Do Citronella Candles Work to Keep Bugs Away?

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Close up of citronella candles to see if they work to keep bugs away

When the sun goes down, it’s only a matter of time before the bugs come out. Unless you enjoy swatting them away, these pesky buzzing creatures will likely drive you inside. However, you don’t have to throw in the towel without putting up a fight. Many people turn to citronella candles during these situations. So do citronella candles work? 

Let’s take a look.

What Are Citronella Candles?

Citronella candles combine citronella oil with wax and other powerful scents to help work on insects. When lit, these candles can put off an aroma that is pleasing to humans but dreadful for those annoying pests.

The purpose of these candles is to drive away pesky insects that like to feast on anyone wanting to spend time outside.

These candles come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. However, they’re relatively inexpensive. You can often find them resembling tiki-style torches. However, these typically burn citronella oil without wax, which makes them ideal for more permanent setups and not temporary campsites.

Do Citronella Candles Work to Repel Mosquitoes?

Despite widespread use for setting a mood while camping or relaxing outside, citronella candles aren’t great for working on mosquitoes. You may have used them for years, but they’re mildly effective at their best.

The American Mosquito Control Association states that these “special” candles are no more effective than any other candle that produces smoke.

So if you’re using them around a campfire, it’s likely that the much larger smoke-producing flame from your campfire has more to do with keeping mosquitos away than the tiny candles.

Do Natural Insect Repellents Work?

Many people use natural insect repellents because they’re often free of harmful chemicals. Soy-based oils and lemon eucalyptus tree oils can be almost as effective as insect repellents containing DEET. 

However, results can be inconsistent and may require more frequent applications. Some require reapplication every 30 to 90 minutes, which can be a bit much for many people looking to spend time outdoors.

A mosquito on someone after the citronella candles failed to work

What Repels Mosquitoes?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends people use products certified safe by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). These products typically contain DEET, Picaridin, IR3535, oil from lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-3,8-diol, and 2-Undecanone.

However, no matter which type of repellent you choose, you should read and follow the directions.

If you’re planning to hike or spend time in areas known for having intense levels of mosquitoes, you need to prepare accordingly. Treat your clothes and items with permethrin to keep mosquitoes at a distance.

You can buy booths, pants, socks, and tents pre-treated with the repellent. However, you should never apply permethrin directly to your skin.

The Best Bug Repellents

You want to arm yourself with the best possible insect repellents to help some distance between the two of you.

Let’s take a look at a few of the best options you should consider during your adventures. 


Picaridin is an odorless lotion but is incredibly effective at repelling mosquitoes, biting flies, ticks, fleas, and chiggers. You can find them in various forms, including aerosol sprays, liquids, wipes, and pump sprays. 

No matter which type you use, it’s great for keeping mosquitoes off you and has no issues with any plastics you might be using.

Keep in Mind: Do you have Asian Lady Beetles in your RV Camper? Then you need to read this article to learn how to get rid of them!

Sawyer Products SP5642 20% Picaridin Insect Repellent, Lotion, 4-Ounce, Twin Pack,White
  • Non-greasy, Fragrence Free, Odorless; dries quickly and won't damage plastics or synthetic coatings — safe for use on...
  • Safe for use on the whole family, long-lasting insect and tick repellent lotion deters a wide variety of pests — up to...


When it comes to being a rough and tough insect repellent, it’s hard to beat DEET. It’s one of the best products for repelling insects. However, it can be dangerous if misused, has a very strong chemical smell, and leaves a greasy residue. 

In addition, it can cause serious damage to plastics, which makes it less than ideal for camping gear and hiking materials. 

Off Deep Woods Insect Repellent 6 Ounce Spray (2 Pack)
  • Long-lasting protection from mosquitoes, ticks, biting flies, gnats, and chiggers.
  • Aerosol spray allows for easy application in a continuous sweeping motion.

Lemon Eucalyptus Oil (PMD)

Lemon eucalyptus oil is another fantastic option to use for insect repellent. It’s natural and does a decent job. Is it the best or most effective? No. However, it does a decent job and doesn’t require you to use harsh chemicals. 

One of the major disadvantages of lemon eucalyptus oil is that it has shorter effectiveness. You may notice that it doesn’t last nearly as long as other options.

Cutter Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent 4 Ounce (Pack of 1)
  • REPELS FOR UP TO 6 HOURS: Our aerosol spray repels mosquitoes for up to 6 hours.
  • PROTECTION FOR THE ENTIRE FAMILY: Cutter Lemon Eucalyptus is an insect repellent that offers protection for the entire...

Why You Need an Effective Insect Repellent

Insects flying all over the world contain dangerous and potentially deadly viruses. Getting bit by an infected mosquito can result in the mosquito transmitting the disease or virus from person to person.

You must keep yourself and others safe when camping or spending time in the wilderness.

In addition, bites from mosquitoes and other insects can be extremely annoying and painful. The last thing you want to do while sitting around the campsite is swat at insects. You don’t want to end your wilderness adventures with limbs covered in red dots from mosquito bites.

Keep in Mind: Have you tried a bug net to keep bugs out? These are the Best Bug Nets you need to try!

Keep Citronella for the Mood But Put on Some Bug Spray

We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but those citronella candles aren’t going to work well in most circumstances. They’re not nearly as effective as you’ve likely heard from clever marketing campaigns. 

While they may make your campsite or outdoor gathering space look inviting to hang out, they’re not doing much to prevent mosquitoes from feasting on you and your loved ones.

Get the strongest bug spray you’re comfortable using and keep the bugs off you and your fellow campers.

Last update on 2024-04-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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