Does Citronella Actually Help Keep Bugs Away?

Tom Gaffey
by Tom Gaffey

Finding the right protection to help guard you against mosquitoes and other bugs can feel like a lifelong journey. There are all sorts of methods out there. There are bug zappers, sprays, candles, torches, essential oils, and even machines that use sound waves. It can all feel overwhelming, and lead you to want to choose the most natural and organic method, like citronella, to keep these biting pests away. But does citronella really work at helping to keep bugs away?

Citronella, the natural-occurring oil, does help keep bugs at bay, but to a very limited degree. The oil helps mask the carbon dioxide and acid smells that humans emit, making it difficult for bugs to locate a place to land and bite. Citronella, while mildly effective, is not nearly as effective as other insect repellents like DEET. It works best when combined with other insect repellents.

Citronella is arguably the most popular natural insect repellent on the market. There are all sorts of ways to purchase citronella. You can buy citronella candles, tiki torches, sprays, or even citronella plants. But do any of these actually work to keep bugs away? If so, which ones work best? Keep reading to find out all these answers and more.

Is Citronella Really Effective At Keeping Bugs Away?

It might come as a bit of a shock to learn that while there are a plethora of citronella products marketed to keep bugs that bite away, this oil is very limited in its ability to keep bugs away. Sure, the oils help camouflage human scents like carbon dioxide and lactic acid, both of which attract bugs like mosquitoes, but it only works so well.

For one, citronella just is not a match for the man-made repellents on the market like DEET. While it might be nice to know you are using something organic, there are times when you need to take extra precautions. If, for example, you are in an area with mosquito-borne illnesses like malaria or West Nile Virus, then you should not rely on citronella. Instead, consider using citronella only as an additional complement to more proven methods.

Another reason citronella is not all that effective is how it is used in many cases. One of the most popular ways to use citronella is in a candle. But burning a small candle at a distance does little to stop mosquitoes and other bugs from noticing us.

Instead, using citronella and other essential oils in a natural spray applied directly to the skin is much more effective. When using citronella and other natural bug repellents, consider applying them more closely to your skin than using far away candles and torches.

Citronella Bug Repellent Products And How They Work

Citronella Candles: This is one of the most popular, but least effective methods of using citronella to keep bugs away. Candles rarely release much citronella into the surrounding air. They produce limited smoke and oils, and also tend to be located far away from our skin, thus providing limited protection.

Citronella Tiki Torches: These are usually more effective than candles, if placed strategically. The citronella concentration tends to be higher in the fluid. Most of all, the smoke emitted from these torches is good at keeping all sorts of bugs at bay. They also provide a lovely ambience.

Citronella Bug Spray: Citronella bug spray is more effective than candles in most cases. This is because it is applied directly to the skin, helping fool bugs and create a protective barrier against them. It is, however, not even close to effective as most other bug sprays.

Citronella Plants: Citronella is available as a plant. It smells great, and you can rub the leaves on your skin, and receive some of its beneficial oils. While this might be a great plant to have on your patio or in your garden, it is better to have concentrated essential oil. Plants, while better than nothing, provide a limited amount of oils to deter bugs.

Lemongrass Vs. Citronella: Which Is Better To Keep Bugs Away?

If you are determined to use a natural plant with citronella oil to help keep bugs away, then you have a few to choose from. While there are many plants that help keep bugs away, the two plants with citronella are the citronella plant and lemongrass.

If you are deciding which plant to grow (or which essential oil to use) to help keep bugs away, you should know one is definitely superior to the other. Lemongrass, believe it or not, has oil that is more effective at combating mosquitoes and other bugs. It is also a great plant to use in all sorts of cooking, from Thai food to teas.

What Actually Helps Keep Bugs Away?

DEET (In Low Doses)

While this product is a bit controversial, DEET is great at keeping bugs away. Some countries actually ban 100% DEET products, but it is the best type of bug spray if you are going somewhere with malaria or other dangerous mosquito-borne viruses.

Lemon Eucalyptus Oil

If you are looking for a natural remedy to keep bugs away, lemon eucalyptus oil is considered a superior natural oil to citronella. In fact, most natural insect repellent sprays use this oil and a combination of other oils. Peppermint, lavender, and thyme oils are all also popular in combination with lemon eucalyptus oil.

Cover Your Skin

There are lots of products on the market, but covering your skin is often the best way to prevent bug bites. Whether you are in a screened-in area or wearing lightweight but protective clothing, make sure you don’t leave your skin exposed. This goes a long way in keeping bugs away.

Wrapping Up If Citronella Actually Keeps Bugs Away

Citronella is a popular natural oil used in many products to keep bugs away. While there is some evidence that this oil does help confuse bugs and keep them from biting humans, it is limited in its effectiveness.

In fact, products like DEET are significantly more effective, and should be used instead of citronella in areas where dangerous mosquito-borne diseases like malaria are present. You can also use other natural oils like lemon eucalyptus in combination with citronella and lemongrass for improved results.

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Tom Gaffey
Tom Gaffey

Tom Gaffey is an expert writer who currently resides in Washington D.C. Tom has a passion for real estate and home improvement writing, as well as travel and lifestyle writing. He lived the last twelve years in Hawaii where he worked closely with luxury resorts and event planners, mastering his knowledge of aesthetics and luxury products. This is where he found his passion for home improvement and a keen interest in DIY projects. Currently, Tom resides in Washington D.C, and also working on his debut fiction novel.

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