How to Make Citronella Candles

How to Make Citronella Candles

If your favourite thing in the summer is warm nights outside then likely one of your least favourite is getting eaten alive by mosquitoes. Making citronella candles in cans is a great recycling project that is inexpensive and effective much like the Soy Beeswax Jar Candles I made a few months back.

A Thrifty DIY Citronella Candle Project

I make lots of candles to create a bug-free barrier around the patio so I can enjoy my warm breezes and summer cocktails in peace. They aren’t bad for adding atmosphere either!

How to Make Citronella Candles

I’m not overly crazy of citronella so I added a few additional scents to the latest batch: pine and mandarin orange. While the most effective candles will still be primarily citronella, feel free to add a few other fragrances the bugs won’t like such as eucalyptus, rosemary, peppermint, and oregano. I have an all-natural bug spray recipe with these scents too – they work really well.

How to Make Citronella Candles


  • cans
  • a double boiler (or here is a handy candle making kit)
  • wax (soy wax, paraffin wax, old candles)
  • pre-waxed wicks with tabs (150mm / 6”)
  • citronella oil for candle making (use 1 oz per lb of wax)
  • other scents for candle making like pine, mandarin orange, eucalyptus, peppermint)
  • hot glue gun

How to Make Citronella Candles


1. Using the hot glue gun, affix the wicks to the bottom of the cans and press it firmly into the center. If you are using a larger can, add two or three wicks spaced apart around the centre.

How to Make Citronella Candles

2. Assemble your double boiler and add wax or old candles in small pieces. Don’t worry so much about bits of wick or other specks in the wax as you won’t see them in the candles when they are done. Heat over medium heat until the wax is completely melted.

3. When the wax is melted it’s time to add the fragrance. Add 1 oz of citronella oil per pound of wax and augment the scent with 0.5 oz of other scents per pound.

How to Make Citronella Candles

4. Let the wax cool slightly and carefully pour into containers.  I can usually gently maneuver my wicks to stay in the centre as the wax cools but if you are having trouble, secure the wicks with a chopstick or clothespin to keep them in line. Careful not to disturb them too much and set them in a warm place to cool.  Cooling slowly and completely will create the best looking candles.

5. If you get a depressed area around the wick when cooled, warm up some more wax and pour it into the void.

6. Allow your candle to cure for 48 hours undisturbed before burning. Then, when you fire it up, let the candle burn so that there is a full, wide pool of wax before you blow it out. It is said that candles have a memory, so it’s best to let the first burn set the tone for all the rest.

How to Make Citronella Candles

7. Decorate your candles by wrapping them in burlap, twine and/or yarn. Store near them near the garden, deck or patio so you can quickly light up when the pests start buzzing around.

How to Make Citronella Candles

Thanks for visiting Weekend Project #40. For more great garden-related projects check out the tab at the top of this page.

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About the Author : StephanieAn artistic gardener aiming to feed the body & soul through an urban potager garden & a community veggie plot in Vancouver.View all posts by Stephanie

  1. Stephanie @ The Cozy Old Farmhouse
    Stephanie @ The Cozy Old FarmhouseJune 30,12

    Thanks for sharing! Sounds like an inexpensive way to be bug free, especially using the leftover tin cans and candles. I’m pinning this for future use!

  2. Maks
    MaksJuly 2,12

    Thanks for sharing. Will definitey try those cause I really hate the toxic ones you can buy at stores. Have a great week – maks :-)

  3. Karen
    KarenJuly 3,12

    What a great idea, and just in time for our summer wedding! Visiting from the Tip Junkie Party

  4. Carmen B
    Carmen BJuly 5,12

    I found you on Delightful Order’s link up party, I love this idea! I have so many mosquitos where I live and we are always eaten alive! I will have to try making these!

  5. Dee
    DeeJuly 5,12

    I love this idea! I hope you will link this up to the CSI Project. The challenge is Summer outdoor decorating and parties. These would be perfect. You just might win or be featured!
    Come on over!
    The challenge ends Friday at noon.

  6. Amber @ recipes we love
    Amber @ recipes we loveJuly 5,12

    great idea! I love how you put them in the carrier too! they looked cute and organized.

  7. Stevie
    StevieJuly 5,12

    Thanks, Amber! It’s out of convenience so I can pull them all out at the same time when I quickly want to battle the bugs.

  8. Stevie
    StevieJuly 5,12

    Thanks, Maks!

  9. Jane F
    Jane FJuly 6,12

    That’s a fabulous tutorial. Citronella candles are an absolute must where I live as we’re surrounded by wetlands. I always buy those green buckets. Had no idea they could be made so easily at home. At worst, I could have them going when I bbq! Thanks for stopping by. Jane

  10. Charles Tilton
    Charles TiltonJuly 7,12

    Thank you for the idea.

  11. Vanessa @ {nifty thrifty things}
    Vanessa @ {nifty thrifty things}July 7,12

    What a great idea! I love the smell of citronella candles!
    Thank you so much for sharing @ {nifty thrifty sunday}!
    You will be featured in about 30 minutes! ;)
    xo! Vanessa

  12. Stevie
    StevieJuly 7,12

    Thanks for the feature, Vanessa!

  13. Carolyn
    CarolynJuly 7,12

    I love this! I’m thinking about gift ideas. Where did you find the carrier?

  14. Crystal
    CrystalJuly 8,12

    Thank you so much for sharing! I’m going to make these this weekend with my old candles. No more buying these anymore! :)

  15. Ally
    AllyJuly 9,12

    Hi! Found your site through oneprettything. This is an excellent idea, and i think I will definitely make this a summer project. I read, in Mother Earth News magazine, there are quite a few natural mosquito repellants I’ve never really known about like rose scented monarda, lime basil, thyme, and catnip! Thanks for the great idea.

    gina@cateror.comJuly 9,12

    Found you on Tipjunkie – these are *wonderful*! What a great idea, thank you for sharing it!

  17. Stevie
    StevieJuly 10,12

    Thanks, Gina!

  18. Ibukun
    IbukunJuly 10,12

    Thanks for an interesting blog post. Sounds like this technique has been useful in the past! keep the great posts coming!!

  19. Tessye Santiago
    Tessye SantiagoSeptember 30,12

    Thanks for sharing! You can also use melted candle wax to affix the wicks to the bottom of the cans instead of the glue gun.

  20. Stevie
    StevieSeptember 30,12

    Thanks Tessye for the suggestion! Would the wax not melt when you pour the hot wax into the can and dislodge the wick though?

  21. Martine
    MartineOctober 3,12

    Is it easy to find citronella oil?

  22. Stevie
    StevieOctober 3,12

    Martine, yes it is. I have included links in the post to buy it on Amazon.

  23. doret botha
    doret bothaOctober 18,12

    please help ?? my husband kicked over the container with melted hot wax from a citronella candle on my carpet. we are struggling to get it out! whatcan i do??

  24. Crissy
    CrissyJanuary 15,13

    How long will each candle burn for?

  25. Stevie
    StevieJanuary 15,13

    Crissy, I can’t say for sure but I would guess 8-12 hours.

  26. Sharlyn
    SharlynJanuary 26,13

    Would tea tree oil work? Great post and idea, thank you!

  27. Stevie
    StevieJanuary 26,13

    Hi Sharlyn, I’m not sure. Citronella is known for it’s mosquito repelling properties. I haven’t heard the same about tea tree.

  28. mark
    markJanuary 30,13

    These are great! Where can you get those square tin planters? Great idea!

  29. Crystal
    CrystalFebruary 3,13

    Is it possible to use Mason Jars as the containers? Or old candle jars made of glass? Thx! Luv the info!

  30. Stevie
    StevieFebruary 3,13

    Hi Crystal, yes, mason jars are heat safe and they work perfectly! I have written lots of posts for making candles in jars. Here is a good one that had links to some of the other projects and a cute crafty project to decorate them for the holidays:

  31. Jennie
    JennieFebruary 10,13

    If you spill wax on a carpet, use a brown paper bag and a warm iron. Cover the wax with the bag and iron changing bags until wax is absorb. I did it and it works!

  32. Sandy
    SandyApril 6,13

    Wondering if I could use beeswax for the base of the candle?????

  33. Stevie
    StevieApril 6,13

    Sandy, absolutely! There are 2 reasons why I don’t though. 1. I don’t have access to inexpensive beeswax and it is very pricey to buy the amount you need to fill the cans, and 2. beeswax has such a beautiful honey smell that it is a shame to add all that citronella to it! I would save the beeswax for unscented candle that you use indoors…it will make the whole house smell like warm honey! More on how to make beeswax candles here:

  34. Helene Malmsio
    Helene MalmsioApril 20,13

    I love making my own soy wax candles, and I pile them outside in summer to get rid of bugs
    LOVE your site, bookmarking pages to return to like crazy.

  35. Aimee
    AimeeMay 24,13

    Does it matter if the used candles are scented?

  36. Stephanie
    StephanieMay 24,13

    Hi Aimee, I’m not sure that it matters, unless the scent is so strong that it would either overpower the citronella or be something that actually attracts mosquitoes.

  37. ann brown
    ann brownJune 28,13

    I will most certainly use this recipe with my family gardening group . winter here now – but summer’s really only a few months away

  38. Piki Te Ora
    Piki Te OraJuly 2,13

    thank you for such wonderful ideas….i absolutely love your page….thank you

  39. Chrysti_B
    Chrysti_BJuly 10,13

    Love this idea! Where did you find the carrier???

  40. Sheryl
    SherylJuly 15,13

    I just love this idea. I’m glad I happened upon it now…gives me tons of time to save my cans for next summer when we get married. Thank you so much for sharing :)

  41. Angela Stewart
    Angela StewartJanuary 29,14

    Great idea! THanks….sharing

  42. Amy
    AmyMarch 7,14

    I discovered that melting wax in a crockpot which you have fitted with one of the disposable liners works very well! To clean, just let pot cool, wax will harden, and you can lift out the liner and throw it away!

  43. Jennifer Stewart
    Jennifer StewartMay 26,14

    Can you send this whole page to my email address? It would be great to send to other people.

  44. kelly
    kellyMay 26,14

    Ive heard you can stick a wick in a can of crisco and it will burn for hours. Would adding citronella oil to that work???

  45. Amy Long
    Amy LongMay 27,14

    Do you think adding tiki torch citronella to the wax would work?

  46. Stephanie
    StephanieMay 30,14

    Kelly & Amy, I’m sorry but I haven’t tried either of those things. If you try them, please come back and let us know!!

  47. Stephanie
    StephanieMay 30,14

    Jennifer, I emailed you the page link you can share:

  48. Michelle
    MichelleJune 15,14

    Hi, I wondering how many regular tin cans one pound of wax will fill? Thank you for posting this!

  49. Stephanie
    StephanieJune 15,14

    Hi Michelle, my guess would be 1 lb of wax would fill 1.5 cans.

  50. Cassandra
    CassandraJune 16,14

    I have a question. The citronella oil you use, is it the same as the stuff that goes in tiki tourches or is it with fragrances?

  51. Stephanie
    StephanieJune 16,14

    Hi Cassandra, I really can’t say what’s in those. I use 100% pure citronella oil.

  52. dakshinamurty ramasamy
    dakshinamurty ramasamyJune 27,14

    hi stephanie
    thank you for the use of citronella oil.
    which metals we can use for filling wax withcitronella oil

  53. BrunetteBunny
    BrunetteBunnyJune 29,14

    I used 1/2 oz citronella in 2 lbs of wax, because that’s what I had on hand. I the scent is overpowering the whole house and headache-inducingly strong. This is only 25% as strong as you recommend. Do you think it’ll work, because I don’t think I can bear to make it stronger?

  54. Stephanie
    StephanieJune 29,14

    Hi BrunetteBunny, I do think it will work. I’m not sure why it was so strong though, perhaps the type of wax or citronella oil you used is different than what I get. I will say that I add other essential oils (as noted in the recipe) to cut the citronella a bit because it can be unpleasant to some, but also that I don’t burn the candles indoors. I put a bunch of them around the garden area that I’m entertaining in and unless I’m directly in the candle’s smoke, I’m not overly bothered by it (and I’m quite sensitive to scents as well).

  55. katie
    katieJuly 18,14

    Hello! Love love love this idea! Thanks so much for sharing. Only question is, when I open a tin it’s really sharp at the top and it might be a hazard. Has anyone cut hands yet? Or am I using a terrible out of date tin opener?

  56. Stephanie
    StephanieJuly 18,14

    Hi Katie, I have not had the issue. I have a pretty old handheld opener, but the can isn’t sharp. The lid edges can be sharp, but not the can. Anyhow, If you do make candles, then they will also be hot when they are lit, so you won’t want to touch them regardless!

  57. velma
    velmaJuly 22,14

    I would like a copy of how to make the candles but when I tried it would take 26 pages. is their a shorter version I can copy

  58. tio
    tioAugust 10,14

    this way I can create romance without much cost, thanks for sharing

  59. learn to sew
    learn to sewJanuary 14,15

    This paragraph is really a good one it assists new internet visitors, who are
    wishing for blogging.

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