Of all the natural mosquito repellents, citronella is the most commonly known solution. Every summer, nurseries and garden centers load up on “citronella” plants for patios and landscapes, and natural mosquito repellents boast a “citronella scent.” In fact, citronella is not the real name of the plant that’s effective in repelling mosquitoes.
Citronella or “mosquito” plants are actually scented geraniums, a variety called Pelargonium citrosum that has very little if any ability to repel mosquitoes. However, citronella as we think of it is actually an essential oil produced by the leaves and stems of lemongrass plants. A completely different plant, the Cymbopogon (lemongrass) genus, produces the perfumed oil.1
So when people ask us why all our Natural Mosquito Repellent products use lemongrass oil instead of citronella, the answer is simple— while the two smell very similar, we use lemongrass oil because it works! (And lemongrass, in our opinion, smells mighty nice!)
While studies support lemongrass oil as a bug repellent, it does require frequent reapplication. To repel mosquitoes most effectively, reapply lotions and sprays every 30–60 minutes.2 When compared to DEET, which is recommended for reapplication every 4 hours, this can seem like a nuisance. But lemongrass is natural, nontoxic, and has no known long-term effects according to the EPA.3
Remember, pure lemongrass oil should never be used on the skin, so be sure any product you use on your skin is diluted with a carrier oil or a blend of ingredients that are safe for external use, like our Natural Mosquito Repellent.
When used correctly and reapplied as directed, lemongrass oil can help keep flying pests away on hot summer days. For more natural pest control options, check out our growing collection here.
- “Citronella Oil.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 21 Nov. 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citronella_oil.
- CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, www.cbc.ca/news2/background/consumers/citronella.html.
- “Oil of Citronella.” US EPA, EPA, 1997, www3.epa.gov/pesticides/chem_search/reg_actions/reregistration/fs_PC-021901_1-Feb-97.pdf.