How Do Scented Candles Work: Full Guide


Scented candles are a great way to make your house smell nice and for aromatherapy. A good scented candle can change your mood, and help you get ready for bed. They can also have a physical impact on us even having an impact on our blood pressure. I have done a lot of research into scented candles and this is what I found out about how scented candles work.

Scented candles work by releasing the scent through evaporation. As the wax on the surface of the candle heats up, it also heats the scent additive and releases it through evaporation. The burn process is similar to an unscented candle with the scent having little to no impact.

Due to the fragrance being released from the hot pool of wax and not from the flame itself this means larger candles, with more surface area are the best choice for a strong smelling candle.

How are scented candles made?

Scented candles are made from perfume, wax, a wick, and in some cases a candle container. The perfume is mixed with the wax so that it can be released as you use your candle. This is essentially the same process as a non-scented candle.

The combination of scent and wax is something that can take a little bit of research and trial and error. The perfumes and fragrances used in scented candles can impact the burn process.

A change in the burn process requires the candle manufacturer to adjust the wick size accordingly. This is to ensure that the candle burns evenly. If you want to read more about candles burning evenly you can check out an article I wrote about it here.

Where do the scents come from?

According to the National Candle Association, there are more than 2000 aroma chemicals and essential oils that are compatible with candle use. Many of these are also used in soaps, lotions, and shampoos.

Candle manufacturers and fragrance companies have put in a lot of work to develop formulas and candles that can burn safely and properly. You are seeing more and more natural scents, fragrances, and oils used in this process. Particularly if you find a reputable producer or brand.

It is said the original candles used in Europe were beeswax candles that included the sweet smell of honey as they were burning.

How safe are scented candles?

Scented candles are reasonably safe for most people to use and enjoy. The issue arises when you look at the type of candles, the source of candles, and if the person using the candle has any medical conditions.

If you have a respiratory disorder such as asthma, COPD, breathing complications or lung cancer you should avoid anything that may potentially complicate your situation.

You should read the candle label for any pertinent warnings and check to make sure it was made by a reputable manufacturer. You can also check to see if it was made using all-natural ingredients.

Type of Candles

There are basically three types of candle wax that candles are made out of today. They are paraffin, soy, and beeswax. Then you have a few blends of these wax types that are sometimes sold.

Paraffin Wax

Paraffin wax is the cheapest of the three waxes and it is a petroleum byproduct. It is likely the least safe of the three types of wax. Studies have shown that paraffin wax can release carcinogens, as well as be harmful to people with respiratory disorders such as asthma.

Soy Wax

Soy wax is made from processing soybean oil. It is all natural and vegan. It is cheaper than beeswax but it is slightly more expensive than paraffin wax. Soy is considered safe and clean.


Beeswax is a natural wax produced by honeybees. It is the most expensive wax on the market and it is said to be the cleanest burning with the brightest flame.


You will also find blends that can be any combination of the three.

Finding all-natural scented candles

You can find brands that produce the highest quality candles. Some of these candles are vegan with all-natural ingredients.

Some of these brands are:

  • Heretic
  • P.F. Candle Co
  • Boy Smells
  • Goop
  • UMA
  • Wild Beautiful Free

For the most part, candles are not regulated, but most companies adhere to industry consensus standards. Here is some information on the industry standards from ASTM International here.

Scented Candle Care Tips

Keep your candle smelling great and lasting as long as possible by following some of these scented candle care tips.

How To Take Care Of Your Candles

  • Keep The Lid On It
  • Keep The Wick Trimmed
  • Let The Wax Pool
  • Store The Candles Properly

Keep The Lid On it

Remember your candle has an additive that most candles do not. That is the fragrance or scent that was added to make it smell great.

Keep the lid on your candle whenever it is not being used so that it does not dry out. The scent additive in your candle can dry out and lose its oomph if you leave it setting without a lid for long periods of time.

This also keeps out the dirt, dust and grime that can make your candle dirty and give it an unpleasant smell.

If you are using a pillar candle or something that is not in a container that closes just put the candle in a freezer bag after it cools.

Keep The Wick Trimmed

Trim the wick after every use to make sure you get a steady uniform flame on every burn. Keep it no longer than 1/4 of an inch.

If you let the wick get too long it will build up carbon and become deformed and this will give you an irregular flame. This irregular flame can make your candle produce soot and it can even mix in with the wax.

If this happens your candle may develop a burnt smell.

Let The Wax Pool

Let the wax melt across the surface of the candle from one edge of the container to the other to prevent any wax tunneling issues.

Do this every time you use the candle, but do not let it burn longer than 4 hours.

Store The Candles Properly

Store the candle in a cool dry place away from direct sunlight. Temperature and light can affect the color and the scented oils in your candle.

A cupboard or box will be sufficient.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do scented candles make the room smell?

Scented candles will make the room smell like whatever the fragrance oil additive used to make the candle is. If they used a fragrance oil with fruity or citrus fragrance oils then that is what the room will smell like. However, if you are trying to mask another odor you may get mixed results.

Where do scented candles go in a bedroom?

Scented candle should be placed out of reach of children and pets, and away from the draft of a window or ceiling fan. In addition, they should be placed away from your bed and on a heat resistant surface. This will allow the candle to burn properly and minimize risks of an accident.

Do scented candles smell when not lit?

Scented candles do smell good when they are not lit. The scent you smell when a candle is not lit is called the cold throw and some candles have a cold throw that can rival the hot throw of other candles. The hot throw is the smell of a candle while it is burning.

Why don’t scented candles smell as good when they are burning as when they are not burning?

Scented candles can sometimes not smell as good when they are burning because of impurities and dust that settle on the surface of the candle. Dust, debris, and hair can settle on the surface of a candle and produce unpleasant odors when you light your candle. Avoid this by always using your candle’s lid.

Are scented candles effective?

Scented candles are an easy and effective way to spread your favorite fragrances throughout your home. In addition to smelling great, they can be effective in helping mask unpleasant odors. In addition, they can help create a pleasing aesthetic and ambiance in your home.


In conclusion, scented candles can be a great way to wind down and relax.

All-natural and vegan candle options exist so that you know you are getting the healthiest possible candle burning experience. You just need to find a reputable manufacturer.

In addition, a little bit of care goes a long way. A large all natural candle can cost a lot of money, so take care of it. Store it properly, trim its wick and it will give you many hours of pleasurable burn time.

Carl Adamson

Hi, I'm Carl Adamson, one of the founders here at Candleers. A few years ago I got really into the art and craft of candle making, initially with soy wax container candles. My friends started asking me to make candles for them and pretty soon it turned into a nice side-business. I started this website as a way to document what I've learned over the past few years and hopefully help others in the process. I still love candle making but I'm learning that what I enjoy even more is the business side of things - and for this reason I've started consulting others on how to start and grow their own candle-making businesses and side-hustles.

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