Scented candles are far more than just pretty decorations or fleeting trends. They are a small source of joy that allows us to transform our home into an oasis of calm and relaxation. With the subtle burning of a single candle, a room can be instantly transformed into a place of comfort and security. But while we fall in love with the soft scent and flickering light, we rarely ask ourselves the question: what exactly is burning?
In a world where sustainability is becoming increasingly important, it’s even more important to know that not all candles are created equal. While some scented candles may indeed contain toxic chemicals, there are others that are made from environmentally friendly materials and do not pollute the air in our homes.
For climate-conscious and sustainability-minded people, lighting a candle without knowing exactly what it’s releasing into the air can be unsettling. And this is exactly where our article comes in. Not only is it important to know what scents we like, but also what ingredients are used in the candles that give off those scents. This way, we can ensure that we can enjoy scented candles without hesitation and at the same time contribute to a healthier and more sustainable environment.
Read the ingredients carefully
When buying scented candles, it is essential to check the ingredients carefully. Many commercial candles may contain substances that release harmful vapours when burned. Reading the label can help you make a wise and healthy decision. It’s a bit like reading a food label: you want to know what you’re consuming and what impact it has on your health and the environment.
Here are some of the most common ingredients in candles and how to evaluate them:
A by-product of petroleum refining. When burned, it can release toxic fumes, especially incomplete combustion products such as benzene and toluene (Source: US Environmental Protection Agency, EPA).
- Rating: Not recommended for environmentally and health-conscious buyers.
- Hazard: Moderate to High. Regular use in poorly ventilated areas is of particular concern.
Often obtained from animal fats, which makes it problematic for vegans. However, there are also plant-based alternatives.
- Assessment: Check the origin before buying.
- Danger: Low. The main concern is ethical.
May contain chemicals that are harmful to health when burned, especially phthalates (source: US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, NIEHS).
- Assessment: Better to avoid and prefer natural fragrances.
- Danger: Variable, depending on the specific chemical and the quantity in the candle.
Some wicks may contain lead, which is released into the air during combustion (Source: US Consumer Product Safety Commission, CPSC).
- Assessment: Avoid at all costs.
- Danger: High. Inhalation of lead vapours can cause significant health problems, especially in children.
By consciously reading the ingredients, you can ensure that you choose a candle that not only smells wonderful but is also safe for your health and the environment.
Opt for plant-based wax
Wax is the main material used to make candles, and choosing the right wax can make a significant difference to your health, the environment and, of course, vegans. While many commercially available candles are made from kerosene wax, a by-product of petroleum refining, there are more sustainable and healthier alternatives that are plant-based.
Soy wax: One of the best-known plant-based waxes is soy wax. It is made from the oils of the soybean, burns cleaner and produces significantly less soot than kerosene. It is an excellent option for vegans as it is completely plant-based and is often grown without pesticides or herbicides.
Palm wax: Palm wax can be sustainable if it comes from responsible sources. It is characterized by its beautiful crystalline structure and burns for a long time. Anyone who values sustainability – vegan or not – should ensure that the palm wax used is sustainably sourced to prevent habitat destruction and threats to animal species. It’s an important consideration for anyone who wants to make a commitment to preserving our environment.
Coconut wax: This wax is made from coconut oil and is a great vegan and sustainable option. It has a low melting point and ensures an even and clean burn.
Tips for vegans:
Proof: Look for certificates or seals that confirm that the wax is plant-based and made without animal products or by-products.
- Vegan Society Trademark: This is one of the oldest and best-known vegan seals in the world.
- V-Label: An internationally recognized label for the identification of vegan and vegetarian products.
- PETA’s Cruelty-Free and Vegan Logo: This logo shows that the product has not been tested on animals and contains no animal ingredients.
Support local brands: Often smaller, local candle manufacturers have more transparent production methods and use vegan and sustainable materials.
Check fragrance source
To recognize herbal fragrances in a product, you should read the ingredients: Always look at a product’s ingredient list. Essential oils and other botanical fragrances are often listed by their specific names or as “natural fragrances”.
Avoid the term “perfume” or “fragrance”: If you only see “perfume” or “fragrance” in the ingredient list, without further specification, it may mean that the fragrance is a combination of natural and synthetic ingredients. While there are synthetic fragrances that are vegan, if you want to be sure that a fragrance is of plant origin, you should look for products that clearly state their fragrance source.
Certificates and seals: Some certificates and seals not only guarantee that a product is vegan, but also that it contains natural ingredients. Labels such as “Nature”, “BDIH” or “Ecocert” can be helpful here.
Check with the manufacturer: If you are unsure, do not hesitate to contact the manufacturer directly. You can ask specific questions about the fragrances used.
Self-education: Get to know the most common plant-based fragrances and their Latin names. For example, if you see “Lavandula angustifolia oil” (lavender oil) on a product, you know it’s a plant-based fragrance.
Prefer transparent brands: Brands that value transparency and ethics often provide detailed information about their ingredients and where they come from.
By choosing plant-based wax, you are not only contributing to a healthier home but also supporting a more sustainable and animal-friendly world. It’s a small step with a big impact.
Buy candles with wicks made of cotton or wood
Choosing the right wick for your candle is just as important as the choice of wax. The wick affects how the candle burns, how much fragrance is released and whether harmful chemicals are released into the air. It is therefore crucial to choose candles that are made with wick materials from responsible sources.
Cotton wicks: These are the most commonly used wicks and tend to burn evenly and cleanly. When choosing cotton wicks, you should make sure that they have not been treated with harmful chemicals. In addition, they should not be reinforced with a metal core, especially lead, as this can release harmful vapours when burning.
Wood wicks: These not only offer an aesthetically pleasing flame pattern and a soothing crackle, but they are also an environmentally friendly alternative to conventional cotton wicks. They generally produce a wider flame and give the feeling of a mini fireplace. Wood wicks should be made from sustainably grown timber or waste wood to ensure that no trees have been felled just for wicks.
Why is the choice so important? It’s not just about aesthetics or burning behaviour. A good quality wick will ensure that the candle burns efficiently, spreading the fragrance better and producing less soot.
Before buying, you should therefore always check what material the wick is made of and where this material comes from. A cotton or wooden wick can be a healthier and more environmentally friendly choice for your home.
Choose sustainable brands
At a time when sustainability is becoming more and more important, consumers should make sure to support brands that are aware of this responsibility. When it comes to scented candles, sustainable brands are those that offer not only high-quality products but also environmentally and health-friendly ones.
Sustainable candle brands often use natural, biodegradable and renewable materials. They do not use harmful chemicals in their fragrances and rely on recyclable or reusable packaging. They also often participate in social and environmental initiatives to make a positive contribution to society.
Why choose sustainable brands?
Environmental awareness: These brands pay attention to the environmental footprint of their products, from sourcing raw materials to packaging.
Safety and health: They often use purer ingredients that do not release harmful chemicals into the air when the candle burns.
Supporting good practices: Buying from sustainable brands promotes ethical and responsible business practices in the industry.
How do you recognize a sustainable brand?
Seals and certificates: Look out for environmental seals or organic certificates that confirm the brand’s sustainability efforts.
Transparency: The best brands are transparent about their production processes, ingredients and origin of materials.
Customer reviews: A quick look at reviews can give you an indication of a brand’s quality and ethics.
Cosiness meets sustainability: a conscious path to a feel-good atmosphere
By supporting sustainable brands, you can not only scent your home pleasantly but also contribute to a better and more responsible world. It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved.
By making conscious purchasing decisions, we can ensure that the candles that light and scent our homes not only transform our space but have also been produced responsibly and sustainably. From reading the ingredients to opting for plant-based wax and sustainable wicks to supporting eco-friendly brands, every step brings us closer to a home that is both cosy and environmentally conscious.
Checklist: How to recognize pollutant-free candles
- Read the ingredients carefully: Avoid candles with kerosene wax, synthetic fragrances and wicks containing lead.
- Prefer plant-based wax: Choose soy, palm or coconut wax and look out for vegan certificates.
- Check the fragrance source: Prefer candles scented with essential oils or natural fragrances and avoid the term “fragrance” without further specification.
- Choose wicks made of cotton or wood: Avoid wicks with metal cores and look for cotton wicks that have not been chemically treated.
- Support sustainable brands: Buy from brands that are committed to environmental protection, social engagement and transparent business practices.