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The Importance of Clean Candles: How Your Health May be Affected

Most people are aware of the dangerous chemicals and toxins found in most household cleaning products, many makeup and skincare lines, personal health products, etc. There’s plenty of information out there about natural cleaning products for the home and natural skincare lines. But have you ever considered whether you’re burning clean candles in your home?

 I hadn’t ever considered it. If I found a candle I liked, either for its scent or appearance, I bought it without ever thinking twice about what it was made of or what it might be releasing into my home. Then 2020 came and I was home all the time and started burning my candles more than ever. And one day my husband looked at the ceiling in our living room and said, “what’s that black ring on the ceiling?” It was directly above one of my very favorite candles that was burning at the time! Now mind you, we have a vaulted ceiling so this candle wasn’t even close to the ceiling, but the soot it was releasing was still making a black mark!

It was then and there that I started looking into what candles are made of and what would cause them to do such a thing to my home. And I began to wonder…if it’s leaving a black ring on my ceiling, what is it doing to my lungs? Or the lungs of my children?

So here’s what I learned about candles and how to find a clean candle (yes, they do exist)!

The Dangers of Big Box Candles (Paraffin Wax, Metal Core Wicks and Fragrance Oils)

Most candles you find in big box stores are anything but clean candles. They are made of paraffin wax, which is derived from petroleum and made of straight-chain hydrocarbons. This is what produces the dark soot I found on my ceiling which can also get into linens, upholstery, carpet, etc. It can circulate through your air ducts… in short, it gets on everything!

But it is more than just that. The soot contains 11 toxins, including 2 carcinogens (toluene and benzene), which are labeled as “toxic air agents” by environmental agencies.

Breathing in this soot can lead to respiratory problems and will aggravate the conditions of those who already have asthma, lung or heart problems. And if you’ve ever experienced a headache from a candle, it’s from the paraffin (or the fragrance …see below)! It’s common to hear people complain of headaches when paraffin candles burn, which are generally caused by the chemicals the candle releases into the air.

Other Factors to Consider

But the wax isn’t the only thing to consider when looking for a clean candle. According to a recent study by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 40 percent of candles on the market contain lead wires inside their wicks! A candle with a lead-core wick releases five times the amount of lead considered hazardous for children and exceeds EPA pollution standards for outdoor air, says the CPSC. Exposure to high amounts of lead has been linked to hormone disruption, behavioral problems, learning disabilities, and numerous health problems.  

The last factor to consider is the fragrance. Most fragrance oils and perfumes are made from synthetic chemicals that are petroleum based, just like paraffin wax. These chemicals include phthalates and carcinogens, which can cause allergies, headaches, skin irritation, respiratory issues and long-lasting health problems such as endocrine issues and cancer.

How Do You Find a Clean Candle?

After much research, I discovered it doesn’t have to be this way! It is possible to make clean candles so they can be safely enjoyed without worry about soot, chemicals, headaches and other health problems. The answer is 100% soy wax, cotton wicks, and clean fragrances!

The Benefits of Soy Wax, Cotton Wicks and Clean Scents

The short answer is that soy candles are clean candles. They’re made from soybeans, which is natural, renewable and non-toxic. One hundred percent soy wax doesn’t release any toxins or chemicals into the air. PERIOD. But that’s not all. There are many more benefits of soy wax candles.

Soy Candles:

  • Can burn anywhere from 35-50% longer than paraffin candles because soy wax has a cooler burning temperature. This means the candles last longer.
  • Efficient and reduce waste. They burn evenly, minimizing unburned wax left on the edges of the container.
  • Clean up easily with soap and water while paraffin wax spills can be time consuming and difficult to clean, if at all.
  • Are 100% vegan and do not require any animal products in their production or use.
  • Don’t release CO2.
  • Are 100% biodegradable.
  • Release fragrance better and easier than paraffin candles. The low, slow burn of soy wax allows the candle to release the scent gradually.
  • Support American farmers. US soybean farmers produce soy wax, mostly farmed in IL, IA and IN.

There is a word of caution here though. Be sure the soy candles you choose clearly state they are 100% soy wax. Unfortunately, many soy candles are made with a blend of soy and paraffin wax. Don’t be fooled! This will make the candle burn faster and adding paraffin wax will negate the health benefits of the soy wax. 

Don’t Forget Those Other Factors When Looking For Clean Candles

You also still need to look for 100% cotton wicks. Just because a candle is made with soy wax doesn’t mean it couldn’t still be made with a metal core wick. Another non-toxic alternative would be a wooden wick (although I’ve heard safety issues about these burning so I personally prefer the cotton wicks).

And finally, the type of fragrance used to scent your candle is also important! Many fragrance oils contain phthalates and other materials known to be carcinogens or toxic. So even if your candle is made with 100% soy wax and cotton wicks, it could still be releasing harmful chemicals from the fragrance oils used to scent the candle. Look for candles that are scented with clean scents, pure essential oils or natural aromas.

Where to Find the Best Clean Candles

Popular, well-known candle companies generally sell foreign-made candles, which are known for using toxic ingredients in their manufacturing. 100% soy wax candles are gaining in popularity, but you still have to search for them as most stores are still offering paraffin wax or soy blend candles. Buying your candles from a small shop is one of the safest ways to know if your candles are clean-burning.  Research your candle makers to ensure they are using eco-friendly ingredients. 

There are a number of small shops online that offer clean candles, including my own candle company, We offer 100% soy wax, 100% cotton wick, and clean scent candles!

At Clever Cow Candle Co, we are committed to using only CLEAN ingredients to make our candles and melts. We use only 100% soy wax, cotton wicks and clean fragrances in our products. They won’t release any soot or chemicals into your home so you can enjoy burning and smelling these amazing candles without worrying about your what you’re doing to your home, family or the environment.

Our candles are:

  • Vegan
  • Cruelty-free
  • Phthalate-free
  • Petroleum-free
  • Non-carcinogenic
  • Gluten-free
  • Non-toxic
  • Biodegradable
  • Made with Love

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the writer and do not necessarily represent those of The We Spot, its employees, sponsors, or affiliates.

Trista Gangestad

Originally from Florida, Trista Gangestad and her family moved to CO ten years ago and live on a small hobby farm with a beautiful view of the Rocky Mountains. She and her husband have 2 daughters, the oldest of which was born with Trisomy 18, a chromosome disorder. Trista has a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Relations from the University of Florida (Go Gators!) and worked in Communications and Event Planning for more than 10 years before becoming a mom. During the pandemic, Trista discovered a need for clean burning candles that don’t emit soot or chemicals into our homes. She formed Clever Cow Candle Co. in 2021 and makes hand poured, 100% soy wax candles with clever, inspiring and sometimes sarcastic designs on the containers. Check out her candles at When this busy mom has time for herself, she enjoys sewing, crafting, shopping, drinking “candy coffee,” and watching guilty pleasure TV shows.

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