How to Choose Clean-Burning Candles

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Don’t you just love the feeling you get when you’re all cozied up on the couch, a good book is in your hand, and a candle is gently flickering on the table in front of you? The room starts to fill with scents that make you want to breathe in deep and happily sigh away the stresses of life.

If you don’t like this scenario… you’re a monster (just kidding, we still love you).

For me, this is the dream—my literal happy place. And right around the time I started switching over to cleaner personal care products, I watched a video from one of my favorite YouTubers (check her out: Becca Bristow) where she talked about some research she had done on how clean candles actually are.

I’ll let you watch and see what you think:

Just a little after I watched that video, I decided to take a lovely little bubble bath, which are never complete without the candle burning on the side of the tub. I sat there, soaking up the stillness and enjoying the relaxing atmosphere, for probably twenty minutes. And when I got out, I swtiched on the light to find the bathtub and toilet COVERED in black soot.

I left that experience horrified. Truly petrified.

But, what’s a girl to do when her happy place is anywhere with a CANDLE!? Is it true that all candles are literal death traps? Smog-filled evil burning your lungs and killing your entire family?

Not exactly.

In her video, Becca’s solution is to throw out all candles and only use essential oil diffusers. So, that was my solution for a while. Don’t get me wrong here because if you know me, you KNOW I’m an essential oils girls. Big time. But diffusers are not candles, and for me, they kind of serve two different purposes and moods. They will never be the same, and ya girl needs the candles.

So, that’s when I started doing my own research. And guess what, you guys? Clean candles DO exist! Thank you, whoever you are that made this a reality. You deserve a reward.

The kicker is—as it is with most things in the clean living business—you really have to know your stuff to know which candles are actually okay to burn. A lot of candle company’s will promote their candle as “all-natural” or “made with essential oils.” But there are really three main factors to a candle being truly clean:

  1. The Wax - One of the reasons that candles can be so toxic is because a lot of candles are made with paraffin. Fun fact: the chemicals that you’re burning when you burn paraffin wax are the same as diesel fuel fumes. Paraffin is used by candles makers because it’s super cheap, but this type of wax contains known carcinogens. The solution: Look for candles made with things like beeswax or soy. While burning them will still release particles into the air, it won’t be releasing anything harmful to you or your family.

  2. The Wick - Here’s a scary fact: for a long time, candle wicks contained lead. You heard that right—LEAD. Many candle makers used it as a way to stiffen their wicks, and when they discovered that it was probably dangerous to put them in the candles (nah duh), candle makers agreed to stop putting lead in their wicks. That was in the 1970’s. However, just like the FDA is with just about everything, this isn’t a super highly regulated matter. A study in 2001 showed that there were still some candles on the market that contained lead wicks. So, while most of the candles on the market are safe, always make sure the candles you are buying contain 100% cotton, paper, or wood wicks.

  3. The Fragrance - Chances are, you probably already knew this one was coming. The majority of candles contain artificial, unsafe fragrances, especially ones that are very cheap. These fragrances are not very closely regulated, so candle companies can put almost anything they want into our candles. I don’t know about you, but that freaks me out. And what’s worse—candle companies can say things like “made with essential oils” even when only one of their one hundred ingredients used to create their fragrance was an essential oil. My rule of thumb is to either buy from companies who say they make their candles with only essential oils or do my research on the company’s fragrance practices. A lot of times, the trustworthy companies seem to be transparent on their sites about how they make their fragrances and the safety of them, even if they are technically “artificial.”

In case you need some suggestions, my current favorite candle brand is Antique Candle Co. I received one of their beautiful candles as a gift, and I don’t think I’ve ever loved a candle so much. Their scents are beautiful, they don’t seem to give off soot in my experience, and they’re a company focused on safety and the health of their customers. I adore them, and I know you will, too.

I also buy some of my candles from Thrive. They don’t have a huge selection, but all of them are clean burning, and the ones I’ve tried smell great! They’re also pretty affordable (which is a huge win for clean candles).

So, there ya have it! Go get you a good candle girl. Enjoy your little happy place, wherever it is. And take care of your lungs and air while you’re at it. ❤️