Why I Don’t Use Scented Candles

The problem with most scented candles and non toxic alternatives

I’ll admit- sometimes, I wish I could climb back into my years of ignorance is bliss and forget everything I’ve learned about real food and natural living. It would be so easy to go back to before I knew about the problems with vegetable oils, or sugar, or processed grains.

It would be so easy to feed my kids cereal out of a bag and use regular laundry detergent. But I can’t.

One of the areas I most wish this about is scented candles. Even innocent looking scented candles with their soft warm glow have their dirty secrets. Ready to throw your hands up in despair that everything is toxic?

Hear me out:

What is really in a candle?

Though they seem safe, regular scented candles are a huge source of indoor air pollution and they put off chemicals that are considered just as dangerous as second-hand smoke. Paraffin is a petroleum waste product and has to be deodorized and chemically bleached before it can be made in to wax. (source)

Most candles are made of paraffin wax, which creates highly toxic benzene and toluene when burned (both are known carcinogens). In fact, the toxins released from paraffin candles are the same as those found in diesel fuel fumes.

On top of that, many scented candles also have wicks that contain heavy metals like lead, and even a few hours of burning them can create levels of airborne heavy metals that are much higher than the acceptable limits. In the US, candle wicks are supposed to be made of cotton or paper, but studies have found that as much as 30% of candles contain heavy metals in the wicks.

“A candle with a lead-core wick releases five times the amount of lead considered hazardous for children and exceeds EPA pollution standards for outdoor air, says the CPSC, which is why they banned lead wicks in 2003. Exposure to high amounts of lead has been linked to hormone disruption, behavioral problems, learning disabilities, and numerous health problems.” (source)

Many candles also contain artificial scents and dyes, which release additional chemicals when burned. (source)

“Other toxic chemicals that may be present in the paraffin mixture and released through burning include: Acetone, Trichlorofluoromethane, Carbon Disulfide, 2-Butanone, Trichloroethane, Trichloroethene, Carbon Tetrachloride, Tetrachloroethene, Chlorobenzene, Ethylbenzene, Styrene, Xylene, Phenol, Cresol, Cyclopentene. Some of the toxins are found in other products such as paint, laquer and varnish removers– that’s potent and powerful stuff!” (from Keeper of the Home)

Additionally:

“Petro-soot from paraffin candles gives off the same soot as the exhaust of a diesel engine, and is considered just as dangerous as second hand smoke, causing problems from headaches to lung cancer. Paraffin fumes have been found to cause tumors in the kidneys and liver of lab animals.” (source)

When I first realized all the problems with scented (and unscented paraffin based candles) candles, I was really disappointed. Thankfully, I found some great alternatives…

Alternatives to scented candles…

Fortunately, there are some great alternatives to scented candles and after trying them, I realize I like the alternatives more.

One alternative is soy-based candles, but the majority of soy is genetically modified, and I prefer to not use soy at all. The best alternative I’ve found is beeswax candles, which are not only safe, but have the added benefit of helping clean indoor air.

I’ve talked about how we use them to help purify indoor air, and beeswax candles give off the warm glow of candles without the toxic effects.

Beeswax candles emit negative ions, which help reduce positively charged ions in the air. From the dictionary:

“Positive ions, or cations, are formed by the loss of electrons; negative ions, or anions, are formed by the gain of electrons. An atom that has either lost or gained one or more electrons, so that it has an electrical charge. Ions can be either positively or negatively charged.”

Positive ions are generated by electrical devices, by scented candles, by walking across carpet, and even by heating/cooling systems. They are a fact of life, but they can carry everything from dust to pollen to toxic mold, so it is important to reduce them. Indoor air typically has a higher concentration of positive ions.

This is where negatively charged ions come in. They bind together and have a heavier molecular weight so they are no longer floating around the air.

Beeswax candles are a source of negative ions, and can help reduce indoor air pollution. (Here are some other ways to improve indoor air quality)

What we use:

I threw out all of our scented candles and now just keep on hand:

I also found beeswax birthday candles to use in place of conventional birthday candles. (We sometimes put candles in our banana nut muffins at birthday breakfasts)

The one thing I did miss about scented candles was the scent, so I also started diffusing essential oils to freshen indoor air. My favorite oils to diffuse are peppermint, citrus and lavender.

Detoxing our indoor air

After I discovered the problems with scented candles, I also wanted to find out what I could do to reduce/remove the pollutants I had already released in to our home. I found out about beeswax candles (which I had already used to replace our scented candles), salt lamps and indoor plants.

I started using these methods to detox our indoor air. We now have salt lamps and indoor plants in most rooms and when I need/want to burn candles, I use beeswax.

I wish sometimes that I could use conventional scented candles, but am happy to be able to provide a healthier alternative to my family with beeswax candles and essential oils for scent.

Do you use scented candles? Ever considered the alternatives? Tell me below!

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  1. I love this article! I have been using soy, coconut and beeswax candles for a couple years now. I save the nibs from burnt out candles and melt them down into a mason jar with a piece of cotton butcher string with a few staples added to one end for weight as a wick to make a “new” candle that’s basically free to me about 2 or 3 times a year. I didn’t know about the negative ions in beeswax candles and am wondering if coconut wax has a similar effect?

  2. I totally get your opening statement! There’s just something about candles that’s so appealing. Then you learn the truth! I discovered beeswax candles on your site and love them. I do have to admit that I have a soy candle right now. I’m pretty sure it’s scented with only essential oils but I’m not positive… it was a little splurge and I hope it’s not quietly making our air toxic! Thanks for another great post 😀

  3. I have a package of beeswax pastilles that’s kind of going to waste. Could I melt those down in a glass container and use that? Also, where could I buy non-toxic wicks for that? And lastly, can I add essential oils to homemade beeswax candles and get the same effect?? Thank you Katie!

    • Now you’ve got my brain going! I also have a bag of (organic?) beeswax pastilles with no future. Perhaps we could make beeswax candles with EOs and cotton wicks? Worth a shot!

      • Yes! Of course! That’s what we use to make beeswax candles and they are amazing! Add 10-20 drops of your favorite essential oils snd voila!

        • Do you just use plain beeswax (with your EO)? We are beekeepers and have a little beeswax leftover from extracting last time. Would love to do this with it. I made candles years ago, so still have some supplies for them.

  4. Not my candles too! Oh well, time for beeswax, I like the smell anyway. Can’t believe I didn’t put two and two together after seeing the soot on my glass candle jars. Great post. 🙂

    • I too have been weaning myself away from “traditional” scented candles. I love the soft glow and watching the gentle flicker of the flame. I switched to soy and for a time “oil burners” for aroma therapy. Guess it’s time to try beeswax 🙂

    • Aroma diffuser!! Check out Muji they make a really nice one, you just put in water and a couple drops and watch the beautifully diffused water fill the air!

    • The best way to get essential oils into the air is a diffuser. After I gave my only diffuser to my mom when she had a cold, I purchased a small ceramic kettle and have been heartily boiling water and oils in that (until my new diffuser comes). Also boiling water in a ceramic Corning Ware dish works. Anything to get the water diffused into the air will do.

    • I’ve used some diffusers from spark naturals that work quite well and if you want to go a different way you could also mix them in witj candles that you make!

    • If you have a diffuser just add water and a few drops of your favorite essential oil. If you have pets then Purification is great and really helps with odors. I like to use Lemon for a clean, fresh scent. Thieves is a favorite to support my families immune system and it smells amazing! Get creative and mix oils too. There is no wrong answer here. Whatever you enjoy. Good luck!

  5. This is a tough fight in my house. My husband loves scented candles especially during fall. He loves all the harvest-type scents. I want to try winning him over by purchasing a diffuser. Which one do you use? And which essential oils would you recommend for autumnal scents? Right now, I’m thinking cinnamon, but that’s about all I can think of.

    • How about heating apple cider in a pan on the stove with cinnamon sticks in it. Leave it on low and you will have a wonderful fall scent that you can also drink! I haven’t tried this but you could try heating cranberry juice for a different aroma.

      • I make spiced grape juice on stove or crockpot.it’s grape juice cinnimon stick,whole cloves,fresh lemon slices,and orange slices,bring to boil then simmer smells wonderful and juice is too.

      • You can also get a small crock pot add some mulling spices and leave it on all day. Very safe and the house smells amazing!

    • My husband is terribly allergic to scented candles, and when I’m pregnant (I am right now), I become allergic to candles (including scentsy wax melters) and even other peoples perfume. I break out in hives if I’m in someones house with candles burning right now. We like to put orange peal, cinnamon sticks, and cloves in a pan on the stove with water and let it simmer all day, it smells like fall 🙂 I also think you could get orange and cinnamon EO’s and diffuse them, or mix them with hot water in a spray bottle and spray carpet or furniture, but haven’t tried. Lastly, make an orange and clove pomander. Take an orange or a tangelo and poke little holes throughout the orange peal, then stick whole cloves into the holes, wrap ribbon around the orange and hang from door know, towel rack or Christmas tree. Smells delightful and totally natural!!!

      • Thanks, Caitlyn! I want to try that this Christmas. Approx. how long does one orange’s aroma last?

    • I have a blend of clove, cinnamon, & orange that smells very fall-like. In a diffuser, you could do 2 drops of orange, 1 each of clove & cinnamon.

    • I’ve used DoTetrra Onguard for my fall scent. It’s wonderful!! I diffuse it almost daily during the fall. 🙂

    • i recently bought a candle warmer it warms the wax – u don’t light it – put the jar on it and it heats it up – i presume since u aren’t burning wick or candle, just emitting the smells it is safer

      I have lots of Yankee Candles – guess I’ll use the candle warmer for them instead of tossing them.

    • doTERRA’s On Guard is a protective (immunity boosting) blend that has a nice fall scent with Wild Orange, Clove & Cinnamon. I also add a couple more drops Wild Orange and Clove to it in the diffuser.

  6. Hello Mama,

    My husband and I actually make Soy Candles that are GMO and pesticide free from a responsible soy wax provider. We then layer the soy with pure botanical essential oils and a cotton only wick. It is possible to use natural only ingredients! The additional upside is the environment renewability and sustainability of using soy and they also burn about 5 times longer that most candles. If you’re ever interested in checking out our products or their benefits please do visit us at GibAndNimm.com.
    I enjoy your posts, please keep them coming! Be well, Corinne

    • Hi Corinne, where do you get your non GMO soy from? I really think that is an important characteristic to keep in mind.
      Thanks a million
      Sara

    • Essential oils containing limonene should never be used in any candlewax. When burned the Limonene contacts the air and turns into formeldyhyde at the rate of two molecules of formeldyhyde for every one molecule of limonene introduced to the air during burning candles with the essential oils. Diffusing oils is perfectly safe please hear me it is only burning citrus oil’s with Limonene in them, that causes the reaction when they are burning and released into the air it then reacts with the air and causes formaldehyde molecules to be formed. The term natural only should never be used even with the central oils just because their natural does not mean that if used inappropriately like burning them and candles they can cause dangerous chemical reactions and cause toxins to build up in your home.

  7. Interesting! Never would have thought candles could be harmful. What about scentsy warmers that just warm the wax, are they toxic? Could you just make your own beeswax candles and scent them with the EO? That way you still get the benefits of beeswax candles and the scent if essential oils. Just a thought. Love reading your post, however it depresses me to think of all the harmful things we are surrounded by how many more changes I would like to make.

    • The fragrance wax melts that you use in a warmer can cause terrible problems for pets. A friend has been using one for quite a while and during this time her beloved cat was getting sicker with
      incessant scratching, pulling out its fur, runny eyes, vomiting. Finally found out that the wax melts being used to fragrance the air were causing the problem. She quit using the scentsy pot, and the cat recovered. All of this caused by the cat breathing this stuff in!

    • Hi Jamie! I know exactly how you feel about being depressed! It’s depressing because all the bad stuff surrounds us everywhere and we have to seek out the healthier alternatives. It’s time consuming, usually more costly, and stressful trying to make sure we are making all the right decisions! I wish life were easier sometimes! But we are both here, learning new things so I think we are both on the right track! 🙂 Good luck to you!

  8. What about wax burners? I’ve got several and don’t use candles hardly at all anymore. I’m guessing that wax burners have the same issues, minus the wicks. Thoughts?

    I mostly use essential oil diffusers. Really love them because they smell good and have emotional/medicinal benefits without the toxins.

    Thanks for your post.
    Lauren

  9. I’ve had my suspicions about scented candles which is why I’ve cut them out. That artificial scent has to be bad for you some how. Glad I made that decision. Definitely will be trying beeswax candles. Thanks for the info!

  10. Katie-
    Do Himalayan Salt Lamps provide the same benefit – providing negative ions to bind with positive?

    Thanks!

  11. I cannot believe you posted this within an hour of the first time in many months I have burned candles… I knew better even though the details were not something I had researched. Sigh, off to blow out the candles and google how to make my own with beeswax and essential oil. Thank you for the post even if the truth makes me sad 😉 !

  12. Katie,
    How do you diffuse essential oils? Do you have a specific brand diffuser you like to use? Thank you.

  13. Talk to a pulmonologist (lung doctor) about breathing in aerosolized beeswax from candles. S/he will tell you that the beeswax is horrible for your lungs. beeswax candles leave little particles in your lungs that your body can’t get rid of. Beeswax candles are fine for outdoor use but not indoors.

  14. My sister-in-law actually told me about this a few months ago. Instead of tossing all my candles, and I have a lot, I bought one of those warming bases. It warms the candle and scents the whole room without burning the actual candle. I have bought a few healthier candles for burning because I do like seeing the flickering fire too sometimes.

    • The problem is not only with burning the candle, though. The scents of most candles are actually neuro-toxic. The chemicals that make up perfumes, scents, etc., are actually harmful to our brains and nervous systems when they are released in the air whether or not they are burned. This also applies to perfumes, body sprays, scented lotions, etc. They can cause many symptoms, but whether or not one experiences symptoms, these chemicals are certainly doing damage to the body, which can even be cumulative. (See the abstract of this study for more info: “Acute toxic effects of fragrance products” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9577937).

      Please, please do the research and consider using essential oils or herbs as an alternative to air fresheners, scentsy wax, candles, perfumes, etc!

      More info here: “Neurotoxins: As far back as 1986, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences identified fragrance ingredients as one of six categories of neurotoxins (chemicals that are toxic to the brain) that should be thoroughly investigated for impacts on human health.” http://safecosmetics.org/article.php?id=222

  15. Thank you so much for this well-researched (yet horrifying) info!!
    I was wondering what you can tell me about diffusing oils. I’ve been using the same ceramic oil diffuser for years (you know the kind they sell at Body Shop with a tealite candle on the bottom and a little “bowl” on top where you put the oil). I recently tried using essential oils mixed with a little water to avoid the chemicals in the diffuser oil but that did not work well at all (i.e. no detectable scent). Any ideas about an alternative?

  16. Any suggestions for salt lamps? I’ve been interested in them for awhile now, but being somewhat broke, I can’t quite afford to try some random item.

  17. Thanks for the info and for citing sources! Had always assumed most regular candles had suspicious content in their wax and wicks so never buy them, except we do use tealights in a mason jar when we sit out on the porch. I will occasionally burn a vanilla scented soy candle indoors because I think that sometimes, to be fearful of everything around us can really rob us of joy – being very 80/20 about things I’m OK with an occasional candle, but you’ve given me another reminder to look into getting an essential oil diffuser as a preferable alternative to make my home smell yummy. Lottie 🙂

    • I don’t think it is about being fearful of things. It is about making informed choices. This is the only body you get, if you don’t take care of it who will??? We cannot depend upon the industries who produce our food, medicines, medical practices, dental practices, etc. to give us the truth because they have much to lose if we know the truth about what they are telling us.

    • I totally agree. Just stepping out of the house is hazardous. We live in a “scary” society. Watch out for this, don’t do that, don’t eat this and what is and isn’t the best is forever CHANGING! lol. I mean certainly, with good sense, stay away from some things and everything else 80/20.

  18. Yeah I as much as I like then candles, I knew there was something not good about them. So nice that you talk about beeswax candles. My dad who passed away from stomach cancer last year was a beekeeper and before he passed away, he and my sister created homemade beeswax candles. He loved his candles:)

  19. An essential oil diffuser is the best way to go. If that is not an option, I do hope you consider ethical, non-animal based alternatives.

    There are plenty of non GMO soy waxes available and no wicks sold in the United States are permitted by law to contain lead. Hemp wicks are readily available and they are a renewable resource.

    • Most wicks are a blend of paper and cotton. The metal-wick stats are OLD and unless people are buying candles at dollar stores, the likelihood of finding a metal-core wick is slim to none.

      • You cant even trust a word that comes from the FDA !
        Keep that in mind… All kinds of foods, cleaning, hygiene, and house hold products are filled with things not even listed on labels… JS.

      • I’m doing that right now. Coconut oil with essential oil. 🙂 on my scentsy (type) warmer. I have a supply of beeswax pastilles, shea butter, and soy. Along with several essential oils I have – I am going to make colorless scented wax melts and she lotion. Eventually may sell on Etsy. 🙂

      • I just made a candle for the first time ever. I love scented candles but I am also very sensitive to scents and irritants. I just filled a coffee mug with pure coconut oil, melted it in the microwave, added several drops of lemon and peppermint essential oils, and made a wick by rolling a paper towel tightly in olive oil. I put the whole thing in the refrigerator for an hour to firm it up, trimmed the wick, and lit it. It has been burning now for 3 hours and has barely gone down half an inch. Unfortunately, it is not putting out any scent whatsoever, but I have really missed the hypnotizing flame of a candle and it is doing the job perfectly. Is there any problem with burning coconut oil like this? It seems like a great natural solution, though I would like to achieve more aromatherapy next time. Any suggestions or thoughts on this? Thanks!

  20. I’ll bet you’re thinking about a DIY for making “safe” candles. At least I hope so. 🙂
    Thanks for all you do.

  21. I was never a huge candle fan anyway, but started using essential oils about 8 months ago. They smell way better than any candle I’ve ever burned and the “mist” from the diffuser is just as calming as a flame (maybe more so). Plus essential oils have huge benefits besides just smelling good. Just make sure you purchase essential oils that do not contain any additives. They are only required to have 10% of an actual essential oil in the bottle to say “pure” on the label! Even the ones you might find at your local “health food” store could contain additives.

  22. I’m curious about soy – based candles. Do you avoid them on principle, or do the GMO properties affect indoor air quality? I always assumed soy candles aren’t too bad. It’s not being digested or rubbed onto the skin, but is there any research re: inhaling it? I normally use beeswax, but the better quality soy/EO candles can be so appealing.

  23. Thank you for your post on scented candles. I usually use tea lights in the room I’m in and have often put my own essential oils right in the melted wax pool on top of the candle. I can change the scent every time I light one.

  24. What about natural “incense”. I have some pine sawdust and sap incense cubes that smell like a campfire or crackling fireplace. Love it for wintry evenings. Is it bad?

  25. My son was diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome. Scents from candles, laundry detergent, etc. will cause him to have severe tics. The only “scent” we have in our house is from our essential oil diffuser.

    • It has been just over a week I got my Holiday order of scentsy, which I eagerly opened and used steadily for about 6 days. It was on the fourth day my five year old developed a tic, roving eyes, moving from far downward to the opposite upper side. I asked her to stop, thinking she was fooling around by the third day I realized she couldn’t. Needless to say I was at my wits end and made an appointment with the Dr.

      After thinking about what changed in her diet or anything in the last week I thought ‘SCENTSY’
      I took is out of the house immediately, and by the next morning she was much better, and as the days progress the tic is pretty much gone!

      In my research on the internet especially on youtube there are lots of children and parents in this same scary predicament, some have even medicated their children, I just hope they find this site and at least start eliminating these toxic things in the home before turning to drugs.

      Please to all parents using SCENTSY or other fragrance candles be very careful.

      Thank you for this great website and all these great comments.

      Carlye

  26. Sigh, out go some of our candles, another sigh. We don’t use them for scent often but mood lighting and/or power outages. My friend makes her own beeswax candles each year around the holidays. Guess I will be talking to her about how she does it:) Thank you for the info. ~ even if it does make me just a bit sad. For scent, we simmer cinnamon sticks, orange peels, and other spices on the stove for a few minutes. Sometimes we throw in some outdated coffee beans, if we have them, for variety. Uhm, it’s warm, cozy, and completely homey. Thank you again for the information.

  27. Hi Katie,

    Thank you so much for this post. I have to be honest and say that I had no idea unscented candles were not safe. It’s so good to now know this and not purchase anymore.

    As for the scented candles, I had a funny feeling about those…such as, how on earth does this thing smell like pumpkin spice pie, yet there isn’t a bit of food in it! Made me think of Skittles and how there isn’t a bit of fruit in them to make them healthy. Thus, I left both alone.

  28. Oh crap. One of my few indulgences and you go and ruin it for me. 🙁 Wuh wuh wuh. Seriously though, thanks for the info! I had no idea any of this crap was in candles. Though I typically don’t burn candles much in the warmer months, I lit them on a nightly basis in fall and winter. I love the nonscented votives and tea lights for around our fireplace but my favorite scented one was Christmas Cookie by Yankee. That seemed to be one of the few that wouldn’t give me a killer headache within minutes of burning it. Looks like I need to check out your links to beeswax candles.

  29. To answer about the Scentsy candles:
    I kind of suspected this as they really bother me, but then I’m allergic to everything, so I wasn’t sure.

    http://www.organicslant.com/0000151-the-danger-of-scentsy-candles.html

    *Scentsy products are petrochemicals. When you burn Scentsy, you are buying a product made from crude oil. To be more specific, paraffin wax is a bi-product of the refining process to make gasoline. Scentsy calls this a food grade paraffin, but it is still a crude oil product and is the same stuff used as a bottle and jar sealant when making preserves.

    *The Scentsy site claims that the warmers do not burn wax so that there aren’t any nasties released into the air. They neglect to mention that you can still inhale what is released from their product. According to Journal of the American Oil Chemists’ Society, burning paraffin can contain formaldehyde. So, yes, your Scentsy product may not produce soot, however, formaldehyde may be released into the air when your wax is melted. Your walls and furniture may not have the stains from soot, but your body may be breathing in toxic chemicals.

  30. Does anybody have knowledge on wood wicks? I love the crackle and the way they look. How hesitant should I be? I was thinking about making some beeswax candles at home, but would wood wicks neutralize the benefits of the beeswax?

  31. Hi, Katie! Love your site and am now using all your tips for my boys bath time. They love helping me pour the Vit C, magnesium flakes and essential oils into the tub…
    *Can you add drops of essential oils into the beeswax candles so when they start to melt the scent diffuses into the air that way?? ~Thx

  32. Hey Katie,

    So would you say that the wall plug ins are bad too? I have been eagerly awaiting to purchase my apple pumpkin Yankee candle for the past month and just so happened to read your latest post. I typically buy 1 large candle, 2 plug ins, and 1 wax tart. I was wondering if there are only negative effects if its burned or if using a wax warmer or the plug ins were ok? I’ve already watched many tutorials on how to make my own beeswax candles so I’m ready to make the switch. Just hope I can accomplish a lovely fall aroma with essential oils!

    • Unfortunately, any scented wax products have the same problems to some degree. If you are trying to get the scent, try boiling some water in a large pot with a few cinnamon sticks, some cloves, coriander and nutmeg to get the fall scent 🙂

  33. I have a great tip for those of us who like a natural air freshener or who can’t burn candles for safety reasons (like if you have cats or rambunctious little ones) but want a scented home. I just put a few drops of essential oil into our toilet paper roll in the bathroom and into the paper towel roll in our kitchen to keep a fresh smell in the air. I like lavender and lemon oil, I also have some natural perfumes that I sometimes spray into the tubes. I hate those synthetic Air Wicks and Febreeze fresheners and am so happy to not have them contaminating our house

  34. I am guessing that incense would have the same problems with it, I love the smell of it but I am sure it is just adding to the toxic load of the house!

  35. Hi Katie, I really love your blog! When I first discovered it via a link to your bone broth recipe, I couldn’t stop reading for a couple of days, and you conviced me to get grains and refined sugar out of my kitchen. Please excuse me if my english isn’t the best, I’m german and a little out of practise speaking/writing in english.

    I bought some beeswax-candles some years ago, and even a do-it-yourself-set with beeswax-plates and candlewicks, but with my two little boys and my even more not-being-careful-husband, i just don’t find the time lighting them…

    Speaking of candles, I’ve seen something pretty cool on a trade fair some years ago, it was kind of a floating candle, but not made out of wax, but some other material, I think it was called fibreglas-carbon, or something like that. It was a small, thin plate and the wick was made with cotton-based kitchen paper, and they put it in a bowl filled with water and vegetable oil. The flame feeds on the oil, and once the oil is empty, the water will extinguish the flame. As I remember, those candles didn’t produce smoke or soot or so, and were nearly invisible in the water. And as they don’t burn down like regular candles, they could be reused indefinitely.
    Back then, I really wanted to buy such lights, but my husband said, we wouldn’t need them because we still have so much candles…

    • Those – I believe were called the UnCandle. I had them and burned them regularly. Now I use a small canning jar with a very long wick held by twisted wire and olive oil with essential oils. I can put less than 1/4 inch of olive oil in that jar and burn it for hours. It lasts forever.

  36. Diffusing essential oils is also a great way to freshen and purify the air as well as increase immunity and calm the nerves. 🙂

  37. I knew beeswax candles were ‘better’ but I had no idea they actually improve the air! I’ve been buying beeswax to make lip balm, I’m definitely trying my hand at candles next!!!

    Also, wondering about incense? If it’s natural ingredients, is it ok?? I use incense in my house daily… now I’m scared!

  38. I have always wanted to like scented candles, but they have always made me feel sick. Maybe it’s because they are actually toxic??? Glad to know and excited to try beeswax candles.!!

  39. i just read an article about using essential oils in a beeswax candle. they advised NOT to use them because it changes the molecular structure of the eo. anyone know more information on this?

  40. I use (and I am a consultant for) Neal’s Yard Remedies essential oil diffuser. I use one in my office at work, one in my bedroom, and one in the living area of my home. I have favorite blends I use for aromatherapy purposes. I faithfully use peppermint oil at night for my finicky sinuses. I also have used this for my dogs who have anxiety issues during thunderstorms and holiday fireworks.
    I just wish that the diffuser was invented a long time ago! I do not use candles of any kind for several reasons… they give me headaches, the chemicals, and safety issues. As far as products such as Scentsy, they give me a headache also. The diffuser just puts off pure essential oils which benefit the entire family…even the furry members. Consider getting one. You won’t regret it!

  41. I just made my first few soy/beeswax candles (beeswax was too expensive to be able to do purely beeswax, but I figure mixing it with neutral soy can’t hurt, right?). I’d love to be able to scent them! I read somewhere that you can infuse olive oil with cinnamon or other spices. Has anyone done this? I was considering coconut oil as well.

    • Hilary – I use Ava Anderson Non Toxic candles (and am a rep), so yes, I know that you can mix the beeswax with coconut oil, because that’s what our candles are (both ingredients are organic). They also include essential oils, so I know this can be done as well. If you top it off with a cotton wick, it’s an awesome and safe product. My husband and I thought about making our own while the ones from Ava were in the process of being developed, but we never got around to it. Kudos to you for giving it a go!

  42. Is it safe to use essential oils in beeswax candles? I read somewhere that burning essential oil is not good.It also said wax and EO don’t mix and is like burning the EO directly.

    • Florence, EO does not work well in Beeswax as it doesn’t give enough scent throw to deliver the aroma into the air. EOs work best with clean Soy Wax and it is totally safe and wonderful! There are some oils that won’t work well in candles and you need to choose the right manufacturer who is passionate about creating an authentically clean and high performing EO candle. Unfortunately a lot of companies will choose to mix the soy with paraffin or other waxes to cheat a good delivery of scent. You can tell if the company is just trying tom ale a buck with the well being market right now vs really caring about what they do.

  43. Heather, read what people said above about their children getting tics and seizures and animals getting deathly ill, and they found out the minute they stopped burning or melting these things (Scentsy was mentioned), the symptoms cleared up. If that’s the case for some people, others may just be getting minor brain or lung impairments and not even know it. Can you imagine what this might be doing to a baby or toddler’s brain development? And we wonder why there are so many Attention Deficit Disordered and Hyperactive youngsters these days!

  44. There are articles practically EVERYWHERE on candles and the toxic fumes they emit… but hardly any real info on plain old fabric wick-glass chimney oil lamps? And if conventional lamp oil is toxic/dangerous (as I suspect by reading the label..), I would greatly appreciate some advice on what oils are safe to use/where to buy. Thanks everyone!

  45. I’ve been making my own soy wax candles for years, when I realized how gross store bought candles are. Paraffin candles don’t even smell as good as soy and my soy candles don’t put off any “soot” I have salt rocks in every room of my house as well. I’ll have to look into making bees wax candles but at least since I make my own soy I know exactly what goes in them

  46. Hi Heather,

    Love your site! I just started making beeswax candles using cotton wicks but I really want to try using wooden wicks. Are wooden wicks safe? Will they pollute the air? Any information you can give me on this would be appreciated! I’ve been scouring the internet looking for answers but I haven’t had much luck.

    Thank you! Mikelle

  47. It would be nice to see this information updated. As a chandler, I have to say much of the information given here is not accurate.Firstly, candle fragrances these days are much safer than essential oils, they are non toxic and tested over the last 25 years and as a person who lives chemical free I am happy to make and burn them more so than the essential oil candles which do have some toxicity. A lot of soy wax comes from the Amazon Basin, well most soy wax AND if you are going to get fussy, I really hope that you don’t eat meat or drink milk because almost all of the soy products that come from the Amazon Basin actually go towards feeding the worlds livestock, not to mention, it’s GMO and has a high chemical content sure to lack of laws within South America. I don’t contribute to this devastation, I am vegan and my soy wax is grown as a sustainable non GMO, pesticide and chemical free crop. If you are buying beeswax and you don’t know who you are buying it from then you are likely buying from a big company who regularly kill their Queens and burn hives, not environmentally friendly OR bee friendly. Also here in Australia we don’t have lead wicks, they were banned in a world first very smart move.

    • There are numerous inaccuracies in this post.

      First, while it is true that synthetic (lab-created, artificial) scents generally are lab-created, it is also true that any substance could potentially prove to cause an allergic reaction, headaches, or perhaps even death, if used/consumed/burned in inappropriate amounts.

      Second, I’m not sure what “essential oil candles do have some toxicity” means. Soy wax is non-toxic; it is a lab-tested, inert material created from soybean oil. Perhaps Jay means that some essential oils are toxic; while this may be true in some instances, it is also true that many essential oils (lavender, lemon, orange; just to name a few) are food-grade and are used in food preparation. Not to be coy, but too much salt (that’s right: table salt) could be toxic and fatal if consumed in high amounts.

      Third, Jay’s allegation that soy wax comes from the Amazon Basin may be true in South America, but in the United States, most soy wax is grown by American farmers, right here in the good, old US of A. While most soy wax in the US is derived from GMO soy beans, the wax production process removes ALL genetically modified material from soy wax.

      Finally, in the US, I am unaware of any company using lead wicks. Some candle manufacturers use zinc wicks, but that’s another issue. Instead on relying on federal regulation, American candle makers VOLUNTARILY stopped using lead wicks a generation ago.

  48. I always like best scented candles, but they have always made me feel uneasy. I will try beeswax candles next times.

  49. I would also like to add that essential oils do not burn in candles, therefore anyone claiming that they are using pure essential oils in their candles are lying to you. Now, the truth is, fragrance oils can be made with essential oils, but are never actually pure essential oil. If you want to be safe, essential oils don’t really matter at all. Look for candles made with fragrance oils that are “Phthalate Free”. If you want to take things a step further, you can keep an eye out for fragrances that are solvent free. Solvents are used in the extraction process when creating most essential oils, but can be toxic if they are not completely dissolved out before use. You will pay a bit more for a good scented candle that is phthalate free and solvent free, but you can be sure that you are not breathing anything that could hurt you in the long run…

  50. What if i just wanted to use the candles for decor but not burn them? I have so many that are just part of how i have setup our home – are they emitting toxins just sitting there? Would love some feedback!

  51. I have spent the past few months making beeswax candles in preparation for fall and winter cheer :). We also like to burn oil lamps, especially if the power goes out. Do you know of any clean sources for oil lamps? Thanks in advance for any help!

  52. I have been a Yankee Candle faithful for many years but I knew that their candles were not good for the air in my home. I have been wanting to make the switch for a while now and I’m so glad that I read your article. I work at a natural foods store and I know the switch will be an easy one after speaking to a fellow team member on how to make my own candles quite cheap! Thank you again for the interesting and eye opening article! 🙂

  53. I made beeswax candles last night. I read that beeswax burns very hot, and to add coconut oil to it for jar candles, otherwise the glass could break from the heat. I used 1 lb. Beeswax and 1 cup coconut oil. The smell was absolutely yummy!

  54. Thank you for this amazing post and it is wonderful to hear everyone’s comments.

    Unfortunately, the candle industry is not regulated and most “soy” candles are either blended with petrol based paraffin or synthetically produced fragrances. Why take an all natural soy wax, promote it like it’s 100% “natural” and mix it in with toxic perfumes to make it artificially smell like pumpkin spice or clean linen? Because it’s CHEAP.

    Lighting a candle is special and creates a mood for the user to delight in. We are thinking about all the products we are consuming in our bodies, putting on our skin and breathing in when cleaning….it’s time for everyone to become educated on what they are breathing in from candles as well.

    Paraffin wax is a petroleum by-product created when crude oil is refined into gasoline. It is a white, odorless solid that is formed into 10 lb. slabs. You will never know if it’s a paraffin blend because of color or texture. It must state 100% soy wax.

    Today, they are approximately 95-100% synthetic (man-made) fragrances.” Using crude oil or turpentine oil as the base material, synthetics are usually derived from chemical reactions. There is no such thing as “natural fragrance” unless it states 100% pure essential oils.

    Look for the following four things in a candle.

     1. An “authentic” candle manufacturer that it is passionate about producing a clean product vs. a cheap product that just has expensive packaging.

    2. Non GMO Soy Wax.  Make sure it does say “blend”!  It could be blended with paraffin (crude oil).

    3. Cotton Wick.  45% of all imported candles are from China and some could contain lead.

    4. 100% pure essential oils.  Make sure it doesn’t say blend or all natural fragrance because there is no such thing.  The only natural fragrance is 100% pure essential oils from plants and flowers.

    Thank you! Stay authentic! 🙂

    • Almost all soy wax made is made from American soy beans, which themselves are NOT non-GMO. To derive soy wax from soy oil, all GMO proteins are extracted. So, while companies may claim they use non-GMO soy wax, that is NOT the same thing as claiming they use soy wax from non-GMO soy bean sources.

      In any case, there is NO scientific reason not to use soy wax made from American GMO soy beans.

      A lot of the non-GMO hysteria is just that. Hysteria.

      • I appreciate your desire to contribute to the conversation, but I also notice that you sell soy wax candles, so I think there is a potential for bias and I’d encourage you to back up your claims about the safety of products with supporting research. It IS possible to find organic and non-GMO soy wax, but it is more expensive and often not used. Additionally, the research on GMOs is far from decisive and many people feel that this is a serious issue and do not support GMO products for this reason. You may feel that the GMO research is just hysteria, but it is far from conclusive and we truly do not and can’t know the long term ramifications.

        • I will be happy to provide you all the safety information provided by the parent company, which is located in Sweden.

          There is NO SUCH THING as organic soy wax. Soy wax is derived from soy bean oil, and to derive the wax a solvent is used in production. That makes no soy wax organic.

          We actually DO know long-term ramifications (multiple, peer-reviewed studies have been performed), which show some changes in organisms that have consumed GMO-based foodstuffs, but not enough to be alarmed about.

  55. I didn’t read all the comments, so I’m not sure if anyone suggested this, but you might want to check out Ava Anderson candles. Coconut Oil, beeswax, essential oils. That’s it. They smell amazing and last.

  56. I diffuse essential oils to replace my old candle addiction, I feel like this kills a few birds with one stone by purifying the air, being safe and all natural, adding mositure to the air, and depending what oil you choose other benefits as well! Of course it’s important to mention that I use a therapeutic grade essential oil brand that is tested and safe to use aromatically in a diffuser and otherwise. Great post! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  57. Wow, I am so glad I found this post. I was about to place an order at yankee candle and thought “hmm I wonder if they’re actually safe”. I’ve never worried about candles but after reading this it makes a lot of sense. I recently started working for a company called Beautycounter which provides safe beauty/skincare products and they strongly disagree with anything that uses any type of fragrance (which are in so many products that we use) as well as a lot of other toxins and ingredients. I’ve thrown out a lot of stuff recently to start a healthier lifestyle and it looks like it’s time to toss my candles too!

  58. Can you please provide a source regarding your assertions about negative ion release from bees wax candles? Would be better to see a more informed risk assessment for candles based on actual scientific evidence. Good advert for bees wax candles though.

  59. I mostly use my diffuser with essential oils, but I love the dreamy look of candlelight! I use Non Toxic candles. Organic coconut wax, beeswax, essential oils and an organic cotton wick. That’s it… Chai Tea is my favorite!

  60. As I am an advocate for education, knowledge, and critical thinking, I’d like to clear the air on some of the concepts mentioned in this post.

    1) Anything that burns is technically bad for your health. No matter what substance you burn, the main product is ALWAYS a compound of carbon dioxide. If you must burn a candle, you can reduce the production of other harmful byproducts by using a pure cotton wick.

    2) Paraffin wax fumes are definitely not something you want to inhale. However, beeswax is not a wise alternative because global bee populations are facing an alarming decline. Harvesting the wax they produce to support their colony puts an incredible amount of stress on the workers. They have to increase their work load to make up for the lost production, thus decreasing their productivity, health, and life span.
    Plant-based wax, such as soy, is the best alternative.

    3) Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) means there has been a small alteration in the DNA. This change usually results in making a plant with more desirable traits such as increased sweetness (example: oranges), increased size (example: strawberries), increased colour quality (example: red apples), increased immunity against plant diseases, increased production, etc. When it comes to soybeans, they are usually genetically modified to increase their production, meaning more soybeans can be harvested per plant. Environmentally, this is very responsible. If there’s a high demand for soy products, farms only have to produce more highly productive plants. If, however, there is a high demand for beeswax, how do farms increase production without killing their bees? Keep in mind, it is not as simple as making more beehives. (Side note: Geneticists are using the concept of GMOs to find cures for genetic diseases called gene therapy).

    4) The universe (that includes you) is made up of protons, electrons, and neutrons. The inside of every one of your cells that makes up your body is negatively charged. The surroundings of all your cells is positively charged. Every ion, whether it’s positively or negatively charged, is made up of protons, electrons, and neutrons (Hydrogen, which is positively charged, is the only element without neutrons). Things like dust and pollen will be attracted to positively charged ions only if they are negatively charged. If they are positively charged, then they will be attracted to negatively charged ions. A negatively charged ion can be heavier or lighter than a positively charged ion. The weight of the ion depends on what elements it’s made of. For example, the chloride ion (negative) is about 4 times heavier than the beryllium ion (positive), while the gold ion (positive) is about 6 times heavier than the chloride ion. Once you start binding ions together to make compound molecules of different charges, their weights are all over the place. If you want to reduce indoor air pollution, get an air filter and just don’t burn candles.

    On a less science-y factual note, and a more personal one, I suffer from asthma and serious environmental allergies. If you are serious about cleaning the air in your home, invest in an air filter and vacuum cleaner with HEPA filters. Prohibit all flowers, perfumes, colognes, candles, incense, scented deodorants, scented soaps/detergents/creams (basically anything with fragrance) from your home. Keep your windows closed. Also, remove as many carpets, curtains, decorative pillows, and anything textile that traps allergens like a sponge. If you have pets, keep them out of your sleeping quarters and bathe them once a week. Wash all linens at least once per week. Vacuum and dust all surfaces at least once per week.

    Cheers and happy learning!

    – An eternal pupil of science

  61. Hey Katie,

    I ordered some beeswax tea light candles and they worked great. But they were pretty expensive at approximately $1 per tea light. I was looking on amazon and came across a product that uses sustainably sourced palm wax. I was curious if that would be another safe alternative? It’s much less expensive. Here’s the product link: http://amzn.to/1OgNEcx

  62. MAN! Why don’t all the companies that are manufacturing things that are bad for us just switch over to what is healthy??? That would stop all this frantic nonsense of having to figure things out the hard way and sometimes after we’ve already done too much damage to ourselves. I’m really not one for conspiracy theories but it just makes me wonder if the population adjustment one is what’s behind all of this.
    Ok, I will stay OFF of that soap box! LOL!
    Fortunately I’ve only just begun using scented wax in the last month (not burning it but warming it above a tea light….which I guess does the same in releasing toxic chemicals into the air and especially since I’ve been using not so cheap Dollar Tree tealights for that). I guess it’s back to Walmart with my favorite Fresh Air scent from ScentSationals that I am now finding out is not so fresh after all and in a bad way. My husband has all of a sudden started having major problems with his ears. The last time this happened I had bought one of those automatic air freshener sprayers. I just figured since he was the only one being physically and visibly effected by it that it couldn’t be the freshener. But, when stopped his problem went away. I guess he’s just a super sensitive guy. So, I will be looking into getting an essential oil defuser and beeswax candles. Thank you for sharing all the valuable information.

  63. I first want to say thank you for providing the best way to help me make a healthier alternative in my life. Before I even do anything, I check to see what you say. I make my own laundry detergent, soap, lotion and other skin products. I just put hsl in my house. I am now looking into making candles. I will be making the beeswax ones and working on diffusers for a healthier environment. I have along way to go but have come along way. It’s just my husband and myself. This is helping me enjoy my crone years. Again, thank you!

  64. What about Mason jar candles made with organic olive oil? Usually pine cones or organges natural things like that get added. I am trying to find something less expensive than beeswax candles to burn daily. Thanks!

  65. Hi!

    Glad to come across this post while researching salt lamps and candles.

    Id like to ask if it’s possible to mix Himalayan salt into my candles? Will that provided added negative ions?
    Or will the Himalayan salt not work anymore ode it’s mixed in with wax?

    Really appreciate a reply! Thank you!

  66. I’ve often wondered when even burning ‘healthy’ alternatives, how much damage the actual smoke from the candles do? If ingesting too much smoked food is dangerous (carcinogen), then would burning in your home regularly be? Is the smoke effect negating the benefits of the beeswax? I don’t know. Have just wondered. With our effoefficient energy efficient…we are holing up the poisons in our houses. It would be better to have a drafty house to renew the air. Instead (regardless of weather…and I live in Alaska), I open up all the window and doors for around 10 minutes every 12 hours. Also keep the major air detoxifying plants in the house. May be all silly, but my home always seems so fresh that way.

  67. I LOVE my Olive Oil candles. An ancient way to light, brigher than a candle, cheaper, slow burning, great conversation piece, healthy burning, AND SAFER then a candle regarding fire safety. The great thing is, since you won’t be ingesting the olive oil…it doesn’t have to be cold-pressed/virgin. Buy the regular ‘cheap’ olive oil from your local bulk club. It burns very slowly…therefore cheaper than candles. You can also use your unedible racid olive oil, it just won’t smell as fresh. Not nasty though. On the safety front, unlike many oils, olive oil won’t burn or explode. If the candle falls (unlike a traditional candle) the olive oil puts the flame out. I use these candles in Alaska. I’m a Florida native…used them for years in place of emergency candles during hurricanes. I swear I’m not affiliated, but you can buy the candles/wicks/etc from Lehmans (online country store). The also have a pamphlet for a few bucks you can buh that teaches you about everything. It is easy and cheap enougb to make your own, but I DO recommend the pamphlet to teach the correct procedure. Happy burning!

    • Since nearly all olive oil is adulterated & thinned down with sub-par, cheap, poor quality oils, any benefits that are supposed to be there from burning “olive” oil are a crap shoot if you have no idea which oil/oils the olive oil is watered down with. Also I would NOT suggest burning rancid oil. There is no way that could possibly be healthy. If it isn’t healthy to ingest, it isn’t healthy to burn & breathe it in. Maybe it’s still better than paraffin, but I still wouldn’t risk it unless it was an emergency situation & the area was well ventilated.

  68. While I respect many of the posts and opinions here honestly so much misinformation is flying around. For starters I think Drew replied correctly above. Lead wicks are a thing of the past. As for fragrances vs. Essential Oils both are safe. Essential Oils have just as many allergens in them and if you think EO’s are completely safe you are wrong. Different people are sensitive to different things and all natural EO blends and straight EO’s themselves will cause allergies.

          • You’ve offered a false equivalence.

            Synthetic fragrance ISN’T cigarettes, which are known to cause cancer in some people. Typically, people don’t die from the proper use of prescription drugs. And, as you know, batteries are legal.

            Does your research (here I mean real research based on peer-reviewed articles written by scientists) prove that synthetic fragrances kill?

            Or just you cherry-picking of articles you find on the Web?

          • There is definitely research about the problems with synthetic fragrances. I actually did think you were kidding by asserting that if something wasn’t safe, it must be prohibited by law and was addressing that particular point. Just to clarify- do you actually think that the government and lawmakers have enacted laws that protect us from anything that could be harmful?

  69. How did you diffuse essential oils with your beeswax candle to create a healthful and nontoxic aromatic scent? I would like to fill my house with pleasant clean smells with the beeswax candles.

    • Limonene is also in citrus fruit. When you peel citrus, you release limonene in the air. Are you concerned about that as well?

      I’m not.

      The article you reference is based on ONE study. Hardly convincing.

      Go ahead and eat your citrus, drink your juice and, if so inclined, enjoy your citrus essential oils.

  70. Great post! What kind of plants do you use around the home to improve indoor air quality? Can you get scented beeswax candles? Thank you!

  71. Scented candles have always been a part of my life and it wasn’t until 2014
    when I was diagnosed with cancer that I began re-evaluating my lifestyle
    choices, my eating habits and my environment.

    I don’t know whether the frequent use of scented candles had any influence
    on my health prior to my diagnosis, but I do know that I will NEVER again
    use any scented candle/wax melt that isn’t 100% organic and natural. My
    health and that of my family and pets is far too precious to take the risk.

    Sarah

  72. Now I understand why have a headache by the time I leave my friend’s house. She uses scented candles and those plug in scent things. UGH

  73. I just bought organic virgin unrefined coconut oil and put it in my wax warmers with EO. Hoping this is safe.

  74. I have read on so many sites how heating damages the therapeutic value of essential oils and that heating diffusers and candles should never be used in conducting inhalation aromatherapy. (And yet the majority of those sites will contain the one therapy option where essentials oils (of whatever particular type) are added – either singly or as part of a blend, and in very small amounts of 5-10 drops) to boiling water and one then takes container off the heat and – usually using a draped towel – inhaled the fumes. Last I checked, water boils at 220 degrees Fahrenheit).

    I enjoy candles very much and like both the aroma of particular blends as well as therapeutic values – in a smaller room, like my computer room (I use soy blocks and beeswax pellets / blocks with cotton wicks strictly)…. but if the therapeutic value is destroyed by the heat….

    (I can understand maintaining unused essential oils in dark bottles and stored in room temperature environments, neither hot nor cold, and out of light exposure

    But for the release of the active oils fairly instantaneously into the air? Is candle heat that problematic? Truly? Some of the individual EOs and blends that I use are quite expensive. No use using Frankincense or Sandalwood, etcetera if all I am getting is the aroma effect!)
    Thanks for any info.

    • Hey! I researched this quite extensively. Diffusers do not hear the water enough to destroy the therapeutic property of the oils. When you touch the air front the diffuser, the water is still cool.

      We have changed everything in our home using essential oils and couldn’t feel healthier.

  75. Since all our ceilings are now white, we no longer burn candles of any kind, and use a candle warmer instead. Is simply melting the candles to release their fragrance as toxic as burning them?

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