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Effectiveness of Citronella as Mosquito Repellent

August 17, 2022 5 min read

Little boy with mosquitoes

Citronella is not a good skin application repellent; here's why. 

 

It lasts only 19 minutes on the skin - that's it.  It would need to be re-applied more than three times every hour. Who is going to want or even remember to do that? 

Citronella only fared well against one out of three mosquito types it was tested on in an 8-hour study.

There are other essential oils that show far better repellent properties, which is why we don't use Citronella in our repellent products.  

However, we have found that Citronella burning constantly in a candle for several hours does work well as a repellent, especially when blended with five other essential oils (find them under ‘Repellent Care’ on our website). 

To be perfectly clear here, we don't use citronella in our repellent bars.

Our effective bar development and creation dates back almost eight years from our early days in the Caribbean - we found the right formula and have stuck with it, to the delight of our many customers as their many reviews will attest.

Back to our skin application repellent bars; after two years of getting bitten in the Caribbean and experimentation with natural ingredient combinations, we had finally worked out the most effective formulation. 

Now we are in the height of the nuisance bug season here in the UK, and many are travelling to destinations where mosquitoes are more evident, you can get 15% off this week only by using code BUG15 at checkout!

It was important that our bars could repel midges (also known as noseeums) - which are far more prevalent in the Caribbean than mosquitoes, just talk to anybody who has visited St Johns island - as well as other biting black flies, horse flies if possible and of course mosquitoes.   

With Zika appearing on the scene at that time and dengue fever common in the West Indies already it was a timely product to introduce to the market. 

Underlining this fact, my husband even contracted dengue after getting bitten just once, which I was not impressed about as he would not wear repellent at the time, and it landed him in hospital on a drip and a resultant huge medical bill.

From that, it made sense to find a study that at least showed the best results for repelling the type of mosquito responsible for these viruses; the Aedes aegypti mosquito.

So, after an awful lot of research, including paid scientific research studies measuring the repellent effectiveness of over 40 key essential oils in a study during an 8-hour period, we narrowed the most effective down to just five.

Of these, we have included the top three oils that came out in the top five; Litsea, Naiouli and Catmint. These each showed a protection time of 8 hours and 100% repellence effectiveness against the three most common and dangerous mosquito species; Aedes, Anopheles, and Culex. 

By way of further background, the Aedes aegypti mosquito is associated with a staggering 54 viruses, including being able to spread yellow, dengue, chikungunya, and zika fevers. 

The Anopheles stephensi mosquitoes can spread Malaria, and the Culex quinquefasciatus mosquito can spread West Nile virus and other viruses, as well as parasites, depending on where you encounter it geographically.  

The UK commonly has 30 species of mosquito including other Culex mosquitoes which, so far, are not linked to the spreading of diseases – you only suffer the bite and itchy after effects.     

So we included Litsea (also known as May Chang in the UK) and Naiouli oils and we used a Catmint infusion (with Rapeseed oil from a local neighbouring farm), in preference to Catmint (Nepeta) essential oil which is extortionately expensive.  

We added Peppermint which also showed pretty good results for repelling mosquitoes in another study we looked at, then Cedarwood, Geranium, and Lemongrass. 

These last three not only smelt great but also showed excellent eight-hour repellent properties against the two Anopheles and Culex mosquitoes; less so against the Aegis mosquitoes but still good.

Lemongrass was also showing signs of repelling the midges, along with Lavender - particularly the lower growing Spike Lavender that has more Camphor - and Cedarwood doubled up as a tick and moth repellent. 

Geranium also repels ants; useful on many beaches which had ants giving out the itchiest of bites. 

All of these additional oils were included as their properties were determined to be an added bonus.  

We also included 'PMD' in our formula mix - a natural product that is often called ‘Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus’ but is actually the waste material produced in the hydro distillation process of that oil rather than the oil itself - derived from a tree native to Australia.  

It was discovered back in the 1970s and over the years made in a more concentrated form to show effectiveness similar to that of a 50% Deet application.  

So, it was either going to be that ingredient, PMD, or Picaridin I was looking to include; both have been compared in a number of studies to DEET (which is neurotoxic and melted my watch strap completely when I used it years ago in the rain forest!). 

However, Picaridin like Deet is synthetic and I really wanted a completely natural solution if possible so I opted for PMD.  I’m glad I did as there are now questions and studies surrounding the potential toxicity that synthetic repellents have on the environment.

PMD is completely natural and I get mine from a UK company in a concentrated, almost solid form. It is without a doubt a very good mosquito repellent but we found it did not work so well on midges and black flies so wanted to include other ingredients to counter that in the mix.

The scent is important too; if it smells bad no one will want to use it.   

So, we added in Neem oil, popular in India (smells like coffee gone wrong) but impressively it is used as an organic insecticide treatment for over 200 insects and overall is not bad for flies, midges, and other flying irritants.  

Castor oil in itself is a mosquito repellent and as we needed another carrier oil, this, although thick would be included along with Coconut oil, said to prolong the effects of all the above (and give smooth, moisturised skin along with Cocoa and Shea butter also included), so there you have it – after two years of suffering bites in the name of science, we had finally got there!

We had now produced an undiluted bar that also wouldn't evaporate on contact unlike spray repellents, that is also vegan and fully biodegradable. It includes 12 protective, well-researched ingredients that really work to repel the three most common mosquito species as well as midges, horseflies, ants, and other biting flies! 

We have now successfully sold our Awesome Repellent Bars in 51 US states and numerous countries around the globe with first-rate feedback on their effectiveness. 

Best wishes,

Rebecca at The Solid Bar Company

PS. Don’t forget to check out our Equine Fly Repellent Bars too – no spray so no hiss meaning no distress for your four-legged friends!

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