Nowadays, people are becoming more interested in candles and the field of aromatherapy. However, climate change is also another topic that people are particularly passionate about. With these two situations unfolding at the same time, all across the globe, a lot of candle makers have begun to look into the compositions of candles and the exact components that are emitted when the candles are burned. This way, they can gain better knowledge on how to use candles properly, and what kind of candles to use in order to impact the planet positively.


When candles burn, gases are always given off. The types of gases emitted and their quantity are usually determined by different kinds of factors, and these include:

  • The type of candle wax used in making the candle

The type of wax used in making a candle is a very essential factor that determines how cleanly the candle will burn; and the types of gases it would produce. Different types of waxes give off different kinds of gases, in different amounts. For instance, tallow candles are known to produce a whole lot of toxic components that can compromise a person’s health (especially when a lot of tallow candles are burned consistently over time). Although these kinds of candles (i.e. tallow candles) were once the most popular candles in the world, they are also among the most toxic; and are particularly known to burn uncleanly. From the aroma they produce while they are being burned (which many candle lovers have described as the smell of burning fat) to the high level of soot they are known to produce, tallow candles are perhaps the most unclean candles in the history of the world. Yet, they have their unique uses (tallow candles can be eaten, if they are prepared without any artificial materials; and so, in ancient times, they were consumed when there was famine).

Paraffin wax candles are another type of candles that are not known to burn cleanly. This is because they are petroleum based, and are made from materials that produce a whole lot of toxic components when they burn. Paraffin wax candles are some of the most popular candles in the world, because they are cheap and easy for candle makers to work with (they also absorb scents easily and are the most suitable candles in the world for making scented candles), however, have a very heavy carbon footprint and do not have the best effects on the planet. This is why natural waxes such as soy wax and beeswax make better substitutes.

  • The type of wick used in making the candle

Another type factor that affects the type of gases given off by candles is the type of wick used in their making. The most suitable types of candle wicks are those that are made from natural materials such as cotton, because ideally, most wicks are designed to disintegrate as they burn. This means that as a candle is burned, the materials used in making the wick break down and become part of the gases given off into the air. These gases spread into the air and circulate in the atmosphere, as the candle continues to be burned. And people – as well as animals – breathe this air in; this can therefore contribute to their health in the long run.

When the wrong types of candle wicks are used, people can develop allergies, respiratory ailments and similar conditions over time (so, it is always important to use wicks that are made from natural materials).

  • How the candle is burned

Sometimes, the way a candle is burned can also contribute to the types of gases it will produce, during its burning process. Candles that are burned properly tend to produce a lower level of soot compared to those that are not burned the right way.

A candle should be burned in such a way that the candle wax on its surface burns evenly; one part of the candle should not burn at a much faster rate than other parts. Also, the candle should be kept away from any form of uneven airflow, which may lead to more production of soot.

  • How long the candle is burned

According to scientists, every time something is burned, carbon is produced. Therefore, when something (e.g. a candle) is allowed to burn for a long period of time, more carbon is bound to be produced, and vice versa. Therefore, it is important to know that the amount of time used in candle burning can affect the amount of gases emitted into the atmosphere.


Candles, which are made from low quality paraffin wax and other types of artificial waxes tend to emit gases such a carbon dioxide, benzene, sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide (especially when they contain additives such as fragrance and coloring dyes). Many of these gases are bad for a person’s health and can also endanger the planet, when emitted in very large amounts.

Therefore, the answer to the popular candle related question, “Do candles give off carbon monoxide?” is a very explicit “Yes.”

Luckily, they only give off very small quantities of carbon monoxide and the rest of these substances (i.e. benzene, sulfur dioxide, acetone, formaldehyde etc). In order to reduce them significantly, and eliminate their production in some cases, it is important to use candles that are made from high quality waxes and other materials, which do not break down to produce toxic elements. Examples of suitable types of waxes include natural waxes such as beeswax.

Beeswax is the cleanest type of candle wax in the world. However, it is very expensive. So, most candle makers – and candle making companies – cannot afford to make it in very large quantities. This is why natural, vegetable-based substitutes such as soy wax, coconut wax and palm wax (which are a lot cheaper than beeswax, and easier to produce), are commonly used instead.

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