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  • Writer's pictureLily Smith

Candles to avoid: 4 toxic ingredients commonly found in candles

You might think your latest candle is only spreading a pleasant scent and cosy vibes - but did you know, some candles contain ingredients that release toxins when burnt? Read on to discover which ingredients and materials you should be looking out for, and which candles to avoid...

candles to avoid paraffin wax toxic candle ingredients

1. Avoid candles with paraffin/mineral wax

To this day, the most common wax used in candles is paraffin. While many small businesses are opting to use renewable soy, coconut or rapeseed wax, paraffin remains the number one choice for mass-produced candles from larger retailers.

This mineral wax is a petroleum by-product. Unlike natural waxes, paraffin is filled with toxins and carcinogens when burnt. This causes your candle to release chemicals like formaldehyde, benzene, and soot into your home, polluting the air you breathe every day. In fact, the toxins produced by paraffin candles have been linked to asthma and lung cancer.

We recommend avoiding paraffin wax (or other mineral waxes), and instead opting for natural waxes when buying candles or wax melts. Look for soy, coconut, rapeseed or beeswax.

candles to avoid artificial fragrance

2. Avoid artificial fragrances and perfumes

'Fragrance' and 'Parfum'. These words hide a multitude of sins on ingredient lists. This is true in both the home fragrancing world, and in the world of beauty, skincare and haircare. Lots of brands will simply write these words on the back of the packaging, without providing any details on the specific ingredients used. Often, it is because the fragrancing used is artificial.

Many artificial fragrances have been found to contain carcinogens, such as benzene and toluene, or phthalates, which are endocrine disruptors. When looking for a candle, be sure you know exactly what has gone into it.

For a more natural fragrance option, look for candles that use pure essential oils or high-quality fragrance oils. These are far less likely to contain anything harmful, meaning they will provide your candle with a cleaner burn. Plus, these non-artificial fragrances will probably smell nicer, too!

3. Avoid candles with lead or bleached wicks

Once upon a time, all candle makers used lead in their candle wicks, to give the wick more structure and prevent it from falling into the wax pool. Alas, these candles released huge amounts of toxic lead into the air when burnt - enough to cause lead poisoning, in fact. These are definitely candles to avoid (!).

Luckily, these days, the use of lead in wicks is heavily monitored and banned in many countries. The large majority of wicks are now made using non-toxic cotton, which is a far safer choice. While seeing a lead wick is now a rarity, always read the label and be sure you know exactly what is in your wick. Look for 100 per cent cotton: if it's not pure cotton, make sure you find out what else is lurking in that wick before you buy it.

It's also worth noting that despite cotton itself being a safe material, many candle companies will dye or bleach the wicks of their candles. Often, this will be done using harsh, toxic and artificial chemicals. Opt for an unbleached, 100 per cent cotton wick - or a wooden wick - when choosing your candles.

candles to avoid toxic artificial dye colourings

4. Avoid candles with artificial dyes and colourings in the wax

Your bright pink candle might look cute next to the bathtub, but have you ever wondered how it got to be such an...unnatural hue? Similar to the use of dye in the candle wicks, many candle makers will use artificial colourings and dyes to change the colour of the candle wax. It may look pretty, but this is overshadowed when we consider how many nasty chemicals could be lurking in the candle, just to create one particular colour.

If you come across a candle with coloured candle wax, check the ingredients to see what's gone into the candle. If the list reveals something vague, like 'colourings' or 'dye', ask the candle company what it uses to dye its waxes. Candlemakers ought to be transparent about the ingredients that go into their products. If a company doesn't answer your questions, you can assume it's because you won't want to hear the answer.

Look for candlemakers who use a plant-derived colourant to dye the wax in their candles. Or, if in doubt, stick to the classic, white undyed wax - or try beeswax, which naturally has a warm, amber colour!

candles to avoid non toxic candles

5. Avoid candles with unsustainable or unethically sourced ingredients

This one is not a specific ingredient, per se, however, it's still an important thing to look for when questioning what's in your candle. So many different ingredients can be sourced unethically or unsustainably: from the waxes and fragrances, all the way to the packaging used.

When choosing a candle, always look for companies that proudly and transparently state which ingredients go into their products, and where the ingredients were sourced from. For example, if the candle uses beeswax, make sure it was from an ethical source, which did not harm or disadvantage the bees in any way.

It's also worth making sure that your candle is cruelty-free and is housed in eco-friendly packaging.


If you're in any doubt about the ingredients used in a candle (or any product, for that matter!), always ask the company in question. If they don't give you the answer you're looking for (or they give you an incredibly vague answer), move on and find a better candle company.

Looking for reputable companies with non-toxic, natural candles? Our blog, Instagram and Pinterest are great places to start. We love sharing the best candles from independent creators, who only use safe and high-quality ingredients. Sign up to our newsletter to stay in the loop!


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