The Many Benefits of Citronella Oil

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What is Citronella Oil?

Citronella oil is an essential oil extracted from the leaves and stems of different species of Cymbopogon or lemongrass. The most commonly used plants for citronella oil production are Cymbopogon nardus and Cymbopogon winterianus.

Citronella oil has been used for over 50 years as an effective insect repellent, specifically against mosquitoes. The oil contains active compounds like citronellal, geraniol and citronellol that repel insects while also providing a pleasant, lemony scent.

In addition to its insect repelling abilities, citronella oil offers numerous other benefits and uses which I’ll explore more in-depth throughout this article.

Repels Mosquitoes and Other Biting Insects

Citronella oil’s ability to repel mosquitoes is arguably its most well-known and valued benefit.

Research shows that citronella oil, when applied topically or diffused in the air, can effectively repel several types of blood-sucking insects for up to 120 minutes. This includes:

  • Mosquitoes
  • Black flies
  • Deer flies
  • Stable flies
  • Fleas

The compounds in the oil disrupt insects’ scent receptors so they’re unable to hone in on human targets or bite through clothing that’s been spritzed with the oil.

In one study, using a 5% citronella candle was shown to repel up to 80% of mosquitoes for up to 60 minutes.

Other studies found that formulations containing 5-10% concentrations of citronella oil provided complete mosquito bite protection for 1 to 2 hours.

Comparing Citronella Oil to DEET

DEET is considered the “gold standard” for insect repellents. When comparing DEET to citronella oil, research indicates that:

  • DEET provides longer-lasting protection (up to 10 hours) compared to citronella oil (2 hours)
  • Citronella oil must be reapplied more frequently
  • DEET is more effective against more varieties of insects

However, unlike DEET formulas, pure citronella oil is non-toxic and has a pleasant scent. I prefer to use citronella oil whenever possible due to DEET’s potential negative health and environmental effects.

Natural Alternative to Toxic Insecticides

Citronella oil is an eco-friendly, non-toxic insecticide and insect repellent. This makes it a great natural alternative to popular chemical-based solutions which can negatively impact human health and the environment.

According to the EPA, citronella oil has little to no toxicity to:

  • Humans
  • Birds
  • Fish
  • Beneficial insects like honey bees

Citronella oil insect sprays can be safely used both indoors and outdoors to naturally ward off pests without posing health hazards.

When buying commercial citronella-based insect repellents, I always ensure the product also specifies that it’s DEET-free. DEET can be toxic with overexposure, particularly in children.

Provides Soothing Aromatherapy Benefits

In aromatherapy practices, citronella oil promotes:

  • An uplifted, positive mood
  • Soothing comfort
  • Relaxation

The oil’s sweet, lemony aroma also helps freshen stale indoor air.

I like to use my citronella oil in a diffuser to scent my home office throughout the work day. This subtle aroma therapy helps increase my productivity, creativity and overall sense of well-being.

Citronella oil blends particularly well with mood-enhancing essential oils like:

  • Bergamot
  • Clary sage
  • Eucalyptus
  • Lemon
  • Peppermint
  • Rosemary
  • Tea tree

Natural Cleaner & Deodorizer

Thanks to its antimicrobial and antifungal properties, citronella oil makes an effective non-toxic household cleaner and deodorizer. It can sanitize surfaces while leaving behind a clean, pleasant scent.

I like to add a few drops of citronella oil to my all-purpose cleaner to:

  • Clean kitchen and bathroom surfaces – eliminates odors and inhibits bacterial growth
  • Freshen laundry – add 5-10 drops per laundry load
  • Clean pet areas – discourages fleas while reducing pet odor
  • Freshen garbages cans – fights odor-causing bacteria
  • Clean floors

Citronella oil-based cleaners are kid and pet-friendly. The oil also helps naturally repel ants, roaches and rodents when used to wipe down shelves, window sills and other potential ingress points.

Natural Skin Care Remedy

Citronella oil provides therapeutic antifungal and antibacterial benefits when applied directly to the skin. I occasionally use it as a natural remedy for:

Insect Bites

The oil can reduce inflammation, pain, swelling and itching caused by mosquito, ant and bee stings. It may also help prevent secondary infections.

Acne Control

Thanks to its antimicrobial effects, citronella oil inhibits bacteria linked to acne breakouts when applied in very small amounts to problem areas. It also helps regulate oil production.


Collagen breakdown leading to fine lines and wrinkles can be accelerated by inflammation and free radical damage. Citronella oil helps stabilize collagen while fighting inflammation with its antioxidant content.

Minor Cuts, Scratches & Foot Fungus

Citronella oil makes short work of topical fungus like athlete’s foot due to its potent antifungal action. It also aids wound healing for minor cuts, scrapes and irritation.

When using any essential oil topically, it should always be diluted with a carrier oil like coconut or jojoba oil to avoid skin sensitivity.

Where to Buy Citronella Oil

High-quality citronella essential oil suitable for aromatherapy, household use and topical application can easily be found online or in natural health stores. Some of my favorite brands:

As outlined above, citronella oil benefits our health while providing an effective, natural solution for repelling disease-carrying insects around our homes. With a pleasing scent and eco-friendly insecticide properties, citronella oil is a versatile essential oil no home should be without!

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