they carry the West Nile virus, malaria, and zika.

It makes sense you would want to repel them as much as possible. One repellent that could very well do the trick is citronella.

So, does citronella work? We’re offering an informative guide to the repellent.

How Citronella Works?

According to the National Pesticide Information Center, citronella repels pests over killing them.

It does so by masking any scents that may attract mosquitoes, such as carbon dioxide and lactic acid. This makes it more challenging for a mosquito to locate a source of food.

The oil is a natural repellent as it is formed by distilled oils from several grass varieties. For this reason, it has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

A Harm-free Repellent

If you want to avoid causing harm to mosquitoes or other insects, citronella can be a great option.

The insects won’t experience any toxicity, which means they will be unharmed.

It only prevents them from smelling the aromas they are naturally attracted to.

The Citronella Products

If you want to know if citronella works, you need to try one or more of the many products for yourself.

You can take your pick from candles, bands, and animal products.

The products are safe to use and they are also non-toxic to both humans and animals.

However, don’t expect to find a miracle product. The American Mosquito Control Association says this about citronella candles.

Citronella candles have a mild repellent effect, but do not offer significantly more protection than other candles producing smoke.


As with any repellent, it’s possible for people to experience a mild allergic reaction to citronella oil.

For instance, it can cause mild irritation to a person’s skin or eyes.

Frequent or prolonged exposure could also cause skin allergies.

As it can cause some allergic reactions, it’s advisable not to use the oil on children less than six months old. Unless otherwise directed by a doctor.

If you do apply citronella oil onto your young children, avoid use on their hands. This is because young children are more likely to place their hands in their mouths.

If citronella is consumed, a person may experience throat irritation or a cough.

Also, attempt to avoid the eyes and mouth when applying the natural repellent. You don’t have to worry about any toxicity issues if ingested, though. When ingested, it breaks down easily and secretes through urine.

Cons of Citronella Candles

People who spend much of their time exploring the outdoors may not have much use for citronella candles.

Many people may turn to a higher concentration of citronella bracelets, collars, and spots.

Unlike citronella candles, these products will not be affected by the elements. They are worn on the body, so won’t be impacted by windy weather.

Citronella candles will be less effective in windy weather conditions. This means a breeze or a change of wind direction can reduce the level of mosquito protection. So it isn’t always possible to keep the insects at bay. Also, the candles are fixed to one location.

Citronella candles are designed for the great outdoors. Yet, they should not be lit in semi-enclosed areas. For instance, you would not burn a candle in a garage or screened-in porch.

The biggest con of using citronella in any of forms mentioned above is that its effectiveness is very limited. Citronella may help to keep mosquitoes away in areas of limited air movement.

The Citrosum Plant

The Citrosum plant goes by many different names. For example, some may refer to it as the citronella plant, while it may also be marketed as the mosquito plant.

The plant can be easily grown in a garden but unfortunately, will do little to repel mosquitoes.

That’s because it carries the citronella fragrance in the plant’s foliage. When a leaf is crushed and rubbed onto a person’s skin, it can provide a natural mosquito repellent.

Yet, this method may not be as effective as bottled mosquito repellents. The good news is, it’s an inexpensive solution that contains no hazardous chemicals.

Also, as it’s grown in your garden, you will have the repellent to hand once mosquito season kicks in.

The plant can grow up to 5 or 6 feet. You also have the option to plant them in the ground or in a large pot.

For a plant to thrive, we recommend placing it in a full sun area with good drainage.

It’s also a sun-tolerant plant, as it can still flourish in drought-prone areas.

Yet, there may be more effective plants that can help to repel mosquitoes.


Lemongrass is a tropical island plant that contains citronella.

It’s often cited as an ideal way to repel mosquitoes, as it can repel mosquitoes with its unique scent. Like citronella, lemongrass may provide some form of repellent but won’t prevent all mosquitoes from biting you.

Ornamental lemongrass can also grow to approximately 2-4 feet tall. For this reason, it’s ideally placed in an area where the plant can expand naturally. It’s a stunning addition to any outdoor area.

A Natural Flea Repellent

It’s not just mosquitoes that citronella can keep at bay.

Citronella oil can be an effective way to treat fleas on both cats and dogs.

The next time a pet pooch or cat is itching a little too much, grab some citronella to say goodbye to the annoying pests.


Anyone wanting to keep mosquitoes at bay could consider citronella.

It is a natural, non-toxic, and safe insect repellent that won’t cause any direct harm to a mosquito.

The product you choose will determine its level of effectiveness. Yet, there are so many options to use in the home or if you’re on-the-go.

If you’re looking for a repellent to use when exploring the great outdoors, you could try a band, spot, or collar. But if you need a fixed repellent for a garden, consider citronella candles or a mosquito plant. It may stop some mosquitoes from biting you but won’t give you complete protection, so you will need to take other measures.

Many people may believe citronella isn’t as effective as a bottled repellent, but it’s a non-toxic solution that’s safe to use, even if ingested.

If you have mosquito-transmitted diseases in your area, it’s better to use one of the CDC-recommended repellents – DEET, Picaridin, or Oil of lemon eucalyptus – cover-up or use other mosquito control methods.

Do you have any top tips for deterring mosquitoes? How does citronella work for you? We’d love to read your helpful advice and stories, so feel free to write a comment below.

Does citronella repel mosquitoes. Pros and Cons Revealed!
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Peter spends most of his time outside in his large garden. He has been fighting mosquitoes for a few years trying different traps and repellents without using agressive chemicals.

1 thought on “Does Citronella Work? (Pros and Cons Revealed!)”

  1. I purchased citronella and ecualyptus patches which i attach to my clothing they are clear and sticky not for direct contact on the skin warning . you scratch them each twenty minutes or so and i believe they work first time i wasnt bitten in years next evening i didnt use them and wa only outside in my garden for a short while had many bites so am going to use them all the time now also a silicone bracelet which i can wet with the essential oil im trying that tonight too double whammy i hope as the bites are quite swollen painful and annoying and the red lumps last for ages


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