Candles can set the mood and add a lovely ambiance to any room. But not all candles are created equal when it comes to having an appealing scent. Some seem to have little to no fragrance at all while others are overwhelmingly strong or just plain unpleasant. So what’s the secret to finding good smelling candles that provide just the right subtle yet noticeable aroma? Here are some tips:
Consider the Wax – Soy wax, beeswax, and vegetable-based waxes tend to hold scent better than paraffin wax. Paraffin is the most commonly used candle wax, but it is petroleum-based so doesn’t absorb and release scent as effectively. Soy, beeswax, and vegetable waxes are more porous and natural, allowing the fragrance oils to permeate through them more thoroughly. A candle made from one of these wax blends is more likely to fill a room with lingering fragrance compared to a paraffin version.
Evaluate the Fragrance Oils – A quality fragrance oil is key for candles to have a pleasant throw. Synthetic fragrance oils tend to smell cheap and abrasive compared to natural essential oils which provide more authentic, delicate scents. But essential oils are also more expensive and can be cost prohibitive to use in large batches of candles. Many artisanal candle makers strike a balance, using some essential oils blended with higher grades of synthetic fragrance oils. Take note of how complex or layered the scent profiles are described when shopping for candles, as these indicate a superior grade of fragrance.
Consider the Wick – The wick must be properly sized for the candle’s diameter and wax type. A wick that is too small for the candle will not allow the wax to burn hot enough to melt the oils and release their aroma. On the other hand, an oversized wick can create big sooty flames and an unpleasant burnt smell. High quality pre-tabbed or braided cotton wicks that are custom paired to the type of wax and candle size lead to the best cold and hot scent throw.
Evaluate the Vessel – The vessel holding the candle can impact the hot and cold throw of the scent. Candles poured into metal or glass containers allow more fragrance to permeate than candles encased in a mason jar with a lid. The tighter the seal of the jar, the more the scent molecules are trapped. Votives in open glass containers tend to fill a room with the intended fragrance, while the same candle in a completely sealed mason jar may retain more scent when not lit but won’t effectively scent a space when burned.
Trim the Wick – Always trim candle wicks to 1⁄4 inch before lighting to avoid excessive smoking and aroma-blocking soot. Long wicks create more smoke which blocks scent rather than releasing it. It also helps to wipe away any dust on the surface before lighting, as buildup can clog wicks. Trim wicks each time you burn the candle to maintain the ideal 1⁄4 inch length for maximum scent dispersal.
Allow Full Pooling – On the first burn, allow the wax to completely melt from edge to edge to form a pool—this is called full pooling. This primes the candle, allowing the fragrance oils to fully liquefy and adhere to the melted wax, creating an even canvas that will help efficiently deliver scent. Once pooled, you can then trim the wick and subsequent burns will release optimized aroma.
Don’t Burn Too Long – In general, don’t burn a candle for more than 4 hours at a time. Burning longer than that risks overheating the wax and releasing more scent than intended, creating olfactory overload. The wax can also start to discolor and the candle becomes lopsided, indicating its quality and scent are deteriorating.
Go For Double Wicks – For a bolder scent presence, choose a candle with 2 or 3 wicks instead of one. Multiple wicks give off more aroma as they generate a larger melt pool to disperse fragrance from. Just be sure to keep wick trimming and burn times in check to avoid scent overkill.
Give It a Rest – Allow a candle to rest for at least 2 hours between burn sessions, until it cools completely. This helps the wax reset for optimal fragrance release and performance. Burning repeatedly without letting the candle cool and solidify in between will make it get too hot, accelerating the scent throw beyond its ideal diffusion rate.
Switch Up Location – If a candle seems to have lost its scent, try moving it to a new location before giving up on it. The fragrance throw can vary in different environments depending on airflow, temperature, and size of space. A spot with more ventilation that allows scent molecules to circulate may boost a weakened throw.
So in summary, to unlock the secret of a perfectly scented candle, look for ones made with soy, vegetable, or beeswax rather than paraffin, check that the wick is the proper thickness, allow the first burn to fully pool the wax, trim wicks before each use, avoid burning for more than 4 hours consecutively, give the candle resting breaks, and move to a new location if the throw seems weak. Follow these tips and you’re sure to enjoy candles that make your space smell fresh, inviting, and just right.