Does Citronella Repel Flies?

Having to continuously swat flies while you’re trying to enjoy your favorite food outside can be quite annoying and frustrating. You also want to keep flies off your food since they can carry diseases that cause dysentery and food poisoning. Although there are a number of insecticides available that can help get rid of flies, using a natural option like citronella is less harmful and more environmentally friendly.

Citronella is an excellent plant-based, natural insect repellent. When used in an oil form or as a candle, the freshening and deodorizing properties of citronella help to keep the flies at bay. Cleaning out the garbage cans regularly can also help prevent fly breeding and growth.

There are a number of ways in which you can use citronella around your house. Let’s look at the two varieties of the citronella plant, its various benefits, and what other natural remedies can be applied to ensure protection from flies and other insects.  

What Is Citronella?

Spraying insect repellent on skin outdoor

Commonly known as one of the best natural insect repellents, citronella is an essential oil that’s obtained from the citronella grass plant that has a floral, citrus-like aroma. It gets its name from the French word that means ‘lemon balm.’ 

This plant-based oil is highly effective in repelling flies and is used not only in bug sprays and repellents but in candles as well. 

Like other essential oils, citronella oil also has certain benefits. It has been used to treat infections, rashes, and other health conditions since the olden days. 

Types of Citronella 

The citronella plant has two varieties: citronella geranium and citronella grass. However, it’s the citronella oil extracted from citronella grass that’s most effective in repelling flies. 

The citronella plant also adds aesthetic appeal to your garden. It acts as a decorative feature around landscaping while keeping flies and insects away from your garden. The citronella plant has a rounded appearance that’s similar to lemongrass. 

Just like a clump of grass, its foliage grows outward and then down, giving this plant a hearty and robust look. When planting citronella, make sure to crunch and crush the leaves since agitating the foliage releases the oil and makes this plant highly effective in repelling flies. 

Although citronella geranium belongs to the same plant family; it doesn’t work well with repelling insects. It’s an exquisite, purple-flowering plant that gives your garden a vibrant look. 

Is Citronella Effective at Repelling Flies?

Citronella is highly effective in repelling flies; however, it’s essential to understand that it doesn’t kill them. It just repels them so that these annoying bugs are eliminated from your space. 

This plant has a strong lemony smell that simply overwhelms the smells that flies are attracted to. As a result, it becomes hard for the flies to locate the smells they love, keeping them away from you.

Does Citronella Kill Flies? 

No, citronella doesn’t kill flies; it just keeps them away. As we mentioned above, the strong citronella smell masks the smell that attracts flies and ensures that they stay away. 

You can burn citronella candles (on Amazon) to repel the flies, but remember that they’re effective only as long as they’re burning. If you love to eat outside or hold barbecues regularly, investing in citronella candles or citronella oil is a good idea. These candles release an overpowering aroma that works as a natural shield against insects. 

Citronella spray (on Amazon) can be applied directly to your skin; however, it remains effective for just a couple of hours before it needs to be reapplied. It also works great as a diffuser. You can add it into a lotion or coconut oil and apply it directly to your skin to protect yourself against mosquito bites.  

Benefits of Citronella 

Dad and son use mosquito spray

There’re multiple benefits of using Citronella. This natural ingredient is widely used as a fly repellent. It doesn’t contain any harsh ingredients or chemicals. Here are some of the most important benefits:

Excellent Repellent

Citronella is used as a base in many insect repellents. It’s not only effective in repelling flies, but is also highly effective in repelling culex anopheles, and Aedes mosquito species. The best thing is that it doesn’t affect any beneficial bugs like bumblebees or butterflies.  


People, particularly children, can be sensitive to insecticides. It can cause allergic reactions or skin irritation. Citronella, on the other hand, is non-toxic and completely safe for humans. If you’re allergic to products containing DEET, then citronella sprays are the best alternative.  

Prevents the Growth of Harmful Bacteria

Citronella oil is not only effective in repelling mosquitoes and flies but it’s also known to prevent the spread and growth of harmful airborne bacteria.  


Available in different forms, citronella is present in a variety of products, for example, candles, sprays, and repellents. It can be used to burn in oil lamps or applied directly to your skin. Make sure to choose a product that suits your needs and lifestyle. 


Citronella isn’t very expensive and can be easily acquired. It’s not difficult to find products that contain citronella, and its easy accessibility means that you can buy it at a low price.

Refreshing Smell

Citronella is used in aromatherapy applications as it prevents the spread and growth of harmful airborne bacteria. Inhaling citronella oil helps relax the body, promotes a sense of lightheartedness, and uplifts negative sentiments like stress, anxiety, and sadness.

Its invigorating citrus-like smell naturally refreshes the musty scent of unclean and stale air. It also helps to ease headaches, nausea, and migraines.

Helps Rejuvenate the Skin

Citronella oil helps to promote and maintain a rejuvenated complexion for all skin types. Its skin health-enhancing properties help boost the skin’s absorption of moisture, giving you a glowing look. 

This oil is also known to facilitate the healing of skin conditions like eczema, dermatitis, and acne, while its protective qualities reduce the chances of skin damage due to exposure to UV radiation.

What Other Natural Remedies Keep Flies Away? 

Natural remedies help keep the flies away without using any pesticides. Following are some natural ways that you can try to repel flies without using any harmful chemicals:

Hanging Water Bags in Your Porch 

The first thing you can do is hang bags filled with water around your porch. These bags reflect light and can throw off the compound eye of flies. However, to effectively repel more than a few flies, you’ll need to hang many bags around your home.    

Use Citronella Candles

Citronella is an excellent fly repellent, but burning one candle will be effective in a small area only. If you want to cover a larger area, then you’ll need numerous candles, which can be quite costly. 

Invest in Fly Traps

Fly traps attract flies to get rid of them. However, the best way to use fly traps is to place them a little away from where you’re sitting or where you don’t want the flies. This is because once a few flies become trapped and die, they’ll attract more live flies.   

Install a Yellow Light Bulb

Research shows that the yellow color is the number one option when it comes to repelling flies. Installing yellow light bulbs around your house can help keep these bugs away.   

Get Rid of Fly Attractants

Flies are attracted to a number of things, including leftover food and food packaging. Ensuring that there’re no attractants around helps to control the fly problem much better than any repellent.

Take Out the Garbage Regularly

Garbage is one of the biggest attractors of flies. That’s why it’s best to ensure that there’s no garbage pile-up and that the garbage cans are clean. Decaying garbage can aggravate the fly problem. Places with high humidity are more prone to this problem. 

Thorough and frequent cleaning of garbage cans can help prevent the growth and spread of these disease-spreading insects.

Clean Pet Feces

Flies love feces. If you have pets, be sure to remove their feces from the yard as it will help you control flies.

Use Blue Light to Relocate Flies

According to research, flies are attracted to blue lights. That’s why light traps that are designed with blue lights tend to attract more flies. If you’re going to be using one, then be sure to hang it in a place where trapping the flies won’t be a problem.   

Use Fans

Using a fan at fly entry points can be quite effective in keeping them away. Flies typically don’t like strong winds and will go away to avoid them. However, this quick and easy method is only effective if you know where the flies are coming from.

Some Other Smells That Keep the Flies Away

In addition to citronella, there are certain herbs that flies just can’t stand. Although the smell of these herbs is quite pleasant to the human nose, it’s strong enough to repel the flies away. These include peppermint, basil, marigolds, catnip, thyme, rosemary, eucalyptus, lavender, and tea tree. 

You can plant these herbs in a pot and place them near your doorway to keep the flies from entering your home, or plant them in your backyard and enjoy outdoor dinners without having to contend with these annoying bugs. 

If you live in an apartment or are unable to plant these herbs, a simple solution is to put dry mint and basil in little bags and hang them around your home. 

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