How to Make Citronella Candles That Will Keep Bugs Away All Summer

Last Updated on August 6, 2020 by Christina

We love spending time outdoors in the summer but mosquitoes, flies, gnats, and other bugs are not welcome at our cookouts. That’s why we make citronella candles to keep these pesky bugs away all summer long. The scent of citronella repels mosquitoes and other insects.

Making citronella candles is a simple craft that you can easily do at home. Read our DIY instructions below, gather up the supplies, and give it a try yourself this weekend!

Supplies to make citronella candles are arranged on a wood table. There is a black pot holder, small bottles of citronella and essential oils, an eye dropper, shaved wax bits, empty tin containers, candle wicks, bamboo skewers and a large glass Pyrex measuring cup.
Gather up your supplies and make these easy citronella candles at home!

What you’ll need to make citronella candles

  • Several heat-proof containers of your choice – each container will make one candle (Mason jars, recycled aluminum cans, coffee cans, or decorative tin buckets work well)
  • A large glass bowl and microwave
  • Wax – 2 or 3 lbs. depending on the size/quantity of candles you want to make
  • Wicks
  • Citronella oil – 3 oz. (use 1 oz oil per pound of wax)
  • Bamboo skewers or chopsticks
  • Oven mitts or pot holders
  • Optional: Other essential oils of your choice (eucalyptus, peppermint, orange, etc.)

How to Make Citronella Candles at Home

Step 1: Melt the wax

Melt the wax in batches by placing approximately one pound (or half a pound if your container is smaller) of wax in a glass bowl and microwaving it for several minutes. The bowl will get very hot, so be sure to use oven mitts or pot holders!

We started with 5 minutes of heating, followed by a good stir, and continued microwaving for 30 seconds at a time until all the wax was completely melted.

A man melts candle wax in a large glass Pyrex measuring cup using a microwave.
You can use a microwave or stove top to melt your wax.

If you prefer to melt your wax over the stove, use an old pot or double boiler. Start with low-medium heat and lower the heat as the wax begins to melt.

Tip: Wax is typically sold in 1-pound blocks. You can speed up the melting process by using a knife to carefully cut the wax into smaller chunks. Shaved wax will also melt faster.

Step 2: Prepare your candle containers

While your wax is melting, prepare your citronella candle containers for filling. If you’re using recycled containers, remove any labels and residue, then clean and dry them thoroughly. These containers will be very hot when you pour in the wax so make sure to choose a surface that can withstand the heat!

A pair of hands wash an empty glass candle votive with soap over a stainless steel sink.
Wash your containers while the wax is melting.

Step 3: Add essential oil(s) to melted wax

Once the wax is completely melted, add citronella oil and stir the oil in to the wax using your bamboo skewer. Use 1 oz. citronella oil per pound of wax to make your citronella candles fragrant and effective at repelling bugs.

Drops of essential oil are added to a large glass Pyrex measuring cup that contains melted max.
Essential oil is added to melted wax.

If you would like, add other essential oils of your choice now. These are optional but will give your candle more scent and can help prevent bugs from crashing your outdoor dinner plans. Add 0.5 oz. of eucalyptus, peppermint, or orange oil per pound of wax and stir again.

Step 4: Place the wicks

Next, place a wick into the center of each citronella candle container. If you purchased wicks with adhesive dots, stick them to the bottom of the container. If you’re using a larger can or wide-mouth mason jar, you can add multiple wicks.

A wick is placed in the center of each container.
Place a wick in the center of each candle container.

Use the bamboo skewers or chopsticks to hold the wick upright for the next steps.

Tip: You can buy wicks with adhesive dots on the bottom to help them stay centered in your candle. Or, you can use plain wicks and grab a few leftover washers from your tool box. Secure a washer to the end of the wick to help it remain in place while the candle hardens.

Step 5: Pour melted wax into containers

It’s time to pour the wax in to your new candle jars or cans. The wax will be very hot so work slowly and carefully to pour the wax into each container. Use oven mitts to protect your hands from the heat!

Melted wax is poured into a candle jar. A second empty jar sits nearby, ready to be filled. Bamboo skewers hold the wick of each candle in place during this process.
Use bamboo skewers to keep the wicks from moving while you pour in the melted wax.

Step 6: Let candles cool completely

Let your new DIY citronella candles cool completely. This will take several hours. Handle cooling candles with care – they will be very hot! Use oven mitts if you must move them.

Two small glass containers and one larger glass votive with candle wax are left to cool on a table. The wicks of the candles are held upright by bamboo skewers.
Citronella candles need to cool completely before using.

Periodically check on your citronella candles as they cool. If you start to see cracks or wells develop, you may need to add more melted wax to fill up your candle.

Once your citronella candles have solidified, they’re ready to use.

It’s time to enjoy the outdoors more!

Now that your citronella candles are finished, you can place them on your outdoor table and around your patio or pack a few in your RV to enjoy more time outdoors and fewer bugs. Citronella candles will repel insects like mosquitoes, flies, and gnats so make a few this weekend!

Homemade citronella candles are lit on a wooden table.

Be sure to check out the General RV blog for more craft ideas, delicious recipes, RV news and more!