Have you noticed how far scented holiday candles have progressed from the old standard “pine” fragrance? This season you can fire-up your festive mood with scents as incredible as “eggnog,” “Christmas cookies,” “snow” and even “Christmas Eve” (but where are the “Hannukkah” scented candles?).
Most of the candles available are made from paraffin wax, which is petroleum-based, so they are not from a renewable resource. They also contain a complex concoction of chemicals to produce these fragrances. These candles actually create soot and contribute pollution to your indoor air.
Buying natural beeswax or soy candles are excellent options because they are made from renewable resources and most likely won’t pollute your indoor air. However, even with these types of greener candles there are a few important considerations to make before you buy.
Beeswax candles don’t really need to be scented because they are already subtly sweet-smelling when they burn. If you want a stronger scent, make sure it’s from 100 percent natural essential oil. Recently, I noticed a prominent candlemaker from the East Coast selling greener soy candles but with no indication on the label that the scents come from natural essential oils. These candles are most likely scented the same way all of their other candles are scented: with toxic chemicals.
Look for candles with cotton wicks as opposed to metal wicks, which can contain lead and make the candle burn faster.
Size and purpose
When choosing a candle, think about how you will use it. Will you light it in the afternoon and leave it burning as you while away the hours engrossed in your novel? Or will you light it to set the mood for dinner and blow it out as soon as the last bite of tiramisu has disappeared? The longer you burn the candle each time you light it, the wider you can go. But if you buy a wide candle and only burn it for short periods, you’ll end up burning it straight down from the wick and waste a lot of the candle.
For example, a candle that is two inches in diameter should burn for at least two hours at any one time to establish a wide enough burn pool so that you’ll use up more of the candle. A 3-inch diameter candle should burn for at least four hours at any one time.
Candles can be a great way to scent your home and create a romantically festive mood. But it’s important to buy candles that burn clean and green and use them wisely so you don’t end up tossing them before their time.
Kimberly Delaney is the author of Clean Home, Green Home: The Complete Illustrated Guide to Eco-Friendly Homekeeping, published by the Knack imprint of Globe Pequot Press.