How to Make a Citronella Candle that Keeps Bugs Away All Summer

You can also use this same recipe to make other candles in your favorite scent.

Mosquitoes put a damper on a backyard barbecue or an evening on your patio in a few minutes. Citronella candles help create a (mostly) insect-free zone around you. Customize a homemade one by putting it in a container that matches your outdoor decor.

Use this process to make a candle scented with any favorite essential oil. A large citronella candle like this one in a bucket could ward off pesky mosquitoes all summer.

diy citronella candle
Saharosa40/Getty Images

How to Make a Citronella Candle

Follow these steps to make a candle that will add ambiance to any outdoor setting.

Supplies Needed:

  • Fire-resistant vessels to hold candle wax (like a bucket or Mason jars)
  • Premade wicks
  • Tape
  • Two pencils or chopsticks
  • Measuring cup
  • Soy wax
  • Double boiler or large pot and metal mixing bowl
  • Citronella oil (or your favorite essential oil, if you want to make a different scented candle)
  • Metal spoon
  • Crayons or oil-based dye (optional)
  • Scissors

Step 1: Anchor and Support the Wicks

Start by choosing the vessel you want to hold the candle wax. Choose a large metal pail for an extra-large candle capable of warding off mosquitoes from almost the entire porch. For small candles that fit on end tables, try Mason jars..Tape the wick (or multiple wicks, if you want), such as EricX Light 8-inch Candle Wicks ($7, Amazon), to the bottom of the vessel. Place a pencil or chopstick on both sides of the wick, so they rest on the opening; tape the two pencils or chopsticks together. (They hold the wick upright while you pour the wax and let it dry).

Step 2: Melt Wax

Measure out enough wax to fill your container, keeping in mind the wax melts to half its volume. If you plan to make multiple candles, buying at least a few pounds of wax, such as The Candlemaker's Store Natural Soy Wax, ($36 for ten pounds, Amazon) makes sense. How full you fill the container is a matter of preference, but it's best to leave at least an inch or two of space at the top so the melted wax won't overflow or drip down the sides. You'll also want the wick of a citronella candle to be at least an inch below the rim so the flame is protected from breezes.

If you're unsure how much wax you'll need, use the candle container to measure. For example, if you're using a Mason jar, fill the jar two times as deep as you want the final candle with unmelted wax. One pound of wax fills about 20 ounces of volume or three candles in 8-oz. Mason jars if you don't fill them to the brim.

Bring water to boiling in a double boiler or a large pot under a heat-resistant mixing bowl. Add the wax to the double boiler or bowl, and stir it occasionally as it melts.

Editor's Tip: We recommend using soy wax because it's biodegradable. Drips of melted wax on a table or countertop can be cleaned up with soap and water. Soy wax will also burn longer than other waxes, like paraffin, so your finished candle will last longer.

Step 3: Stir in Oil

Stir in the citronella oil using roughly three drops per cup of melted wax (or about three drops per 8-oz. Mason jar candle). Artizen Citronella Essential Oil ($8, Amazon) is a good option for citronella candles, but any of your favorite essential oils will work. If you want a colored candle, melt a few crayons with the wax or add a few drops of oil-based dye. Remember, the wax color lightens as it dries, so be generous with the dye for a deep-colored candle.

Step 4: Pour the Melted Wax

Once fully melted, pour the wax mixture into the pail and allow it to cool and solidify. The wax will start to harden immediately, but you'll have to be patient before it's ready to light for the first time. Soy candles usually need at least 4 hours to solidify, but the wax in a large vessel like a bucket requires at least 24 hours to settle and harden.

Use a wet paper towel to wipe as much warm wax out of the double boiler after you pour the wax into your container, then wash it with hot soapy water.

Step 5: Trim the Wicks

Before you light the candle for the first time, trim the wicks to at least ¼ inch above the wax. Then your candle is ready to start keeping away mosquitoes!

This basic citronella candle can be customized to match any outdoor ambiance. You can play around with the wax color and container. (For the safest candle, use heat-resistant metal, glass, or terra-cotta containers.) A homemade citronella candle (or a few) makes a great centerpiece for almost any outdoor space while helping to keep bugs at bay.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles