Candles vs Diffusers
Updated: Apr 21
Once upon a time I lived in a home that I purposely filled with scented candles. I burned them while in my bedroom, dining, taking a bath and for no good reason at all. Don’t you wish you knew then what you know now- I sure do.
If you haven’t read up on why scents are so dangerous for us, go check out my blog post on fragrances (scents) because it’s not just candles we have to worry about. But, as more and more people become aware of the products in their home that are affecting their physical and mental state, it’s important to understand the ‘why’ and the alternatives.
Not all candles are created equally. There may be local handmade candles that use really clean ingredients that you feel comfortable burning in your home - that’s great! That’s not as common as candles you find in most stores or online, however. And even though some local makers produce seemingly natural candles, there’s still some health concerns you should be aware of so you can make an informed decision.
Candles: the New Secondhand Smoke
Candles you find in most stores are often made from a type of wax that is a petroleum by-product called 'paraffin' wax. This is the cheapest and easiest source for many makers, so unless the candle specifies otherwise, assume it’s made from paraffin. Many candles contain synthetic fragrances, dyes, heavy metals , benzene (linked to cancer), toluene, emitted from paraffin wax (a known respiratory toxicant) and more. The burning of paraffin candles produces soot- and this soot contains similar chemicals that are released from a diesel engine.
Narrowing Down the Wax
Most candles are made from paraffin wax. Soot from paraffin wax is more abundant than from soy or beeswax candles. Soy candles may 'burn cleaner' (which I deem subjective) but soy is an unsustainable mono crop and unless it's organic, assume it's genetically modified and heavily sprayed with pesticides. Ethically sourced beeswax from a reputable beekeeper is the safest when it comes to burning, but it’s worth noting that any smoke produced indoors has the potential to affect the lungs. No matter what is burned, smoke itself can pose a health risk. If you choose to burn beeswax candles, do so in a well ventilated area, use one or 2 (not 10) and don't over use them. Keep in mind that just because the wax itself is considered ‘safe’ doesn’t mean that other toxins aren’t being added into the candle. Remember, candles can contain fragrances, poor quality essential oils which aren’t designed to have heat added to them, dyes and potentially even wicks that could contain heavy metals.
Diffusing is a wonderful, safe option that doesn’t pose any health risks when you’re using great quality essential oils. I prefer the diffuser for its safety features (automatic shut off is an option you should seek out), the health benefits essential oils offer, and the safety it provides around my home, pets and children.
Not all diffusers are created equally- I like the economical, highly effective ultrasonic diffuser. These diffusers use frequency technology, generating waves at 1.7 million per second, breaking down essential oils and water into millions of microparticles, dispersing them into the air, and releasing the oils’ unique constituents. This is beneficial for our health in many ways, including physically, emotionally and spiritually. Ultrasonic diffusers also double as humidifiers- perfect for dry winter seasons or when dry respiratory coughs are present.
One last word on diffusers- look for ones that are made from medical grade plastic like the ones from Young Living, this allows you to use citrus oils safely in your diffuser. If your diffuser isn’t medical grade plastic, the citrus oils can break down the plastics in the diffuser, causing it to become faulty or stop working all together. Investing in a slightly higher priced diffuser will pay off in the long run. I’ve had some of mine for 3.5 years and they’re all in great working condition. I clean them (somewhat) regularly so that they can withstand their heavy use (we diffuse a lot!).
What do you prefer to have in your home- candles or diffusers?