Here is a scenario that is unpleasant but possible. You light a candle for an evening of self-care, or to have a bit of mindful meditation. Maybe you’re just looking to set a romantic atmosphere for a night of connecting with your partner. One minute, you’re enjoying the feeling and the next, an unpleasant, near metallic smell seems to mix in with the pleasant fragrance you were going for. 

The air seems to be electrified, definitely not what you wanted. Now, the inside of your space smells like the beginning of an electrical fire. That’s a serious problem, isn’t it? 


There is the obvious option of purposefully scented candles. There are also smells produced unintentionally due to problems with the wick or the material the candle is made from. Here’s some information about the smells a candle produces due to the type of wax it’s made from:

  • Paraffin Wax Candle Smells: Paraffin is an inexpensive, durable, lightly translucent material that has a high fragrance load. It also is a petrol by-product that emits low levels of benzene and other hydrocarbons. Paraffin on most occasions usually does not emit any scents, but it has been known to rarely produce soot when lit. The soot has a smell that could be described as fireplace-like or smoky. Over time, this can be increasingly unpleasant, and harmful to the lungs of humans. 
  • Soy Wax Candle Smells: Soy wax is a natural, biodegradable, and non-toxic candle wax made from soybeans. It produces up to 90% less soot than paraffin candles and is known to project scents quite excellently. This is due to the fact that the smell comes from the melted wax pool as well as the wick. It does produce light soot but, due to the fact that it is made out of clean vegetable oil, it rarely ever produces a smell. Also, the soot is quite easy to clean.
  • Beeswax Candle Smells: Beeswax is one of the densest waxes you can find, and it has a very high melting point. This means that it doesn’t need hardeners, additives or treatments to make a good candle. Since they’re made from natural sources, the smells emitted are usually quite soothing, a mix of flowery and honey scents. 
  • Palm Wax Candle Smells: Palm wax is common in the dyed variety of candles. These candles are hard and brittle, burn very quickly and produce very hot wax. Like paraffin candles, they produce very sooty smoke due to wick issues.


Assorted-color Pillar Candles

Generally the reasons for unintentional, unpleasant and “burning wire” smells are: 

  • Wick: The thickness and length of the wick are very vital in the performance and smell of a candle (scented or not). A too-long or too-thick wick can cause the flame to burn awkwardly. That, combined with a potentially smoky wax base, could lead to an unpleasant smell. A too-short wick could also lead to the wick burning out before the wax is done, ending with a lump of unused and wasted wax. 
  • Wax Material: As noted above,  the wax used in making a candle is of the utmost importance when considering the smell that could result. The most notable materials that have the chance to give out unpleasant smells are Paraffin and Palm waxes. Beeswax also produces a smell that is usually pleasant but can be unpleasant under certain conditions.
  • Scent Clashes: This happens predominantly with scented and homemade candles. The amount of fragrance added in and how the wax mixed can turn a citrus-scented candle into a burning copper wire smelling attack on the nose. If making a candle on your own, consider the number of natural materials and fragrances being mixed in. If the mixture does end up giving a candle that smells quite unpleasant, it is possible that wax doesn’t mix well with the fragrance being used. 
  • Contaminants: This occurs mostly with homemade candles, but it also is possible with factory-produced candles. If there is an unwelcome catalyst introduced when the candle is being made. It could lead to an unpleasant smell being produced when lit. Some homemade candle recipes recommend different easy to buy additives and strengtheners. But based on the type available to the candle maker. Results, both in look and smell may very well vary from the expected. 
  • External Factors: If there does happen to be anything in contact with the wax, wick, flame, or stand of the candle. It could be heated to the point where it begins to exude a smell. It is paramount to consider carefully where you’re going to place a candle before lighting it. A candle flame does not have to be in direct contact with materials before the heat causes a reaction. Even the melted wax dripping down the side of a candle could potentially lead to a hazardous situation and unpleasant smells. 

Consider this situation. A nice orange scented candle, with a perfectly sized wick. Ready to give you an evening of mellow, calming sensations. Set it down on your candle stand. You light it up, only to note a metallic smell coming up a few minutes later. All because you didn’t pay attention to a piece of clothing caught between your candle stand and the candle. It’d be prudent to avoid this kind of scenario by being careful and making sure there is nothing flammable near a candle before lighting it.


When an unwelcome fragrance or smoky soot exudes from a candle, there are lots of potential causes for that. The first step to take would be to blow out the candle just in case the smell is potentially harmful to health or being produced by a flammable material being heated up. 

The stand of the candle might also be a factor. If it isn’t too hot to handle, or covered in molten wax, and if it is resting on a flammable surface, consider moving it off.

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