Have you ever pulled up a chair to a mouthwatering outdoor meal, only to realize that you are on the menu?Although we love our homemade bug/tick repellent when we’re hiking or working on our farm, I prefer these candles for outdoor meals. Inspired by some galvanized bucket candles I saw in a local shop, they’re a safe, non-toxic way to create a bug free zone around our dinner. (I think they’re cute, too!)
How To Make Citronella Candles
- 1 pound filtered beeswax (If you’re using raw, unfiltered beeswax, here’s how to filter it.)
- 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
- 1-2 tablespoons (1/2 – 1 ounce) citronella essential oil
- Large cotton wicks with wick tabs attached for 12 ounce candles, or medium wicks for 8 ounce candles*
- Wick stickers
- Two 12 ounce candles (the size of the buckets I used in the above photos) or three 8 ounce candles (the size of a half-pint mason jar)
* These are the best pre-tabbed (anchored) natural option I’ve found. They are dipped in a little soy wax to make the wicks stiff and easy to work with, which I don’t love simply because I try not to buy soy products. For me that’s just a matter of not wanting to support monoculture crops, but in this instance I don’t think there’s actually any health concern associated with using it. I’ve written the manufacturer and thanked them for working hard to create a quality wick, and I’ve asked them to consider offering a wick dipped in beeswax as well.)
A note on wick size: Beeswax properties can vary a lot depending on when and where it was harvested. I’ve suggested a size based on what’s worked for me, but you may find that a larger or smaller wick works better for you.
Step 1: Prepare your candle jars
The wicks I recommend come with a metal tab attached to the bottom. The tabs keep the wicks from floating as the candle wax melts. Attach one of the stickers to the bottom of the wick tab and then place the wick in the center of your container.
Step 2: Melt beeswax and coconut oil in a double boiler
In a double boiler (or large pot of simmering water with a stainless steel bowl or smaller pot resting inside), gently melt the beeswax and coconut oil over low heat.
Step 3: Add citronella
Once the wax is fully melted, remove it from heat and stir in the citronella. Move quickly to the next step – the wax begins to harden as soon as it cools.
Step 4: Pour beeswax mixture
Pour the wax in and check the position of the wick to make sure it is still centered.
Step 5: Set the wick
Use a pencil or chopstick to prop the wick up in the center. My wicks are dipped in wax so they stand up well with just a little support. If you’re using wicks that are not dipped, you may need to tape them to the pencil/chopstick to keep them in place.
Step 6: Allow candles to set
Sometimes if candles cool too quickly they tend to crack down the center. With the galvanized buckets I used for this set that wasn’t an issue at all. However, if you find that your candles do crack while cooling, you can heat your oven to 300F, place them inside and then turn off the oven. The candles will melt just enough to fill in the crack – all you need to do is leave them in there until they’ve completely cooled.
Step 7: Trim wick
Allow your candles to harden for 24 hours, then trim the wick to about 1/4 inch. Allow to cure for another 24 hours before using. When lighting your candle, direct the flame at the base of the wick so that some of wax melts and is drawn up into the wick – this helps it burn properly. Allow candle to burn long enough so the wax melts out to the side of the jar. This helps to prevent tunneling (when the middle melts down with lots of wax left over around the edges). Never leave a candle unattended.
Cleaning Tip: Place any oven proof containers in a warm oven to melt wax that has dried on the sides. Once the wax is melted, wipe it out with a paper towel or old newspaper.