Are Candles Bad For You? Warnings & Alternatives | Rinaldi's

Are Candles Bad for Your Home’s Air?

Learn how to keep your home's air clean.
Read Time: 6 minutes
Dec 5, 2022

Candles are a quick way to freshen the scent in your home and create a relaxing environment. The only problem? The candles you’re burning could be emitting air pollutants that are bad for you and bad for your home.

Depending on the type of candle you’re burning, candles can be bad for your home. Some throw up nasty chemicals when burning. This includes acetaldehyde, formaldehyde, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, none of which are welcome visitors to your home. They can lead to asthma, respiratory problems, and other issues. It makes the seemingly innocent candle a lot more ominous.

We’ve broken down which candles to buy and which to avoid in the guide below.

Are Candles Bad for Your Home?

Candle lit in house near plant
While HVAC’s are meant to help filter your home, candles can shorten their lifespan significantly. Paraffin candles are the biggest offenders for damaging your home. These little buggers are made out of petroleum and too much of it in the house is not good for your health or the longevity of your HVAC.

Contaminated Ventilation Systems

Due to the high amounts of petroleum found in paraffin candles, burning them releases the petroleum into the air. The point of your HVAC is to filter these nasty toxins out of the house. But with petroleum particles, they build up fast in the filter and can clog it. This will cause your system to work harder unnecessarily.

Discolored Walls and Ceilings

The soot from these candles goes beyond just your health and your filters. The soot from candles can cause discoloration to the walls and ceilings which can lead to irreparable damage.

Warning: Insurance companies will not cover these damages since they are technically caused by the owner’s negligence.

Are Candles Bad for Your Health?

Candles can have effects on your body’s filter, the lungs. The lungs are our source of oxygen, and the less oxygen we intake, the worse our body functions. Poor air quality is linked to a variety of health issues such as irritated eyes, nose, and throat. Along with shortness of breath and other respiratory issues.

Carcinogenic Toxins

The toxins in candles, like petroleum, are being connected to more health issues every day. Thanks to the constant burning of plastics and other plastics we ingest from our food and drinks, it is estimated that American’s are consuming the equivalent of a credit card worth of microplastics every day. Cutting down on anything that exposes you to this will help with the disastrous side effect of constant plastic exposure.

Which Candles to Avoid

Beeswax candles sitting near container
As technology continues to evolve, so does candle production and ingredients. The following are some of the older versions of candles that should be avoided at all costs:

Paraffin Candles (Petroleum-based)

Even though they’ve been used for centuries and sold by the millions, paraffin candles aren’t good for indoor air quality. They emit chemicals when they’re burning that not only harm living things but are also hard on your HVAC system.

Paraffin is made from petroleum, which releases harmful substances into the air when it’s burned. Many of these are volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can cause mild to serious physical reactions and conditions. They can cause respiratory or skin irritations or conditions as serious as nervous system damage or cancer.

Among the harmful particles candles release, soot sits high on the list for being both harmful and annoying. Soot is classified as a dangerous particulate because it’s so small it can lodge deep in your lungs. It also collects on air filters for HVAC systems and other indoor surfaces. Soot clogs porous materials, like the air filter and your lungs, and prevents the free flow of air.

If you absolutely insist on burning paraffin candles (which we don’t recommend) here’s how to limit the risks associated:

  • Burn the candles in a draft-free area
  • Trim the wick to keep the candle from smoking as it burns
  • Buy unscented candles
  • Ensure your home has the proper ventilation

Mixed-Wax Candles

These candles are tricksters. They will disguise themselves as safer alternatives but in reality, contain just a dash of the ingredients they are promoting. Instead, the candle will be filled with waxes like paraffin and other additives. While it will be marketed to sound like a safer alternative it can actually be worse for you and your home.

Safe Alternatives to Paraffin Candles

Wax melt blocks for melting
There are safe alternatives to paraffin candles that won’t affect your indoor air quality. Look for those made from beeswax or soybean oil. They don’t emit VOCs or soot when burned. If you’d like scented candles, look for ones that use essential oils made from herbs, flowers or other vegetation. It’s also helpful to buy candles from reputable manufacturers.

Soy Candles

One of the easiest at-home candles to make, soy candles are a step up from their petroleum cousins. They are typically eco-friendly because they come from the soy plant. Because soy is so widely used in a variety of different products, that getting a hold of the ingredient is easy and cheap.

Always ensure that it is as close to 100% soy as possible. Some countries only require the soy content to be above 51% for the candle to be classified as purely soy. Look through the ingredients before purchase.

Benefits of a soy candle include:

  • Longer burn time compared to paraffin
  • Less harmful for your health thanks to the lack of petroleum
  • Cheap and easy to obtain

Beeswax Candles

The bees can do more than just pollinate our flowers, they can also provide us with a safer and longer-lasting candle. Beeswax has the highest temperature when it comes to melting the wax, meaning that these candles will last the longest of the three.

Beeswax candles do come with a downfall though—their price. Due to the fact that beeswax is not as readily available, this makes beeswax pricey and harder to get a hold of.

With some beeswax candles, you’ll run into the same problem as with soy candles. While the candle may boast itself as being 100% beeswax, the company will throw in additives that cheapen the overall quality.
Diffuser turned on in room


Taking the wax out of the system, diffusers are a great cheap alternative to candles. The mist based diffusers mist water with an infusion of essential oils to fill the house with fresh and relaxing scents. Each scent provides a different sensory reaction, so ensure that you play around and make your own combinations.

Candle Warmers & Wax Melts

Another candle alternative, candle warmers, and wax melts will still use the waxes that you are accustomed to, but without the flame and soot.

The same methodology applies to wax melts and candle warmers that applies to candles—try and avoid the paraffin ones and stick with soy or beeswax. Not only will the wax last longer in the warmer, but it will also allow the scent and aroma to fill the air for longer periods of time (without destroying the ceiling and walls).

How to Safely Use Candles in Your Home

Now that we have some alternatives to paraffin candles to choose from, we have to ensure that we handle these candles with care. This will help limit our exposure to harmful chemicals and cut down on the amount of soot that is likely to enter the air.

Proper Wick Size

Keeping your wick tidy is a practice that is often forgotten when it comes to maintaining the health of your candle and yourself. Try to keep the wick to around ¼ inch after each use. This is to make sure that there is less debris in the wax while you burn the candle. This helps keep the flame small and low allowing the wick to burn for a longer period of time without releasing as much soot into the air.

Store Them Properly

Keep your candles stored away from heat and light. This will ensure there is no constant heating and cooling of the wax while not in use. Paraffin candles have an extremely low melting point. This means a warm, sunny day could cause them to heat up and melt without ever lighting them.

Candle storage varies depending upon the size and shape of the candle. If you have long narrow candles, like those used for dinner tables, ensure they are laid flat to stop them from bending and causing uneven burn times. If you have teacup candles, avoid stacking them over one another. Because teacup candles do not typically have covers, the wicks can become damaged easily if not properly stored.
Candle in room with greenery

Ensure Proper Ventilation

Proper ventilation is also important to the health of your home while burning candles. Ensure there is enough open air for the candle to ‘breathe’ and be lit properly, without too much draft. Too much draft can cause the candle to flicker sporadically and this can shorten the lifespan of the candle as it consistently tries to burn at a faster rate.

Burn for One Hour at a Time

Try to keep the candle lit for only one hour at a time. This is to ensure you get the best lifespan out of the candle. Burning for too long can cause the wick to burn too fast and not get through the entirety of the wax first.

This will also cut down on the risk of fire from candles. The longer it burns without proper attention, the more it puts the house at risk. Always be aware of an open flame, as one look away for any period of time can put the house at risk. Limiting the burn time of the candle can help avoid accidents, like house fires, from occurring.

Managing Air Quality in Your Home

Maintaining high indoor air quality is important to your family’s health. Luckily, proper candle care is only one of the ways you can ensure the IAQ of your home is healthy. For more information, contact Rinaldi’s Energy Solutions, providing HVAC services for Orlando-area homeowners.

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