Warm, Welcoming Nontoxic Candles

ambiance Dec 01, 2017

by Angela Cummings

Back in the day, I used to burn candles to make our home smell comforting and welcoming. Especially in the fall and winter when we gathered with family and friends. There was something about having our guests arrive to the smell of a freshly-lit candle that gave me comfort, an expectation that they’d feel right at home.

But behind that comforting scent was a dirty little secret that I would never have imagined.

How Standard Scented Candles are Made

That dirty little secret was in the candle ingredients, starting with the candle wax itself.

Candle wax is typically made of paraffin, which is made from petroleum, an oil byproduct. Paraffin is known to off-gas harmful chemicals into the air when melted or burned. Phthalates, one of the many chemicals in candles, has been linked to liver and kidney abnormalities, along with birth defects in the male reproductive system.(1)

Beyond the candle wax, fragrances are added to candles to give them a scent or flavor (as they sometimes call it in the retail industry).  Scents are made from synthetic fragrances, which, in common terms means that they’re made from chemicals being mixed together.

There are over 3,000 chemicals that are commonly used to create fragrance and no limit to the amount of chemicals that can be used to make one fragrance. (2)

On top of that, wicks of candles typically contain lead, especially if the wick has metal in it. It sounds like a small amount of lead and potential hazard until you consider this:

“The characteristics observed in candle emissions match those of diesel emissions in the aspects considered to contribute to toxicity,” according to LEAD Group Inc. which is an organization that advocates for less lead in products globally, as cited in the A to Z of D-Toxing. (3)

Or this:

“Conventional candle wicks may contain metals like zinc, tin, and even lead. As the candle burns, these toxins can contaminate your air and settle onto surfaces,” according to the A to Z of D-Toxing. (4)

After learning about what goes into standard candles, I started looking into healthier options for adding scent and warmth to our home.

Nontoxic Scented Candles

You can burn candles to create a comforting and welcoming home without chemical-filled candles. Instead, look for candles with the three key components below.

  • 100% beeswax. Candles made from 100 percent beeswax are a great alternative to standard candles. Beeswax is made by bees, and therefore it is a natural animal byproduct. Beeswax burns longer and cleaner since it’s not made with chemicals. This time-tested type of candle has been used for centuries! (5)
  • Organic essential oils. While the candle wax material is a nontoxic material, it’s important to also pay attention to what type of scent has been added. In particular, if it’s scented with synthetic fragrance made from chemical mixtures or with natural organic fragrances such as organic essential oils.  Natural organic essential oils are the preferred option for nontoxic scented candles.
  • Organic, 100% cotton wick. Look for candles that have a 100 percent cotton wick. Burning candles (or anything for that matter) releases carcinogens into the air so burn candles sparingly in order to keep a healthier indoor environment.  

Also, to help your indoor air quality, be mindful of how often you burn candles because avoiding combustion activities indoors is generally best. Instead, burn candles on just special occasions. 



(1) (5)  A to Z of D-Toxing, Works Cited Part 2

(2) EWG

(3) (4) A to Z of D-Toxing, Works Cited Part 3 and 4

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Ruan Living simplifies a nontoxic lifestyle through its Practical Nontoxic Living podcast, free detox workshops, online D-Tox Academy, and transformative 40-Day Home Detox. It aims to help you avoid toxic chemicals, heavy metals, and electromagnetic fields (EMFs) from what you buy, own, and do— without compromising your joy and convenience. Ruan was founded by Sophia Ruan Gushée, author of the bestselling critically acclaimed book A to Z of D-Toxing: The Ultimate Guide to Reducing Your Toxic Exposures and several detox workbooks. A graduate of Brown University and Columbia Business School, Sophia has served on the Brown University School of Public Health Advisory Council and Well+Good Council. A popular nontoxic living speaker, consultant, and teacher, Sophia lives in New York City with her husband and three daughters. Her passion for empowering others to enjoy nontoxic living began with the birth of her first daughter in 2007. Everything she creates is a love letter to her children and for the healthiest, brightest future possible. You can learn more here: Sophia’s Impact.


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