Back when I was in Chiropractic school, I lived in a cute little quadraplex. It was a great one bedroom that offered me solitude to study and get away from the chaos of school. I was about halfway through my schooling and I was preparing the take the second part of my National Board Exams. I remember going to bed early so that I would be well rested for the big test the next day. However, one of my neighbors had other plans for my evening! Around 2am I awoke with burning eyes and I thought I smelled smoke. My alarm hadn’t gone off and none of the walls felt hot, but I decided to be cautious and call 911. As it turns out, the only apartment without adjacent walls to my own had caught on fire. My neighbor had left the house with candles burning. At that point in my life, I thought that was the greatest danger from burning scented candles. I was sadly mistaken. It wasn’t until a few years later, when I was researching the dangers of chemicals in the home, that I learned about the hidden dangers of scented candles.
You probably already know that the candles that make our homes smell so nice are made of wax. But do you know how paraffin wax is actually made? It’s the “junk” leftover from the production of petroleum. The by-product is bleached and chemical deodorizers are added. When these candles are burned, they release extremely dangerous carcinogens including acetone, benzene and toluene. Did you know that these are the same chemicals found in diesel admissions? Yuck! Studies show links between inhaling these chemicals and breathing problems such as asthma and other allergy related breathing problems. The craziest thing I discovered was that these wax candles will admit low levels of benzene even when they aren’t lit!
Unfortunately, the problems don’t end with the wax. When the wick burns, it sends soot flying into the air that ends up in your lungs. These little particles may be invisible to the eye, but they cause huge problems in terms of breathing and allergies. The amount of soot released into the air is higher for scented candles than the unscented variety.
Candles contain perfumes that are responsible for their pleasant smell. These synthetic scents come with their own set of dangers. Some chemicals that are commonly found in candles are formaldehyde, petroleum distillates, alcohol, esters, and limonene. These go beyond breathing problems and may cause headaches and dizziness. Cancer has also been linked to this potent group. You probably won’t inhale so deeply the next time you walk into a home with candles lit! These perfumes might smell nice, but they aren’t proving to be the best way to freshen the smell in your home.
Wicks are usually a metal coated in cotton. They are cute and small and look innocuous enough. But those little wicks come with their own set of problems. The dangerous substance that used to be underneath that cotton was lead until the dangers of lead poisoning came to light. Now zinc or tin are commonly used instead. While these are seemingly a better alternative to lead, heavy metals are still released into the air when you light that wick. These harmless looking little wicks are really the icing on the cake when it comes to the dangers of scented candles.
Fresh Air Alternative
While I love the idea of masking the odors of my stinky kids and dogs, candles simply aren’t the safest way to go. So what is the alternative? I personally love to use essential oils around my home. They are completely plant derived so they smell “real” and not like some fragrance produced in a laboratory. It is really easy to make a whole variety of different scents depending on your preference. They are also inexpensive to make and have natural health benefits, which is a nice bonus! You and either purchase a glass diffuser to disperse the scent throughout your home or use a glass spray bottle to spray directly onto rugs, fabric, or into the air as a quick air freshener. I like the glass because it eliminates the concern about the chemicals in your plastic products (a whole other conversations). Also, some oils tend to break down plastic.
If you are using a diffuser, you simply add water and a few drops of your favorite oil or combination of oils. If you want to create a spray bottle to be used around the home, you will need to fill the bottle with the following:
- 3/4 Cup Water
- 2 Tablespoons Vodka
- Oil combination of your choice
You can make a nice citrus scent by adding:
- 5 Drops Lemon
- 5 Drops Lime
- 5 Drops Orange
At the moment, I am using a nice immune boosting combination of Breath and On Guard from DoTerra. Not only is it good for you, but it smells amazing! I use about 8-10 drops of each in my glass spray bottle. I spray the rugs, curtains, pillows and blankets on a regular basis. So far so good! We have somehow managed to stay healthy during flu season. Just make sure to shake your bottle well before each use because the oils will separate from the water. Now you can feel free to breathe deeply!
The Scent-sible Choice
Clearly candles aren’t the way to go to get the fresh clean scent you are after. There are dangers lurking in every part of that beautiful looking candle. Fortunately, there is a better option for freshening your home. Essential oils are a wonderful and healthy way to add a drop of fragrance to your home without the health risks. I hope you enjoy the amazing smells along with the health benefits of the oils.