Everything You Need to Know About Citronella
Summer is almost here—and unfortunately, so is mosquito season. "As the hot weather of summer arrives, mosquito season reaches its peak," says Ryan Larsen, civil engineer and drainage expert at NDS, Inc. "Warm temperatures allow mosquitoes to pass through their life cycle more quickly, so they wind up laying more eggs that hatch during the summer months."
So what to do when you're ready to live it up al fresco, but you can't seem to keep the mosquitoes at bay? "From perfume to scented fabric softeners and hand creams, a wide range of fragrances are known to attract mosquitoes," says David Reich, general manager at Mosquito Squad of Fairfield and Westchester. "If you are going to be in an area where mosquitoes are prevalent—such as near standing water where mosquitoes tend to lay their eggs—it's best to switch to unscented products to keep them away."
While using unscented personal products might reduce your odds of being bothered by a swarm of mosquitoes, citronella-infused products will also help fend these pesky bugs off. "Due to its strong smell, citronella is one of the most common ingredients used in insect repellants," Reich says. "Made from the leaves and stems of lemon grass, it's a pungent natural oil that can help mask the scents of other mosquito attractants—like perfume and cologne." But don't let the popularity of citronella-scented candles fool you; both Reich and Larsen agree their effects are fleeting. "While citronella candles can be somewhat effective in masking the scents that attract mosquitoes, they tend to have a very limited radius and therefore are best used in enclosed patios and other confined spaces," says Reich.
"If you're buying a citronella-based product for your porch or patio, buy it because you like the look and fragrance of it," adds Larsen. "There are more effective ways to wipe out mosquito problems at their source, such as eliminating standing water wherever it occurs on your property: Keep your gutters clear of debris; check at least once a week for any discarded cans, pots, overturned children's toys, and anything that can collect water; cover trash containers; change water in outdoor pet dishes daily; and change the water in birdbaths several times a week."
Still itching—no pun intended—to find the right citronella product to fend off mosquitoes this summer? Here are a handful of sleek, citronella-infused items you can try in your own backyard.
Citronella Votive Set
The only thing better than a potent citronella candle is three of them. This sophisticated set features three 50-hour burning soy candles hand-poured inside sleek silk-screened matte white glass vessels—so you can repel mosquitoes in style all summer long.
Skeem Design Citronella Votive Set, $63,
Prefer to burn your citronella incense-style? No problem. This substantial citronella incense cone comes inside a sunny, bright yellow paper tube and is composed entirely of plant-based materials.
Fredericks and Mae Citronella Incense, $18,
12-Wick Patio Citronella Candle
Why invest in a bunch of so-so citronella candles when you can buy one big, powerful one instead? This commanding six-pound multi-wicked citronella candle is scented with light notes of coconut and vanilla and burns for over 55 hours inside a reusable, glazed ceramic bowl.
Terrain 12-Wick Patio Citronella Candle, $158,
Polyterrazzo Oil Lamp
Searching for a cool and contemporary way to combat mosquitoes with citronella this summer? This midcentury-inspired faux terrazzo stone lamp burns citronella oil for up to eight hours straight (and looks incredibly chic while doing so).
CB2 Polyterrazzo Oil Lamp, $19.95,
Cerabella Citronella Reed Diffuser
Not really a fan of candles but want to keep bugs from bothering you while you're outside? This petite but pungent reed diffuser comes with strong citronella oil to ward off pesky mosquitos around your home—no matchsticks necessary.
Anthropologie Cerabella Citronella Reed Diffuser, $36,