Are Scented Candles Air Quality Killers?

Are Scented Candles Air Quality Killers?


After a long day at work, it’s nice to get home. Your home is your place to relax, unwind, and feel comfortable. For some of us, that means lighting a scented candle. There are so many candles out there with great scents; they can’t be harmful, right?

Well, we have a little bad news. As it turns out, many scented candles are air quality killers. This is especially true in the colder months when your home tends to be closed to the elements. A lack of ventilation keeps the lousy stuff produced by candles indoors, causing some people to have reactions to the soot.

Read on to learn more about why candles aren’t the best for your home. Don’t worry, though – some safe alternatives leave your living space smelling fantastic.


Why Do Scented Candles Cause Indoor Air Pollution?

It doesn’t take much work to find scented candles for your home. They’re everywhere, from The Dollar Store to high-end boutiques. Candles not only provide a scent that leaves your living space smelling great, but they also provide ambiance. Unfortunately, they also produce some unwanted toxins from the wax itself, the wick, and sometimes the fragrance.

Most candles are made with paraffin, a wax produced as a by-product of petroleum. Paraffin was a great discovery, as it is cheap to produce and is certainly cleaner than burning tallow. However, when it is burned, the wax releases chemicals into the air. Some of these chemicals are known to cause health problems ranging from allergic reactions to cancer. At the very least, they are not great for your respiratory health or the cleanliness of the air in your home.

Another potential issue lives in the wick. Candles produced overseas have a greater chance of containing lead. This is not a chemical you want in the air you breathe. While a candle won’t release a tremendous amount of lead into the air, any amount is undesirable. If you’re an avid candle fan, the amount of toxic material released into your home’s air adds up.

The third cause of toxic material from candles is the fragrance. Most companies don’t explicitly outline what is in their “fragrance.” That means we have no idea what is burning in there, or what is released into the air of your living space.


If Paraffin is the Problem, Are There Alternatives?

Thankfully, yes, there are some alternatives. If you love candles, don’t worry – you just have to be a little more cautious about your purchases.

Beeswax is an old-fashioned material traditionally used to make candles. Featuring a cleaner burning wax, these candles are available in most stores. Besides keeping the air in your home fresh, they also tend to drip less, leaving your candle holders mess-free!

Soy is another alternative wax that burns cleaner than traditional paraffin. These candles tend to be more expensive, but they produce very little soot. They also burn at a lower temperature and much slower than paraffin candles, so expect to get more bang for your buck with this option.

Both wax options are usually clearly labeled on the candle’s packaging. Again, if they are made overseas, there is a greater chance of lead in the wick, so double check where the candle comes from.


Flameless Alternatives for Pleasant Scents

Even though beeswax and soy candles burn cleaner than paraffin, that doesn’t mean they are 100% clean. Anything burning will release a small amount of soot into the air. Depending on the level of sensitivity of your family, these candles still have the potential to create indoor air pollution. If you want to reduce the risk of dirty air, get rid of the candles altogether.

We know – that doesn’t sound like fun. However, you can have the best of soft, flickering light and soothing scents without having to burn anything.

Many big box stores and online retailers now sell battery-operated “candles.” Restaurants tend to use these devices because they are safer. They are truly a fantastic option, especially for households with small children or pets. You can put these “candles” anywhere, get the same ambiance, and ultimately reduce the risk of both poor air quality and fires.

But what about the scent? Why not try using essential oils in a simmering pot? Just a few drops in a small pan over medium heat will fill your home with your favorite scent. For individual rooms, essential oil diffusers or plug-in devices will gently heat the oils, leaving your rooms smelling amazing.