How Effective Is Citronella Mosquito Repellent?

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  • Written By: J.M. Densing
  • Edited By: E. E. Hubbard
  • Last Modified Date: 02 November 2019
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Citronella mosquito repellent is proven to be effective at reducing the number of bites a person receives, but it does not completely eliminate them and it's less effective than chemical ingredients like DEET. One of the most effective ways to use citronella as a mosquito repellent is to apply it directly to the skin. This provides effective protection from bites, but it needs to be re-applied frequently. Another way to use it is to burn citronella candles or torches, and this method is most effective when the person remains in close proximity to the citronella. Citronella mosquito repellent is usually considered safe, but it should be avoided by pregnant women and by those who've had allergic reactions to it.

Many of the commercial mosquito repellents on the market contain potentially harmful chemicals that a growing number of people wish to avoid. There are some natural alternatives, one of these being citronella. Citronella mosquito repellent has citronella oil as its primary active ingredient, which comes from a tropical herbal grass found in Asia. Its strong, distinctive smell appears to repel mosquitoes and other insects, possibly by making it very difficult for them to locate a person to bite.


Citronella oil can be added to lotion or made into a spray for topical use; there are also several natural products available on the market that use it as an active ingredient. Citronella mosquito repellent has been found to be most effective when applied directly to skin in these forms, and products with a higher concentration of the oil usually work better. It is effective at reducing the number of mosquito bites that a person receives, but it does not completely eliminate them. It works best when it is re-applied every 30 to 60 minutes and reduces the number of bites by a significant amount; however, chemical repellents usually last many hours longer and appear to combat mosquitoes more effectively.

Another way to use citronella as a mosquito repellent is to burn it. It is used in candles and torch oil designed for outdoor use. This method remains effective for as long as the candle or torch is burning. The protection offered by this method is rather limited, since a person needs to remain close to the citronella source in order for it to be effective. Combining topical application with burning candles and torch oil should increase the amount of protection from bites.

Various forms of citronella mosquito repellent are considered to be safe for most people. Applying undiluted citronella oil may cause skin irritation in some individuals. Adverse reactions are not associated with other topical applications such as lotions or sprays when they are applied according to the directions. It is recommended that women who are pregnant or breastfeeding avoid citronella since it may increase heart rate in some individuals.


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Post 2

@Grivusangel -- I've used citronella candles outside, and they do seem to keep the mosquitoes from being quite so annoying. My best defense for that is getting my can of repellent spray for decks and lawns and just spraying down the screens on my porch.

Baby oil is effective, but messy. The mosquitoes don't bite you, but they tend to stick to the oil. Ick. The clip on repellent units work pretty well. I usually use two -- one to clip on each pocket. I am a mosquito magnet.

I've heard of dozens of natural remedies, but I don't know that any are that effective. Maybe a combination of all of them would work. I'd like a manufacturer to come up with something to repel the little devils that doesn't make me wonder if it causes cancer or something.

Post 1

I would love something that is guaranteed to be effective as a mosquito repellent. Mosquitoes torment me in the summertime. I can hardly go from my front door to the mailbox and back without those darn critters eating me alive!

I've tried repellent with citronella oil in it and it was just sort of OK. I like the idea of a natural solution for a repellent, but haven't found one that's really, really effective.

Short of wearing a hazmat suit outside, I can't think of a good way to keep the mosquitoes at bay. Maybe I'll invest in one. It would make gardening awkward, but it would almost be worth it to keep the skeeters from feasting on me.

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