How to burn candles safely for good indoor air quality

Candles have become a major part of the #selfcare craze—they promote relaxation, reduce anxiety and stress, and even improve sleep. Among all of these benefits, though, one downside sneaks in under the radar—is your candle negatively impacting your indoor air quality?

Burn time matters.

Letting your candles burn for hours on end creates an element of coziness that’s hard to replicate doing anything else. However, the National Candle Association tells consumers they should keep an eye out for manufacturers' recommendations for burn time. Burning a candle for too long can cause carbon to collect on a candle’s wick—causing it to “mushroom.” When a candle wick mushrooms, it becomes unstable and starts to release smoke and soot into the air. Generally speaking, candles should not be left to burn for longer than four hours, and should cool for two hours before relighting.

Chemicals release into the air.

Candles have a particular way of contributing to the indoor air pollution problem—emitting particulate matter (or candle soot) into the air you breathe.

The most popular candles on the market today are paraffin-based, which which is derived from petroleum. Scientists from South Carolina State University found that paraffin candle smoke emits doses of pollutants including benzene, toluene, and ketones into the air that have been linked to cancer, asthma and birth defects.

Our beloved candles pack a punch when it comes to their potential hidden dangers. For example, a 2018 study conducted by the University of Copenhagen found that particles from burning candles were as harmful to mice as diesel fumes—making you second-guess the element of relaxation a candle ushers into your room after a long day.

How to use candles safely

Fortunately, there are a handful of ways to combat the chemicals emitted into the air from prolonged candle usage or using the “wrong” type of candle. Check out our tips for lighting up your candle game.

  • Natural ingredients are king.The first step is bypassing those paraffin candles and saying “yes” to candles made from more natural ingredients, like beeswax or soy. These alternatives may come at a heftier price tag, but they’re also known to burn at a slower rate than traditional candles.
  • Essential oils. If you’re in search of a spa-like experience in your home with added health benefits, give essential oils a try. Essential oils are naturally extracted compounds from plants that can be used for aromatherapy, or even applied to the skin after they’ve been diluted with a carrier oil.
  • Flameless candles. You can enjoy the same relaxing candle vibes without the flame. Try a flame-free alternative, and still receive all of its great benefits.

Looking for more ways to improve the health of your home? Check out more healthy air tips and other ways to have a healthy home.

Learn more about keeping a healthy home