Citronella candles add elegance to your patio or yard and protect you from insects. This plant extract masks the human scent, so eager insects can’t find you. You can use citronella candles anytime you’re outdoors. By the grill, while you’re napping in a hammock, sitting on the patio, or on a camping trip, you can enjoy nature without worrying about bugs.
The best citronella candle for you will depend on where you want to place it, the potency of the citronella smoke, the size of the candle, and the maximum length of time it can burn in ideal conditions. Take a look at these top products below to get an idea of the options available.
- BEST OVERALL: Repel HG-64090 64090 10-Ounce Citronella Insect
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: OFF! Citronella Scented Candle, Ambiance Enhancing
- BEST FOR CAMPING: TIKI Brand BiteFighter 17 Ounce Citronella Wax Candle
- BEST VOTIVE: Votive Citronella Candles Scented Indoor Outdoor Use
- BEST TEA LIGHT: Stonebriar 4 Hour Citronella Scented Clear Cup Tea
- BEST LONG-LASTING: Cutter 95784 Citronella Candle, Copper
- BEST RESEALABLE TIN: Murphy’s Naturals Mosquito Repellent Candle
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Citronella Candles
Before you choose the best citronella candle to protect against mosquitos, gnats, flies, and other insects, consider these important factors.
Citronella candles come in a wide range of sizes from large camp lanterns to small tealights. In general, the bigger the candle, the longer it will burn. But, a bigger candle isn’t necessarily more potent against flying bugs than a small candle. Here’s what you need to know about each size:
- Camping lanterns designed for use with citronella candles can usually burn for up to 45 hours.
- Bucket citronella candles may be larger or smaller than camping lanterns. They feature a high protective edge that shields the flame from wind. These candles have an average burn time of about 35 hours.
- Standard citronella candles cover a wide range of products and burn times. You can get about 20 to 45 hours of use out of these candles.
- Tin citronella candles are encased in tin to prevent wind from extinguishing the flame. After you put out the candle, you can put a lid on it to protect it from damage. Typically they burn from 20 to 30 hours.
- Votive candles can burn for up to 10 hours when you put them in a votive candle holder designed to protect the flame.
- Tealights are about the same diameter as votives, but they are much shorter. That means they won’t burn as long. These candles last from 3 to 5 hours.
The appropriate size and strength candle you need depends on where you plan to use it. Small spaces, like an enclosed porch, will protect weak flames on smaller candles like tealights and votives. Some of these smaller candles are even appropriate for use indoors, but follow the manufacturer’s recommendations to ensure that this is safe.
A deck or patio, on the other hand, is open and exposed to the elements. For these spaces, you will want a candle with better wind resistance. This could be a tin candle or a standard citronella candle in a protective holder. On a camping trip, it’s a good idea to have a lantern or bucket candle that can burn for hours and withstand a sudden gust of wind.
If you live in an area that’s teeming with mosquitoes, a citronella candle is probably not the answer. These candles are best for flying insect problems of mild to moderate severity. For ongoing problems, consider an insecticide or a mosquito trap.
The concentration of citronella oil in the candle determines its potency or strength—though some other ingredients may give it a boost. The problem is that manufacturers don’t often include the exact proportion on the label.
The key then is to make sure you don’t grab a candle that’s labeled for indoor use. These have a very low proportion of citronella because the smoke it produces can be harmful to people and pets. Make sure you get a candle that’s designed for outdoor use.
Scented vs. Unscented
The choice of a scented or an unscented citronella candle is a matter of preference. But you should also consider where you plan to use the candle since the distinct smell of citronella may not appeal to everyone. Here’s what you need to know about the various scents available:
- Scented citronella candles use additional essential oils and fragrances to cover the smell of citronella. These are a great option for smaller spaces, where the strong smell of citronella may be too overpowering. But, keep in mind, scented candles don’t deter insects as well as those that smell distinctly of citronella.
- Pure citronella candles emit the unadulterated citronella aroma without other fragrances to cover it up. These candles tend to be more potent than scented citronella candles, which means they work better. They are a good option for outdoor areas with lots of bugs. However, the smell might be too strong for some people’s preferences.
- Unscented citronella candles don’t have any noticeable aroma. But, the citronella oil in the smoke can still mask your scent from flying insects. These are a great option for anyone who is averse to strong smells.
A citronella candle’s maximum burn time determines how long it will keep bugs away. The size, number of wicks, and whether it has a protective holder all impact burn time. Typically, the larger a candle, the longer it will burn. But if a candle has more than one wick, it will burn faster and give off more heat.
It’s best to place your citronella candle where it can offer the most protection of your outdoor area from bugs. One central candle may be enough, or you might need a protective perimeter of candles for a larger area. You should also keep it in a spot that’s protected from wind and rain. Finally, make sure your citronella candle is on a heat-resistant surface.
Our Top Picks
These top picks are highly effective at deterring bugs outdoors, representing some of the best citronella candle options in their respective categories.
The Repel citronella candle will keep mosquitoes and other pesky insects about 3 feet away for up to 20 hours. Despite the long burn time, this candle is relatively small, so it’s a good choice for tabletops and other small surfaces. The sides of the tin protect this single-wick candle from the wind.
The candle’s simple wax and citronella oil formula doesn’t produce a strong odor, so you can still enjoy the night air. When you’re finished, close the lid on the protective tin.
- Comes with a lid
- Handy portable size
- Long-lasting burn
- Not sized to cover large areas
This affordable bundle comes with two scented citronella candles. Light them individually, or both at once to cover a large area with mild insect deterrent. Each of the candles will burn for up to 25 hours for a maximum combined burn time of 50 hours.
The citronella scented candles have a sweet, citrus aroma that isn’t overpowering. These candles come in decorative square black holders. They don’t have a lid, so make sure to take them inside or store them out of the path of rain when they’re not in use.
- Attractive design
- Popular brand
- Not intended as mosquito repellent
This candle keeps bugs about 5 feet away for up to 35 hours—enough to protect your campsite for many nights. The rust-resistant steel bucket with a wide base is difficult to tip over, and the high sides shield the wick from wind. Just place the metal bucket on a heat-resistant flat surface or hang it using the metal handle. When you’re finished, close the protective plastic lid over the top and stow it with the rest of your gear.
- Large size
- Comes in rust-resistant tin
- Handle for hanging and carrying
Votive candles like the ones included in this 72-pack are excellent for protecting your yard, deck, or patio from mosquitoes, flies, and other biting insects. They fit on compact tables or wide ledges. You can use several at a time to create a perimeter around your table or the whole deck.
Each of the 72 citronella candles in this package burns for up to 10 hours. That’s a maximum of 720 hours of citronella protection when you burn them in a votive holder. Don’t be deceived by their small size: These outdoor-only candles give off a strong citrus scent and potent citronella smoke.
- Strong and effective scent
- Small size can fit anywhere
- Huge number of candles in one box
- Great value
When you need a citronella candle that’s suited to indoor and outdoor use, this 50-pack of tea lights is a great option. Their small size means they can keep pests away in an enclosed space without an overpowering smell.
Each of the 50 tea lights will burn for up to 4 hours for a total of 200 hours of mosquito protection within a diameter of 2 feet from the candle. You can use more than one candle at a time to increase the effective range of the citronella.
- Suitable indoors and outdoors
- Smell is not overpowering
- Small holder for each candle
- Low burn time per candle
- Not as effective in large outdoor spaces
If you enjoy sitting outside long into the night, you need a long-lasting mosquito deterrent like the Cutter Citronella Candle. It boasts an incredible burn time of up to 40 hours and a protective radius of 4 feet. This citronella candle burns evenly and efficiently with three wicks that create a very hot flame to release even more citronella into the air.
This candle’s cone shape protects the flame from wind, and the wide base helps ensure the candle stays upright. The natural citronella scent can be off-putting for some people, but it isn’t overpowering.
- Longest burn time by far
- Unique copper-colored holder
- Base design prevents tipping
- Three wicks for increased coverage
- Quite heavy
- No cover to protect from rain
You can either take this citronella candle with you or keep the candle clean and protected from weather and pets when not in use thanks to its resealable lid. The Murphy’s Naturals candle contains a blend of essential oils including rosemary, peppermint, lemongrass, cedarwood, and a 5 percent concentration of pure citronella oil. This combination provides a powerful deterrent against mosquitoes and other flying bugs.
The edge of the tin protects this single-wick citronella candle, so it can burn evenly for up to 30 hours. It gives off a pleasant, refreshing fragrance when burned and can mask your scent within a radius of 3 feet.
- No harsh chemicals
- Protects against several insect types
- Poured in the United States
To stay protected against insects in any location, whether at home or on the go, the Repel 10-Ounce Citronella Candle is an ideal choice due to its size and resealable tin. If a large outdoor space requires an effective barrier to fight off mosquitoes, consider investing in a few Cutter Citronella Candles for a long-lasting solution.
How We Chose the Best Citronella Candles
There are multiple aspects to consider when choosing the ideal citronella candle for a given situation. Our list of recommendations covers the range of features outdoor enthusiasts look for, from long-lasting solutions for large areas to compact versions for more intimate occasions or when traveling.
A constant selling point of candles, undoubtedly, is their burn time since no one wants to buy a candle that constantly needs to be replaced. As such, all of our favorite candles included in this list are praised for their quality materials that provide respectable burn times.
Another important feature of citronella candles is their strength since the scent is not always appealing to everyone. We have made sure to include both strong-scented options for those who enjoy the citronella scent, as well as much less potent options with a smokeless burn that still provide protection from insects, without the smell.
Need to know more? Here are some answers to the most frequently asked questions about the best citronella candles to keep flying bugs at bay.
Q. How do citronella candles work?
Citronella candles release citronella essential oil into the air, which masks your scent so that mosquitoes and flying and biting insects can’t find you.
Q. Do citronella candles just deter insects or do they kill them?
Citronella candles do not kill insects. They only hide the scent of humans, so insects have no interest in flying near you.
Q. Can you burn citronella candles in the house?
Some citronella candles are marketed as indoor candles because they have a lower proportion of citronella essential oils. However, the smoke could still harm pets and small children and cause breathing problems. For this reason, only use citronella candles designed for indoor use in well-ventilated areas.
Q. Can dogs be around citronella candles?
Dogs, cats, and other small pets are vulnerable to the smoke citronella candles produce. In large quantities, it can lead to breathing problems. If pets or small children try to eat the candle, they could have stomach cramping and nausea.
It’s best to keep pets away from citronella candles and the smoke they produce. Only use citronella candles outdoors or in well-ventilated areas, and always put your citronella candles away when you are done using them.
Q. How do you place a citronella candle properly?
When you are determining where to place the candles, read the manufacturer’s guidelines to determine the approximate range at which the citronella will remain effective.
To properly place a citronella candle, you will need to choose either a central location if you only need to protect a small area, or several locations surrounding larger areas to create a full barrier. Only place candles on non-flammable materials like steel or stone to reduce the risk of fire.
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Timothy Dale is a freelance writer, specializing in the home repair and construction niche. He spent his post-secondary years working in the plumbing trade, while completing degrees in English Literature and Psychology, before taking on a Project Management position that ended up lasting 10 years. Mr. Dale has worked in residential plumbing and carpentry over his time as a Project Manager and also spent a year of his career in the commercial and industrial sector.