Citronella is my go-to pest repellent on hot summer days – this is how to use it around the home

Keeping my home free from unwanted pests has never smelled so good

(Image credit: Future / Anthropologie)

I love the summer sunshine as much as the next person, but one thing I don't love about the summertime is the inevitable influx of mosquitos.

There's nothing worse than trying to enjoy an al fresco meal or keep your windows open, only to get bitten all over by these bloodsuckers.

Thankfully, I love the sweet scent of citronella, and I've found a few easy (and stylish) ways to use it around my home to repel mosquitos.

How to use citronella around the home

Derived from the leaves and stems of different species of lemongrass, citronella has been used for centuries to ward off mosquitoes and other pests. Its effectiveness comes from its strong, distinctive scent, which masks the smells that attract insects and in, thereby keeping them at bay.

Here are my 4 favorite ways to use this delicious scent around the house:

Use citronella candles

A wooden four wick candle on a coffee table

(Image credit: Pottery Barn)

While citronella is one of 8 scents that deter mosquitos, I personally think it smells lovely. That's why I always stock up on citronella candles to light up my home and porch throughout the summer.

I suggest placing citronella candles around your patio, deck, or garden to create a barrier that keeps unwanted insects at bay. When a citronella candle is lit, the heat from the flame causes the citronella oil to evaporate into the air. As the oil vapor disperses, it creates a fragrant barrier that confuses mosquitoes' and other insects' sensory receptors. However, citronella candles must burn for at least 20-30 minutes to release enough citronella oil into the air to make a difference.

Make a DIY citronella spray

I recently started making a DIY cinnamon mosquito repellent, but I have to admit that I much prefer the lemon-like scent of citronella to the warming aroma of cinnamon during the summer months.

It's simple enough to make a homemade citronella spray. Mix citronella essential oil (my favorite is this organic variety by Nature's Oil from Amazon) with water and a small amount of rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle. This is a great alternative to chemical insect repellents and can be used on a variety of surfaces, including outdoor furniture and window screens.

Use citronella in an oil diffuser

Another way I like to use citronella in my home is through oil diffusers. Essential oil diffusers can disperse the fresh, lemony scent of citronella throughout your home, creating an environment that smells delightful to humans but offputting to insects.

I simply add a few drops of my aforementioned favorite citronella oil to my oil diffuser and let it work its magic. To create a custom blend, you could mix citronella with other essential oils, such as lavender or eucalyptus, to enhance the aroma.

Try a citronella hanging coil

Anthropologie recently introduced me to a very nifty tool called a 'citronella hanging coil' and I can't get enough of them. These unusual contraptions work a lot like an incense stick and are made from compressed wood dust saturated in citronella oil. They can be hung from branches or poles or grouped together at varying points around your outside space.

To use them, simply light the bottom end to release a steady stream of smoke and snap off the lit end when you are done to preserve the coil for future use. They give off subtle grassy, floral aromas as they burn, and they also double as decorative features.

Growing your own citronella in pots or directly in your garden is a lovely way to bring extra greenery and a pleasant aroma to your outdoor spaces. Position the plants around seating areas, entryways, or windows to maximize their effectiveness.

Gabriella Dyson
Head of Solved

Gabriella is Head of Solved at Homes & Gardens. She is a DIY enthusiast and a lover of all things interior design, often found antiquing or browsing the aisles of her local hardware store. 

She has a particular passion for historic buildings and is in the process of renovating a Victorian coachhouse in the British countryside. 

For much of the past decade, Gabriella has worked as a freelance writer, crafting copy for national publications and renowned homeware brands. Most recently, she worked on Homebuilding & Renovating Magazine, focusing on case studies for the magazine and website, as well as writing features about issues surrounding historic and listed building projects.