Citronella is a lemon-scented perennial grass. The oil from this plant is extracted and used to keep insects away. You can find citronella in several products, such as candles, pet shampoos, flea treatments and bug repellent products. Citronella candles are designed to be used outdoors. Before lighting a citronella candle indoors, you should understand the possible risks associated with this product.
Citronella oil can cause skin irritation if you directly touch it. This is the main concern when dealing with citronella oil products, although it is not a frequent occurrence. If you touch the wax, wash your hands as soon as you can to avoid skin irritation.
As with any candles, you should never leave them burning unattended. This may cause a fire, especially if it is knocked over by a pet or the wind, or if a curtain, tissues or other flammable products are nearby and touch the flame. This is especially important for citronella candles as they have a thick wick that can burn a large flame. Extinguish the flame completely before leaving the room.
It has been suggested that the soot created by scented candles can be harmful if inhaled. The soot may penetrate deep into the lungs if you stand too closely or if you are exposed for long periods of time. Asthma and other lung conditions may be aggravated if soot particles are breathed in. This is a lower risk but it should still be considered.
Most candles found in the United States do not contain lead wicks but there are some products that still contain this kind wick. If the wicks contain lead and you light it, the flame may cause the lead to become airborne. This may become a health risk if inhaled, especially for individuals that that have sensitive lungs or asthma. This is not a frequent issue in this country but it should be noted as a possibility. Always look at the packaging to see if the wick contains lead. If you plan on burning the candle inside, choose one without lead.
Citronella candles are considered to be poisonous to pets if ingested. If your pet decides to eat your citronella candle because they are attracted to the smell, it may experience some unwanted physical symptoms. Diarrhoea and stomach cramping can occur. Keep the candles high enough so your pets will not be tempted to eat it. If they do manage to consume the citronella candle, call 020 7188 0200 to reach the Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS). They will instruct you on how deal with the situation.