DIYdiy projects

diy project: kate’s homemade citronella candles

by Grace Bonney

i don’t want to make you all jealous, but in our lovely oakland climate mosquito problems are almost unheard of. but since i am originally from new hampshire, i can totally sympathize with the bug issue in the summer. and i didn’t realize this until recently but citronella candles are just regular old candles scented with citronella oil, which is available at health food stores and even some specialty hardware stores (like ace or osh for example). for much less money, you can make an entire arsenal of citronella candles to keep those evil pests at bay. this is a great recycle project because you can use old tins and jars form your pantry (big tomato tins would make great long-burning mega candles). i also recommend using old crayons as a coloring agent. while they are not good for regular candles because of their smoke, the smoke in these candles will help repel the bugs. let’s win those patios back!! have fun! – kate

CLICK HERE for the full project after the jump!


1. old wax candles, or any type of safely melt-able wax (i used leftover soy wax from old candle projects)
2. crayons (for coloring the wax)
3. container for melting wax (a sauce pan with another heat safe container inside will be fine, or you can purchase wax containers at a craft store)
4. wicks (available at craft stores)
5. citronella oil (available at health food stores, online, or some specialty hardware stores)
6. stir stick or spoon (for wax)
7. thermometer
8. letter stickers (optional, these are found in craft stores and hardware stores – these are for signs and mailbox labels, etc)
9. old pickle or jam jars or tin cans (look for tins with cute labels, there are a lot once you start looking!)
10. hot glue


1. clean out your jars and tin cans. dry completely. if you are making messages on your jars, carefully stick the letter stickers to the outside of your jars in an even line.

2. put your pot on the stove with some water and your other container inside it.

3. attach your wick bases to the bottom center of your jars and tins with a dab of hot glue.

4. when the water is 140 degrees, put your wax in. stir every once in a while as it starts to melt. add your crayons as well.

5. when all the wax is melted to an even liquid (it will look like the consistency of olive oil), add a few drops of citronella oil and stir (about one drop for a small candle, two to three for larger ones).

6. remove the container and pour into your containers, leaving about a half inch of wick exposed.

7. let cool. if you want to give your jar candles as a gift, cover the lid of the jar with some pretty fabric and screw back on to the jar. wrap the tin can candles with a little kitchen twine and finish with a bow.



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  • This is so awesome! I love sitting on my little balcony, but the bugs are horrendous. And I can gift these to my parents so they can enjoy their wonderful back deck. Thank you for the tutorial!

  • Oh this is a great idea!! Especially for those of us who mosquitoes seem to thrive on! And summer’s in Mississippi are definitely mosquito parties 24-7. Thank you for this!

  • Doing this. Doing this and making gifts for every housewarming I have to attend for the next few years! What an excellent idea!

  • Kate, how did you know that I had just cut the necks off of several beer bottles and needed some encouragement before trying candle making for the first time? Thanks!

  • ooh, great project! i just bought two cans of citronella candles at osh. after i finish those up i would love to try to make my own. thanks!

  • I can’t wait to try this down in muggy, mosquito-ridden Alabama! Ideas for fun containers are swimming in my head!!!

  • What a great idea! Here in Canada, mosquitoes have ruined many an outdoor party. I will try these at my next BBQ.

  • Does anyone find that citronella candles don’t keep the mosquitoes away? Maybe Maryland bugs have just built up a tolerance to them. Awesome idea though!

  • I agree- the candles don’t always keep the bugs away, but I do think they help…. and what a great way to make your own citronella candles for less! Thanks, Kate!

  • It’s a bloody good idea! I can’t wait to be a rag&bone lady and start cluttering the house again with candles for house parties :)

  • Thanks for posting this. I have some nice tins that I have been saving that I didn’t know what to do with until now. Even if it doesn’t effectively keep the bugs away, I love the smell of citronella.

  • We’ll be having a “pre-party” to put these together before our next 4th of July party — thanks for sharing!

  • You are from NH? I knew there was a special reason I loved this site so much! Ya know, besides all the pretty things ;)

  • This is such a great idea! I’ve been collecting old jars for candle holders. Instead of putting in votives I’m going to put in citronella candles. Maybe we won’t be carried away by the bird-sized ‘skeeters in Houston now.

  • I’m planning on doing this this weekend, (for the very first time!) and am wondering what type of container I should use for melting the wax?

  • In step 4, you say “140 degrees”. Is that in Celsius or Fahrenheit?

    Why do people in America not use International Standard units? Nor do they even consider mentioning units when they talk.

    • jamie

      the majority of d*s readers are in america, so we tend to use the units of measurement that are most common to us.

      that said, i’ll try to make sure we have things like temperature more clearly defined. normally we use temperature in our food column, which does clarify international units (because our editor is european) but i’ll keep a better eye on posts like this that don’t normally use temperature measurements.


  • We just dropped a massive amount of cash on citronella and tikki torches for our back patio, as we can’t set foot outside without being swarmed by mosquitoes. I hope this project will help cut our cash output. Thanks for the idea!

  • Thank you Grace.

    Also things like Pounds, Miles Per Hour, Feet, Pennies, Ounces, and other imperial units are not used by the rest of the world.

    Please do send a memo to your editors and authors about this.

    Using standard units makes the site more open and inviting to everyone.

  • Jamie,

    It is a good idea to specify the units of measure. That being said, it seems clear what the author intended. It is not possible for water to be 140 degrees Celsius at standard temperature and pressure.

    It also seems reasonable to use the units of measure most commonly used by the target audience. The metric system is easier to use and internationally accepted, but is virtually nonexistent in the average American kitchen.

    This looks like a great idea. I’m surprised at the small amount of citronella needed to achieve the repellant effect. This would make a great boy scout project. Thanks for the idea!

  • This is a great idea! i love it… I will try to make it…lets hope i can find citronella oil in this part of the world :)

    also I agree with Jamie…most of the world use the metric system so its kind of confusing …it would be great to mention both measures…or at least mention units so that we can convert them.

  • wow everybody. get over the “units of measure thing” already. they made a note of it jeez. they told us how to make a really cool item for free. that’s what we should be focusing on.

  • One drop of oil for a small candle? As long as the candle burns okay, I wonder if adding more oil would make for more effective pest-control.

  • Re: Units of measure. I’m European and I ‘ve no issue if the units of measure aren’t familiar to me. Google is our friend. We can easily change the units by using it, people :)

    I’ve been lurking on this site for a few days. I am completely in love. Thank you.

  • Hi, talking about the units of measure, i’m Moroccan and i LOVE this blog. Even though i do have some problems with the units (here in Morocco, we have the same units as France and Europe) that’s not a big problem and it’s easy to deal with it so just enjoy the site and don’t care about futilities like that!
    Thank you for this website!

  • Hi Kate,
    I write for a Barcelona based magazine and have some questions for you, do you have an email address I can contact you at? Thanks! Ayesha

  • Sounds great. I’ve never made candles. I like the pretty glass jar. Should I be worried about the glass shattering when I pour the hot wax? These will make great gifts for our friends up in the mountains. Thanks.

  • Great idea!! I’ve been avoiding putting out lots of money for candles and really appreciate the time you took to make this article. :)

  • It is a great pleasure for me to visit your website and to enjoy your excellent posts here. I like that so much. I realize that you paid much attention for those posts, as all of them make sense and are very useful. Thanks so much for sharing. I can be very good reader & listener. Appreciate your work!

  • I love this! Found it on google because we grow an actual citronella plant every summer and would love to use the leaves before the cold Boston winter gets to it. Any idea how to convert the leaves to something we can add to the wax?

  • do not add any cinnamon in the melted wax. it definitely decreases the freezing point.

  • The store bought citronella candles just have citronella scent, not the essential oils. That’s why store bought candles don’t work or don’t work as well as these homemade beauties!

  • Thank you for this I plan on making these and putting them in the mason jars im mod podging for my Canada Day bbq.

  • whenever i pour the wax into the jar the metal piece that i hot glued down comes up..any advice?

  • Can i use the citronella oil that goes in the Tiki torches? it would be a lot cheaper to make the candles if I can. Thanks!

  • So I make three of these candles for a camping trip and was disappointed- I think I must have done something wrong :( I made them as directed and the wax poured into its container great and hardened fine. They looked like normal candles you buy at the store (this is my first attempt making candles though).

    When I lit them though they wouldn’t stay lit. the flame would stay lit from 30 seconds to a minute, but then slowly flicker out. And there was no wind, and it was more of a gradual fading then a blow out. Any ideas on what could have gone wrong?

    • Perhaps your wicks were too short. Try relighting them and swirl wax that melts away from the wicks, making a well around them.