Full disclosure: we don't often get a lot of bugs living beside Lake Superior. So far I've only seen - and been bitten by - one mosquito this year. We sometimes get a couple of buggy weeks, but usually the breeze from the lake keeps them at bay (pun intended). Out of habit, I like to light a citronella candle in the evening anyway, largely because I love the smell - it reminds me of summer! Plus it does deter the occasional mosquito from snacking on us. Because I tend to...burn through them (I'm on fire with the puns today), I thought it would be fun, and cost-effective, to make my own.
Candle-making requires some precision and patience, but after making a few batches, I have to say that it is incredibly fun! Being able to turn random, discarded kitchen wares into useful, beautiful candles is really satisfying. Once you have the supplies rounded up, it becomes easier - and cheaper - to keep churning out homemade candles.
- Soy wax flakes (I bought a 10 lb bag)
- Wicks (I bought these ones, which were easy to affix with a dab of glue)
- Hot glue gun (or wick stickers)
- Double boiler or candle making pitcher (I used an old Pyrex measuring cup in a pot of boiling water)
- Candy or candle thermometer (I used a meat thermometer)
- Stir stick
- Citronella essential oil
- Containers (jars, bowls, tea cups, etc.)
- Oven mitts
- Newspapers or drop cloth
I won't bore you by repeating the candle-making instructions because my post about the Earl Grey Tea scented soy candle has step-by-step photos and instructions. I followed those instructions to the letter. Once the wax had been heated to 185F, I let it cool to about 135F before adding the citronella essential oil. It's important to let the wax cool because if the essential oil is added when the wax is too hot, it can just evaporate!
I have read that the general guide for making scented candles is about 75 drops of essential oil per pound of wax. I think that with citronella candles, it's better to be more generous! I almost doubled that guideline, but you can experiment with an amount that's effective but not overpowering for you. If you've been underwhelmed by store bought citronella candles before, check the labels. It turns out that some store bought candles are simply scented with citronella and do not actually contain the essential oil, which is the key ingredient for keeping those mosquitoes away.
I absolutely love the citronella candles I made because I re-purposed little French Onion soup bowls I found at the municipal landfill and the handles make them perfect for moving them around. I'm so happy I saves these little bowls from being thrown away!
If you want to make your own citronella candles, check out my tutorial for making soy candles and just swap out the bergamot essential oil (in my tea cup candle, above) for citronella!
And check out this post about my other batch of DIY poured soy candles for more inspiration for upcycling old glassware into sparkling new candles!