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. That’s why I ALWAYS have homemade bug repellent on hand!
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.
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!
You can re-use glass jars too, and this is a great idea if you’re giving homemade candles as a gift. (Remove the old labels using this trick!)
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″).
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!
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. You can use whatever wax is in your budget. If you do end up using beeswax, add an inexpensive oil to lower the temperature of the burn. Both palm oil and fractionated coconut oil are great for this.
A lower temperature will help prevent your container from breaking if you’re using glass. It will also help prevent the candle 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 essential oils** if you aren’t a fan of the scent 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)
Note: I know there are a lot of essential oil companies out there and I’ve certainly tried my fair share of brands. But after testing and researching and more testing, only one is worth spending money on (in my opinion). For a couple years now I’ve been committed to Young Living oils, and you can read more about their oils and my decision HERE.
However if Young Living is out of your reach, I’ve heard great things about Plant Therapy on Amazon.
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. Let the wax cool slightly, then 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.
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 tablespoons in each of the three candles each cooling. The top candle has just about cooled completely. 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 used 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). Then 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″. Be sure to follow the tips above when lighting your homemade citronella candle for the first time!
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Add Marigold petals it a natural mosquito repellant also lemon grass. I have the planted all around my yard no bugs. On the tables just place a potted plant it’s decorative .
SJ - Team Crumbs
Thanks for the tip Hyavinth!
I like all these tips, but have to echo the comment about palm oil not being sustainable. The palm oil industry is decimating the forests that orangutans live in and their numbers are dwindling. Not an expert but I like orangutans so.. 🙂
Can you mix other waxes with the bees wax? Such as old candles? you also mentioned crayons? Is this for color and if so how many would I use? Any type of crayons?
Crayons would be for color, but they’re also wax-based, so it’s an easy way to “bulk” up the candle without buying more wax. I’d definitely use old candles to make these!
Is it 1oz of citronella essential oil or 1oz of total essential oil blend? I want to use a blend but don’t understand if I need to use min 1oz citronella EO and then any additional EOs. Also reply to a previous post, refines v virgin absolutely does make a difference. Refined coconut oil can be heated to a higher temp ( has higher smoke point) so I would encourage using that in this recipe. Funny enough, I’m having difficulty finding anything other than extra virgin
I bought several used candle containers at yard sales. All had remnants of candles in them. I tried the freezer technique to get rid of the leftover candle. Didn’t work. I heated water in the microwave & placed each candle in the hot water for less than a minute. Slid right out. Just thought this might help.
Thanks Jean! I appreciate you sharing this. 🙂
I have a decayed pot for wax have been using it for years never clean it. Also a scoop for removing wax. I’ve been thinking about making these for Christmas presents. You just pushed me 🙂
I think these will make excellent gifts!
Do you use refined or virgin coconut oil? I know it wouldn’t change the way it works but I just wanted to know if it made the candles smell like coconut. Or does the citronella just overpower any coconut smell that might be there? I like the smell of citronella and I’m not sure I would like it combined with a coconut smell.
I used virgin in this recipe, but there’s no smell of coconut whatsoever. The citronella is way too strong!
Thanks for the info and all the comments. I am looking forward to making the candles and will be starting a acv regiment. We recently moved and the sketers are bad here, never had so many bites when I wasn’t camping.
Just tried your faboulus candle making recepie. Looking forward to the end results.
I hope they turned out wonderful for you Jacqueline!
Melting wax in double boiler—do u put this in the oven or on top of stove with no flame on stove top??
Hi Elizabeth! A double boiler is a bowl on top of a pot, on top of the stove. 🙂
I have a half gallon of paraffin oil with citronella to use in torches(which I don’t have and am wondering if I can somehow add beeswax or saves wax from burnt out candles and make a candle that way? Any suggestions other than to buy torches! I don’t want to do that. I want to start making my own candles every uear.
You might be able to Ali, and it’s certainly worth a shot if you’re re-using old wax anyway. There’s a chance that the paraffin oil has other ingredients added, so definitely look into this before you start experimenting, just in case!
What other oils can I use instead of coconut and palm oil? Is there anything wrong with using cheap vegetable or canola oil to save money?
Both coconut and palm oils will solidify at cooler temperatures but won’t melt when mixed with the wax. You can try a cheaper oil, but I haven’t done that so I can’t say for sure how it will turn out.
Do you use 1 oz of Citronella oil or Citronella Essential oil per lb of wax?
Citronella essential oil – sorry about that Kathy!
I take a couple of tablespoons of acv in water everyday for all it’s health benefits. Didn’t know about this one though but makes perfect sense! Add that to the list of benefits. Come to think of it I haven’t been bitten by mosquitos yet this summer.
Also, back to the candles, love the recipe and can’t wait to try it. I also love the little buckets. I do agree clean up after making candles stinks. I just heat up the bowl in the microwave and wipe with paper towels like Tiffany said. I also agree about using essential oil vs fragrance. Maybe let the wax cool just a bit before adding the essential oil???!
I would like to make a couple of suggestions.( I make and sell candles.) Coconut oil is a much more sustainable oil than palm oil is, and is more economical. I would also use candle fragrance rather than essential oils. Some essential oils can change their molecular structure when heated as hot as a flame gets, and that can defeat the purpose of the candle. Candle fragrance can be purchased online, or maybe at Michael’s etc. for not much money. Also, beeswax is close to impossible to clean up, so make sure you don’t need whatever you use for stirring and pouring for other things.
Hi Sue! Thanks for the suggestion on coconut oil vs palm oil. As for the fragrance vs. essential oil, I’ve heard the same thing regarding the molecular structure, but I’ve also heard that fragrance alone does not deter the bugs but it’s the oil that does (hence the reason why many “scented” citronella candles don’t work). As for cleaning up, would you believe I still haven’t cleaned out my bowls?! LOL – I plan to reheat the cooled wax and use paper towels to wipe them out. I saw a trick that did that, along with another inexpensive oil and together it did the trick. We’ll see how it goes! 😉
A little trick I learned when my son was young and playing ball-about 3 drops of citronella oil in a bottle of baby oil ( I would use organic coconut oil now)will do to make some instant bug repellant. Won’t work on sand gnats, but it does help keep the mosquitoes and yellow flies away.
I don’t bother with either. I’m not sure if I shared this with you on FB or not. When we moved to the south Ga. woods, an old man down the road said that if you drink a tsp. of cider vinegar every day, the mosquitoes won’t bite you because the vinegar changes your blood chemistry just enough that they won’t like the taste. I thought it was an old wives tale until I tried it. Works like a charm. Southerner that I am, I drink lots of iced tea, so I just add a capful of ACV to one of my glasses of tea. Gives it a nice cider taste. It does take a week or so to get into your system, but I’m here to tell you it works, and I can’t remember the last time anything bit me. When I’m in the yard, the skeeters will still annoy the bejeebers out of me by buzzing around my head, but they don’t bite. LOL!
So interesting on the ACV Sue! I wonder if it works for Kombucha? I’ve been drinking quite a bit of that lately, lol.
Give it a try-that’s the only way to find out. LOL!
I will have to try this one Sue Lovett! I never thought about using it on myself, but since you mentioned it, sounds logical! I do add it to my dogs’ drinking water to help cut down on fleas and ticks. Last year was pretty bad and even the Frontline+ didn’t seem to be helping. Not sure if it was the apple cider vinegar added to the water, changing to Nexguard, or a combination of both, but not willing to stop using it and chance another flea invasion!
Can you please share with how much you give your dogs and do you use a plastic watering container or metal for the dogs? I read somewhere about using ACV with chickens but not to use it in a metal container. Can’t remember all the why’s but not to do it. I have an outside boxer and do not want to fight fleas either…..
thats a great tip! will have to give it a try as we are about to move to a more tropical enviro … thanks
Hmmmmm, drinking ACV does nothing for me. I have been drinking 2 tsp x2 per day for about a year now and boy have I been bitten this year. I was out picking some of my green beans and peppers (love my garden) and when I got inside, I had about 10 bites!! I think its my blood O + and ACV cant change that. But if it works for you, awesome drink away!!!
What purpose does the palm/ coconut serve? Is it needed?
Antoinette K. Harris
I am reusing wax from old citronella candles. Can I still add beeswax and coconut oil? I also plan on adding citronella oil. Thanks!
Karen @ Team Crumbs
We haven’t done it that way, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work. Let us know how it comes out. 🙂