Everyone who’s ever used a natural insect repellent is familiar with the lemony scent of citronella oil. This fragrant oil is a common ingredient in mosquito-repelling candles and sprays as it effectively deters bugs without the need for harsh chemicals.
Citronella oil is a completely natural, non-toxic substance found in citronella grass. Citronella’s benefits range from its antimicrobial properties to its bug-repelling qualities, and it is commonly used to deter mosquitoes.
But what exactly is citronella grass, how do you get the oil out of the plant, and how can you use it to repel mosquitoes?
What is citronella grass?
Citronella grass (Cymbopogon nardus) is a tropical plant belonging to the same family as lemongrass and is native to southeast Asia.
This fragrant plant has a citrusy scent, grows up to 2 m in height and is primarily used for the production of citronella oil, which is a natural component of the grass. The antimicrobial properties of citronella oil mean it is often used as an ingredient in soap, but it is more commonly used to keep mosquitoes away. When incorporated into candles and bug sprays, this natural oil has strong repellent properties that can prevent mosquitoes from flying near or landing on you.
What are the benefits of using citronella grass?
The main benefit of using citronella grass to repel mosquitoes is that it is a natural, non-toxic product and, as such, is completely safe to apply to your skin.
Mosquitoes sprays that contain insecticides like DEET or permethrin may be effective for keeping bugs off you, but these harsh chemicals also come with potential side effects, such as skin irritation.
Citronella oil, however, is completely harmless for use as personal protection against mosquitoes.
Another reason to choose citronella over DEET is for its citrusy scent, which most people prefer to the harsh, chemical odor of other bug sprays.
How can you get the oil out of citronella grass?
Citronella oil is usually sold as a component of mosquito-repelling products, rather than in its raw form. To make your own DIY mosquito repellent, however, you’ll need to get your hands on the oil itself. Fortunately, extracting oil from citronella grass is easy to do at home, and a lot cheaper than buying it in.
Citronella oil is extracted from the leaves and stems of the plant. To do this at home, you’ll need to the following items:
- ¼ oz of citronella grass leaves and stems
- A slow cooker
- 1 cup olive oil
- Cheesecloth (for straining)
To extract the oil from your citronella grass, use the following method:
- Mix the citronella grass with the olive oil in the slow cooker.
- Turn on the slow cooker and leave it for 4 – 8 hours.
- Once cooked, strain the mixture through the cheesecloth. Discard the grass and keep the oil.
- To increase the potency of your citronella oil, add more leaves and stems to the already strained oil and repeat the cooking process. This can be done several times over, depending on how fragrant you want your oil to be.
How can you use citronella oil to keep mosquitoes away?
Once you’ve extracted your citronella oil you’re free to get down to using it to repel mosquitoes. This essential oil can either be used in a spray, which protects your skin from bites or diffused into the air to keep mosquitoes out of your vicinity.
Whip up a citronella bug spray
Citronella oil is non-toxic and safe to use as a personal mosquito repellent, so it’s a perfect addition to homemade bug spray. But remember; pure citronella oil can cause irritation if applied directly to the skin, and should always be diluted first.
You can use the following recipe to whip up your own citronella-based bug spray for protection from mosquitoes this summer. To make the spray, you’ll need:
- Citronella oil
- ½ cup rubbing alcohol or witch hazel
- ½ cup water
- A spray bottle
To make your citronella bug spray:
- Combine the water and rubbing alcohol/witch hazel in the spray bottle.
- Add 30 – 50 drops of citronella oil to the mixture.
- Shake well before use.
Make a citronella oil lamp
A citronella oil lamp is a great addition to a summer evening outdoors.
Keep in mind!
Oil lamps can burn for hours, releasing the essential oil into the air as they do so where it effectively repels mosquitoes.
To make your own citronella oil lamp, you’ll need:
- A mason jar
- A hammer
- 100% cotton cord (to make the lamp wick)
- A screwdriver
- Citronella oil
Once you’ve gathered your supplies, it’s time to assemble your lamp!
- Use your hammer and the screwdriver to punch a hole in the lid of your mason jar. The hole needs to be wide enough to get the cord through, but narrow enough that the cord is supported and stands up straight.
- Slide your cord through the hole.
- Fill your jar up to one third of the way full with your citronella oil.
- Screw the lid back onto your mason jar and wait for the wick to absorb the oil before you light it. This will take around 10-15 minutes.
Citronella oil is a common ingredient in natural mosquito repellent products, but where does it come from? This essential oil is found in citronella grass, a tropical plant native to Southeast Asia. Once extracted, the oil can be used in mosquito repelling sprays, candles and oil lamps to keep the bugs off you and away from your home.
Citronella oil is preferable to DEET sprays as it is a completely natural, non-toxic product. It is entirely safe to use on the skin and has a pleasant, lemony odor – but best of all, it can effectively keep mosquitoes away from you this summer.