Candles; most people either love or hate them—but no matter your feelings, it's essential to acknowledge that they may negatively impact the air quality inside your home. Before you throw out your candle stash, we recommend using candles inside your home. Depending on the candle type, you might still be able to enjoy your favorite pillar or tapers.
Does Burning Candles Affect Air Quality? Unfortunately, all candles have the potential to negatively impact indoor air quality over time—especially candles made with synthetic fragrance oils and paraffin wax. The main concern with these materials is the greater production of soot, which, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), may contain phthalates, lead, and volatiles such as benzene and toluene. Airborne soot can irritate the respiratory tract and trigger allergy or asthma symptoms. Over time, soot may adhere to air filters and home ventilation systems—negatively impacting air quality. While frequent candle use may increase soot buildup and diminish indoor air quality, the EPA concludes there is no direct evidence that candle burning in your home is a health hazard. Instead, you should pay attention to any irritations you experience when using certain candles. If the amount of candle soot affects your home's air quality and health, discontinue use.
Are Any Candles Safe to Burn? To minimize any harmful effects of scented candles, choose candles that are unscented or naturally scented candles made of:
- Soy wax
- Palm oil wax
- Vegetable-based wax
- Coconut wax
These candles burn cleaner and longer. Unscented candles typically have a light, natural fragrance. Alternatively, homeowners seeking an alternative may try wax melts, essential oil diffusers, and DIY natural air fresheners.
Are you troubled by stubborn or set-in odors?
Best Practices for Candle Use If you plan to continue use of candles in your home to help minimize indoor air pollutants, the Children's Environmental Health Network advises individuals to:
- Choose candles with a single (ideally pure cotton) wick.
- Trim the wick ¼ inch before lighting to help it burn evenly.
- Pay attention to the burning patterns—the wax should burn evenly.
- Discontinue using candles that create heavy soot around the container or surrounding area.
- Increase ventilation when burning.
- Only burn candles for 1–2 hours.