Between this homemade citronella candle and homemade bug spray, we’re arming ourselves as best we can against mosquitoes and other annoying flying summer insects.
Call me foolish, but we didn’t have these things where we lived in California!
The timing of these tutorials is perfect though – with school ending next week and playing outside in the afternoon stretching into the evening hours, those bugs are out with a vengeance!
Plus with summer holidays like Memorial Day, the 4th of July and Labor day, I don’t think it’s possible to be over-prepared when it comes to repelling mosquitoes and bugs.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), over 700 million people get a mosquito borne illness every year, including the well known Zika Virus, Malaria and West Nile Virus.
Mosquitoes and insects are also problematic to our pets too though, causing heart-worm, dengue and yellow fever. I’ve never claimed to be a doctor, but I’m ready to take precautions to protect my family from these annoying pests, including making homemade citronella candles!
Save Money by Re-using Supplies for Homemade Citronella Candle
Making your own candles is a great way to creatively re-purpose materials you already have laying around the house, and it’s an excellent way to keep the costs down when you’re making homemade citronella candles.
- Metal Containers: Re-use aluminum or steel cans from goods like canned tomatoes, coffee tins or even canned tuna! The size of the container determines how much wax and how many wicks you need, but they all work well for making homemade citronella candles. Re-using cans is especially great for camping – no need to worry about losing a precious container!
- Glass Containers: You can re-use glass jars too, and this is a great idea if you’re giving homemade candles as a gift. The only caveat with glass is that you don’t want them to be too deep. The candle will heat up the glass as it burns and can cause the glass to break. If you choose to re-use glass jars, it’s best to keep them no taller than a traditional pint-sized jar (about 4-6″).
- Old Wax: The most expensive part of homemade citronella candles is the wax, and re-using wax from other candles that haven’t burned completely to the bottom is an excellent way to off-set the cost a little bit. To easily get the wax out, put the candle in freezer overnight. In the morning, use a butter knife to gently pull the wax away from the edge of the glass. The wax will come out in chunks, or if you’re lucky, all the wax will come out in one big piece!
- Candle Wicks: You can make homemade candle wicks out of twine, torn pieces of cotton (like from a sock or from and old towel) or shoe laces (with the plastic coating cut off the end). Tying the end of your homemade wick to a small metal washer will help give the wick weight, and tying the other end around a pencil laid across the container will help keep the wick straight. While this is a frugal option, and great for using up materials you’d ordinarily throw away, I personally would recommend using tried-and-true wicks if you’re new to making candles – just to be safe!
Notes About Wax and Wicks for Homemade Citronella Candles
Different types of wax will burn differently. Beeswax for example, burns slowly while paraffin wax typically burns much faster. Soy, other vegetable-based waxes and combination waxes fall somewhere between the two.
I wanted a slow burn for these homemade citronella candles, so I chose beeswax, but use whatever wax is in your budget. If you do end up using beeswax, it’s recommended to add an inexpensive oil like palm oil or fractionated coconut oil to help lower the temperature of the burn. This will help prevent your container from breaking if you’re using glass, or from cracking down the middle or pulling away from the side of the container.
Just be sure to NOT use your expensive oils that you use in cooking or in beauty items – you don’t need high quality oils in candles like you do for the body.
As a general rule of thumb, the slower the wax burns, the wider the wick needs to be; the larger the container, the more wicks you need. It might take some experimenting at home to find the perfect wick/wax/container combination.
A few other helpful tips for getting the most out of your homemade citronella candle:
- Let the candle cure for a full 48 hours before using.
- It’s said that candles have a memory, so the first time you light the candle, aim the flame at the base of the wick so that a little bit of wax melts and is drawn up to the wick.
- The first time you light the homemade citronella candle, let it burn all the way to the edges so there is a full, wide pool of melted wax before you blow it out.
How to Make a Homemade Citronella Candle
Note: I used the ingredients as listed and made 3 candles, about 4″ in diameter and 3″ in height.
Homemade Citronella Candle Supplies
- double boiler (I use a saucepan and a glass bowl)
- cans or small galvanized buckets (I got mine at Hobby Lobby)
- 1 lb wax (beeswax, soy wax or old candles)
- 1 cup palm or coconut oil
- citronella oil (you need 1 oz per pound of wax)
- additional scents if you aren’t a fan of citronella (optional – peppermint, clove and eucalyptus all work well)
- hot glue gun or wick stickers to help hold the wick in place at the bottom of the container (optional)
- tape, pencils, straws or chopsticks to help hold the wick up straight as the wax cools (optional)
Homemade Citronella Candle Method
Preheat the oven to its lowest setting. Meanwhile, in a double boiler, melt the wax. This can take anywhere from 30 minutes to one hour, depending on the type of wax you used. When the wax has melted, turn the oven off.
Add the palm or coconut oil and allow it to melt. Finally, add the citronella oil and stir well.
Place one wick in the bottom of one container and carefully pour a couple of tablespoons of wax in. Gently push the bottom of the wick towards the bottom of the container so that as the wax cools, it secures the wick in place.
You’ll notice that as the wax cools, it will go from clear to cloudy, starting from the outside working its way in.
In the picture below, you can see these two tablespoon in each of the three candles each cooling. The top candle has just about cooled completely where the outside edge of the bottom candle has cooled and is quickly cooling towards the center. These first couple of tablespoons will harden in about one minute.
I used wax-coated wicks, so I was able to add a small piece of clear tape on the handle to keep the wick from falling sideways.
If your wicks are NOT wax coated, wrap the end of the wick around a pencil, straw or chopstick (or something similar) and lay it across the width of the container. wind the wick gently so it is taught, which will help hold the wick upright as the wax cools. Just be careful not to pull too much otherwise the bottom of the wick can come loose from the container.
Carefully pour the wax into the container(s). Place the container on a cookie sheet, into the warm oven. Allow the candle to cool in the warm oven for several hours, preferably overnight. This slow cooling process helps to prevent cracking as your candle cools.
Move the candle to a cool place for 48 hours to cure completely. Trim the wick to about 1/4″ to 1/2″ and be sure to follow the tips above when lighting your homemade citronella candle for the first time!