Citronella candles can be an effective and attractive outdoor accessory for deterring those pesky, blood-thirsty little creatures called mosquitoes. Arm yourself against these pests by making a plentiful supply of these bug fighting candles. Get creative with your containers and save a little money by using a combination of a less expensive paraffin wax and a portion of vegetable shortening (like Crisco). The shortening will make the wax softer and help it adhere to the edges of your container, while decreasing the amount of wax you’ll need to fill larger containers. When using the Crisco the wax may mottle (white patches within the wax) but that will not affect the candles performance. I personally like the mottled look.
There are a number of fragrances, other than citronella, that you could use to deter mosquitoes. I like to use a combination of citronella, eucalyptus, and clove to create a unique bug barrier and a pleasant aroma for me and my guests. Other essential and fragrance oils you could try are:
Essential oils are usually more expensive than fragrance oils. I’ve used both and really can’t see a big difference in their bug deterring qualities. When you have mosquitoes as thick as we do however, I’m pretty sure some are going to get you no matter what you have burning or how much bug spray you’ve doused yourself with.
Please read all instructions before beginning this project.
Equipment and Supplies
This list of supplies is based on using a less expensive paraffin wax and shortening but you could always use a wax blend specifically made for container candles if you prefer. It seems all waxes are becoming more and more expensive, so if you can find a cheaper one, go for it and use it in this project.
- Paraffin wax – for two large candles use 3-4 pounds
- Vegetable Shortening (Crisco) 1-2 ounces per 1 pound of wax – If you are using a container wax you should omit the shortening .
- Candy thermometer
- Essential or Fragrance Oils of your choice or as mentioned above. Use your manufacturer’s suggested amounts.
- Decorative, heat safe containers of your choice – see suggestions and ideas below
- Candle Dye – Use any color you like or leave it out and cut expenses even further.
- Double boiler system for melting wax (large outer pot with smaller pot or melting pitcher inside)
- Wicks – Standard or Wood – Choose a wick that is recommended for a slightly larger diameter candle than the one you are making. If you don’t have one, you can substitute by making this a two or three (or more) wick candle, spacing them evenly from each other and not too close to the edge of your container.
- Hot glue or wick stickums to attach wick(s) to container
- Chopstick, pencils or craft sticks to hold your wicks straight and in place.
- White glossy paper or paper plate – to test color
- Old towel – lay flat in work area to set your melting pot on and catch water drips from double boiler
- Add about two inches of water to your large pot to create a double boiler.
- Put your wax and shortening in your melting pot or pitcher and place it in your larger pot of water. Turn your double boiler on high and place a thermometer into your wax pot. Do not allow your wax to get hotter than 180 degrees for this project or above the manufacturers suggested maximum temperature.
- While waiting for your wax to melt, prepare your containers. Adhere your wick(s) centered or evenly distributed if using more than one and support them with chopsticks or pencils to keep them standing straight.
- If using candle dye, add this while wax is melting. Test for your desired color by dripping small amounts of melted wax onto white glossy paper.
- When your wax has reached 175-180 degrees, remove from double boiler and set on an old towel to absorb any water on the outside.
- Add your fragrance and stir until well incorporated.
- Pour carefully into your prepared containers, making sure your wicks remain straight. If they move, adjust them while your wax is still liquid. Use a skewer if necessary. Never fill a container candle up to the top.
- Reserve some wax for any additional pours you may need. I find when using the Crisco, I really don’t have much of a well so I just leave it at that.
- Let your candle(s) cool completely and trim your wick to about a half inch. This is longer than you would want an indoor candle wick. The reason for this is that you want to create a little smoke and a large burn pool so a bigger and longer wick will help make that happen.
- Place your candle in a safe area outdoors and burn when the pests start coming.
- If all else fails, go inside, light a nice beach scented candle, put your feet up and watch the mosquitoes drool as they’re looking in at you!
Note: While making my large candle in a deep bowl, I did this in two pours. I placed my first and central wick (I used a wood wick) and I only poured the wax until my container was about one third full. This is because my bowl is slanted and the bottom is narrower than the top. After my first pour cooled a bit and formed a thick skin, I placed my other wicks on the level surface of the wax for the outer edges of the candle and propped them so they stood up straight and poured more wax to fill the container.
Inexpensive containers will suit this project just fine but if you would like something stylish for parties or entertaining, decorative vessels are nice to use.
Aside from any regular candle containers, try using:
- Terra cotta flower pots or other decorative garden pots – glazed or unglazed* (if they have a hole, cover it with tape and a short layer of aluminum foil)
- Metal buckets work great but you may want to line the inside seam with a layer of aluminum foil, just in case they leak. You could always check for leaks first by filling the bucket with water.
- Recycled tin cans, wide mouthed canning jars, ceramic bowls that you don’t use any more or anything safe and large enough for an outdoor candle.
- Bird bath – Yep, I saw some outdoor candles with multiple wicks that were actually made in a bird bath. They looked pretty cool but you would definitely have to have the right space for something like that.
- Since you use a larger than normal wick for these candles, do not choose a container that is too small or thin and can’t take the heat.
* If using plain terra cotta or garden pots that are not glazed, you will want to seal the porous container by painting or sponging some Mod Podge (non-flammable craft glue) on the inside and allow it to dry before filling with wax. Unsealed terra cotta could absorb the oils from the wax and fragrance and become one giant flammable wick.
- When possible, store your candle out of the reach of rain and extreme sunlight or heat.
- If your wick gets wet, just tip the candle upside down to drain for a few minutes and then place it right side up again to allow the wick to dry. If you forget to turn it back upright and leave it upside down in the summer heat, you may find all of your wax on the table or ground.
- Always use these candles outdoors as they will have larger flames and smoke a little more than regular candles.
- Repellant candles not only help keep bugs away but they add to your décor, create a nice aroma and provide extra lighting.
- Keep these candles away from children, pets and all other flammable items that you don’t want to catch on fire or be damaged with heat.