As we started realizing that candle burning might not be a very sustainable business, we took it upon ourselves to investigate how bad it really is and what the better choices are. Here's what we found out.

Living in the northernmost parts of the world, as we do, every day is now shorter and darker than the one before (a total downer, as always). This means, that in the five to six months to come, we’ll be burning something that can only be described as an insane amount of candles. And as much as we love the sight of that flickering light and the sophisticated fragrance from our favorite scented candles, we can’t help but wonder: How will all that candle wax, colors and perfumes—dissolved into the air we breathe—affect us? What’s the prize for great ambiance?

When it comes to conventional candles, like the typical taper candles and tea lights, most are made from either stearin (animal or vegetable fats) or paraffin (petroleum waste), and the latter is actually really bad for both the environment and us. As paraffin burns, it creates toxic benzene and toluene chemicals, both of which are known carcinogens. Apparently, breathing them in is as bad for your health as second-hand smoke.
Many candles also contain artificial dyes and fragrances, which can release harmful chemicals. Together, all these toxic particles—not forgetting soot—that are released into the air in our homes has proven to cause awful things like lung issues, cardiac problems, cancer, autoimmune diseases, and allergies. Considering our own health as well as the health of this plant, we’re obligated to make better choices.

So, what we’ve figured out is this: You want organic and eco-friendly candles with cotton or wood wicks made from natural, vegetable ingredients like coconut wax, rapeseed wax, beeswax or soy wax. If they’re scented, many advocate essential oils, but depending on how they’re made and how you react to them, we can’t say it’s always the most eco-friendly or healthy option. Choose stearin for taper candles and tea lights—preferably the vegetable kind if you can find it. Be suspicious of candles manufactured with synthetic fragrances, toxic dyes, GMOs, pesticides, paraffin or parabens, and avoid ones made from unspecified blends, as they may contain synthetic ingredients or paraffin.

We know, it’s a lot. To make it easier we’ve made an explanatory list of words and ingredients to look for.

Natural and organic

It’s usually the best and most sustainable choice. However, even natural ingredients needs to be responsibly produced. If the candle contain wax made from palm oil or soy, it’s extra important to know it comes from eco-friendly and sustainable harvesting. Palm oil should for example always be RSPO certified*.

Coconut wax

This is supposedly the purest, most eco-friendly and luxurious wax used today (hence more expensive). It burns slowly and cleanly, and throws scent very well. Is there anything coconuts can’t do?

Rapeseed wax

It’s natural, renewable and biodegradable, and it burns slower and cooler, which helps to better distribute fragrance. Choose rapeseed wax from Europe (especially if you live there for shorter transports) where it’s illegal to grow GMO crops.


As beeswax isn’t vegan, it’s unfortunately not for everyone. However, it’s a natural, biodegradable wax that burns slowly, and it naturally cleans the air by neutralizing toxins. It’s smokeless and sootless, and absolutely best in its natural, uncolored and honey scented form. The colors differ between different waxes depending what the bees have lived on.

Soy wax

Even though it’s a natural, renewable and biodegradable wax that burns slowly and cleanly, it’s not the most sustainable one. There are many concerns regarding the massive soybean industry, like deforestation and the use of pesticides and fertilizers. Be careful to avoid soy/paraffin blends as well as GMOs (which are still allowed in e.g. USA).


This is a tricky one, as it’s very often made from both animal and vegetable fats, which doesn’t make it vegan. Nevertheless, stearin is always to prefer before paraffin. Make sure the candles are eco-friendly or Swan-branded, and choose refill tea lights instead of the ones that come in aluminum cups if possible.

Essential oils

In opposition to synthetic fragrances, essential oils are natural extracts made from plants and flowers. In their concentrated form they’re very powerful and should be handled with great care. Essential oils are often used for their therapeutic and nourishing qualities.

Cotton or wooden wicks

The wick should be lead and metal free and made from natural and clean-burning things like cotton, hemp or wood. Cut the wick before lightening the candle for a cleaner burn, and always keep candles away from drafts to prevent them from producing soot.

* See Astrid’s comment below for additional info on palm oil.


Check out these toxic-free and natural scented candles for inspiration.

1. Edition 01 – Winter, Goop, 65h.
Made with soy wax and essential oils.

2. Rosemary Lime, Low Key, 40h
Organic candle made from a blend of coconut, carnauba, RSPO-certified palm oil and European beeswax. It’s scented with eco-certified essential oils and has an organic cotton wick.

3. Black Oak, L:a Bruket, 45h+
Made from organic soy wax and organic essential oils.

4. Birch & Juniper, Kårby Organics, 60h.
Made from an all-organic blend of coconut wax, beeswax, carnauba and palm oil (from eco certified, small-scale farms in South America).

5. Patchouli and Cedar Wood, Yvelis, 45h
Made from rapeseed and essentials oils with a cotton wick.

6. Bergamot & Cinnamon, Calming Scented Candle, Renee Voltaire, 35h
Made from soy wax and organic essential oils.

Pic at the top: Beeswax candles.


Anil Rao: Good article to understand on sustainable wax options
March 25, 2022

Melissa: Good comparison info! So, if you had to rate which wax was the best as far as eco-friendly and sustainable, which one would that be? Or from best to worst would be helpful too.
July 28, 2021

Linda: Great information. Anybody knows if drip candles can be sustainable?
January 8, 2021

Emma: Hi Alisa.... there should be plenty in th US already - not sure if you'll get GMao free easily though - it may be callef Canola oil there? Hope this helps!
August 29, 2020

ALISIA: Does anyone know of any places that will ship Rapseed to the U. S?
August 18, 2020

Allegra: Hi, thanks for this article, its fab! just wondering if anyone has any recommended sites that they have purchased any of the products suggested?
June 19, 2020

Fanny: Certified palm oil is a second hand solution but definitely not sustainable. The other oils come from far so it is not eco friendly, the certain source would be beeswax (if locally produced is best).
December 12, 2019

Anna: this is great! what are your thoughts on sustainable packaging for candles?
February 15, 2019

live casino malaysia android: Howdy just wanted to give youu a quick heas up. The text inn your post seem to be running off the screen in Internet explorer. I'm not sure iif this is a formatting issue orr something to do with web browser compatibility but I thought I'd post to let you know. The syle annd design look great though!Hope you get the problem solved soon. Kudos
July 6, 2018

Johanna Andersson: Hi Astrid! Thank you so much for contributing to this article! I've made a star referring to your comment so no one will miss it. x
October 30, 2017

Astrid: According to naturskyddsföreningen there is no such thing as certified palm oil at this point. The certified kind is often legal but non the less is it grown on former rain forest grounds. So I would not buy anything with palm oil. For example Oatly, which is a brand I otherwise love, also claim that they use certfied palm oil, but in the end it would make more sense to use for example coconu toil or rapseed oil.
October 29, 2017

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