Candles: Are They Affecting Your Air Quality?

Candles: Are They Affecting Your Air Quality?

Understanding the Effect of Candles on Air Quality

Candles can make the ambiance of a home cozy and warm with the various smells they deliver. However, that doesn't mean they don't do any damage. 

Over time, all candles—even those made with natural fragrant oils and beeswax—can potentially harm indoor air quality by releasing harmful chemicals into the air.

 The Effect of Candles on Air Quality

Effects of Scented Candles on Air Quality

Scented candles made with petroleum-derived paraffin (or petroleum wax) are the worst when it comes to the different kinds of candles you can burn. Even though this is the most popular kind of candle, it releases the most toxins into your home, damaging indoor air quality.

Paraffin wax (Scented Candles)

A 2017 study by the International Journal of Tropical Disease and Health discovered that paraffin candles emit pollutants that can threaten human health and shouldn't be burned in enclosed areas when burned. This wax can release toxic volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, into the air. Just some of these compounds include:

  • Alkenes
  • Acetone
  • Benzene
  • Toluene

These chemicals are also in diesel fumes and can cause numerous health problems, including respiratory issues, allergic reactions, asthmatic attacks, and skin conditions due to irritated skin.

Emission of Soot from Scented Candles

Burning paraffin creates soot containing ultrafine particulate matter such as PM2 5. They can be in the air for several days, even after the candle has been put out. A study by the U.S. EPA found that candles produce more soot than any other source of indoor pollution. 

Chemical Fragrances

Synthetic fragrances and dyes used in most available scented candles emit extremely harmful VOCs even when they haven't been burned or are no longer burning. These fragrances emit many of the same VOCs that were listed above and also include the following:

  • Formaldehyde
  • Petroleum distillates
  • Limonene
  • Alcohol
  • Esters

Types of Candle Safe for the Air Quality

Petroleum-based candles aren't the only candles out on the market. To minimize the harmful effects of scented candles, choose unscented or naturally scented candles of a more natural material. Look at the following list of waxes that are much safer than paraffin:

  • Soy wax
  • Beeswax
  • Palm oil wax
  • Vegetable-based wax
  • Coconut wax

Scented Candle and Air Quality

Effects of Scented Candles on Human Health

Scented candles harm both your indoor air quality and your health. Look at the following health problems:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Allergy symptoms
  • Asthma attacks
  • Respiratory tract infections
  • Cancer

How to Minimize the Negative Effect of Candles on Air Quality?

All these drawbacks don't mean you can't ever burn your favorite candles again. You can minimize the effect of candles on your air quality through the following tips and tricks. 

Proper Wick Size

  • Each time before lighting your candle, trim the wicking material so that it reaches at least 1/4 inch from the top of the jar. Avoid wicks that aren't thick or have a metal rod inside them. When you light your candle, the wicks should be thin, twisted, and curled over. 

Avoid Containers

  • Containers with narrow mouth openings will cause unsteady airflow. Not only will this make even burning your candle difficult and lower the quality of your candle, but it can also increase the chances of your candle container breaking. 


  • Use freestanding candles instead of candleholders to prevent wax from dripping on furniture. It can also diminish the chances of lit candles falling over. 


  • Only use candles in rooms with good circulation; you don't want them to expose them to strong winds. That said, air circulation keeps soot from clouding the air and making breathing difficult. 

One Hour Maximum

  • Spacing out the use of your candles keeps your air cleaner. Only burn your candles for an hour at a time and let them sit for 30 minutes before relighting them.

You Can Use the Following Alternative in the Place of Candles

After realizing the effects of scented candles, if you still want to have the pleasant ambiance and aroma in your home, here are safer ways to permeate the air:

Use Essential Oils for Fragrance

Essential oils in a diffuser or bath are great ways to add some lovely scent into the air without the damage of candles.

Simmer Spices

In boiling water, add your favorite fruits and spices to let their aroma in the air.

Create Potpourri

Use fresh vegetables, herbs, flowers, berries, fruit peels, and woodchucks, put them in bowls or bags, and place them around the house.

Candle Warmer

A candle warmer requires no flame and warms the waxy substance inside a candle without emitting any soot or VOCs.


Use a diffuser to burn fragrant oils around the house.

Best Practices to Consider While Using a Candle

  • Buy candles with a single cotton wick
  • Trim the wick ¼ inch before lighting to help it burn evenly.
  • Have your candles burn evenly.
  • Don't use candles that emit a ton of smoke.
  • Increase ventilation when burning.
  • Only burn candles for 1–2 hours at a time.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the Best Alternatives?

Natural alternatives to synthetic candles, like soy and beeswax, are much better for air quality. Did you know that about 91% of the soy grown in the United States is genetically modified?

What are the environmental effects of candles?

Candles emit PM2.5 particles into the air you breathe when burning. This lowers your air quality as soot and other particles are stuck in the air. 

What are the Health Effects of Paraffin Candles?

A study by South Carolina State University scientists revealed that paraffinic candles emit dangerous levels of chemicals into the atmosphere that have been linked to cancer and birth defects. These chemicals also lead to respiratory problems and asthmatic attacks.

What is a mushroom?

Burning a candle for too long can cause carbon to collect on a candle's wick, which causes it to “mushroom.” This means that the candle becomes unstable, releasing smoke and soot into the air in a mushroom-like shape.

Final Thoughts

Even after switching to natural alternative methods for making your home smell good, you still may be left with smoke in the air. In this case, ensure your air filter is clean and working to the best of its ability so it can remove the soot from the air and 99.7 percent of all particles. 

Airzey provides you with high-quality air filters that will keep your home smelling fresh and eliminate any hazards candles may cause. Check out these filters to learn more about how they can improve your home.