What Are Mosquito Coils and Do They Work?

If you’ve ever searched for ways to repel mosquitoes, then you’ve probably heard of mosquito coils. So, let’s learn a bit more about them, including if they’re actually an effective mosquito repellent.

A mosquito coil is essentially a type of incense, just like the ones used in aromatherapy and different religious rituals. What makes this one special is that it comes in a coil shape (hence the name) and repels mosquitoes.

Mosquito Coil Ingredients

Mosquito coils were once made from dried pyrethrum paste.

Today, they’re typically made of pyrethroid insecticides and/or plant-based repellents (e.g., citronella). When burned, these substances give off a specific smell that repels mosquitoes.

Coils that contain insecticides may even kill mosquitoes that fly too close. 

The Invention of Mosquito Coils

The use of mosquito coils as a method of repelling mosquitoes began in the last decade of the 19th century. A Japanese couple, Eiichiro and Yuki Ueyama, invented the first mosquito coil. They began by simply burning sticks made of pyrethrum powder and starch, but these sticks lasted less than an hour.

They came up with the spiral shape in 1895, which allowed the sticks to be longer. Early mosquito coils were handmade. It wasn’t until the middle of the 20th century that it became possible to manufacture them with machines. They’re still used throughout Asia as the primary method of mosquito control.

How to Use a Mosquito Coil

To use a mosquito coil, attach the center of the coil to a metal stand and ignite the outer end of the spiral. Thanks to the mosquito coil’s ingredients, it’ll slowly smolder. This allows it to give off smoke and a scent that will repel mosquitoes and keep you mosquito-free for about eight hours.

Never mount the mosquito coil on something flammable. You also must not use it or leave it alone around flammable materials.

Mosquito Coil Effectiveness

Mosquito coils are effective at deterring mosquitoes and reducing mosquito bites. However, just because they’re effective doesn’t mean that they’re safe.

Since the coils produce smoke, you should only use them outdoors or in spaces with great ventilation to prevent smoke inhalation.

One study concluded that the particulates in the smoke from a single mosquito coil can be equal to those from 75–137 cigarettes. You must also keep in mind that different manufacturers use different ingredients to produce their products. Some mosquito coils even have active substances that are very toxic and can cause illness.

These facts make us feel the need to rethink the use of mosquito coils as a mosquito repellent. There are other, safer options out there to fight these buzzing insects, such as mosquito nets and mosquito repellent sprays.

8 Comments

A. Skeptic

That makes little sense. Why would they be effective in Asia and not in North America? What “other, better ways to combat mosquitoes” do you know? Besides rubbing chemicals on your body, this is about it.

    Karen

    “Other, better ways to combat mosquitoes” include using mosquito traps, zappers, foggers and other such devices to keep the insects away.

    A. Skeptic

    None of those work better. Zappers are completely ineffective against mosquitos. Foggers dispell for some period of time (few hours) but are toxic, and you’re not going to fog before every time you go in the backyard. Traps that have any demonstrated effectiveness (the ones that use a CO2 lure) cost hundreds of dollars, and it’s questionable even then whether they work or not. What particular product have you used that works better than coils for anywhere near the cost?

    Zakrocz

    Good questions. I’m in Australia on vacation and I’m sat out on the deck using my mozzie coil that the Airbnb property owners provided so we can enjoy sitting outside without getting bitten non stop.
    The last thing I would use is the spray on chemical which comes with big health warnings about repeated use printed on the cans demonstrating just how poor a choice it is for such occasions.

Rose

A couple of drops of lemon eucalyptus essential oil and a couple of citronella in a spray bottle with water works well. You can spray it liberally on yourself and it works for a while. I also use the coils.

Arty Aidni

How many hours does a mosquito coil last.
Can it be extinguished and reused later when needed

    InsectCop

    How long it lasts depends on the specific product. Some will last up to 4 hours, some will be good for 12 hours, etc. Manufacturers usually put this time on the packaging, in a visible place where it’s easy to find.
    As for reusing it, yes, you can extinguish the flame, store what’s left of the product back in the container, then light it again when you need to use it.

Rod

We’ve used the citro coils on our deck for years, they are both effective and cost effective as well, 8 coils for a dollar, brand name, “True Living Outdoors” from our local Dollar General in Western PA

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