Citronella oil is an essential oil extracted from Lemongrass (Cymbopogon), an herb plant native to Southeast Asia.

Citronella is widely used in the beauty industry. However, can it be used as a mosquito repellent?

What Is Citronella Oil?

Citronella oil rose to fame when it was found to be a “natural” essential oil that paired a pleasing scent with capable mosquito repelling qualities. In recent years, as the desire for “natural” pest control products has grown, citronella oil has become a primary ingredient in many of the most popular mosquito control products.

Citronella oil can be found as an active ingredient in products ranging from sprays and lotions to even scented candles.

Citronella oil protects against not just mosquitoes but even other tiny pests like flies and fleas.

In recent years the use of citronella oil in insect repellent products has increased tremendously. Since the oil can be applied on skin without the fear of an allergic reaction, its use in commercial products has grown exponentially. Likewise, the oil is safe for direct application on clothes and does not discolor or stain.

The oil can also be applied on areas of skin where mosquitoes have already bitten to reduce itchiness and redness.

How Does Citronella Oil Repel Mosquitoes?

So it’s popular, but how does citronella oil help to keep the mosquitoes off my skin?


First off, let’s address the common misconceptions of citronella oil. Many people believe the Lemongrass plant itself is what acts as an insect repellent, however, that is not true.

It is the oil, or more importantly, the bioactive compounds present in the essential oil which protects us from the mosquitoes.

Citronella Oil consists of three biologically active molecules which are known as ‘Citronellal’, ‘Citronellol’ and ‘Geraniol’. 

These molecules repel mosquitoes by creating a masking effect on the skin. Keep in mind Citronella oil does not kill mosquitoes; it only repels them by manipulating their sense of smell. It is so non-toxic that it even spares the lives of mosquitoes.

When applied on skin the oil blocks other smells given off by the body which mosquitoes use to track humans. For instance, Citronella oil masks the scent of carbon dioxide and lactic acid, naturally released by humans, making it difficult for mosquitoes to find us!

 Scientific evidence suggests different mixtures of Citronella oil can ward off mosquitoes from 2 hours, if diluted, to even 12 hours, when undiluted. 

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DIY Mosquito Protection Spray

Using citronella oil is a good way of avoiding mosquito bites when you are participating in outdoor activities such as hiking, taking a walk, or even just BBQing. With zero chemicals, it is safe for your skin and respiratory system.

Before you get too excited and rush to the nearest store to buy citronella oil repellent, considering making your own citronella oil repellent. The best thing about citronella oil is that it naturally keeps away mosquitoes all by itself.

The most effective and simplest form of citronella repellent is a spray. To make a citronella oil spray all you need is a few simple ingredients and a few minutes of your time. The simple ingredients required to make citronella oil spray are:

  • 4 ounce spray bottle
  • 2 ounces water (boiled or distilled)
  • 1.5 ounces alcohol (vodka)
  • Pure citronella essential oil

How To Make

1. Make sure the 4oz spray bottle is clean before using it to avoid any contamination.

2. Fill the bottle with 2oz of water and then add 1oz of alcohol. Slowly add 50 to 75 drops of pure citronella essential oil to the bottle.

3. For safety, measure the total percentage of the essential oil to be 15 percent of the rest of the mixture. Do not fill the bottle to its brim so that there is room for shaking.

4. Close the bottle and shake it to mix the solutions and voila a homemade mosquito repellent spray is ready!

DIY Mosquito Protection Lotion

Prefer applying a lotion instead of a spray?

It’s super easy to make a homemade citronella oil mosquito repellent lotion.

Check out this recipe for homemade mosquito repellent lotion.

Just remember to reapply every 30-60 minutes as a citronella oil based lotion will not last much longer.

Also, be mindful that your skin may be sensitive to citronella oil. Start small with a test area before applying everywhere.

Drawbacks of Citronella Oil

Although citronella oil is entirely non-toxic it has a few minor drawbacks:
  • Citronella oil can cause mild irritation to the eyes, so avoid rubbing your eyes.
  • Some people may also develop skin sensitivity to citronella oil when used over long periods. Similarly, it is advised not to use the oil on young children since their skin is sensitive and more likely to react to foreign substances.

If a person accidentally consumes citronella oil they may have an irritated throat and small cough. According to the EPA, the oil breaks down in the system and there is no danger of toxicity. To be extra safe, remember to avoid placing your fingers in your mouth after use.

As advised by senior researcher Gideon Koren from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research during pregnancy women should avoid all types of essential oils, including citronella oil, due to risk of unexpected reactions.


Repelling mosquitoes can be tricky business. You want to repel as many mosquitoes as you can, yet you don’t want chemicals coming into contact with you or your family.

Will Citronella repel every mosquito in your backyard? No, probably not.

However, it will work to make your immediate area significantly more comfortable.

For us, the trade off was worth it. We used Citronella mosquito spray and were left with a few remaining mosquitoes. However, we didn’t get chemicals on our skin or in our throats, and feel healthier because of it.

What do you prefer? Do you have any other natural mosquito repellent ideas? Let us know by contacting us!