Scented candles are one of the most popular mosquito repelling methods. They hold their place alongside other repellents containing DEET and picaridin as well as natural solutions like lemon eucalyptus oil.
One thing that makes these candles so popular is that they’re made from a natural essential oil distilled from grass and don’t require you to put something on your skin or clothes. That’s why many would much rather use scented candles to repel mosquitoes to enjoy a pest-free time outdoors.
There are many different opinions on the effectiveness of scented candles at repelling insects. In this article, we’ll examine scented candles in depth. So let’s find out how effective these candles really are starting with finding out what ingredients in these candles actually repel mosquitoes.
Mosquito Repellent Candle Ingredients
The most common ingredient used in mosquito-repelling scented candles is citronella oil. We have previously looked at what citronella oil is and how effective it is at repelling mosquitoes.
Citronella oil is a natural insect repellent that comes from the leaves of the lemongrass plant. When it comes to scented candles, there’s no substance as widely used as citronella oil. Candles containing citronella oil have a long burn time and can even be made at home.
How Scented Candles Repel Mosquitoes?
Scented candles do not kill or harm mosquitoes. They are simply designed to repel them while the candle is burning.
Most scented candles use citronella oil to repel mosquitoes. So, they work in the same way as when you apply citronella oil to your skin as a spray or a lotion.
In general, citronella oil blocks the scents from our bodies that mosquitoes can detect, which makes us less attractive to them.
When you burn these scented candles, the citronella oil is released into the air around the candle. This is supposed to mask the smell of people and animals that are near the candle, making mosquitoes and other insects less able to detect their presence.
Scented candles made from citronella oil will be more effective on some species of mosquito than others, though. Some mosquitoes use carbon dioxide more than other scents to find humans. Other types of mosquitoes may be more attracted to heat, sweat, or other odors from our bodies.
Scented Candle Effectiveness
There are different opinions about whether scented candles are effective mosquito repellents. One study showed that scented candles do indeed repel a small percentage of mosquitoes, when used within a distance of 1.0 m (3.3 ft.). As the distance increases, however, the effectiveness of the scented candle decreases dramatically.
So, if you want to use a scented citronella candle as your only form of mosquito repellent, you’ll have to stay within 1 meter of the candle for it to provide some level of protection against mosquito bites.
For greater effect, you could use multiple scented candles at the same time to cover a larger area.
Another study, however, demonstrated no effectiveness of citronella candles against mosquitoes and even found a (not statistically significant) increase in attraction to people when citronella candles were used. Another essential oil, however, oil of lemon eucalyptus, was effective at reducing human attractiveness to mosquitoes. When applied as a spray, it repels 60% of mosquitoes up to 1 meter away.
Besides the small possibly effective radius of these candles, the wind will also decrease their effectiveness. The smallest breeze can easily blow away the scent released by the candle. But, mosquitoes don’t like wind, either. So, if it’s windy outside, you probably won’t need to use a mosquito repellent anyway. In fact, a fan might be a better mosquito repellent than a citronella candle.
While scented candles that contain citronella oil may repel a few mosquitoes at close range, others may cause the opposite effect. When candles burn, they release carbon dioxide. This is a very attractive scent for almost all species of mosquito.
What’s even worse is that mosquitoes can detect carbon dioxide from 9.1 meters (30 feet) away. So, a burning candle won’t only attract nearby mosquitoes, but also those from further away.
Unlike other mosquito repellents such as DEET, citronella oil is not very effective and at best, only provides short-term reductions in mosquitoes. They will still approach and bite you. DEET, for example, can provide more than six hours of protection against mosquitoes. Citronella oil, on the other hand, only works as long as the candle is burning, and then not very well.
The good thing is that most scented candles will provide from 10–50 hours of burn time, so you can use a single candle multiple times before it runs out.