What's your candle personality? Maybe you enjoy burning a candle with a relaxing scent when you're taking a bubble bath on #selfcaresunday. Or you look forward to lighting up your home with a new aroma to change the mood. Perhaps, candles are your go-to for a romantic evening with your partner.
Whatever the reason, you want to ensure the candles you bring into your home and around your loved ones are safe.
There's been much debate about the safety of candles. Are soy candles safe? Are your wicks safe? Is it safe to burn scented candles?
We get it.
That's why we're here to address 5 of the most common questions about the safety of your candles so you can continue to incorporate them into your routine with the peace of mind that you need to truly enjoy your experience.
What are the safest candles?
Let's start with the most common question - what are the safest candles?
If you want to reduce the amount of particulate matter, soot, and toxins you release when burning candles, your best bet is to opt for 100% soy wax candles that have wicks made from 100% cotton, hemp, or wood.
Not sure about the details of your candle? Be sure to check the website or ask an associate at the store. Candle companies made from these safer items tend to share this information upfront because they're a great selling point for those who care about their candles' safety - like you.
One scientific study published in the Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology found that "Burning paraffin candles appears to be the main hydrocarbon initiator, while burning stearin candles results in 50% lower concentrations. In terms of toxicity, natural wax candles are the least toxic."
For context, stearin is a plant-based wax, and the finding is the same across the board for plant-based waxes.
Are soy candles safe?
With all of the talk about soy, you might be wondering if soy candles are really safe.
Yes, so we will state again that soy candles are safe and are one of the safest types of wax your candles can be made from - as long as they're 100% soy.
Many candle companies mix soy with paraffin to cut costs, but in doing so, they decrease the quality of their product.
Soy wax contains zero carcinogens, pollutants, or toxins, so they burn cleaner than many options, especially paraffin wax candles.
You'll also find that they release little or no soot - you know, that black stuff that covers the candle jar, your curtains, your ceiling, and everything else it can get to when released in the air. Think soot from a cigarette, fire, or chimney.
You don't want that when burning your candles.
Is candle smoke toxic?
First, we want you to know that inhaling too much of any smoke in a small space over an extended period isn't a good idea - so be sure to use your best judgment here regarding how much smoke you expose yourself to.
In general, you'll find that you get the little to no toxins from smoke when you burn candles that have:
100% all-natural wax
Essential oil infused aroma oils or pure essential oils
Lead-free 100% cotton wicks
Non-toxic, phthalate-free, paraffin-free, DPG, and dye-free ingredients
At a bare minimum, you want to avoid the smoke that comes from burning paraffin candles.
According to Science Direct, "Paraffin oil, which has not been highly refined, is often considered a carcinogen or cancer-causing agent. Therefore, adequate precaution is required while using paraffin oil."
Is wax made of toxic chemicals?
If you don't opt for a safe wax, then yes, your candle wax will likely release toxic chemicals into the air.
A 2009 study by South Carolina State University found that burning paraffin wax releases potentially dangerous chemicals, such as toluene and benzene. The toxins released from paraffin candles are the same as those found in diesel fuel fumes - yes, diesel as in gas.
According to the US Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) - "without proper ventilation and safety precautions, toluene can cause irritated eyes, nose, and throat; dry or cracked skin; headache, dizziness, feeling of being drunk, confusion and anxiety."
Being exposed to a chemical like that, even in small doses, can't be good for you.
That's why again, we stress the importance of only burning candles made of 100% plant based wax such as beeswax or soy wax.
Are scented candles toxic?
Just as the type of wax you burn impacts your candles' safety, so does the type of scent used. Thankfully, as with wax, not all scented candles are toxic, but it's essential to understand the reasoning behind choosing the best quality candles to burn.
Burning anything will release particulate matter into the air, but scented candles release them at higher rates due to the added ingredients. This particulate matter is so small that it can get into your lungs, leading to allergies, respiratory issues, or worse.
Many scents used by candle manufacturers are of low quality and include toxic chemicals like formaldehyde and acetaldehyde.
To provide context, according to OSHA, "the ingestion of formaldehyde can be fatal, and long-term exposure to low levels in the air or on the skin can cause asthma-like respiratory problems and skin irritation such as dermatitis and itching."
According to OSHA, acetaldehyde can irritate the eyes, nose, throat, and eyes, coughing, central nervous system depression, delayed pulmonary edema and in animals, and nasal cancer.
This is serious stuff here, so when choosing scented candles, you want to ensure that the type of scent used won't impact your health quality.
Instead, opt for candles made with essential oils and/or natural fragrance oils. Natural fragrance oils won't include ingredients from the 5 primary hazard groups that negatively impact human health.
Carcinogens that cause cancer
Mutagens that change your cell DNA and cause various diseases
Reproductive toxins that affect your reproductive organs and increase the risk of congenital disabilities
Organ toxins that cause adverse effects to your organs
Acute toxins that can cause effects from a single exposure.
Tips for safe burning candles
Burning candles can be a relaxing experience and change the entire feel of your home, but you don't want to have to side-eye your candle every day, wondering if it's causing harm to you and your loved ones.
Here's a summary of tips you can keep in mind when choosing your candles from here on out if you want to ensure you bring the safest candles into your home.
Plant-Based Wax: You want to stay away from paraffin-based candles at all costs and opt for 100% plant-based wax like soy wax or beeswax. Be sure your candle doesn't contain a mix of plant-based wax and paraffin. This is a cost-saving effort used by candle companies, but the reduced cost is not worth your health.
100% Cotton Wicks: This is the safest option for your candle needs. Avoid wicks with any metal inside. Some will have a tiny metal wire; you don't want this in your home because of what the metal can release. Other alternatives to cotton wicks are hemp or wood.
Essential Oils or Natural Fragrance Oils: Since many synthetic fragrance oils aren't safe, it's better to opt for candles made with essential oils or natural fragrance oils that don't contain toxic chemicals.
Non-Colored Candles: You should also skip candles with color. The pigments tend to contain toxic ingredients that add to the dangerous particulate matter you inhale.
Choose Scent Alternatives: There are other ways you can add fragrance to your home that don't require candles. Consider room sprays made with safe fragrances and essential oils. Just be sure they are non-toxic, phthalate-free, DPG-free, and non-VOC.