Scented Candles: A Dirty Little Secret

Karen Patten

The cooler air is blowing in, maybe with some rain that makes everything feel just a little bit cooler. This is the time of year that I like to pull out a pretty throw blanket for each chair in my living room to make guests feel welcome. A fire in the fireplace adds to the ambience. And finally, I love to add a delicious scent in the air by burning scented candles.. Cue the sound of screeching brakes here…

Are your scented candles releasing toxins into your home? Carcinogens? Find out the best alternatives and still keep your home wonderfully scented! #scentedcandles #toxiccandles #essentialoils #beeswaxcandles

What Are the Best Alternatives to Toxic Candles?

What? Why would I put the brakes on those wonderful scented candles? I’ll let you in on a dirty little secret. And then I’ll share a healthier alternative.

Why I Used to Use Scented Candles

I put some effort into making sure my home feels welcoming for people to feel comfortable stopping by for a visit. This can be especially true during different times of the year – summer when the kids are out of school, the holidays, spring cleaning when I’m trying to get all the stale air out of my house, or even our favorite sports season. When I know I will have guests coming and going all the time, I like to cover up the smell of Fido (ok, my Fido’s real name is Heidi). Maybe Fluffy’s litter box gets a little, shall we say, odiferous? The aroma of last night’s fish still hanging in the house? A scented candle seems like the perfect solution. Light up a candle and cover up all the odors. I’m sure you always want your house to feel and smell clean and welcoming, too, right? But I won’t use scented candles anymore, and here’s why.

Why I Don’t Use Scented Candles Anymore

I don’t want to be putting carcinogens into the air in my home. It’s that simple. Not for me, my family, or my friends and extended family who may come by to visit. When burned, it’s the scent in the candles itself that gives off known carcinogens benzene and toluene. Benzene and toluene can cause brain, lung and central nervous system damage, and also cause developmental difficulties. Most scented candles are also so heavily scented that they can trigger asthma attacks or migraine headaches. I should have known something was up when I would come out of the candle shop with a headache.

If the fragrance in scented candles wasn’t enough, the paraffin used to make most candles puts off a soot when it is burned. That soot can be inhaled and penetrate deeply into the tissues of your lungs.

Finally, “most” American candle manufacturers have agreed to use wicks that do not contain lead. However, there is no such agreement for foreign manufacturers. According to the EPA, “Candles with lead wicks have the potential to generate indoor airborne lead concentrations of health concern. It is also possible for consumers to unknowingly purchase candles containing lead wick cores and repeatedly expose themselves to harmful amounts of lead through regular candle-burning.(source)

What Do I Use Instead of Scented Candles?

There are a couple of great alternatives. First, you can use organic soy candles. I prefer organic, because otherwise, about 93% of soy in the United States is genetically modified. And I’m just not sure what chemicals are coming out of that when it’s burned.

Your next option is beeswax candles – one of my favorite alternatives. Beeswax candles are more expensive, but they burn a lot longer. Your typical beeswax candle can burn up to 45 hours.

My next suggestion is by far my favorite. It allows me to continually change out my desired fragrance, and therefore mood, quickly and easily without going to the expense of buying another candle. It also provides additional aromatherapy benefits of lifting or relaxing my mood whenever I want it to. Of course, I’m talking about essential oils that are pure and unadulterated! I have a ultrasonic diffuser in almost every room of my home.

Young Living's Purification essential oil blend is the perfect blend to purify your air by eliminating odors and making your home feel welcoming. #essentialoils ##purificationessentialoil #toxiccandles

Keep Fido and Fluffy’s odor at bay with Purification Essential Oil blend from Young Living.

I can easily diffuse a mixture of cinnamon and clove for that warm, “I just baked something” feeling. Or I can diffuse Thieves to support our healthy immune systems this season. During the holidays, I can choose peppermint or Christmas spirit; lemon or citrus fresh during the spring and summer for a wonderful uplifting feeling – or any other combination I can dream up.The options for diffusing are endless!

Are your scented candles releasing toxins into your home? Carcinogens? Find out the best alternatives and still keep your home wonderfully scented! #scentedcandles #toxiccandles #essentialoils #beeswaxcandles

Beeswax and soy candles are several green alternatives to paraffin candles. But neither option is my very favorite!

There are definitely better alternatives to toxic paraffin candles. Give one or more of these choices a try. My favorite alternative is clearly diffusing essential oils. Dollar for dollar – it’s the most cost effective option because I only need one or two drops in the diffuser at a time and that will run for four hours. Plus, essential oils give you the added benefits of maintaining healthy body systems. They can’t be beat.

To learn more about my favorite essential oils and how to buy oils for your family at a 24% discount, check out my first time with essential oils and the benefits they had for my family!


  1. Beverly on October 24, 2015 at 2:08 pm

    I have never thought about candles that way. I am going to check out my candles and try some alternatives.
    Thanks for sharing at Turn It Up Tuesday,

  2. Essential oils for men on December 4, 2015 at 9:05 am

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  3. Christina @There's Just One Mommy on January 2, 2016 at 3:27 pm

    The soot is one reason i don’t burn candles anymore. It was making my walls black. Imagine what it may be doing to our insides?

    • Karen Patten on January 2, 2016 at 6:29 pm

      Yes! I noticed that too! Love our oils for so many reasons – and this is just one. I rest easier at night knowing that we aren’t putting so many of these toxins into our home!

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Hi, I’m Karen, the Atlanta mama, writer, and creator at Intentional Family Life. I’m a passionate advocate for intentional living so that you can experience all that you deserve for yourself and your family. Here, I inspire moms to chose what matters most and then to only do the things that move them closer to what matters most. Read More About Karen…

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