What is citronella?
Citronella is an oil obtained from the stems of some species of Cymbopogon grass. These grasses are related to lemongrass and sometimes classified as lemongrass due to their shared genus. Cymbopogon grasses are typically a tropical or subtropical perennial but they can grow at higher latitudes as an annual.
What is citronella oil and where it is used?
The two species from which citronella oil is derived are C. nardus and C. winterianus. The oil is obtained by distillation of fresh or dried stems. It is used in food and cosmetics as well as insect repellent candles, sprays, and other products. Citronella essential oils range from colorless to pale yellow in color and smell slightly of citrus. The most important substances in citronella oil are citronellal, citronellol, and geraniol.
Citronella oil is a natural oil that is used in many industries. You can find citronella oil used in the food industry, in different beauty and cleaning products, and in mosquito repellents as well. The use of citronella oil in insect repellent products is prohibited in some countries, but it is legal to use in the USA and the EPA considers it safe for human use. It also poses little risk to wildlife. Some time ago, Canada wanted to prohibit the use of citronella oil in insect repellents because of uncertainties about its impact on human health, but this restriction was lifted when not enough evidence was found of negative effects of citronella oil on human health.
Citronella oil can be found in different foods and beverages and is mainly used as a flavor enhancer. As a matter of fact, citronella oil has been used in the food industry for more than 50 years and is approved by the U.S Food & Drug Administration.
Perfumes and cleaning products
Citronella essential oil is also used in perfumes and cleaning products. Citronella oil gives off a specific aroma, which is why it is widely used in perfumes and other cosmetics. You will also find some citronella oils used in soaps, various personal cleaning products, and home cleaning products.
Citronella oil is one of the most widely used natural insect repellents. This oil can be found in a variety of mosquito repelling products such as scented candles, lotions, sprays, and even wristbands, collars, and many other products. In these kinds of products, which are usually applied to the skin or clothing, citronella is used in combination with other substances to provide protection against mosquitoes and other insects. This oil is also sometimes used to treat areas of the skin where an insect has stung.
Citronella oil can be applied to the skin for use as a mosquito repellent. However, some people are allergic to citronella oil, so it is not recommended for everyone to apply this oil directly on their skin. Test the oil on a small area of skin first to see if you have any allergic reaction before using it for a wider application.
How does citronella oil work?
While some might think that lemongrass itself can repel mosquitoes, only the oil obtained from the plant will repel mosquitoes, not the plant itself. In fact, citronella oil repels mosquitoes and does not kill them. Instead, it masks the carbon dioxide and lactic acid scents that mosquitoes are searching for. Generally, insects will have a much more difficult time locating you when you have applied citronella oil. Some resources also suggest that citronella oil repels not only insects but mammals as well, although this has not been scientifically proven.
Citronella oil usually works for about 20-30 minutes and needs to be reapplied after that time period has elapsed. This is a significantly lower amount of time in comparison to DEET or other chemical insect repellents, which can work for a couple of hours before reapplication is needed.
As previously mentioned, citronella oil is used in different insect repelling products including candles, sprays, lotions, and even mosquito-repelling bracelets. Sprays and lotions that contain citronella essential oils are the most successful insect repellents and usually contain a mixture of citronella oil and other substances to increase the product’s protection time. Scented candles have usually proven to be less effective than sprays or lotions and need to be used in a close range to where any people are.
Many people make their own DIY insect repellents using citronella oil in combination with other natural products. Below, I have gathered links to a couple of websites with information about some of the most popular recipes for natural mosquito repellents containing citronella oil: