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HOW TO: Choose a candle

With so much of our lives spent indoors right now, many of us are looking for ways to make our living spaces better - better looking, better smelling, and better feeling overall.

And when it comes to transforming the feel and energy of a space, there aren’t many things more effective than a candle. And so, I’m not surprised at all to see that when most of the world is staying at home to fight COVID-19, we’re getting more orders for candles than anything else.

Seattle Candle Company
Photo by Alejandra Maria Photography, provided by Seattle Candle Company

So, how do you pick out the right candle for you? You have a lot of options when it comes to candles these days! From the different types of wax, to essential oils and fragrances, to the actual candle-making process, to packaging - here's our guide to helping you choose a candle.

Below, some of our favorite Seattle-based candle makers share their expertise to help you understand your options. 

 

SAFETY FIRST
London Tierney from Seattle-based Particle Goods says, “when buying a candle you should look to make sure it is
phthalate-free and does not have a lead wick. Aside from that, the rest is personal preference.”

Phthalates are a group of “chemical plasticizers” that, among other things, can enhance fragrances. But the health and danger of phthalates are not widely known yet, and they’re currently being studied by several government agencies.

Candle wicks with a metal core may contain lead and other metals, so look for candles with cotton paper, cotton, or wood wicks.

Particle Goods 
Photo provided by Particle Goods

TYPE OF WAX
Kayleigh Otto of Seattle Candle Company lays out the different wax types. “Personal preference is really what will help you decide which candle is right for you. Common wax types: soy, beeswax, paraffin, coconut, blends of the above. There are differences in the ways that each of these waxes present "cold"/unburned as well as when they are "hot"/burning, how they burn and the rate that they will burn.”

As for burn times, beeswax candles tend to have the longest burn time, followed by pure soy wax, followed by blends and paraffins. Because of its high burn temperature, beeswax can be difficult to work with, and as such, most smaller businesses opt for soy wax or a soy coconut wax blend.

You may also want to think about what animal-derived products are used in your candles. Linda Takano of Lulumiere Candles says, “for those wanting to ensure that their candles are vegan, they will want to leave the beeswax candles on the shelf for someone else.”

And read descriptions carefully; Sean Willis from Vegan Candle Company notes that “many companies claim to offer a "soy candle" or "soy wax blend" which is deceiving because that means it can be blended with other more harmful waxes, such as paraffin wax”.

 

HOW IS THE CANDLE SCENTED
Another thing to consider is how the candle is scented - commonly through fragrance oils and essential oils. While essential oils tend to be the “purest”, derived directly from the plant or element itself, one drawback is that the scent doesn’t always come through as strongly when they’re burning as much as when they’re cold. 

Sean Willis from Vegan Candle Company explains that “essential oils are concentrated plant extracts that retain their natural smell, and fragrance oils are synthetic oils. Unfortunately for soy based candles, essential oils are more difficult to use and the scent throw (what you smell at home) is typically weaker.” 

Seattle Candle Co’s Kayleigh describes the process as follows: “Fragrance oils are lab created and tested to simulate the scent of an element and can also be derived from essential oils. Some fragrance oils have lots of additives to improve their scent retention and life… [Seattle Candle Company uses] perfume grade oils, which are safe for skin and have the least amount of additives.”

 

SCENT SENSITIVITY
Those with scent sensitivities may want to consider steering clear of fragrance oils. Linda Takano advises that for those with sensitive noses or otherwise want to avoid fragrance, “a pure essential oil candle is a great option.”

In addition to Linda’s suggestion to consider pure essential oil candles, London of Particle Goods has another piece of advice for those sensitive to smell: “If you are sensitive to fragrances then avoiding paraffin, parabens, and phthalates is very important. I would look for a subtle scent that does not contain vanilla or (vanillin) as that tends to be heavier and stronger.”

Kayleigh Otto of Seattle Candle Company points out there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for scent sensitivity. She suggests experimenting with different elements - the wax base/blend, fragrance additives, even wick types.

 
Photo provided by Lulumiere

CONSIDER HOW IT WAS MADE (+ WHO MADE IT)
There are a lot of good reasons to consider buying from small-batch, local candlemakers. For one, Linda of Lulumiere points out that “most handmade candles are either made entirely with soy wax or with a soy-coconut wax blend. These are all fantastic because those waxes are vegan, sustainable, long lasting & US grown, renewable crops.”

Many of our customers look to support companies with business practices that they agree with. Sean Willis from Vegan Candle Company explains how they’ve thought through every step of their business operations with the greater good in mind.

“When we started our company, we set out to create a product that did as little harm to people, animals, and the planet. Being a vegan company, we omit all animal products in our manufacturing process, from the glue that holds our wicks in place, to the ink on our labels and our wax. We also carefully choose materials that are less harmful to the environment; we use no plastics and all our packaging is either made from recycled materials, is fully recyclable, or biodegradable. We have a few vessel types, and all of them make cute reusable holders for all types of things as well so you don't need to toss them out.”

Other considerations you might have:

What kind of sustainability practices does the candle company have? How do they package and ship their product?

Does this company have a social good practice? Do they give back to a cause you align with?

Who owns the company? If supporting woman-owned or minority-owned businesses is a priority for you, learn about the company you buy from.

 

IN SUM!
The good news is that you have a lot of options. Linda Takano from Lulumiere says, "The best part of buying candles in this day & age is that there is likely the perfect candle for you sitting out there waiting to be brought into your living space."

And if you're looking for someone to do your vetting for you - check out our collection of candles. We stand behind all of the candles we sell. All of them are handmade by small businesses, mostly local to Seattle (with a couple exceptions for candles we just love).

Huge thanks to the following Seattle-based candlemakers for sharing their expertise. We sell all of their candles at Station 7:

 

Vegan Candle Co
Photo from Vegan Candle Co's website

Next up: We’ve got a great post coming out about how to take care of and prolong the life of your candles - to make sure you get it, sign up for our email updates!

Header photo by Alejandra Maria Photography, provided by Seattle Candle Company