Insects love barbecue season; while you and your family feast on hamburgers and hot dogs, mosquitoes and biting flies enjoy a feast of their own that can leave you slapping and itching your skin. Although commercial bug sprays and zappers do get rid of bugs outside, sprays often contain toxic ingredients and zappers just look unappetizing next to your picnic table. Citronella candles offer a natural and effective alternative to ward off unwanted visitors when lit. You can create your own homemade citronella candles without any prior candle-making experience.
Wash out an empty 24-to-36 ounce coffee can thoroughly and allow it to dry completely. Fill a stock pot with at least 3 inches of water, and set the coffee container into the pot. Set 1 pound of of beeswax beads or beeswax cut into small pieces in the coffee container; heat the stock pot over medium heat until the wax melts.
Add 20 drops of citronella essential oil into the melted beeswax. Stir the mixture with a wooden spoon until the oil is mixed thoroughly into the beeswax. Add more drops if you prefer a stronger smelling candle -- but do not exceed 50 drops -- which dilutes the wax too much.
Place a weighted candle wick into a 1-quart-sized galvanized metal pail, and center the bottom weight in the bottom of the pail. Always use a heavy-duty candle wick, which functions better in an outdoor pail candle. Pour the melted beeswax into the pail while holding up the candle wick so it doesn't fall into the container and wax.
Lay a stick across the top of the pail. Clamp two clothespins to both the candle wick and the stick on two opposing sides to ensure the wick stands upright. Keep them in place until the beeswax cools completely.
Snip the excess candle wick so that it extends only 1 inch past the cooled beeswax and remove the stick and clothespins.
If you don't use beeswax beads, make certain to cut up the beeswax, as melting a solid block of beeswax takes longer.
Combine citronella essential oil with a few other oils in your homemade candle that also repel insects, such as eucalyptus and clove.
Always keep melted wax and open flames out of the reach of children.
Use caution when working with melted wax to avoid burning your skin. Wear heavy-duty oven mitts to protect forearms and hands.
Use only natural fiber candle wicks, such as cotton or hemp. Do not use lead core or other metal candle wicks that could release harmful fumes when burned.