DIY Citronella Candles – TheNavagePatch.com

DIY Citronella Candles

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DIY citronella candles are easy to make with mostly Dollar Tree materials, and they’ll help keep the mosquitoes at bay this summer.

DIY Citronella Candles - TheNavagePatch.com

I don’t need citronella candles!

Well, not when my wife is around, anyway.

She is cursed with a smell or pheromone or chemical in her bloodstream that wafts from her pores and is pure ambrosia to mosquitoes. And not just mosquitoes! She gets bitten and jabbed by insects that were hitherto unbeknownst to me to bite!

Gnats? No-see-ums? Annoying, to be sure, but I’ve never seen them bite anyone until Handan (and to a lesser degree, Baris).

DIY Citronella Candles – TheNavagePatch.com

And the bites!

Handan’s ear once swelled so big from a gnat bite, she had to call in sick from work. Another time, one of those swarmy little buggers got her near her eye, and it turned bright red and swelled shut like she just came from the losing side of a title fight. Anyone seeing pics of those bites would think she’s married to a psychotic wife beater!

It’s bad enough when she’s mobile – being an ambulatory all-you-can-eat feast for swarming creatures is not an optimal situation for anyone. But parking that body-length buffet in a deck chair is quite another thing altogether. She doesn’t spend much time outside anymore – not in the evenings. The price is too high and the welts just too severe.

So yeah, when she’s around, I don’t need bug repellent, because my wife is a freakish bug attractor! When she’s near me, any and all winged terrors and biting jerkwads fly directly to her without even a passing glance at me. It’s bizarre.

Fortunately nature has a pretty good solution to my babes’ most itching problem: citronella.

DIY Citronella Candles – TheNavagePatch.com

Every year in Connecticut, we bought citronella plants for our deck. Though they may not have worked perfectly to dispel the biting hordes (especially for Handan), they did help somewhat, and Handan loves the smell. Citronella plants are hugely popular in Turkey, so it’s one of those sights and smells that takes her back to her youth.

This year, I wanted to DIY some really strong citronella candles to go with the plants. Maybe she could start enjoying our deck again. Oh sure, I could spray Yard Guard and cover her head-to-toe in Cutter or Off!, but those are chemical solutions, and we’re trying our best to avoid poisoning ourselves. Besides, after all the DEET, she’d have to shower off those sprays before bed. A natural solution is always better.

We’ve had citronella candles before – you can find them pretty much everywhere. But I wanted something better. Something stronger. I wanted to know just how much mosquito-fighting citronella each candle contained.

And I wanted them to look fun and inviting. Home Depot sells citronella candles that look like an inverted brown bucket with holes in it. How is that supposed to go with any outdoor decor?

Unless pressed into service during a blackout, candles should always server two purposes: look good and smell awesome. Bonus points if they’re citronella and help fight the scourge of mosquito bites.

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To make these DIY citronella candles, we started with Dollar Tree candles, though you could certainly buy candle wax online. To keep costs down, you can use the wicks in the Dollar Tree candles, or you can buy new ones online. Let’s take a look at how we made them.

DIY Citronella Candles – TheNavagePatch.com

DIY Citronella Candles

DIY citronella candle supplies

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DIY Citronella Candles – TheNavagePatch.com
DIY citronella candle supplies

How to Make Citronella Candles

Step 1 – Melt the wax

To get the wax from the Dollar Tree candles, I had to melt it. The two easiest methods are oven and stove. I’ve used both, and they’re equally easy. Overall, I prefer the stovetop method so I can keep a quick eye on the melting progress and grab the glass containers individually, instead of pulling them out of the oven on a baking sheet.

preparing to melt wax for candles

In a small saucepan, I fit 3 or 4 Dollar Tree candles, fill it with water and bring the water to a boil.

melting dollar tree candles

Melting takes about 20 minutes. The first time I melted down a Dollar Tree candle, I was shocked to see that the liquid wax only filled the container half way. This is how Dollar Tree is able to sell these candles for a dollar – the wax is whipped with air as it cools. This is the same principle used by some unscrupulous ice cream manufacturers: whip the product with air, thereby using a smaller quantity of ingredients to achieve the same volume of ice cream. Charge the customer the same amount of money. Pocket the profits. It’s the American way. Bonus points if you whip the ice cream and reduce the half gallon container to 1.5 quarts without telling anyone!

Anyway, ice cream rant aside, while the wax melted, I washed and dried the margarita glasses.

margarita glasses

When the wax had melted, I pulled the candles off the stove and set them on a silicone mat I use for things like this. I first bought this mat when we got our quartzite countertops. Handan and I were all paranoid about stains. Turns out, we needn’t have been so militant about it. We gave the stone several coats of sealant, and so far it’s held up extremely well. I haven’t used the silicone mat for cooking since last summer, but it makes a great craft pad that’s super easy to clean and folds down to take up a small amount of drawer space. Check it out on Amazon.

Step 2 – Place a wick in the glass

To save a few dollars, you can reuse the Dollar Tree wicks – just use a dab of hot glue or super glue to secure the base to the bottom of the glass. If you want to use new wicks, they come with round stickers for adhering the wick to the glass.

putting a wick in a margarita glass for citronella candles

Step 3 – Dye the wax

While the wax cooled a bit, I colored it with wax dye chips. I wanted two of these to look like margaritas, so I chose the bright lime and bright yellow chips.

wax dye chips

I first mixed in some yellow, and then I stirred in some green to get the right margarita color for my DIY citronella candles.

dying candles

Since these candles turn white when cool, you need to start with much darker and more vibrant colors when the wax is liquid, because the white solid wax while soften the color.

These three candles were for my first citronella candle. I went darker for the second one I made, and it turned out even better.

green liquid wax for citronella candles

Step 4 – Add the citronella

Next I added the citronella essential oil. I’ve seen places online recommend one or two drops in a candle. I put two droppers in each of the original candle containers, which makes about 4 droppers per finished citronella candle. Like I said earlier – I need these candles to be bigger, faster, stronger! If I were to burn these inside, I’d dial back the citronella, but since they’re slated for outdoor use, more is better. After all, I’m fighting for the well-being of my babes, and I’m willing to fight dirty against those flying hypodermics!

edit: After hearing so many of you suffer from the same mosquito magnetism as Handan, I’d say 4 droppers should be your minimum. There’s no harm in using more citronella oil, and you just may benefit from the additional smell!

adding citronella oil to melted candle wax

Step 5 – Pour the candle

The temperature of the liquid wax when pouring the candle has a huge impact on the final quality. Pour it too hot, and the candle will pull away from the sides of the glass when cooling. Granted, this is only an aesthetic problem encountered when pouring into clear glass. The other issue happens at the top of the candle. If you pour too hot, the top of the candle will tend to crater, and sometimes even split. This can be corrected later with a heat gun, but if you use a thermometer and pour at the correct temperature, you won’t need to fix the candle later.

I’ve read that the optimal temperature to pour is between 120 and 160 degrees. I poured my first candle at 140, and it turned out pretty good. The wax didn’t peel away from the sides of the glass, and there was only moderate cratering in the middle. I pored the rest of the candles at around 125 degrees, and they turned out nearly perfect. If you go too low – anything under 120 – the wax starts to solidify, especially near the bottom of the Dollar Tree glass container. That leads to chunks pouring out and air bubbles that get trapped in the thickening wax.

pouring liquid wax into a glass

I poured gently to avoid air bubbles. At 140 degrees, any bubbles will easily escape, but as the wax cools, bubbles can become trapped.

pouring liquid wax into a glass

I love the color of this liquid wax! The white sticker in the pic below is keeping the skewer in place. The wick was trying to push it away.

candle waiting to cool

As the wax cooled, the color softened.

diy citronella candles

After the maragarita-colored candle above, I made a bunch more with different wax dyes. Handan loved the orange dye packet, so I used it to make her one that turned out looking exactly like a strawberry daiquiri.

These DIY citronella candles were so easy to make, and it’s a fun project for a lazy weekend morning or afternoon. If you use Dollar Tree margarita glasses and candles, you can make a basic candle for $3 each. Adding citronella adds about another dollar (considering how many you can make with one bottle of essential oil), and using new wicks and a thermometer adds about another dollar. Not bad for great-looking candles that keep the mosquitoes at bay!

Let’s a have a closer look at our finished citronella candles.

DIY Citronella Candles – TheNavagePatch.com

The two-tone blue is the result of me trying to add a little more wax at the last minute, after the candle had already started to solidify. The new wax was a different shade than the rest, and because the candle had cooled too much, the new wax never got the chance to mix.

DIY Citronella Candles – TheNavagePatch.com

Handan’s strawberry daiquiri.

DIY Citronella Candles – TheNavagePatch.com
DIY Citronella Candles – TheNavagePatch.com
DIY Citronella Candles – TheNavagePatch.com
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69 Comments

  1. I do so love your posts with your generous amount of infused humor. My only problem is your tendency to stray from the topic ad nauseum. You obviously have attention problems that causes you to continually go off the garden path taking the reader with you. Many times I forget what the topic even was when I started reading it. By the end I have no more knowledge than when I began but I do experience a fair amount frustration since I chose to read your post knowing what would happen.So why do I endure all this madness? I do find your posts informative occasionally re something I may want to try. I do enjoy your humor. But seriously now from this ADD senior,would you consider putting your side trips elsewhere in the posts? For instance the part re silicone mats say,”see more about these and countertop below posts.

      1. I realize I’m opening myself up to who knows what, considering my name, but Gilda, I will bust out my “Karen” just for you. You’re welcome.
        Greg, what a gracious response to a rude, unnecessary and critical comment! But please don’t take Gilda’s comments into consideration. The literally thousands of readers and customers you serve will agree. We read your blog because 1) we learn things and 2) the “side trips” are entertaining and make us feel like we know you. If Gilda wants an anonymous, robotic DIY on citronella candles she can certainly find that on a boring website somewhere else. This is your blog, your creativity, your voice. It’s perfect the way it is.
        Gilda, where are your manners?

          1. Oh my gosh, Karen! I thought the exact same thing as you, perhaps because I have a tendency to go down another path while conversing. Fortunately, Greg remembers what he was discussing. (Sometimes I don’t!) Continue with YOUR blog just the way it is, Greg. By the way, I have never had good luck growing citronella plants. So, this summer we have huge pots of mint and spearmint on the patio because I heard they repel mosquitos. (I’m a mosquito magnet too.) Has anyone else heard that? It seems like there are fewer of them in the evenings.

          2. I used to grow a lot of mint – it’s used a ton in Turkish cooking. I’ll need to plant some here in GA. It’s so easy to grow, smells great and just may help in the mosquito fight!

    1. Gee, Gilda, gripe gobs all the time? His blog, where he teaches us to do so many different DIY projects FOR FREE and you want to be a Whiny Wanda because he takes on little side trips (that WE enjoy and learn from)??!! There are awesome tips in those side trips – if you have the same kind of countertops as he does, several coats of sealer mean you can worry less about damage and the mats he uses fold up for easy storage!! From this ADD senior, learn to appreciate life more and stop being such a wet blanket, ruining everything for everyone else just because you aren’t getting the world presented to you the way you want it. It’s not all about you and from reading the commenters to this blog for years, we like the way Greg writes his blogs just as though we were right there with him in the room – having a conversation with us and conversations are not linear, they meander.

      1. Personally, the side trips are very entertaining. Life is about the journey and stops along the way, not just the final destination.

        1. Agreed! This is one of my favorite blogs to read because of the “side trips” and humor. It’s informative and entertaining!

    2. Gilda- we all know and love Greg’s style of writing. I find it more “personal” and often learn other useful information in the course of the blog or it leads me to past posts I’d like to read. Since you only “occasionally” learn something, why did you feel the need to post unnecessary negative comments when there are more concise/dry blogs you can easily find? I humbly suggest you might benefit from a few real margaritas as opposed to candles.

  2. I feel ya, Handan. I am the same way. Biting bugs LOVE me. Back in the old days when hubby and I were still dating, we went on a weekend camping trip with friends. I had to sit in a zipped up tent instead of around the campfire because the bugs were after me. I have mosquito bites on every finger, on my scalp down the part in my hair, all around my ankles and anywhere skin was exposed and not covered with clothing. Bug spray be damned, those buggers bit me so much that 25 years later, my hubby’s best friend still calls me “Bugsy” (affectionately, but still). And it doesn’t matter if I used unscented soaps, no perfumes, etc. Something about my body chemistry like Handan’s just draws them in. It is no fun being a bug magnet.

      1. I have the same problem..I also grew up overseas(germany) and have many many scars from bug bites which prevent me from wearing shorts now. Ugh the bugs love me so much. I have tried every home remedy out there…nothing works. Going to make thees candles and see if it helps..the store bought ones barely smell. Thanks Greg for your posts I love them!!
        Steph

      2. I like to think it’s the smell of our awesomeness. LOL But I read somewhere that its the amount of CO2 you give off so we must be outgassing more than other people.

          1. I’ve read somewhere that people with O+ blood attract more biting insects. True for me but I don’t know if it’s just coincidental…

  3. I am very picky selecting the blogs I subscribe to……my time is valuable..and your blog is always informative, humorous, genuine, and, strives to make the world a better place. THANK YOU for a job well done! (Plus the freebies are amazing and beautiful!) please don’t change a thing!

  4. Hey Greg! I just had to pop in and let you know how much I LOVE your blog! I found you via a pin on Pinterest and instantly signed up for your email. I come here because of your humor ( can find DIY’s everywhere). My advice is to ignore people like Gilda and keep on doing what you’re doing! Also, I feel Handan’s pain. Mosquitoes love me so much that I can’t even be outside in the summer so I’m going to try these candles for sure. Thanks for all you do!

    1. Thank you so much, Lisa! Yeesh, you ladies need to start a support group – It’s incredible that there are so many actual mosquito magnets out there!

  5. Bugs love me too but not as much as Handan. I was told Vanilla and I found some vanilla lotion and the bites lessoned. I swell up big from skeeters too.
    Greg, as always love your blogs and your style of writing. Please don’t change anything!!!! It is actually refreshing, and I noticed sometimes my writing reminds me of yours! The side trips are what makes your blog so unique.
    Gilda…. Don’t like it? Unsubscribe, we dont want things changed because you have senior ADD issues.

    1. Hmmm, I wonder if vanilla and citronella would go well together. Good to know, and I’ll find a way to work it into the bug-fighting mix. Thank you for your encouragement, Tracy Lynn – it means a lot!

  6. It’s the opposite at our house. The husband and our boys are a considered an all-you-can-eat buffet and open-bar to mosquitos and biting bugs. While I can be sitting right next to them as they are eaten alive and get nary a bite. Our middle son had his hand x-rayed as a toddler as it was so swollen the pediatrician and I thought he’d injured it. Turns out there was a mosquito bite between his fingers that was visible on the x-ray. His bites still swell and weep and are just nasty. My husband is from Syria. Maybe middle eastern/ Mediterranean blood is sweeter?

  7. Ooh, good project, as usual. Using dollar store candles is something I never would have thought about, but for the patio, this works, and they come in an easy-to-pour container once the wax has melted, so that’s a huge bonus. I’ve tried lots of different things to repel the skeeters, including lots of marigolds, basil, chives, and petunias throughout the backyard, and they do seem to help. My birdbath also has a small fountain in it to keep the water moving, and between the birds and the dragonflies, those mosquitoes don’t stand a chance. (The thrill of watching the dragonflies hover around is one of the best things about summer.)

    You’re one of the few men I’ve found that has a good blog featuring your arts and crafts talents beyond the usual “guy stuff” of power-tool construction and big projects (like the side-yard steps). As always, thanks for sharing.

  8. I adore your blog…DIY projects, humor, writing style (and free printables!!) – all of it! The Navage Patch is one of very few blogs I actually take the time to read from start to finish because I know I will learn something and laugh along the way. You’ve got a good thing going and I hope you know that aside from a naysayer, there are thousands more who love your projects (and side trips)! Keep up the good work!!

  9. I love your blog, your stories and your humor! I have a question regarding the wicks. I used to make indoor tea lights and molded candles and if the wicks weren’t the right kind they would burn out or burn to fast. What kind did you use?

    And I am a bug magnet also. But years ago someone told me to take 100mg of vitamin B1 a day. I do this seasonally with great results against mosquitos. Sometimes the no seeums still get me but It has reduced the mosquito bites immensely!

    1. Thank you, Mari! The wicks we used are linked in the post in the supplies list. So far, we have no complaints. They seem to burn at the right speed. I’ve never heard of the vitamin B trick. I think we may have a bottle of it somewhere, but if not, I’ll definitely pick one up for Handan. If it helps even a little bit, it’s worth it!

    2. I used to be a mosquito magnet and not as much anymore. MAYBE it is because I take Vitamin B12???

      Greg your writing style is awesome! And I love how much you love Handan. It shows! If someone doesn’t have time to read every bit of it they can scroll to just the parts they need very easily.

  10. You guys rawk!!! I was just looking at a cool bowl that we have, trying to figure out what to use it for. Originally I was thinking I would use it as a planter (honestly, more of a slow-death torture device for an unsuspecting plant) but using it as a multi-wick candle will be even better!! Bonus, I can refill it.

    1. Great minds think alike, Mo (I mean yours and Handan’s, not yours and mine) – we just finished making some triple-wick bowl candles, too! (post coming soon)

      1. I swear Chris gets an eye tic every time he hears the words “ooo, I have an idea!” or “we can do something like this…” He knows he is getting roped into a new project then. Thank goodness he has a hobby and beer ?

        We soooo appreciate your blog! Thanks for sharing the family’s experiences with all of us!

  11. Oh Greg, Gilda just needs to unsubscribe, apparently! I love your blogs! And I’m a bug magnet too, plus I’m allergic to Deet! It’s a bug buffet if I go out near dusk. The reg citronella candles don’t do anything, I’m hoping to try this! And Greg and Handan, y’all do a fab job!!

  12. Great post and a great project as usual! Mosquitoes do love me but not as much as they love Handan it sounds like. My husband sits there not even noticing them. My son and me, oh how they love us!! My joke is that they will get stuck on the hair on my husband’s hands is why they don’t go to him lol. Anyhooo, I bought a $6 bottle of pure citronella and apply just barely a few drops on my skin. We are supposed to mix it with a carrier oil like baby oil/coconut oil/olive oil whatever one’s preference is. That makes it easy to spray but I’ve not had any bad reaction from applying drops on my skin directly without carrier oil. So if someone finds $16 a bit steep for the big bottle, find the $6 bottle that def seems sufficient for this project imho. The candles look gorgeous!! Hope Handan can enjoy her summer better now. I always had citronella/mosquito plant but not since we moved to GA…gotta get me some. Please keep doing you because you have a good sense of humor and IT’S YOUR BLOG!

    1. Thank you so much, Rupa! Wow, I’ve always hear that essential oils are so strong that they burn the skin. Good that you can handle it! Have you seen citronella plants for sale here in GA? I haven’t noticed, but, to be honest, I haven’t really looked for them, either.

  13. Hi Greg and Handan! I hope all these comments have shown how much we like you guys and your posts, don’t go changing!
    It might be different in the UK but my besieged friend swears by the Avon Skin So Soft spray, and the bugs don’t like smoke so if you can bear to have a wood burner on the go that helps. There is also a little gadget called zap it (other makes are available) that you hold over a bite, puts a tiny charge through the bite that takes away the pain and swelling, and so is much less likely to scar. No idea why it works but it does! Sorry if you already know all this as veteran bug fighters but if it helps one poor sufferer I will feel better ?

    1. I’ve hear of the Skin So Soft repellent but not the Zap It remedy. I’ll be searching for that on Amazon right now! Thanks for the tip, Lisa!

  14. I just read your blog this evening and all the comments. I do believe you have a strong support base. I have tried several of your crafty ideas. Love them. One commenter said you and Handan become like family. I so agree. And these candles are just another fun project to give a try.
    Again I appreciate your sharing your ideas and techniques.

  15. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your humor! It’s the reason I signed up for your blog. ? I, too am a mosquito magnet and my hubby can be sitting next to me and they bypass him to come and feast on me. I have found success in Avon’s Skin-so-Soft and in eucalyptus oil (added to baby oil), but my hubby hates the smell of both. He found this: https://spartanmosquito.com/
    I don’t receive anything to endorse them, but I should purchase stock in this company! It REALLY works. It is now available in big box stores. We live in a rural area, 1 hour south of Atlanta and our property is heavily wooded. We love being outdoors and the early evening is feast time for mosquitoes. We have used this system for the past 3 summers and we have NO mosquitoes!!! And the tube works for the entire summer. We can now enjoy our deck and pool without being feasted upon. Thanks for all of the information you and Handan continually bring and welcome to GA!!!

  16. I love your blog and the projects you post. They are so very helpful in me trying to bond with my Grand Daughter (13) who loves to craft. Thank you so much . I’ve tried many blogs and yours is the only one I actually read. I’ll try to send pics of our candles. I’ve ordered supplies.

    1. I’m so happy to read this, RubyRuth! Thank you so much, and we wish you and your grand daughter years of happy crafting together! 🙂

  17. There is an all natural spray (and now lotion & candles) called Bug Soother, made by a company in teeny tiny Columbus Junction, Iowa, that works better than anything else I have tried to repel the biting monsters. It’s sold in every store, gas station, gift shop… here in Iowa, and now – I just checked – it’s being sold on Amazon too ! (Hurray for Columbus Junction!! ?) I can’t recommend it highly enough for efficacy, and it smells good too!

    Of course, it’s not as cute as your candles but you can do both…!

    Bug Soother on Amazon

  18. Hello Greg,
    Is there a way to share photos of our completed projects with you?
    I decided to buy soy wax instead of the dollar tree candles. I have 4 rectangle glass jars that I have been hoarding forever that I am using. I forgot to order wax color chips. I’ll just use crayons. My jars have air tight lids because I want to leave them outside and I live in the far north 30 miles from Canada.
    Enjoy your blogs….SO VERY MUCH!

    1. Hi Iantha, making one candle without scent or custom color is $3. If you wanted color and citronella for only one candle, it would cost a lot – about $20. But if you wanted to make a bunch of them as we did, then the cost goes down to about $4-5 per candle.

  19. Loved your tutorial! Your use of the teriyaki stick to hold the wick in place I had to learn the hard way (after several crooked wicks. Has Handan ever tried taking a Vitamin B complex vitamin 20 min. before going outside. I have a friend who swears that it repels bugs. Worth a try!

    1. Thank you, Kathy! I have never heard of the vitamin B trick, but I will absolutely have Handan try it – thanks for the tip!

    1. Hi Michelle, thank you so much! Gel food coloring should work, but liquid won’t since it is water-based and won’t mix with the oily wax.

  20. I made these over the weekend. I was able to find the glasses and candles at Dollar Tree. Mine only held 1 of the candles and was full. I found colored wax at JoAnne Fabrics, but I had to order the Citronella oil (Amazon to the rescue). I let the wax melt real slow. My biggest problem was getting the metal disc out of the original was intact. (OK I didn’t let it melt completely). And one just didn’t exist. That one I used a bead we had laying around to weight it down. I had only bought 2 glasses to refill, but I went to the resale store later that night and bought a martini glass and a square container for the rest. One of the Dollar Trees around me had a lot of precolored candles, pink, red, green, blue, yellow. Those could be an easy option.