Candle With Care: Is Your Candle Toxic?

Candles are a wick-ed way to set the mood, but did you know that they could be harmful to your health? The truth is, most candles are created with paraffin wax, which releases toxic chemicals into the atmosphere that’s harmful to both the environment and your health.

burning candles
Source: Unsplash

What’s Wrong With “Normal” Candles?

Most candles on the market are made from paraffin wax because it is cheap and easily accessible. But FYI, paraffin is a byproduct of crude oil and is incredibly toxic when inhaled. 

Paraffin Wax

Literally every part of paraffin candles (especially scented ones) are actually pretty dangerous. While you’re basking in the calming glow and breathing in the sweet perfume, your candle is releasing carcinogenic chemicals, like benzene and toluene, which can be just as dangerous to your health as secondhand smoke.

Paraffin wax candles also release soot, which contains chemicals similar to those found in diesel exhaust, while vegetable-based and natural waxes such as coconut wax and soy wax produce far less soot. 

Candle Wicks

Candle wicks are also harmful. Some of them contain heavy metals, especially in candles manufactured in China or Taiwan. Candles with lead-core wicks release more lead than is considered hazardous and they contribute to air pollution.


Synthetic fragrances usually contain phthalates, which, when inhaled or absorbed through the skin, can irritate allergy symptoms and asthma.

Candles scented with synthetic fragrances also release particulate matter into the air, including known carcinogens formaldehyde and benzene. This is because the artificial fragrance is derived from petrochemicals.

Put off yet? Here’s what to look for instead!

What Should Candles Be Made Of Instead?

Candles that are made from natural and nontoxic ingredients are best for the environment and your health. Look for candles made from soy wax, vegetal wax and coconut wax. Soy is plant-based, biodegradable and burns cleaner than paraffin wax. Soy wax also burns up to 50% longer than paraffin wax because it has a lower melting point than paraffin wax.

Vegetal wax is great for improving fragrance load and emits a cleaner, longer burn, while coconut wax candles actually burn the cleanest and longest of all sustainable waxes and it can blend perfectly with other natural, harder waxes, which is why it is usually seen in wax blends and why it is widely used in candle making.

For fragrances, try to make sure that the brand uses essential oils or other natural sources. For wicks, make sure that the brand uses eco-friendly materials, like cotton, paper, wood or bamboo. Bonus points if the candles come in glass jars so you can reuse it again and again after the candle is finished.

Thankfully, it’s becoming easier to find candles that aren’t harmful to the environment. By protecting yourself, you’re also protecting the planet, all while creating a home atmosphere that’s cosy and inviting.

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See also: How To: Make Your Own Herbal Teas