By far, one of the most difficult things for our family to give up when we switched to living a healthier, non-toxic lifestyle was scented candles.
There’s just something incredibly calming and homey about a glowing candle and a slight scent wafting through the air.
Unfortunately, the candles we used to use on a regular basis may actually be quite toxic.
Before I really understood the purpose of living a non-toxic lifestyle, we lit a candle in our living room and let it burn for a few hours. Later that evening, I blew my nose and it was BLACK. I ended up having soot in my nose for about 24 hours after that.
We threw that candle away pretty quick.
Now, many years later, I’ve been on the hunt for the best non-toxic candles because a diffuser just isn’t the same.
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What are the Best Non-Toxic Candles?
Now that I’ve done the research, I wanted to share my findings with you! Below, I’ve listed my favorite non-toxic candles, and I invite you to share yours in the comments if I missed any!
Fontana Candle Company
Fontana Candles are my top pick. This is partially because they’re the only candle company that’s certified MADE SAFE®. Since beeswax alone is very thick and doesn’t hold a scent very well, their candles are made from a combination of beeswax and coconut oil, which will leave your home smelling incredible every time you light them up. All of Fontana’s candles are made with 100% pure essential oils and don’t contain any harmful dyes or colorings. Plus, anytime you shop with Fontana, you’re supporting a small, family-owned business that’s based in the U.S. (Pennsylvania).
Big Dipper Candles
Big Dipper Candles are made with 100% pure beeswax and scented with pure essential oils. Their 100% cotton wick is primed with beeswax (instead of paraffin wax, which some otherwise “natural” companies still use), and they have a commitment to the environment that puts a pep in our step. They limit their packaging as much as possible, reuse packing materials (like wrappers and packing peanuts), and use compostable materials whenever possible.
Possibly the most unique candles on our list are the Wellness Candles from Bee Lucia. These candles are made in Portland, Oregon with a mixture of beeswax and coconut oil, and they also have natural crystals inside them (like amethyst) to help promote good energy throughout your home. They only use pure essential oils and use a 100% cotton wick. Depending on the size candle you order, you’re looking at a 20-40 hour burn time.
Lite + Cycle
If you’re looking for something that’s vegan-friendly (beeswax isn’t), Lite + Cycle has a terrific line of non-GMO soy wax candles. Their candles are not mixed with paraffin wax (some soy waxes are blended with paraffin to make them less expensive), and they use a 100% cotton wick. We really love how open they are about their ingredients though. They have a full list of ingredients on every product page, and they also list their ingredients on their packaging. If you’re looking for a strong scent, try Urban Forest or Vetiver.
Pure Plant Home
We love these coconut wax candles from Pure Plant Home, and we love the mother-daughter brand story too. These candles are hand-poured in California, and they’re one of the least expensive on our list. In fact, you can get them through Thrive Market at a discount! Choose from 5 incredible scents (or buy them all!).
Made with 100% coconut oil, Terralite is very open and honest about their ingredients. They use pure essential oils and a hemp core wick, so there is no fear of heavy metal exposure. They also have non-GMO rice bran wax candles that are blended with coconut oil to create the perfect melt. Not only are their candles healthier for your home though, the company is also helping to improve the environment. Terralite is 100% solar-powered, uses recycled materials for their packaging (including the glass and label), and they offer carbon neutral shipping. Plus, the company is a member of 1% for the Planet and donates 1% of their sales to environmental organizations.
Woodlot is the only non-U.S. company on our list. Made in Canada, these candles are made with a blend of non-GMO soy wax and coconut wax. The scents are created with pure essential oils, and the largest candle (the double-wick) burns up to 60 hours — one of the longest burn times of every other candle on our list. If you don’t know which scent to choose, the Original is their most popular, and it’s a great start.
How are Candles Toxic?
Candles are typically made from three things: wax, fragrance of some sort, and a wick. So you may be wondering how they can be toxic. Unfortunately, all three of these ingredients can actually pose a health risk, releasing VOCs like formaldehyde into the air. This is especially harmful when the candles are burned in a confined space with little ventilation (like the bathroom). Let’s talk a little more about each risk.
You know we talk about fragrance a lot here, so I had to add it to the list. You’ll find fragrance in many home products, including air fresheners and candles. Fragrances are protected by the FDA because they’re considered to be a trade secret. This means companies do not have to list the ingredients that they use in their fragrances. Unfortunately, this gives companies a loophole to add a ton of toxic ingredients to their products. Ingredients that have been linked to reproductive issues, development problems, allergies, and hormone disruption. Fragrances also often include phthalates, a harmful group of preservatives that are shown to mimic estrogen, leading to reproductive issues, cancer, birth defects, and a lower sperm count in men.
The main part of the candle, the wax, can be quite harmful too. Both to our bodies and to the environment around us. Most candles on the market today are made with paraffin wax, which is toxic.
It’s a petroleum by-product that releases VOCs into the air when burned, including acetone, toluene, and benzene (which is a known carcinogen). Actually, some studies have shown that benzene is released even when the candle isn’t lit.
What’s more, paraffin wax can emit soot particles that can do similar damage as secondhand smoke (which must have been what I experienced in the story I told you at the beginning of this post).
Be very careful when selecting candles, even candles that are labeled “natural” because sometimes paraffin wax is added to other waxes as a filler. This is because it’s less expensive than other waxes and it may have a better burn.
Many articles talk a lot about the dangers of lead wicks, but, fortunately, this isn’t something we have to worry about too much in the U.S. In 2003, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) banned all production and sales of candles with lead wicks. Even if you happen to have a candle that was made before this ban, you’re likely in the clear because the National Candle Association stopped using lead wicks in the 70s.
All that being said, metal-core wicks are still used regularly, and they can emit heavy metals (like lead) into the air.
What to Look for in Non-Toxic Candles
Don’t worry though. It’s not all gloom and doom. There are some great non-toxic scented candles out there. You just have to do your research to find them (or check out the list above because I already did the research for you!).
Here’s what to look for when you’re searching for the best non-toxic candles:
Check to see if the company is using pure essential oils (no synthetic fragrances!). Unfortunately, essential oils are not regulated, so some companies use fillers that make them just as toxic as synthetics.
Cotton, wood, or hemp wick
As we mentioned above, some candles use a wick with a metal core. To avoid exposure to heavy metals, we recommend finding candles with a 100% cotton, wood, or hemp wick.
With non-toxic candles, there are a few different options for wax. The most popular waxes are coconut wax, beeswax, and soy wax.
Coconut Wax. Coconuts are a renewable and sustainable resource, and if you’re looking for something that vegan, coconut wax candles are a great option. They have a long burn time, and they hold scent very well.
Beeswax. We love beeswax because it can actually improve the overall air quality of your home, and it’s naturally drip-free. Beeswax is heavy and doesn’t hold a scent as well though, so many brands mix it with other waxes to get the perfect blend. (Just make sure it’s not blended with paraffin wax!)
Soy wax. Possibly the most popular non-toxic candle wax, soy wax is easily found on the shelves of your local health stores. Unfortunately, soy is often treated with loads of chemicals, which can be harmful to our health. For this reason, be sure to seek out organic, non-GMO soy wax candles.
How to Make Non-Toxic Candles
If you really want to go the extra mile (or you’re without power and in need of some lighting, like we were during Texas’s 2021 snow-pocalypse), it’s actually quite easy to make non-toxic candles on your own.
All you have to do is melt beeswax and/or coconut wax until it forms into a liquid (add pure essential oils if you’d like), pour into a jar, and add a 100% cotton or hemp wick. You can hold the wick up with a clothespin until the wax hardens.
It may take some time to get your ratios perfect, but it will totally be worth it when you do because you’ll save so. much. money. Especially if you love candles as much as we do.
Let us know if you have anything else to add, or if you’ve tried any of the candles we mentioned above!
If you’re really into DIY-ing, you may be interested in learning about natural emulsifiers and emulsifying wax too.
And if you’d like your home to look as clean as it smells, check out our Norwex reviews. We’ve found some great alternatives to their products!