What is citronella?
Citronella is an oil that can be obtained from different species of lemongrass. Lemongrass is a plant that usually grows about 5 feet in height and can be found in warm climate zones but is also grown in colder climate zones indoors. Citronella oil is obtained from the leaves and stems of the lemongrass plant.
What is citronella oil and where it is used?
Citronella oil is a natural oil type that is used in many industries starting from perfumery to insect repellent products. The citronella oil is obtained from different species of lemongrass (Cymbopogon). When leaves and stems of the lemongrass are crushed, they release some amount of oil which is then used to make different beauty products as well as insect repellent candles, sprays and other products.
The color of citronella essential oil is from yellow to brown and the smell is a mixture of smell from grass and trees. The most important substances in citronella oil are citronellal, citronellol and geraniol.
Citronella oil is used in a variety of products in different industries. You can find citronella oil used in food industry, in different beauty and cleaning products and in mosquito repellents as well. The use of citronella oil in insect repellent products is prohibit in some countries around the world, but is legal to use in the USA. Some time ago Canada also wanted to prohibit usage of citronella oil in insect repellents because of uncertainties about impact of some substances of citronella oil on a human health, but recently this restriction was lifted because there were not enough evidence that citronella oil has bad effect on a human health.
Citronella oil can be found in different foods and beverages and is mainly used to enhance the flavor of foods and drinks. Actually, citronella oil has been used in food industry for more than 50 years and is approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
Perfumery and cleaning products
One of the most common uses of citronella essential oil is in perfumery, as well as different cleaning products. Citronella oil gives a specific aroma so it is widely used in perfumes and other cosmetic products. You will also find some citronella oils used in cleaning products such as soaps and different personal cleaning products.
Citronella oil is one of the most used natural insect repellents. This oil can be found in variety of mosquito repelling products such as scanted candles, lotions, sprays, even wristbands and collars and many other products. In such products, citronella is used as an ingredient in combination with other substances to provide protection against mosquitoes and other insects when applied to skin or clothing. This oil is also known to be used to treat areas of the skin where insect has stung.
Citronella oil can be obtained by crushing leaves of a citronella grass. The oil works as a mosquito repellent and can be applied to the skin. However, some people are allergic to citronella oils so it is not recommended for everyone to use this oil on the skin.
How it works?
While some might think that lemongrass itself repels mosquitoes, actually only the oil obtained from the grass will repel mosquitoes and not the plant itself. So it won’t help to repel mosquitoes when you reside next to the citronella grass.
Citronella oil works by repelling mosquitoes from the skin and do not kill any mosquitoes. It masks scents that mosquitoes are sensing, so when a citronella oil is applied to the skin it blocks scents and they cannot be sensed by mosquitoes. These scents are carbon dioxide and lactic acid. Generally, insects will have much more difficult time locating you, when a citronella oil is applied to the skin. Some resources also suggests that citronella oil repels not only insects but also animals, but this is not scientifically proven.
Citronella oil usually works for about 20 minutes to half an hour and needs to be reapplied after that time has passed. This is significantly lower amount of time compared to DEET and other chemical insect repellents which can work even for couple of hours. As previously mentioned citronella oil is used in different insect repelling products, starting from candles to sprays, lotions and even bracelets that repels mosquitoes. Sprays and lotions are the most successful insect repellents using citronella essential oil and they usually contain mixture of citronella oils and other substances to increase the work time of the spray. Scanted candles usually proves to be less effective and needs to be used in a close range where people are residing. Many people are making their own insect repellents out of citronella oil in combination with other natural products.
Below I have gathered links to websites with information about some of the most popular recipes of natural mosquito repellent mixtures that contain a citronella oil: