Whenever mosquito season hits, people flock to the citronella candles in their local stores. Placing a few citronella burners around can unquestionably help to repel mosquitoes, but most folks skip right past the safety warnings. Burning citronella outdoors, in high winds can reduce its effectiveness. So, can you bring your candles in the house to avoid those annoying bites? After all, citronella is in a whole lot of natural skin sprays and creams to prevent summertime insect problems. Does that mean it’s safe for humans? Unfortunately, different applications have different effects. Inhaling citronella is not at all the same as putting it on your exposed arms. I’ll show you what makes citronella candles so useful, and where you should burn them for the best and safest effects. Before you light up, get all the facts so you and your loved ones can stay safe.
The main question that needs an answer is that, can you light citronella candles indoors? Unfortunately, You cannot light citronella candles indoors. While citronella oil is considered safe topically (on your skin), inhaling it is potentially problematic. The oils from citronella are a mild irritant for the eyes, but more importantly, it’s linked to breathing issues. Especially if you have compromised lungs, pets or children, keep the citronella candles outside.
What Is In a Citronella Candle?
Before you consider taking a citronella candle, or anything else into your home, it is smart to ask what it’s made from. By reading all the information and warnings on product labels, you can avoid a great deal of trouble. Because citronella is found in numerous pesticides, you can easily access information about it even when the product you want is unregulated and lacks sufficient labeling.
In its natural state, citronella oil is a yellow-brown liquid that comes from two unique varieties of Asian grass in the Cymbopogon genus. The heavy, vaguely citrus aroma is instantly identifiable once you’re familiar with it. That smell is essential. Moreover, ‘odor free’ citronella products are likely to lack the necessary component to prevent pests. Thus you should avoid no or low-odor citronella products.
The primary pest-fighting ingredients in any citronella product are called citronellol, citronellal, and geraniol. Geraniol is also, unsurprisingly, found in geraniums. Regardless of the source, all three of these components have a similar effect. By interfering with insect scent receptors, citronella prevents pests from sniffing out their next meal.
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With an average half-life of thirty-eight minutes to three and a half hours (as vapor), most citronella that gets into human bodies is broken down quickly by microbes. We pass the chemicals out of our bodies harmlessly through our urine.
Most people don’t appear to have any trouble around citronella. Healthy people with minimal exposure should have no problem with the incredibly small amounts that get inside our bodies during an average outdoor event. However, those who are sensitive may experience dry, itchy, or watery eyes, or a scratchy, sore throat.
According to WebMD, citronella has been linked to lung damage. It is likely unsafe to eat or inhale. Infants should not use citronella products because they are more sensitive than adults. Equally important, you need to keep your pets out of the citronella because it is toxic for them. Additionally, pregnant and breastfeeding women may want to steer clear of citronella as it’s effects on them have not been studied.
Does Citronella Kill Bugs?
Unfortunately, many people assume that citronella kills bugs, and especially mosquitoes. The simple fact is that, as a repellant, it does precisely what the name suggests. Instead of destroying insects, the odor causes them to lose their ability to navigate or hunt.
That said, having some high-quality citronella candles on the porch or at your next outdoor party will undoubtedly keep the bug bites to a minimum. Most biting insects are not known for their cunning. Thus a little misdirection is often enough to put them off the trail.
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Benefits of Citronella
Most people know burning citronella candles, or using natural citronella based bug sprays works to get rid of mosquitoes. However, there are a whole host of other citronella benefits worth knowing about. Here are some of the most surprising things citronella can do for you.
- Is citronella a morale booster? Some research suggests that it may help to lift people’s spirits, so adding a few candles to your next outdoor party could do more than keep the bugs at bay.
- Citronella is a potent antifungal. According to Healthline, citronella’s antifungal prowess has been studied quite a bit. The short explanation is that it killed at least a dozen strains, including Aspergillus niger, which may cause lung and sinus issues for immunocompromised individuals.
- Weight loss can be difficult, but a recent study suggests that citronella may help curb urges to eat and lower your cholesterol.
- Although there’s not as much evidence for this effect, citronella may help heal parasitic infections.
- Natural antibacterial properties are present in citronella. Much like orange, eucalyptus, and several other essential oils, citronella can kill numerous harmful bacteria.
- Arguably the most surprising possible side effect of citronella is increased wound healing. Additionally, it could be especially useful for candida-infected wounds.
Indoor Citronella Candle Safety
Although I suggest keeping your citronella candles outside, there are ways to minimize the risk if you do opt to bring them in. After all, you have to weigh the risks and benefits. Citronella may cause breathing issues, but getting West Nile Virus, Zika, or other pest-insect borne diseases will undoubtedly damage your health severely.
Firstly, you should always keep an eye on your burning candles. When things get busy or stressful, it’s so easy to accidentally walk out of a room and leave a lit candle behind. Make sure you stop to snuff your candles properly.
Second, use a candle snuffer or lidded jar instead of blowing candles out. Doing this releases less smoke into your air. Over time this can build up causing discoloration on walls, and smoke is never good for human lungs because of the carcinogens and tar deposits it leaves behind.
Third, you should always place candles on a safe surface. Take the time to remove any flammable items from around the candle. Check to see that no fabric, such as curtains, is close enough to blow into the path of your flames accidentally. Place your candles on a sturdy, flat counter or tabletop, away from any edges or devices with moving parts.
Finally, make sure you have proper ventilation. Burning incense or candles indoor can result in a potential build-up of particulates and other substances in the air. Furthermore, open games consume O2 you need to breathe. Though it would take a lot of candles to cause immediate danger, it’s still best to assume you always need to practice safe indoor burning.
Outdoor Citronella Candles are Great
Burning citronella outdoors is a summer staple for millions of people. For many, it is part of the smell of the season, just like barbecue or ocean breezes. Using your citronella candles outside is safe, and it keeps the bugs at bay.
Just as you would indoors, make sure your candles are on a flat, non-flammable surface, away from picnic napkins, tablecloths, and overhanging plants. You don’t need to worry about ventilation outdoors. However, if you have young children or anyone with sensitive lungs in residence, direct them to seating that is not downwind of your candles.
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If you intend to bring citronella candles indoors, consider using them decoratively, without lighting them. The minimal amount of citronella that reaches the air in your home is less likely to irritate your lungs. However, it may still be enough to ward off insects like mosquitoes.
Geraniol, one of the main ingredients in citronella, also comes from geraniums. Placing citronella in your outdoor spaces will prevent pests outside. Meanwhile, bringing some geraniums, or geranium essential oil candles indoors can help with bugs in the house.
Ultimately, it’s up to you whether you wish to inhale a potentially unsafe concentration of citronella. I recommend erring on the side of caution and common sense.