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5 min read / 20 September 2023 / yasmin sharp

Citronella Oil as Mosquito Repellent: What You Need to Know

Explore the effectiveness and benefits of citronella oil as a natural mosquito repellent.

Man applying repellent spray to his arm. He's wearing an orange t shirt and the background shows a blurred pathway surrounded with grass and probably trees.

If you are not a big fan of chemically formulated mosquito sprays, then there are some alternatives you can try.

One of those is using citronella oil as mosquito repellent, which can offer some levels of natural protection against the little flies, but not as much as you think.

Whether you are flying away for a late-summer break or live in an area that has a large presence of mosquitoes, you can use our guide to help make up your mind about the type of repellent you think is best suited to your skin.

How does citronella oil keep mosquitoes away?

Scientific research has been carried out to test the effectiveness of citronella oil as a mosquito repellent, which has produced some positive results.

found that when citronella oil is mixed with vanillin, it can provide protection against mosquitoes for up to 3 hours.

This means that whilst citronella oil can help to keep mosquitoes away, you will have to reapply it quite regularly, as it can only last up to 3 hours at a time.

Additional studies have been carried out to compare the effectiveness of citronella oil against DEET products, which are said to offer higher levels of protection.

compared the abilities of citronella oil, fennel oil and DEET and found that the chemical-based product had a 90% protection rating over a period of 6 hours. Citronella achieved a 57% rating, whilst fennel oil reached a peak of 47%.

 50ml Amber Glass bottle of Citronella Essential Oil

Does citronella work better than DEET?

For short durations and in areas with low mosquito density, citronella can be a good, more natural choice.

However, in situations where you're dealing with high mosquito populations or potential exposure to mosquito-borne diseases, DEET is more effective due to its longer-lasting and more robust protection.

This is one of the most widely used and studied mosquito repellents. DEET has a proven track record for its effectiveness and long-lasting properties. It's known to be highly effective against a variety of mosquito species and other biting insects. DEET-based repellents can provide protection for several hours.

An article by the BBC discussed how DEET is highly effective at repelling mosquitos, whereas citronella was not as effective due to its short-lived effects.

Other effective ways of repelling mosquitoes

Getting rid of mosquitoes can be a bit of a challenge, but there are several strategies you can use to reduce their presence around your home and protect yourself from bites:

  • Eliminate Standing Water: Mosquitoes breed in stagnant water, so one of the most effective ways to reduce their population is to eliminate any standing water around your property. This includes water in pots, bird baths, gutters, and any other containers that can collect water.
  • Use Mosquito Traps and Zappers: These devices can attract and kill mosquitoes, reducing their population over time.
  • Use Fans: Mosquitoes are not strong fliers, so using outdoor fans on patios or decking can help keep them away.
  • Professional Pest Control: If the mosquito problem is severe, you might consider professional pest control services. They can treat areas around your home where mosquitoes are likely to breed.

50ml Amber Glass bottle of Citronella Essential Oil with a sandy coloured rippled water background

Other uses of citronella oil

Although citronella essential oil isn’t as effective at repelling mosquitoes as DEET, it has many other uses. Here are just a few:

  1. Pain Relief: Citronella oil is often praised for its pain-relieving properties. It's believed to help reduce muscle pain and soreness when used in massage. By mixing citronella oil with a carrier oil and gently massaging it into the affected area, it can help alleviate discomfort. This can be particularly beneficial after a strenuous workout or a long day on your feet.
  2. Anti-Inflammatory: The anti-inflammatory qualities of citronella oil make it a potential natural remedy for various inflammatory conditions. When applied topically, it may help ease the swelling and pain associated with conditions like arthritis. This can provide a more natural approach to managing chronic pain, especially for those looking for alternatives to traditional pain medications.
  3. Natural Deodoriser: Citronella oil's strong and pleasant scent makes it an excellent choice for naturally deodorising spaces. It can be used in homemade sprays to freshen up rooms, linens, and even closets. Adding a few drops to laundry can leave clothes smelling fresh and clean. It's also great for neutralising pet odours; adding some to pet bedding can help keep your furry friend's space smelling nice.
  4. Mood Booster: The uplifting aroma of citronella oil is not just good for keeping odours at bay; it can also have a positive effect on your mood. Using citronella oil in aromatherapy can help lift spirits and combat feelings of sadness or depression. Its refreshing and revitalising scent can invigorate the senses, making it a great choice for diffusing in your home or office when you need a mental boost.
  5. Insect Bite Relief: Beyond its role as an insect repellent, citronella oil can also be helpful after you've been bitten. Applying a diluted solution of citronella oil to insect bites can help reduce itching and swelling. Its natural anti-inflammatory properties can soothe the skin, providing relief from the irritation and discomfort that bug bites often cause.

Remember, while citronella oil is natural, it's still potent.

Always dilute it with a carrier oil before applying it to your skin, and do a patch test first to ensure you don't have an allergic reaction.

And, as with any natural remedy, it's a good idea to consult with a healthcare provider, especially if you have specific health concerns or conditions.

Black and white illustration of a citronella bundle

Citronella essential oil offers a natural alternative to DEET mosquito products, with tests showing it can last for up to 3 hours when combined with vanillin.

There are quite a few ways you can use it to ward off mosquitoes and other flying insects, with wristbands, torches, soaps, candles, moisturisers, lotions and sprays all providing varying degrees of protection.

If you have not used citronella oil before, it is a good idea to complete a patch test to ensure it is suitable for your skin type, so you can minimise the risk of an allergic reaction.

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