Are You Burning Toxic Candles? | Real Food RN (2023)

Are You Burning Toxic Candles?

Candles that smell like delicious treats may not be the best candles to burn in your home. They are toxic candles! They actually fill your room with chemicals while they are emitting their delicious fragrances!

Holiday Pine, Warm Vanilla, and Caramel Latte are my favorite, and now I will finally admit it…I am a recovering candle junkie! When I was a kid, a candle store opened up in our local mall. When I would go to the mall with my girlfriends we could spend hours in there, smelling every one. The smell of the entire store was intoxicating! They smelled like delicious treats and made me hungry just burning them in my room…and Ialwayshad them burning in my room!

Well, it turns out that those candles might not be all that therapeutic and delicious after all. They are toxic candles! They actually fill your room with chemicals while they are emitting their delicious fragrances! Say wha? Don’t worry, you do not have to give up heavenly aromas in your house, you just have to be smart about what you use to create those scents. I will tell you all about it and offer you some awesome alternatives…

First, let’s talk about what exactly is in those candles anyway!

Researchers have shown some scented candles produce smoke laced with almost as many toxins as those produced by cigarettes. Candle emissions have been compared to diesel fumes and second-hand cigarette smoke!

LEAD:Lead can cause a whole host of negative health effects. Exposure to lead can cause anincrease in blood pressure, an increasedchance of having a heart attack or stroke,decrease in brain function, adecrease in kidney function (making it hardto get rid of toxic waste products through your urine!), it canharm the physical and mental development ofyour baby before it’s born andincrease chances of having a miscarriage (raise your hand if you relaxed in the tub with a candle burning while you were pregnant. I did!). They took lead out of paint, now why is it still in our candles?

According to a recent study by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC),40 percent of candles on the market contain lead wires inside their wicks. Most often, the candles with lead wicks are scented candles. Fragrance oils soften the wax, so the manufacturers use lead to make the wicks firmer.A candle with a lead-core wick releases five times the amount of lead considered hazardous for children and exceeds EPA pollution standards for outdoor air, says the CPSC. Exposure to high amounts of lead has been linked to hormone disruption, behavioral problems, learning disabilities, and numerous health problems. (source)

To find out if the wicks in your candles have a metal coreCLICK HERE

PARAFFIN:Paraffin is a petroleum byproduct. Think,industrial waste. When it is heated it gives off carcinogenic soot into the air. This soot is very irritating to our respiratory system and can aggravate a whole host of lung issues. If you or your kids have asthma, you do not want to be burning candles that contain paraffin! The soot can also accumulate in your house, appliances, and ductwork!

In addition to lead and paraffin, candles canifocause low dose, long term exposures to the following:

  • Acetone:Known human respiratory irritant toxicant
  • Benzene: Human development toxicant, human reproductive toxicant (candles off-gas Benzene without even being lit!)
  • 2-Butanone:Known human respiratory toxicant
  • Cresol:Human skin toxicant or allergen
  • Chlorobenzene:Human Sensitizer toxicant or allergen
  • Carbon Monoxide
  • Cyclopentene
  • Ethylbenzene
  • Mercury
  • Phenol: This one is really toxic, click the link to read about it
  • Styrene: This one is also really toxic, click link to read about it
  • Tetrachloroethene
  • Toluene:Persistent or bioaccumulative and moderate to high toxicity concern in humans
  • Trichloroethene
  • Trichloorfluromethane
  • Xylene: Click link to read about it


Fragrance intensity has been proven to have an enormous influence at point-of-sale for consumers, as a result candle manufacturers are dumping increasing amounts of fragranced oils into their wax mixtures –some of these oils are not even suitable for combustion. Candlemanufacturers are not compelled to list or disclose hazardous, toxic or carcinogenic compounds used as ingredients in their products and even more astounding – some will claim they don’t know what compounds are in their product.A spokeswoman for the Federal Trade Commission said there are no restrictions or regulations governing the makers of aromatic candles.

According to the FTC & the CPSC, there are absolutely no regulations or standards pertaining to candle manufacturing, and candle makers are accountable to no one, including the consumer.

So what candles should you buy and what candles should you avoid? Glad you asked!


  • Really inexpensive candles, like the kind you would find at the dollar store. Also avoidbrands like Febreeze and Glade. (note: apparently IKEA’s candles are alllead free)
  • Imported candles (anything “Made in China”)
  • Artificially scented candles and gel candles
  • Candles with a metal core wick

Okay To Use:

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Soy Candles:While I do not eat soy, it is okay in candles because itburns clean, with no harmful fumes.However, I am not a supporter of the GMO business, so I avoid anything soy….even candles. But, if it’s the choice between soy or paraffin, I’ll take the soy!

Beeswax Candles:Though beeswax can be high on the price point, they are totally worth the extra cash. Beeswax is just that: the wax from bees. Directly from the hive.No fillers. No chemicals. That’s IF you buy the right kind! Sadly, many of the “beeswax candles” found in stores are only part beeswax, and the rest is paraffin and other junk. So check your labels. You can buy beeswax online and make your own candles.HEREis my favorite way to buy it. Then you melt it down, add some essential oils and a cotton wick, and you are set! *Note: after I sent this post, my Mom (who makes her own awesome beeswax candles) wanted me to add this in too: Benefits of Beeswax. Thanks, Mom.

Here is a great how-to for making beeswax candles:

My personalFAVORITEalternative to candles has becomemy diffuser! I really love it even above and beyond beeswax candles for a number of reasons:

  • I can change the scent at any time
  • I can change the scent based on my mood and even achieve therapeutic benefits from the different oils
  • When diffusing oils, you are also adding humidity to the air because they are diffused in water vapor. So it’s great to have the diffuser running in the cold winter months when the air is dry. Mine runs from morning til night all winter long!
  • They are completely safe for kids and pets. No flame, means no fire hazard! If the diffuser gets knocked over, it turns off. When the water runs out, it automatically shuts off. (We have had a house fire in the past and I really don’t feel like reliving that nightmare again!)

So, in closing, if you are not ready to give up your candles just yet, then at least follow these recommendations:

  • Trim wick to 1/4″ each time before lighting.
  • Extinguish candle after one hour of continuous burning and allow to cool before relighting.
  • Keep candles out of drafts.
  • Discontinue use of candles that leave a visible soot ring on their container.

….but I HIGHLY recommend switching to beeswax, or if you have kids and need a little essential oil therapy without burning the house down…get a diffuser! Definitely get rid of thosetoxic candles!

What do you use to make your house smell amazing? I would love to hear about it in the comments below!

CLICK HEREto Pin this Recipe

Are You Burning Toxic Candles? | Real Food RN (2)


Are You Burning Toxic Candles? | Real Food RN (3)

Are You Burning Toxic Candles? | Real Food RN (4)

Are You Burning Toxic Candles? | Real Food RN (5)

Are You Burning Toxic Candles? | Real Food RN (6)
Are You Burning Toxic Candles? | Real Food RN (7)
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12 Replies to “Are You Burning Toxic Candles?”

  1. A couple other fun facts about beeswax candles:
    The flame of a beeswax candle produces light at the same spectrum as the sun.
    Beeswax candles are not only non toxic, but they actually purify the air.

    Thank you Bees for all your hard work!


    1. Had no idea beeswax candles purify air!


  2. Great information, thanks! I will add, because I made soy candles for over 10 years, that there are VERY few manufacturers out there that are not using chemical fragrance oil. I always promoted my soy candles as clean and I do love that they don’t have the soot, but since finding Young Living oils, I just can’t bring myself to use the fragrance oils anymore. They are chemicals. And if someone tells you they only use essential oils in their candles, I can almost guarantee they are a cheap variety and I wouldn’t burn those either. So, for myself, I am only using my diffuser from here on out. 🙂


  3. If I might, I’d like to add that there are also coconut wax candles that are safe. Ava Anderson Non-Toxic is one company that makes them — pure organic coconut wax, essential oil scents, and organic cotton wicks. They are even poured by an active duty military family here in the USA, and they smell amazing! Great article Kate!!


  4. I loved this article. I get sick when exposed to most “fragrant” scented candles, and these are the reasons why.

    I am going to share it with my fans on



  5. I am wondering if I could use this blog post and re-post it on my blog? I would definitely link to your page…. and give you full credit! Thanks. This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart.


    1. You are welcome to share on any social media (and please do!). If you want to re-post it on your blog, I would ask that you only post the picture and a snippet of the text and then link to the full article on my blog. Google really frowns upon re-posting of content and a re-post would hurt my traffic. Does this make sense?


  6. This is great! Thank you for the informative facts!

    (Video) Top 5 Best THRILLER Movies on HBO Max Right Now!


  7. Hi Kate,

    A great, thought provoking article. I’ve shared it on our Facebook page.

    I just thought I would touch base and give you a bit more information about soy wax as it is very relevant to the article and discussion.

    Soy (96% of that grown which is genetically modified) is an oil when harvested. The soyabean oil is then chemically bleached to remove colour and aroma using 100% bleach. (By way of comparison, what we use in our laundry’s is about 10% bleach). This chemically bleached oil is then hydrogenated with nickel (a heavy metal) to convert it from a liquid oil into a solid wax. So, in fact, soy wax is chemically bleached, heavy metal hydrogenated oil. There is nothing really natural about it.

    On another note regarding fragrances, regardless of whether an oil is a fragrant oil or an essential oil, it is actually toxic to combust. If you look at the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) of most essential oils it includes a statement along the lines of “The smoke from burning essential oils may contain potential carcinogens, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.” It is, of course, entirely safe to put drops of oil into a diffuser where they are diffused as opposed to combusted.

    Well done on spreading the word.



    1. Thanks for sharing Cate and thanks for the detail into soy candles! Wow! I am so glad that I only use my diffuser now 🙂


  8. Pingback:How Toxic Are Our Homes? You Will Be Surprised!

  9. Pingback:My Family Favorite Homemade Chili Recipe

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Are You Burning Toxic Candles? | Real Food RN? ›

Burning candles does release hydrocarbons into the air, but not enough to pose a significant health risk to most people.

Are candles toxic when burning? ›

Burning candles does release hydrocarbons into the air, but not enough to pose a significant health risk to most people.

Is candle wax toxic if eaten? ›

Candle wax is considered nonpoisonous, but it may cause a blockage in the intestines if a large amount is swallowed. A person who is allergic to the scent or color ingredients in the candle may have an allergic reaction from touching the candle.

What are non-toxic candles to burn? ›

Beeswax candles are the healthiest choice in candles. Made from the caps of bee honeycombs, beeswax candles burn clean, are very long-burning, and give off a pleasant natural fragrance as they burn. Beeswax candles are dripless when burned properly, and release negative ions which help clean the air in a room.

What are the symptoms from toxic candles? ›

Exposure to VOCs can cause headaches or irritation to eyes, nose or throat, nausea, and even damage to the liver, kidneys, or central nervous system. Some VOCs are suspected or proven carcinogens.

Is burning a candle worse than smoking it? ›

That's according to Andrew Sledd, M.D., a Missouri pediatrician who specializes in environmental toxicology. Sledd told KFVS-TV that it only takes an hour of burning a candle to produce the same harmful effects as smoking just one cigarette. He said soot from candles can pose a threat to our respiratory systems.

Is Bath and Body Works candles toxic? ›

What are Bath and Body Works candles made of? Most of these popular scented candles contain ingredients that are potentially toxic or harmful. These include paraffin wax, formaldehyde, and phthalate. While you wouldn't expose yourself to such chemicals on a normal day, you might do so any time you burn these candles.

Is candle wax a carcinogen? ›

Paraffin wax is commonly used to make candles and wax melts because it is generally cheaper to produce than soy wax. Since paraffin wax is derived from petroleum, coal, or shale oil, it has been found to contain known carcinogens (cancer-causing agents) such as benzene.

Is wax toxic to eat? ›

In general, wax is not poisonous. If a child eats a small amount of crayon, the wax will pass through the child's system without causing a problem. However, eating large amounts of wax or crayons can lead to intestinal obstruction.

Is candle wax toxic to breathe? ›

No reputable scientific study has ever shown any candle wax, including paraffin, to be harmful to human health.”

What candle wicks are food safe? ›

"Most wicks are made of cotton or wood, with some even having a metal core, which aren't ideal to accidentally eat as you may have a little bit (or a lot) of indigestion on your hands. Your best bet is to buy edible wicks made of organic hemp and beeswax that you can find on Amazon or in a craft store.

What candles are safe to use indoors? ›

If you must use an actual candle, try beeswax or soy candles. These candles burn cleaner than regular paraffin wax. Beeswax candles clean the air by releasing negative ions into the air which bind with toxins and help remove them from the air.

Are soy wax candles toxic? ›

Soy candles, on the other hand, are non-toxic. They are free of carcinogens and poisons, unlike paraffin candles and even though they may produce a very small amount of soot when burned it is typically much less than that produced by paraffin wax candles.

What are the most toxic candles? ›

An often-quoted study from 2002 finds that paraffin wax candles emit more formaldehyde compared to soy wax candles. Paraffin is derived from petroleum, while beeswax and soy are natural options.

Are candles making you sick? ›

Soot particles can travel deep into the lungs and are a particular health nuisance for those with asthma, and lung or heart disease. To make matters worse, many scented and aromatherapy candles are made with paraffin–a byproduct of oil refining.

Are Bath and Body Works candles safe for cats? ›

Candles, reed diffusers, room sprays and even fragranced cleaning products normally have no adverse effects on cats. The levels of exposure are very low and do not result in any harm.

When should you stop burning a candle? ›

Never touch or move a candle while it is burning or while the wax is liquefied. Don't burn a candle all the way down. For a margin of safety, discontinue burning a candle when 1/2 inch remains in the container or 2 inches if using a pillar candle.

Are candles bad for indoor air quality? ›

Beyond providing ambience, certain types of candles can add toxic pollutants to your indoor air. The biggest offenders? Paraffin wax candles, which are derived from petroleum and release some of the same carcinogenic chemicals as diesel fuel: benzene, toluene, formaldehyde and acetaldehyde.

Do Bath and Body Works candles contain paraffin? ›

What are your candles made out of? Bath & Body Works currently offers two different formulas of wax for our candles. The main ingredients for all formulas are vegetable wax, paraffin wax, and soy. Our Signature Collection Candles are considered vegetable wax candles.

What wax does Yankee candle use? ›

What are Yankee Candles made of? Yankee candles are made from paraffin wax, as well as essential oils for fragrance and cotton for the wicks.

Are there toxic chemicals in candles? ›

Lead wicks aside, burning candles can expose you to potentially hazardous chemicals, such as formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, and acrolein. Though these chemicals can be dangerous, studies conclude that exposure to these chemicals when burning candles is too low to present a direct health hazard.

Are scented candles poisonous? ›

But while scented candles do produce various vapors and particles that can be unsafe to inhale at high doses, research suggests that with typical use, the dose you get is far below what is considered harmful to your health.

Are Yankee Candles carcinogenic? ›

The majority of the candles however contain paraffin wax which is said to be harmful when burned. Paraffin wax comes from petroleum which can emit harmful toxins when burnt into the air, these chemicals and harmful toxins have been named as a group of BTEX which are carcinogenic and therefore harmful to your health.

Are wax melts safer than candles? ›

As wax melts are flame free, they are much safer to use than a burning candle. Some people use electric wax burners rather than melters which use tea-lights, as it's much safer in case there's children present in the house.

Is paraffin wax toxic to eat? ›

Paraffin is usually nontoxic (not harmful) if swallowed in small amounts. Recovery is likely. The person will likely be asked to drink large amounts of fluids to help move the paraffin through the bowel. The exact amount will depend on the person's age and size as well as other medical conditions which may be present.

Are birthday candles edible? ›

Yes, you heard that right, you can burn and eat candles at the same time. All you have to do is use edible materials for it. These candles have become a recent trend at birthday parties and events because these candles can be eaten directly along with the cake.

Does burning a candle clean the air? ›

Beeswax and soy candles usually burn cleaner than paraffin wax. Furthermore, beeswax candles can actually clean your air by releasing some negative ions that easily bind with toxins to help eliminate them from your indoor air.

Where does the wax go when you burn a candle? ›

According to The New York Times, most of a candle's matter actually ends up evaporating into the air. As the wax starts to melt and puddle around the candle's cotton wick, it actually travels upward. The wick soaks it up, and it eventually evaporates into the air as either carbon dioxide or water vapor after it burns.

What are Ikea candles made of? ›

We would like you to know that, today, IKEA's candles are made from Paraffin, Stearin (Stearic Acid), Vegetable wax or a mix of these materials (for example: paraffin and vegetable wax).

Can you use candle containers for food? ›

Empty candle jars can also easily take the place of snack bowls. Whether you're munching on something salty at the end of a long day or entertaining a group of friends with an array of treats, clean candle jars can be a delightful way to serve up your favorites.

What is the healthiest candle wick? ›

To play it safe, look for 100 percent cotton, hemp, or wood wicks.

Are soy candles food safe? ›

You can eat soy wax thats how clean of a product it is and it cleans up easily with some hot water and soap. Soy candles burn up to 50% longer than the alternative waxes.

Should you open a window when burning a candle? ›

When burning a candle, avoid proximity to fans, air conditioners, open windows, or crowded areas with people walking back and forth. Moving air can disturb the flame, resulting in those pesky black marks on the glass.

Are homemade candles non-toxic? ›

To avoid some of the toxins found commonly in candles, make the switch to beeswax or vegetable-based wax candles. These kinds of candles are entirely non-toxic and all-natural, as long as they are 100 percent beeswax or vegetable and not a blend. You'll also want to find a candle with a cotton wick.

What's better soy or beeswax candles? ›

There you have it, when comparing wax, soy wax is arguably better than beeswax due to cost, aesthetics, oil retention, vegan friendly and eco friendly properties. However on sweetness, and burn temperature, beeswax wins out.

Why not to burn soy candles? ›

A candle using soy wax is processed (like other candles) and can have additives (like other candles) to make it burn. There's no significant, scientifically backed evidence to prove that soy wax is in any way less harmful, or cleaner burning than other wax types.

Is 100% soy wax safe? ›

The best candles to look out for are made using 100% GMO free (genetically modified organisms) soy wax. Soy wax burns clean and you won't be filling your home, or your lungs, with potentially deadly smoke, dangerous pollutants or staining your walls and ceilings with black soot.

Is soy wax less toxic? ›

2) Soy wax is cleaner burning and soy candles do not emit the 'diesel-fume' toxins that paraffin candles do. Because these carcinogens are linked to health problems like asthma and even lung cancer, I would definitely choose soy wax over paraffin wax!

What is the cleanest burning candle wax? ›

Beeswax is the oldest known material used for candles, and remains one of the cleanest options. Beeswax is natural, free of toxins, and makes fall candles that provide slow burn. It's considered the cleanest burning candle wax, as it acts as a natural air purifier.

How do you make healthy candles at home? ›

  1. Melt soy wax in a pot over low-medium heat. ...
  2. Once melted, add 80-102 drops of your favorite essential oils. ...
  3. Anchor wicks to bottom of mason jars using a bit of wax.
  4. Tape wick upright to a horizontal chopstick or pen (see picture above).
  5. Pour wax into mason jar and then repeat until all jars are full.
Aug 22, 2022

Are wax melts toxic? ›

Wax melts are safe because they don't create soot, don't contain harmful chemicals, and can be used flame-free. Not only are they good for the environment, but they are safe for your health.

Can scented wax melts make you sick? ›

Wax Melts are Perfectly Safe

Overall, wax melts are safer and better than candles. They aren't bad for you, are completely safe to breathe in, and are better for the environment.

Are essential oils safer than candles? ›

While it does come down to personal choice, essential oils are a safer and cleaner option. A diffuser will eliminate the risk of leaving an open flame unattended while providing you with a subtle yet continuous aroma.

Are beeswax candles bad for you? ›

100% beeswax candles are safe, environmentally friendly, and nontoxic. They are biodegradable and don't undergo any chemical processing. They burn very clean with little smoke since they aren't oil-based like paraffin candles.

Can I burn a lavender candle around cats? ›

Can I Burn Lavender Candles or Essential Oils Around My Cat? Lavender candles and essential oil diffusers are considered safer for use around pets because they contain more diluted essential oils. However, you should still be careful because your cat could find a way to ingest essential oils from a diffuser.

What Bath and Body Works scents are not safe for dogs? ›

Most popular essential oils (including eucalyptus, tea tree, citrus oils, pine, peppermint, etc) are poisonous to dogs in moderate to large doses. All of Bath & Body Works' Wallflower scents contain essential oils, which are then sprayed into the air where they an easily be inhaled by your dog.

Are candles safe for dogs? ›

Most of the time, candles are relatively harmless to dogs and will not make them sick. The common candle waxes, such as soy, paraffin, and beeswax, are all non-toxic and usually soften and pass safely through your dog's digestive system. Soy-based candles in particular are the softest and pose the least amount of risk.

Are scented candles really toxic? ›

Fragrances, VOCs, and soot can all trigger respiratory disease and cause breathing problems, and VOCs, such as acetone benzene and toluene, are harmful for those with asthma and allergies, says Parikh. It's possible that candles made from natural waxes release fewer harmful chemicals.

Are wax melts bad for your health? ›

Wax Melts are Perfectly Safe

Overall, wax melts are safer and better than candles. They aren't bad for you, are completely safe to breathe in, and are better for the environment.

Is it safe to burn a candle in a closed room? ›

Never keep a candle burning in a room that is completely closed off. If a candle is left burning in an enclosed place for an extended period of time, enough carbon monoxide will build up in the room to cause major health problems.

Is it OK to burn scented candles everyday? ›

Lead wicks aside, burning candles can expose you to potentially hazardous chemicals, such as formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, and acrolein. Though these chemicals can be dangerous, studies conclude that exposure to these chemicals when burning candles is too low to present a direct health hazard.

Is it safe to sleep with a scented candle? ›

Candles bring a touch of beauty and warmth to the bedroom. But a burning candle is an open flame and can be dangerous. Avoid sleeping with candles burning, and never leave them unattended. Candles create a calm, relaxing environment and can positively affect our mood.

Can candles cause lung problems? ›

The usage of scented candles 4 times or more in a month, showed to increase the occurrence of chest tightness 1.27 times (95% CI = 0.72–2.23), shortness of breath 1.51 times (95% CI = 0.72–3.18), and nasal allergy 1.27 times (95% CI = 0.71–2.27), though the association was not statistically significant (p > 0.05).

Do candles give off carbon monoxide? ›

“Candles are made of cheap paraffin wax, artificial fragrances, and dyes, and when they are burned, they emit carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, Benzopyrene, and other volatile compounds,” according to OK!

Do wax melts have carcinogens? ›

Paraffin wax is commonly used to make candles and wax melts because it is generally cheaper to produce than soy wax. Since paraffin wax is derived from petroleum, coal, or shale oil, it has been found to contain known carcinogens (cancer-causing agents) such as benzene.

Are wax melts toxic to smell? ›

Why Are Wax Melts a Safe Way to Add Fragrance to Your Home? Wax melts are safe because they don't create soot, don't contain harmful chemicals, and can be used flame-free. Not only are they good for the environment, but they are safe for your health. No lung agitation, respiratory issues, or stained furniture.

Are wax warmers carcinogenic? ›

Different Types of Wax Melts

Recent findings on paraffin wax reveal that they actually contain harmful chemicals such as benzene. This is a known human carcinogen, which means it causes cancer. When burned or melted, this compound leaks into the air.

Why put a glass of water next to a candle? ›

The physical aspect: the candle heats the air and expands it. This cancels the depletion of the oxygen temporarily and the water level stays down. When the oxygen is depleted, the candle goes out and the air cools. The volume of the air decreases and the water rises.

Where is the safest place to leave a candle? ›

The best place to burn a candle is on a stable, heat-resistant surface. So, in addition to keeping your candle in sight, you should find an area away from children, pets, windows or drafts and flammable materials (like furniture, curtains, carpeting, paper, etc.). This will help reduce the risk of candle catastrophes.

What are the rules for burning candles? ›

The National Candle Association urges consumers to follow these rules for candle safety. Always keep a burning candle within sight. Extinguish all candles when leaving a room or before going to sleep. Never burn a candle on or near anything that can catch fire.


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