Fall is the perfect time for picking pumpkins, sipping pumpkin spice lattes, and baking pumpkin pies, but perhaps you should hold off lighting that pumpkin spice-scented candle. A scented candle can be calming, both visually and olfactory, but you should be aware of substances that will pollute your indoor air when they burn, posing potential risk to you, your family, and pets.

This guide will help you pick candles that won’t give you a headache or leave soot stains on your walls and ceilings.

Beeswax candles burn the longest, have no toxic byproduct, and the nubs can be put into industrial compost. Shutterstock


The number one candle you want to avoid is one made from paraffin wax. Paraffin is a byproduct of petroleum, coal, or shale oil. If a candle does not have a label saying otherwise, paraffin is likely the predominant ingredient. Another fossil fuel-derived wax is gel wax, a translucent, jelly-like material made from mineral oil and polymer resin. Now, these candles won’t kill you, though they would certainly aggravate asthma or other respiratory conditions.

A 2014 study that was funded by Proctor & Gamble, but peer-reviewed, showed that “normal” use of paraffin candles in a home released less than half of the concentration of carcinogenic pollutants the World Health Organization would deem to be unsafe. However, even knowing this statistic should create caution around burning the cheapest candles you can find.

100% beeswax is simply the best wax available for candles. They burn the longest, do not drip, have no toxic byproduct when being made or when burning, and the nubs can be put into industrial compost. Two drawbacks: beeswax is often the most expensive option and, since it is created by honeybees, they might not be enjoyed by vegans.

But there are plenty of affordable alternatives. Soy wax is made from soybean oil, rapeseed or canola wax is made from the common vegetable oil and coconut wax is created from, you guessed it, coconut oil. These plant-based waxes have a non-toxic, long-lasting burn. Because of its long burn time and scent retention capability, coconut wax is often the priciest.

If you want a scented candle, make sure the scent is naturally derived from essential oils. St. George Candle Co.


Many companies use phthalates to scent their candles, a chemical compound also used in plastics. The fumes from burning phthalates are bad for people and animals—multiple scientific studies have shown that inhaling large amounts of these chemicals can lead to severe illnesses like cancer, diabetes, and birth defects. So why would you want any amount of them burning in your home?

The safest form of concentrated scent is a naturally derived essential oil, so research or ask what a candle company uses to scent their products. However, since any sort of combustion will put particles in the air, you should ideally use an oil diffuser or diluted oil/water spray to freshen the fragrance of your home, rather than a scented candle.


These eco-friendly candle brands are based or made in Maine. Following the above guidelines, the companies use safe materials and sustainable techniques to create candles that are a healthy choice for your home.

Maine Street Bee
Maine Mountain Soap & Candle Co.

Soy wax
Nubble Light Candle
Glendarragh Lavender Farm

Coconut wax
St. George Candle Co.
Near and Native Candles

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