What Are the Dangers of Citronella Candles?

Citronella candles don't just add a soft, romantic glow to a backyard landscape. The scent from the flickering candle can also ward off mosquitoes and other insect pests so people can relax and enjoy their backyard without being bitten. Citronella candles are not without risks, however, some which may be a lot more troubling than a mosquito bite.

citronella bucket candle
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Take proper safety precautions when using citronella candles.

Serious Sparks

If they're not used properly, citronella candles can create significant fire hazards. Always place a citronella candle on a nonflammable surface, such as a concrete step or on a brick walkway. Avoid putting it on anything flammable, such as a plastic garden bench or on a wooden patio. If the candle is in a decorative stand, keep it at least twice its length away from anything that might catch fire should the candle topple over. For example, if the candle is on a 12-inch stand, it should be at least 24 inches away from flammable material like a wood fence, bark mulch or a flower bed.

Pet Poisons

Compost and fertilizer aren't the only things a backyard gardener must keep away from pets, warns the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Citronella candles can also pose a toxic threat if animals lick or eat the candles. If you have outdoor pets, keep them away from lit candles. Additionally, the oils in a citronella candle may harm fish and other aquatic animals, so store candles out of the rain so the chemicals don't get washed into groundwater.

Skin Sores

The oils in a citronella candle may irritate some people's skin. Although this is relatively uncommon, it is more likely in people with sensitive skin, such as young children. Keep candles out of the reach of small children, especially when the candles are lit and create a heat hazard. If you or your family notice rashes and other signs of skin sensitivity when handling citronella products, consult a dermatologist to see if citronella oil is causing issues.

Practice Safe Candles

In general, smart candle usage can minimize health and safety risks when enjoying the soft glow of candlelight. First, always trim the wick on the candle to 1/4 inch before lighting it to help reduce the risks of big flame flareups. Never leave candles burning unattended. Never move a citronella candle when it's burning as that can spill hot wax. Finally, blow out citronella candles before going back indoors.