Citronella oil is an essential oil that is extracted from a different species of the lemongrass plant (a species different from the lemongrass from which the lemongrass oil comes). It is a plant that is commonly found in warm climate zones and grows up to 5 feet in height. When the leaves and stems of this plant are crushed, they release the citronella oil.
Citronella oil is yellowish brown in colour and has a strong scent of grass and trees. The composition of the oil includes compounds such as geraniol, citronellal and citronellal. The strong citrus smell of the oil is what makes the oil a famous ingredient in the manufacturing of perfumes and insect repellents.
Industries That Use Citronella Oil
Citronella oil has been used for many decades in the packaged food industry. The oil is found in different beverages and foods in order to enhance its flavour.
Cleaning Products and Fragrances
The strong and potent scent of citronella oil is why it is commonly used in perfumes, fragrances and Clemson products. Soaps, bath oils and other personal hygiene products also used citronella oil as an active ingredient.
Insect and Mosquito Repellents
There are a ton of different mosquito repelling products available in the market today. While most of the initial products that we saw in the supermarket were based on chemicals, we have a lot of brands in recent times which promise natural ingredients to repel mosquitos. 90% of these brands use citronella oil as an active ingredient. When used in combination with other compounds, citronella oil based formulations provide protection against insects and mosquitoes on application to clothes or even bare skin. The oil is also effective in treating itchy and irritated areas of the skin where the insect or mosquito has stung. Thus, the oil is found in a variety of mosquito repellents such as lotions, sprays, candles, wristbands etc. However, keep in mind that some people may be allergic to the oil when it comes in contact with bare skin. Always do a patch test to avoid any allergies.
How does Citronella Oil work as Mosquito Repellent?
The oil extracted from the grass effectively repels insects and mosquitoes. It is also thought sometimes that citronella oil kills mosquitoes which are not the case. The oil successfully masks the scent that the mosquito or insect is sensing. When applied on the skin, it blocks the scents of lactic acid and carbon dioxide so that the mosquito finds it a lot harder to locate you. Some resources also suggest that citronella oil has the ability to not just repel insects and mosquitoes but animals as well, but there is no scientific research and evidence to prove the same.
DEET, a chemical insect repellent is said to be a lot more effective and long-lasting than citronella oil as the effects of citronella last only for about 20 to 30 minutes at most. After half an hour, the oil needs to be reapplied. However, since citronella oil is a natural product and does not contain any artificial chemical compounds in it, it is being increasingly preferred over its chemical counterparts. Chemicals like DEET, despite their efficacy in repelling insects, are being avoided as their side-effects are coming into the picture. To increase the work time of the oil, citronella lotions and sprays combine other ingredients to enhance its effect.
Using a Citronella Repellent Product
Since one of the main uses of citronella is as an insect repellent, there are different citronella products that can be used for this purpose. Some of them include:
1. Citronella candles
Citronella candles can be used in homes and porch areas to repel insects and mosquitoes. It is however not suitable for large open areas with free-flowing air as the scent gets dispersed quite quickly and might not be strong enough to repel the insects. The best way to use citronella candles is to place several candles around the area you want coverage.
2. Citronella torches
Citronella torches are similar to candles but are effective in somewhat larger areas. A torch is essentially an oil burner which is generally used in gardens to repel airborne insects. Thus, if you are hosting an evening barbeque or a garden birthday party, make sure to place a couple of citronella torches around the area for protection against insects and mosquitoes.
3. Citronella soaps and bath oils
Citronella is also one of the common ingredients that are used in soaps and bath oils. The soap or bath oil can be used when bathing before contact with mosquitoes and insects is likely. However, the repellent effect is not long-lasting as opposed to citronella candles and torches.
4. Citronella wristband
The Citronella wristband was specially devised for children. The band is advertised to offer a long last repelling action against mosquitoes and insects. Once placed on a child's wrist, it will be effective at least for a few hours as opposed to reapplying a lotion every hour.
5. Citronella lotions and sprays
Citronella sprays and lotions can easily be made at home. A well-diluted recipe is considered safe for application to the skin, but avoid any contact with the eyes and face. For maximum protection against insects and mosquitoes, it is advised to re-apply the spray or lotion once an hour.
6. Citronella moisturizer
A moisturizer is a lighter version of a lotion. A moisturizer will get absorbed into the skin in no time at all and will not make your skin feel greasy as in the case of a lotion. A Citronella moisturizer is an emulsion of oil and water.
How to Make
- Take equal quantities of water and a carrier oil such as coconut oil in a deep mixing bowl.
- Start whisking the oil with the water using a wire whisk until the oil combines into the water to form a whitish cream.
- To this cream, add about 10-15 tbsp. citronella oil and mix thoroughly.
- Transfer the cream into a bottle and it is ready to use.
7. Fabric Roll-ons and Patches
There are a few Indian brands in the market that sell fabric roll-ons and patches that use Citronella essential oil as the main ingredient to fight against mosquitoes. Both of these products contain a combination of eucalyptus and citronella oil which is said to provide at least 8 hours of protection against mosquitoes. This is possible because of the right dosage of the oils used as well as the high quality of the excipients. All you need is 4-5 drops of the fabric roll-on on your clothes or 2 mosquito repellent patches for complete protection against dangerous mosquitoes that can cause diseases such as dengue and Chikungunya.
Making Your Own Citronella Lotion Spray
There are many citronella lotions available in the market. You can also easily make your own lotion in the comfort of your home by following the below steps.
- Heat water until it becomes lukewarm and let it cool. Fill a spray bottle until ½ full with the water.
- Fill the bottle until 3/4th full with either vodka, rubbing alcohol or witch hazel.
- You can further dilute the mixture using 1 to 2 tbsp. of carrier oil such as almond oil, coconut oil, olive oil or jojoba oil.
- Fill the remainder of the bottle with the citronella oil. You can even add other essential oils such as rose, peppermint, lemongrass, lavender, or tea tree to enhance the fragrance of the oil.
- Shake the bottle vigorously so that the oils blend with the water and become a homogenous mixture. Label the bottle accurately with all the ingredients so that the composition and usage are clear.
- Shake the bottle before every use. Spray the lotion on exposed skin. For maximum benefits, Re-apply once every hour. Avoid any contact with the face and eyes.
Warning While Using Citronella Oil
Before using any essential oil on the skin, it is important to check if you are allergic to it. Thus, apply a few drops of the oil to a spot on your arm. If you develop an allergic reaction, discontinue use immediately. Avoid contact with the eyes and mucous membranes. Pregnant and nursing women, as well as people under medical care, should avoid using essential oils unless directed by their physician. Application of essential oils is not recommended for babies. Essential oils are highly concentrated and strong hence keep them away from children and pets in a dark and cool place.
Like citronella oil repels insects, neem oil is an effective insecticide and mosquito repellent too. Here is a list of the best tips and natural ingredients to repel insects.
Written By - Pavithra Dennis
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