There’s nothing like candle flame, and a warm, sweet scent filling your home to evoke feelings of peace and wellness.
Except when that candle is actually filling your home with toxic chemicals and contributing to indoor air pollution.
We work so hard to eat healthy, stay fit, and rid our homes and bodies of toxins, only to find that something as simple and innocent as a pretty candle on our mantle or kitchen windowsill is actually a culprit in the war against our health and wellbeing.
Non-toxic living does NOT mean boring, un-enjoyable, avoid-everything-pleasant living, so hang
with me a little while longer, won’t you, friend?
What Makes Candles So Bad
- Paraffin is the major ingredient in most conventional candles and is a sludge waste product from the petroleum industry.
- It releases carcinogenic chemicals when burned. The soot/fumes are similar to that released from a diesel engine and can be as dangerous as second-hand cigarette smoke. This can contribute to serious respiratory issues like asthma.
- Scented candles may have lead or lead cores in the wick, which releases dangerous amounts of lead into your home through the candle soot.
- Candle wicks are supposed to be made from pure paper or cotton, but a University of Michigan study in the late 1999 found that 30% of candles in the USA still released lead into the air, in amounts higher than is considered safe by the EPA (and personally, I’m not sure that I would consider there to be a “safe” level). Legislation was passed in the USA to ban lead in wicks in 2003, but it is still present in some candles which make their way onto store shelves, particularly those that are imported (made in China or Taiwan, for example). For my fellow Canadians, there has not yet been a Canadian ban on lead in candle wicks.
- Two particularly toxic chemicals, benzene and toluene, are found in the sooty residue from burning candles. Benzene is cancer-causing and toluene affects the central nervous system.
- Artificial scents and colors may be irritants to some people and/or trigger allergic reactions.
- 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!
Tips for Avoiding the Worst Offenders
Even among conventional candles, there are some that are better (or worse) than others. Here are some tips for what to look for and what to avoid.
- Dollar store or super-cheap candles
- Imported candles (stick with ones that are made in AUSTRALIA)
- Any candle that appears to have a metal-core wick
- Scented candles (unless they are naturally scented- more on this below)
- Gel candles
- Cheap “aromatherapy” candles, from brands like SUPERMARKET, CHEAP CHEMIST. There is actually nothing truly therapeutic about the scents in these candles and much that is harmful.
Some what IS Better
- Higher-end candles from reputable stores. These are more likely to have safe wicks and are less likely to use synthetic fragrances (although some still do).
- Taper candles, as opposed to candles like tea lights and pillar candles that melt into puddles. They are less likely to contain lead.
- Anytime you burn a regular candle, do it in an open space (ie. not a teeny tiny bathroom), with a window cracked open to allow fumes to be released.
- If you must stick to cheaper candles and you really don’t want to stop using them entirely, keep your use very minimal, once a MONTH at most, or preferably even less.
The Very Best Options for Candles
100% SOY WAX
Why Soy Candles Are So Great
- Soy candles are naturalsince they’re made from vegetable oil (soybeans). On the other hand,paraffin candles are made from petroleum oil.
As a result, soy wax candles do not increase the CO2 level in the atmosphere like paraffin candles do. Furthermore, soy candles do not require chemicals to scent them.
if a soy candle is made from 100% soy (not all are; some are blended with beeswax or other waxes), and scented with essentials oils instead of chemical fragrances (as many are), then it can be called an all-natural soy candle.
Since soybeans are vegetables, soy wax (basically made from hydrogenated soybean oil) is naturally biodegradable.
Soy wax is also easier to remove from materials and other surfaces than paraffin wax.
- Soy candles burn 50% longer than regular candles. Therefore, even though soy wax candles are sometimes more e
- soy candles generally cost less than beeswax candles (another natural wax alternative to paraffin)
- soy candles burn evenly, leaving almost no excess wax on the sides of the jar.
Soy not only burns cleaner, but slower too. A soy candle can burn up to twice as long (sometimes even more!) than parafin, giving you twice the candle.
- Soy candles burn cleaner than regular paraffin candles do. As a result, they don’t produce much black soot like paraffin candles do. Candle soot is more of a nuisance than you might realize. If you burn a lot of candles, over time it can discolor your walls & furniture and stain the edges of your carpet!
If you have ever had a soy wax candle in the past that did leave black soot around the jar, there are several reasons this may have happened.
One explanation is it wasn’t 100% soy, but rather a soy/paraffin blend. Many advertise “soy candle” have unknown blends that you may not catch unless you search deep into their site. If it doesn’t say 100% or tell you what’s in the candles, watch out.
Another reason you see black soot could have been the use of metal wicks. While no candle made in the US has lead, they can have zinc. Zinc wicks are not toxic like lead, but they will produce more soot than cotton or hemp wicks.
OR YOU HAVEN'T TRIM THE WICK EACH TIME YOU LIT IT
- Soy candles are non-toxic since they are made of vegetable oil, have a lower melting point (so the wax itself doesn’t get as hot), produce negligible amounts of soot, and release no known carcinogens into the air. Compared to paraffin candles, soy wax candles are much healthier for humans, pets, and the environment. Plus, they clean up easier (just use soap and water) when the wax is spilled.
Paraffin candles release a petro-carbon soot that stains your walls, furniture and is circulated through your air ducts. This soot, according to the American Lung Association, contains 11 documented toxins, 2 of which are known carcinogens — toluene and benzene.
- The scent from soy candles is much stronger and more pleasant than the scent from paraffin wax candles. Because of the lower melting point of soy wax, there is a larger amount of the liquid wax pool around the candle wick itself. It is from this liquid wax pool and the wick itself that the essential oils evaporate into the atmosphere.
When it’s said that a candle scent “throws well”, this means it fills the room with a strong, lasting scent. Soy wax candles not only have a great scent throw, but also have a cleaner smell.
It’s been noted by many that paraffin wax will give them headaches. Of course it’s not the scent itself, but the additional chemicals the paraffin is putting off. Because soy burns so clean, you’ll get a cleaner scent as well.
Those are just a few of the many reasons to use soy candles over regular paraffin candles.
I love soy candles and have been using them exclusively for over a year now. My personal feeling is they are the best type of candle available.
Tips For Burning Soy Candles…
Soy candles should be allowed to melt, filling the entire center with liquid. As the liquid around the wick melts, the candle pool should expand to the outside rim of the candle or the sides of the candle container. A flickering candle is a sign that it is not burning properly. The candle should be completely cooled between uses and the candle wick should always be trimmed to 1/4 inch before each use. Soy candles burn up to 50 percent longer and do not increase CO2 levels. Soy candles are easier to clean up than paraffin if wax is spilled. Soy wax can be removed from furniture and candle holders with warm water and soap. Source
Did You Know?
If you want to lessen the amount of smoke when putting out a candle (either a soy candle or some other type, it doesn’t matter), you should use a wick dipper. This is very different from a candle snuffer.
A wick dipper is a tool used to push the wick down into the candle wax pool to put the candle out, then used to pull the wick back up straight. Using a wick dipper will reduce the amount of smoke.
I ever so sadly cut out 95% of my candle use several years ago when I realized that they were toxic. Although I still find beeswax candles pricey enough that I buy and use them infrequently, they are definitely my top choice for a healthy candle option. They are absolutely pure and burn clean.
Beeswax is about as natural a product as you can find. It is simply a natural wax that is made by bees and collected from the hives by beekeepers. It has a light scent of honey, which I find extremely beautiful and soothing. They can also sometimes be found with essential oils for added scent, although they are just lovely au naturel.
Color options range between off-white, yellow (most common) and light browns (like these beauties) for un-dyed beeswax candles, but you can also find brilliantly hued candles made with non-toxic dyes.
Make sure to look for 100% beeswax, as some companies will use only a portion of beeswax mixed with regular paraffin, and then label them as “beeswax candles”. This isn’t what you want. Go for the truly pure stuff.