Scented candles may seem like a good way to cover odors or create ambiance in your home, but there are some hidden dangers you should know about before igniting the flame. Scented candles can be either healthy or extremely dangerous (nothing in between) based on the ingredients used. When burning, dangerous chemicals emitted in toxic scented candles are comparable to the dangers of breathing diesel exhaust fumes.
Unhealthy candles are always dangerous, burning or not. Keeping them open at home or being inside the store that sells unhealthy candles is dangerous for your health, even without burning these slightly evaporate toxic substances in the air.
If the candle is free of the toxic substances, the company will advertise that, but if not, it likely means their products are health hazardous.
Ideally, candle wax is paraffin-free, but surprisingly, 95% of candles on the market today are made with paraffin. When burned, paraffin (which is a petrochemical obtained from petroleum waste) creates toxic benzene and toluene chemicals (*1/2), both of which are known carcinogens.
The luxury brands use paraffin more than the cheap ones, taking advantage of current regulations where they are not legally required to disclose the ingredients within their candles. A general rule of thumb is that if a brand does not explicitly say 'PARAFFIN-FREE' as it relates to its candles, the brand is using paraffin in its candle. And don't fall for the words "soy base/blend" since "base/blend" is more than likely code for paraffin, which means the wax used is topped or blended with paraffin, or when you’re unable to find ingredients listed on their websites it means pure paraffin wax is used.
When burning, paraffin wax has a high melting point (it’s made from petroleum) that overburns safe fragrances, which forces those companies to use dangerous heat-resistant unhealthy fragrances. What's more, the uncertified fragrances and dyes often used can also release harmful chemicals when burned, triggering asthma attacks and allergies.
Petroleum-based chemicals called phthalates are mass used in fragrances. More than two decades ago, scientists began building a body of work indicating that phthalates like DEHP and DBP can be a powerful reproductive and developmental toxicant (*3) known to cause a broad range of birth defects and lifelong reproductive impairment. Another general rule of thumb is that if a brand does not explicitly say 'PHTHALATE-FREE' as it relates to its candles, the brand is using phthalates in its candle.
Danger in certain mass-produced corporate and machine-made candles are the wicks. The ideal wick in a candle is made of natural cotton and completely metal free, but many candles are still made with a lead wire wick so that when the wax is being poured the wick stays rigid keeping it from folding in under the pressure of the melted wax. It’s important to note that there are lead-free wicks that are still made of metal, those are usually containing dangerous zinc. When burning candle, be more concerned what is burning, than how it burns, keep in mind that even a “clean burning” candle can still throw toxicants into the air that your lungs will need to process. Remember, car engine exhaust also produces a visibly clean burn. It's what's inside the candle that counts, what ingredients are used, not how it burns.
Toxic to Aquatic Life. Chemicals included in the category of aquatic toxicity represent a substantial damage to living organisms and human health through aquatic exposure. Effects include among others, damage to the reproductive, immune, endocrine and/or nervous systems, cancer and even death (*4).
1. “Frequent use of certain candles produces unwanted chemicals”, Dr. Ruhullah Massoudi, South Carolina State University, August 24, 2009
2. “Aromatic (Benzene, Toluene) Toxicity”, Christina M. Vitale and Scott Gutovitz, Last Update January 20, 2019
3. “Not Too Pretty: Phthalates, Beauty Products & the FDA”, Jane Houlihan, Charlotte Brody and Bryony Schwan, July 8, 2002
4. "Aquatic Toxicity: Toxic to Aquatic Life"
Trim the wick to ¼ inch every time before you burn candle!
Container candles are designed for longer burn sessions, so they do better when you let them burn to the full melt pool (wax liquefies all the way across the container edge to edge), larger liquefied area means more fragrance will evaporate, the candle will smell more. Also that way, you will not get the tunneling effect down the middle.
Safety first: Burn the candle within sight. Keep away from drafts and vibrations. Keep out of reach of children and pets. Never burn the candle on or near anything that can catch fire. Keep candle free of any foreign materials including matches and wick trimmings.
Only burn the candle on a level, fire resistant surface. Do not burn the candle for more than 4 hours at a time. Stop burning your candle when only ¼ inch of wax remains. Never extinguish a candle by putting on the lid.
Olfactory sensations refer to our sense of smell. The sense of smell is directly interwoven into our sense of taste. The importance of smell and taste is represented in our spoken language:
1. “What a rotten person he is.
2. “That is a stinky idea.”
3. “He seems honest but I smell a rat.”
4. “I love the aroma of coffee.”
All of us have many visual and emotional associations to certain smells and aromas. When I smell chlorine I immediately think of swimming in a pool and that evokes childhood summertime memories. It is common to have a hungry reaction to the smell of baking bread or to the fragrance of a newly baked loaf. The smell of a freshly cut lawn makes me really good and can change my mood from irritable to happy. Let’s not forget the wonderful smell of food cooking on the stove and even the aromas connected to certain foods such steak or fish. It makes me think of home, warmth, comfort. The list goes on and, perhaps, you can think of your own favorite olfactory sensations and the memories and images that are evoked.
There is a strong association between our sense of smell and sex and passion. Men and women use perfumes and colognes in an effort to attract the opposite sex. Remember the movie, “The Scent of a Woman.” In other words, we associate sense with desire.
The sense of smell can and should be used to reduce tension and stress. That is why there is a relaxing, stress reducing type of spa treatment called aromatherapy, much like massage therapy, but using pleasant scents to arrive at the same goal.
Here are a few scents that can be used for a number of purposes:
1. Peppermint to help feel more active and energetic.
2. Jasmine to aid sleep.
3. Lavender, one of my favorites, to induce relaxation.
4. Vanilla to help with weight loss.
These happy sensations and visualizations have been used to reduce anxiety and depression as well as stress. What is especially nice is that using pleasant odors and visualizations costs no money at all. Think of it as free therapy.
In using the sense of smell to reduce stress remember to combine it with pleasant visualizations. As stated above, the smell of chlorine reminds me of swimming. Each person has their own set of associations that come in the form of pictures and memories. I love the sense of smell that happens near the ocean, that aroma of salt water makes me picture waves hitting the beach, something I find very relaxing.
What are your pleasant associations between certain of your favorite fragrances and happy mental pictures? By the way, this can and should include tastes. The word “sweet” is both olfactory and taste at the same time.
By Allan N. Schwartz, Ph.D.
Work. Family. Bills. The Future. These are a few of the life factors that are stressful to the average person. When many biologists study stress, especially from a hormonal perspective, we focus on how these various sources of stress are transformed into hormonal signals in the body. Research has demonstrated that our abilities to detect low (read: weak) concentrations of both smell and taste stimuli are significantly impeded by stress. The longer or more severe the stress, the more impaired our abilities to smell and taste. For instance, when you eat something pleasing, say, a piece of wedding cake, your body releases tons of signals that travel through your bloodstream and nervous system to activate other processes.
What Happens When You Have Your Cake and Eat it too
When you eat that piece of cake, the first experiences are the taste, smell and flavor of the food. You taste the sweetness of the sugar and the richness of the butter in the icing. These experiences result from the actions of taste cells in your taste buds. They sense the sugar and the fats and release hormones and other chemicals that tell your brain that you have sugar and fat in your mouth. If you were to close your nose before eating that piece of cake, that would be almost all you would experience.
If you were to eat the wedding cake with an open nose, you would notice all of the aromas, perhaps vanilla or almond extract, lemon essence, or rose water. In fact, most people would describe the "taste" of wedding cake to be sweet with hints of these odors when, in fact, those are the scents that combine with our taste qualities to create the flavor experience. Flavor is the simultaneous unification of taste and smell information in our brains. The flavor of wedding cake is a unique identifier, just as the flavor of a dreamsicle—sweet cream and sour citrus with vanilla and orange aromas—is its own identifiable experience.
Stress Makes You Want More Sugar and Fat
Studies show that stress can affect both taste and smell. If increased amounts of stress reduce our ability to detect, say, sweet compounds, it follows that a higher concentration of sweets would be required for us to find them pleasing. For example, think about the amount of sugar you add to your coffee or tea. If stress inhibits your ability to detect a teaspoon of sugar in your coffee, which you normally find sufficiently sweet, you may end up adding a second teaspoon of sugar just to maintain, not enhance, your food experience. You have effectively doubled the amount of sugar in your cup of coffee simply to "enjoy it" the same as you always do.
Sugar is not just for your coffee, though. It's in virtually every food we consume on a daily basis. We have known for quite some time that obesity and stress are linked, but from the taste perspective, researchers have recently shown that obese people (and rodent models) become desensitized to numerous tastes, especially fats and sugar. The natural inclination of people who become desensitized is to reach for something sweeter when the normal amount of sugar isn't cutting it. That sets the stage for excessive calorie consumption and obesity.
Differences in Taste Caused by Stress
Our recent paper demonstrated that taste buds themselves are targets of stress hormones. When you experience a stressful event that is either short, like a sudden shock, or prolonged, like taking care of a newborn baby for months, your body's stress responsiveness is altered. In the case of acute stress, your adrenal glands are signaled to immediately release glucocorticoids (GCs). GCs flood into the bloodstream and then travel throughout the body where they have significant effects on cells and tissues that express the GC receptor: GR.
We found that GR is present in taste bud cells. However, it wasn't in all cells of the taste bud—it was selectively expressed in the type of taste cells that respond to sweet, umami (savory), and bitter taste stimuli.
A taste bud is an interesting biological structure. It is shaped a little bit like an artichoke, where each petal would be an individual taste cell. What's neat about taste buds is that not every cell responds to the same taste stimuli. For instance, you might have one cell that responds to only sweet (e.g., sugar, Splenda) and umami (e.g., MSG) compounds, and another cell might only respond to sour compounds (e.g., citric acid, vinegar). So an entire taste bud could respond to every taste compound type (sweet, sour, umami, bitter, salt, mineral, fat) but it delegates the responsibility of individual tastes to different types of cells within the bud.
Since we discovered GR expression in sweet/umami/bitter cells, we wanted to see what happens to these receptors in the taste buds during stress. Therefore, we collected acutely stressed mice, since rodents are great research models for understanding mammalian biology. When observing the taste buds of stressed mice versus unstressed controls, we noticed that the stressed mice exhibited GR activity, specifically the movement of GR into taste cell nuclei. GR only mobilizes to the nuclei of cells when it is activated by stress hormones, which we concluded was occurring in these stressed mice. This may mean that stress could eventually lead to changes in taste sensitivity by switching off certain taste genes.
Taste Buds Share Feelings of Stress with You
Our findings revealed that your taste buds "feel" the effects of stress just like other parts of your body—they are not protected from stress. This matters because our taste buds, along with our noses, are the first point of contact between us and food. What happens during that first interaction can determine how much of something we will eat and if we will prefer that food over something different. Think of your taste buds as the guardians of your digestive system. If they are functioning properly, your body can maintain a healthier condition. However, if because of excessive stress in your life your chemical senses become less sensitive, your ability to properly assess the foods you consume could become compromised.
What we have observed in taste buds is not unique among the body's sensory systems. Indeed, GR is expressed and active in hearing cells of your ear, retinal cells of your eye and even olfactory cells in your nose. Moreover, GR in these other sensory tissues can be activated by stress as well. This could ultimately mean that long term stress may handicap us wholesale. Therefore, the proper management of our personal stress, especially stress or anxiety which is prolonged, is undoubtedly crucial to our personal health.
By Rockwell Parker, Ph.D. December 5, 2016
One of my best teenage memories starts with a natural disaster. In January 1998, my parents and I returned to our home in Montreal to find that a giant tree limb had ruptured our living room. What would soon be known as the Great Quebec Ice Storm had struck. It was the most catastrophic in modern Canadian history. Accumulations of freezing rain had cracked our maple tree nearly in half. It shattered our front window, glass fringing the tree limb like a body outline in a murder scene.
Outside, downed power lines sparked like electric snakes. More than a million Quebecers were left without power. Cars were crushed and impaled by fallen limbs. Because the ice could inflict violence at any moment, everyone retreated indoors, making for an oddly quiet state of emergency. Except for the distant beeps of electrical-crew trucks, all you could hear was the crack of trees buckling under the weight of the ice, day and night. Long after the sidewalks were cleared, we tiptoed past the eaves of tall buildings and kept our voices low, steering clear of icicles thick as baseball bats and sharp as spikes, primed to fall at any moment.
For seven days and seven nights, until the power returned, we lived by candlelight. We learned to be mindful of candles: how to stand them up, walk with them, nurture their light. At first it was maddening to cook dinner — to carefully carry a plate of candles to the cupboard, poke around for ingredients, then go off again in search of a knife, taking care not to drip wax into the cutlery drawer. I learned how to brush my teeth and bathe by candlelight; the light bounced off the mirrors, making the bathroom for once the brightest room in the house. In our bedrooms, we piled under blankets and read ourselves to sleep by the flickering flames.
Outside, our neighborhood descended into darkness at twilight, but if I stared hard enough at windows blurred with ice, I could just make out little dancing lights. Decades later, no one in my family remembers what we talked about, or ate, or how we spent our afternoons that week. But we all remember the candles.
I’ve since settled in California, and last January events in the world left me with a hunger for silence. I adopted a strict information diet: no television news or social media. One evening, I didn’t even bother to flick on the lights in my apartment. I walked quietly to the window and watched the last of the day, the darkness swallowing the trees along my street. Instinctively, I went looking for a book of matches in the back of the kitchen junk drawer. Opening a closet, I felt around until I discovered the remnant of a housewarming gift: a milk-white candle. I struck a match and lit the dusty wick. I commandeered a plate from the cupboard and set it on my coffee table. I nestled in a blanket, listening to the wind in the courtyard. Eventually, for the first time in too many days, I found myself surrendering to sleep.
That was the start of a practice I’ve taken to calling Candle Hour. An hour before I go to bed, I turn off all my devices for the night. I hit the lights. I light a candle or two or three — enough to read a book by, or to just sit and stare at the flame, which, by drawing oxygen, reminds me I need to breathe, too. I surround myself with scents and objects I like — some fresh rosemary plucked from a neighbor’s bush, a jar of redwood seed pods. I have a journal ready, but I don’t pressure myself to write in it. Candle Hour doesn’t even need to last a full hour, though; sometimes it lasts far longer. I sit until I feel an uncoupling from the chaos, or until the candle burns all the way down, or sometimes both.
Candle Hour has become a soul-level bulwark against so many different kinds of darkness. I feel myself slipping not just out of my day but out of time itself. I shunt aside outrages and anxieties. I find the less conditional, more indomitable version of myself. It’s that version I send into my dreams.
At night, by candlelight, the world feels enduring, ancient and slow. To sit and stare at a candle is to drop through a portal to a time when firelight was the alpha and omega of our days. We are evolved for the task of living by candlelight and maladapted to living the way we live now. Studies have noted the disruptive effects of nighttime exposure to blue-spectrum light — the sort emanated by our devices — on the human circadian rhythm. The screens trick us into thinking we need to stay alert, because our brains register their wavelength as they would the approach of daylight. But light on the red end of the spectrum sends a much weaker signal. In the long era of fire and candlelight, our bodies were unconfused as they began to uncoil.
Tonight’s candlelight will cast the same glow on my Oakland walls as it did on my parents’ walls in Montreal in 1998. I’ll feel in my bones that the day has passed — as all days, even fearful ones, eventually do. The day’s last act is cast in flickering gold. I’ll watch the flame bob and let my mind wander, until I realize I’m sleepy. After a while, I’ll lean over and blow it out, ready now for darkness — where renewal begins.
By Julia Scott March 14, 2018 (New York Times)
Harden the wax with an ice cube, then carefully scrape it off with an expired credit card or plastic ruler. Rub away remaining residue with cream furniture wax.
Scrape away excess, then apply heat with a blow dryer set to medium, wiping off wax with a rag as it softens. Wash the area with hot, soapy water to remove residue.
Apply medium heat with a blow dryer and wipe away excess wax as it softens. Remove residue with a solution of 1-part vinegar to 3-parts water.
Scrape off excess. Lay a damp, lint free, white cloth over the wax and apply medium heat with an iron, the wax will adhere to the cloth.
Soak the spot with hot water and wipe off wax with a dry cloth. Repeat until all wax is removed, then apply multipurpose remover to get rid of residue.
Ever wondered what to do with all your old bits of scented candle wax after your wick has burnt down? Well, we’ve put together some ideas so you really can get the most out of our beautiful scented candles once they’ve been used.
Here’s the guide what to do with left over candle wax:
1. Lubricate a sticky drawer or squeaky door hinge.
2. Get a fire going.
3. Infuse your home with the final lingering scents.
4. Use it for budget skating wax.
5. Seal up shoelace frays.
6. Seal your letters with a personal touch.
7. Decorate your mantelpiece with candle wax ornaments.
8. Incorporate it into a handmade project!
1. Fix that sticking draw
Want to finally fix that drawer that’s being annoying you for months? Try rubbing your leftover candle wax wherever the wood slides. You’ll be surprised how easily the drawers move around afterwards.
2. Make some fire starters
Need to start a quick fire? You can use your left-over candle wax to make some fire starters. If you’ve got an empty egg carton and some lint you can make one that’ll burn for a long time. The cardboard of the carton helps to get the wax and lint burning.
3. Leave a pleasant lingering aroma in your room
Put your left-over wax in a heavy glass jar, and then place on a radiator. When the wax melts, it leaves a lovely aroma in the room.
4. Easy skating
If you have a budding skateboarder in the household, melt down your wax into muffin tins, so they can wax up curbs before skating on them.
5. Fix your shoelaces
When the ends of your shoelaces start to fray, you may be tempted to get some new ones to make your shoes look new again. But there is another solution…dripping hot wax onto the ends of the shoelaces and rolling them between your fingers will help will fix them.
6. Seal your letters the old-fashioned way
Add a personal touch to the art of letter writing simply by pressing hot scented candle wax. The method can also be used for added elegance with wedding invitations.
7. Scented candle wax ornaments
Making wax ornaments is a fun way to get the whole family involved in decorating your home for special occasions. It’s an easy, creative and unique activity that will quickly become a family tradition.
8. Get creative
Finally, if you love art and design, you can use the left over scented candle wax for a new project.