The High Price of Smell: How Candles and Air Fresheners Could be Destroying Your Indoor Air Quality

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Whether guests are coming over, you accidentally burnt your famous tortilla soup, or your dog had a little too much fun at the swimming pool, sometimes your home gets a little stinky.

Most of us turn immediately towards that $1 bottle of Glade spray or that age-old Yankee candle that's still holding on, but, using those candles and air fresheners may be doing more harm than good.

Here's why those candles and air fresheners may be destroying your indoor air quality.

The Candles

Let's preface this section by saying this -- you can still use candles; the kind of candle is what makes the difference.

Most candles — especially those found in non-specialty shops — contain paraffin wax and wicks with lead. Both of these can cause some serious damage to your overall air quality, as well as your health.

Paraffin Wax

Paraffin wax is a byproduct of petroleum, which is bleached and stripped of odor. When you actually burn paraffin wax, two major carcinogens are released -- toluene and benzene.

Without proper indoor air filtration, toluene and benzene can cause some pretty serious damage to your health (like cancer.) On top of that, burning paraffin wax releases a bunch of other nasty chemicals like Tetrachloroethene, Trichlorofluoromethane, and Acetone (among many others.)

The Wicks

Lead wicks were actually banned from the United States market in 2003, but zinc and lead wicks coming from overseas make up the majority of cheap candles in the U.S.

Now, there is some controversy over whether or not lead wicks are damaging to health, so we aren't going to give a conclusive here.

We will say that the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (who are responsible for banning lead wicks) say that lead wicks pose serious health issues for children, like lead poisoning.

The Alternative

There are plenty of alternatives methods of getting rid of indoor odors, but let's say that you just plain love candles.

The low light, the mood, or the smell of a freshly extinguished candle keep you coming back to candles again and again. If this is the case, we would recommend buying Soy or Beeswax-based candles that are made in the United States.

Air Fresheners

While air fresheners may give your house that "fresh" smell, air fresheners can actually trigger an asthma attack in adults and children. Spray fragrances contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which have pretty serious negative health consequences.

First of all, it's not just air fresheners that contain VOCs, it's pretty much every beauty spray product. In fact, according to the EPA, VOC levels in homes are up to ten times higher than outdoors.

Studies have shown that even air fresheners labeled as "organic" contain harmful chemicals and byproducts.

Overall, air fresheners seem to be consistently bad for your health across the board, so we, as indoor air advocates, would recommend not using them at all. It's not worth the risk.

Fighting Indoor Air Pollutants

Beyond candles and air fresheners there are tons of products that we use that completely destroy our indoor air quality. We won't ever be able to get rid of all of them. Our recommendation is to pay more attention to your indoor air quality. Take some preventative measures.

  • Consider getting some air-friendly plants.
  • Change your filters every 1 - 2 months.
  • Open the windows every once in a while.
  • Don't use a ton of cleaning products
  • If you do use cleaning products, dispose of them properly once you have used them, and don't store a large amount (buy what you need.)
  • Clean regularly (preferably using organic cleaning solutions.)
  • Try to remove odor using more organic and fewer chemical methods.


We understand that indoor air quality is important to all of us, so we now offer a monthly subscription that is specific to your needs.

Whether you need a new filter every month, every other month, or you just want one every once in a while, we have a solution for you. Check out our amazing MERV 8 filters, and stay away from the paraffin wax candles.