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Bugs can quickly put a damper on your time spent outdoors, and if you don’t want to douse yourself in bug spray every time you sit on your patio, it might be time to invest in a few citronella candles. Citronella oil is an essential oil that comes from certain varieties of grass, and it naturally repels a variety of pesky insects, including mosquitoes. When used in candles, citronella helps to keep bugs out of the immediate area, which saves you from ending the night covered in itchy bug bites.
The following are the best citronella candles to use this summer.
Best Overall: Cutter Citro Guard Triple Wick Candle
Who else recommends it? Bob Vila also picked the Cutter Citro Guard Candle.
What do buyers say? 85% of 7,700+ Amazon reviewers rated this 4 stars or above.
The Cutter Citro Guard Triple Wick Candle is a top pick for several reasons. Not only does it have a large triple-wick design that will burn longer and cover a larger area, but it’s also attractive and affordable. Each candle is 20 ounces and can burn for up to 40 hours, and they’re made with real citronella oil for optimal results.
These citronella candles have a wide, stable base to prevent tipping, and the high sides help to prevent the flame from being extinguished on windy days. The container has an attractive copper finish that gives it a more decorative look, and the candles are budget-friendly enough that you can easily purchase several to cover a larger area. The smell of the candle is pleasant as well, but it can be a little overwhelming if you sit too close to it.
Burn Time: Up to 40 hours | Size: 20 ounces | Number of Wicks: Three
"Since it’s best to light the candles at least 20 minutes before you plan to be outside, that’s exactly what we did. We found that this helped shoo away any bugs that were already in our intended air space, and it helped the wafts of citronella establish a protective barrier."—Kimberly Holland, Product Tester
Best Budget: Coleman Scented Citronella Candle
Burn Time: Up to 25 hours | Size: 6 ounces | Number of Wicks: One
These budget-friendly 6-ounce candles are ideal for small areas or tossing in your pack when camping. They’re also a good choice for those that don’t like the smell of citronella, as the candles come in a variety of other woodsy scents, including campfire, pine, and s’mores. Don’t worry, though; they’ll still keep the bugs away!
The Coleman citronella candles have a wooden wick that crackles pleasantly when burning, and each one burns for around 25 hours. They’re lightweight and easy to use, and when you’ve burned through the candle, the eco-friendly tin containers can be recycled.
Best for Mosquitoes: Repel Triple-Wick Citronella Candle
Burn Time: 40 hours | Size: 20 ounces | Number of Wicks: Three
You can keep mosquitoes away when relaxing outside with the Repel Triple-Wick Citronella Candle. These large 20-ounce candles burn for up to 40 hours each, and they’re made with real citronella oil to repel pesky mosquitoes, as well as other flying insects.
These candles come in a plain green container with a wide base to prevent tipping, and they even have a small handle that makes them easier to move around. The three wicks ensure a more even burn, and for best results, you’ll want to place several of the candles around the perimeter of your outdoor living area.
Best for Camping: Coleman Citronella Candle Outdoor Lantern
Burn Time: 50-70 plus hours | Size: 6.7 ounces | Number of Wicks: One
Insects are typically more plentiful in wooded areas, so it’s a good idea to bring along a product like the Coleman Citronella Outdoor Lantern when you go camping. The 6.7-ounce candle comes in a convenient lantern container that you can place on your table or hang up near your tent, and despite its relatively small size, it can burn for up to 50 hours, lasting the duration of your trip.
Not only is the lantern attractive, but it also comes with a cover that lets you protect the candle from the elements. The only downside is that the brand doesn’t sell replacement candles for the lantern, so you’re not able to refill the container once the wax burns down.
Best for Patio: Mainstays 30-Ounce 3-Wick Bucket Outdoor Citronella Candle
Burn Time: Up to 50 hours | Size: 30 ounces | Number of Wicks: Three
The Mainstays Bucket Citronella Candles are one of the best options for your patio—not only are they extremely large and long-lasting, but they also come in a wide range of colors to match your decor. Each candle is 30 ounces and has three wicks, and the bucket is roughly 7 inches across with a convenient handle for carrying. There are 13 different bucket options to choose from, ranging from plain galvanized metal to fun geometric prints.
These candles contain 3 percent citronella oil to deter insects, and each one can burn for up to 50 hours. They come with plastic lids to protect the wax when not in use, and the sturdy design of the bucket helps to reduce the risk of the candles tipping over.
Best Tea Lights: Mosquito Guard Repellent Tea Light Candles
Burn Time: Up to 4 hours each | Size: 30 ounces | Number of Wicks: One
You can arrange the Mosquito Guard Tea Light Candles around your home or patio to repel bugs and create a welcoming ambiance. These little candles are made with a variety of natural, plant-based ingredients, including citronella, peppermint, rosemary, cedarwood, and lemongrass oils, all of which deter insects.
These tea lights come in a pack of 16, and they’re handy for bringing out to a picnic or camping thanks to their compact size. The scent is designed to be refreshing and not overpowering, and each of the small candles will burn for up to four hours.
Best Natural: Murphy's Naturals Murphy’s Mosquito Candle
Burn Time: 30 hours | Size: 9 ounces | Number of Wicks: One
If you’re hoping to find a candle made with safe, natural ingredients, the Murphy’s Natural Mosquito Repellent Candle is the way to go. These candles are made using five insect-repelling oils—rosemary, peppermint, citronella, lemongrass, and cedarwood—and they contain 100 percent soy and beeswax blend for a cleaner burn. Plus, they don’t contain any petroleum, dyes, synthetic fragrances, or chemicals.
Each of these 9-ounce candles can be burned for around 30 hours. And they’re made right here in the United States, so you can feel good about supporting a domestic company. Plus, the citrusy blend of oils smells light and refreshing, so you won’t even mind having it burning on your patio.
The Cutter Citro Guard Triple Wick Candle has a large triple-wick design that burns for up to 40 hours and will help to deter insects when placed around your outdoor space. For an all-natural candle made from essential oils and clean-burning wax, consider Murphy's Naturals Mosquito Repellant Candle (view at Amazon).
What to Look for in a Citronella Candle
Some citronella candles are simply utilitarian with little regard to style, while others are more stylish and can be worked into your overall decor. While most are designed for outdoor use only, there are some that can also be used indoors where their appearance may be more important.
Some people prefer the scent of straight-up citronella, while others like something a bit more subdued or one that’s infused with other scents as well. There is a wide variety to choose from, and your choice will likely depend primarily on your individual preference.
Of course, the most important quality you want in citronella candles is for them to keep bugs at bay. Consider how potent candles are as well as how long they’ll burn. You should also factor in where you’ll be using the candles and the concentration of the bugs in that area to choose the best ones for you. For example, if you live in a city and have a small patio, smaller candles that are less potent might do the trick. However, if you're planning a week-long camping trip in the woods, opt for a larger candle with more potency.
What bugs do citronella candles repel?
Flies, mosquitoes, and other pests are the main targets of citronella candles. That being said, the verdict is still out on whether or not they truly repel mosquitoes. In some cases, there may be better solutions over citronella candles, such as removing sources of standing water from outdoor areas.
What is the purpose of a citronella candle?
A candle is one method of using citronella to repel bugs. Burning one of these candles fills a small radius of air near the candle with the scent, which is intended to keep bugs away. Citronella candles aren’t meant for keeping an entire backyard, patio, or deck free of bugs, but rather a section of it. Some people prefer spraying citronella, putting it on outdoor furniture, or applying it to their skin.
Is citronella candle smoke harmful?
When burning one of these candles, skin and eyes might be exposed to citronella or it may be inhaled. Unless you have a serious allergy or consume a large amount, only minor irritation will likely occur. The National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC) states that multiple studies have been done and none have found citronella oil to cause serious harmful side effects in the short or long term. To minimize exposure, don’t burn candles when it’s windy, and try to leave ample space between where the candle is to where you and guests are sitting or dining.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was researched and written by Camryn Rabideau, who is a freelance writer for The Spruce. She lives in the country and is particularly sensitive to bug bites, and she frequently uses Cutter insect-repellent products to ward off mosquitoes during the summer. Additional reporting was done by Melissa Epifano, a news writer for The Spruce who covers trends, decor, and design topics with a deep appreciation for all things interiors and exteriors.