Nothing says “cozy” like a scented candle. I’ve burned around 50 scented candles for hundreds of hours in researching this piece over the past year, so I’m well-versed in what makes a good candle – the kind that instantly transforms your home and your mood – as well as what makes a bad one.
For me, lighting a scented candle is a ritual that marks the end of the working day. They’re also my go-to gift for friends and relatives (especially those who are tricky to buy for, if you choose a failsafe scent. I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t love the White Company’s Seychelles candle).
How to use scented candles
My ideal candle needs to have the “scent throw” – ie. strength – to fill a whole room, otherwise burning it seems pointless, but mustn’t be overpowering or smell synthetic. Caring for your candles is a necessity, even if that sounds faintly ridiculous.
It’s worth investing in a wick trimmer to keep them in optimal condition (I have an inexpensive one from Amazon). Remember to light a new candle for at least three or four hours the first time you burn it to stop the wax from ‘tunneling’. Liz Drew, owner of specialist scented candle shop Osmology (and something of a candle expert), says: “This is really important, because wherever the ring of wax gets to when you first burn a candle, that’s where it will burn in future. ”
How are scented candles made?
As with perfume, creating a home fragrance is a fine art that’s more complicated than it first appears. Candles can be made from different types of wax and each has its own merits. Soy or paraffin (also known as mineral) waxes are the most common – soy wax is generally preferable to candles made from a paraffin wax, as they burn slower and are more environmentally friendly. Paraffin is cheaper and more readily available as it’s a byproduct of the oil industry.
“Each type of wax has a different personality,” says Drew. “Soy wax is the most popular of the more eco-friendly options and has a nice, clean burn, but it doesn’t give as strong a scent as mineral wax. Other options include beeswax, which gives a lovely long-lasting burn, and coconut or rapeseed wax, which hold scent really well.” Beeswax also gives the “cleanest” burn, free from soot and smoke.
“Cheaper scented candles tend to be made out of a petroleum-based wax, and people are on the fence about whether they give off nasties or not,” Drew says. “My opinion is that there’s nothing that bad about them – it’s just down to personal taste and how strong you like the smell to be.”
There are also different ways of scenting the candle itself. “Some customers like to have all natural scents that are essential oil-based, and there are brands which specialize in that,” Drew continues. “But then more manufactured or artificial oils can still be incredibly high quality – it just depends what you’re looking for. As long as it’s a high quality candle, you won’t have any issues.”
Most candles use a mixture of natural and manufactured scents. Essential oils (such as lavender, jasmine and bergamot) smell beautiful and have calming properties, but go off quickly, says Drew.
How I tested the best scented candles
As writer for the Telegraph’s Recommended section, I’ve spent a year trying and testing a wide range of fragrances from favorite flames (including The White Company and Jo Malone London) to exciting new yet-to-be-favourites.
At a glance – the best scented candles
The best scented candles for 2022
1. The White Company Seychelles scented candle
£20, The White Company
Best scented candle for gifting