Oil of citronella is a naturally occurring insect and animal repellent distilled from two grass varieties. It is yellow to brown and has a grassy/floral smell. Oil of citronella is a mixture of many components. The exact composition varies by grass variety. |
Oil of citronella repels target pests rather than killing them. It works by masking scents that are attractive to insects. Thus, insects find it difficult to locate their target to feed. Oil of citronella may also work by masking odors attractive to animals.
One way to increase the effectiveness of your homemade citronella spray or lotion is to add essential oils from another plant identified to repel insects. Some suggestions are basil, catnip, cedarwood, juniper, lemon, lemon eucalyptus, myrrh, pennyroyal, rose geranium and rosemary. Not only will this allow you to increase the effectiveness of your spray or lotion, it will allow you to adjust the scent to be most pleasing to you.
Make a spray-on repellant by combining citronella essential oil with a liquid base. Witch hazel, olive oil, vodka, or rubbing alcohol are all possible bases to use. Some will dry skin, others will moisturize. Experiment to find which suits you best.
In a spray bottle, combine 2 oz. of base with 60 or 120 drops of citronella essential oil. 60 drops will make a 5 percent solution, and 120 drops will make a 10 percent solution. Choosing which solution is better for you depends on how often you wish to apply the repellant and how sensitive your skin is to citronella oil.
The disadvantage to natural repellants is that they do not stay effective as long. Many chemical insect repellants are good for hours. It is recommended that citronella repellants be reapplied every 30 to 60 minutes. Some purchasable repellants with citronella have been tested to repel insects for 2 hours, but even then the effectiveness decreased after 40 minutes.
Fixatives such as vanillin, which comes from vanilla bean, and encapsulated formulas, which cradle the ingredients in tiny spheres and release them more slowly, might help specific products last longer, as may mixtures of multiple exempt ingredients. Still, there is too much variation from one product to another to know for sure how well it will work and for how long.
There are two categories of insect repellents: those that are registered and those that are not. The Environmental Protection Agency regulates the distribution, use, and sale of all insect repellents, along with all other pesticides. For registered products, this means that any company that would like to sell a particular pesticide must hand over a slew of safety on pest control and efficacy data to the EPA. If the data are sufficient, the EPA registers a label for that product specifying exactly where and how it can be used.
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