How do scented candles work?

Let me explain how scented candles work so that you can make the right choice for your home, and enjoy your candle to the maximum.

Some of you know that I am currently sending out small scented candles for testing. After talking to my customers-testers and reading their feedback, I’ve decided to give you some details on how scented candles work, so that you know what you’re looking for the next time you buy one.

Where does the scent come from? Hot throw of a candle

The most important thing you need to know is this: The scent that infuses your bathroom, living room or kitchen comes from the melted wax in your candle. What you smell when the candle is lit is called “hot throw”, and even though you can’t test and evaluate it when you’re buying your candle (what you smell when the candle is not lit is called “cold throw”), it is the most important characteristic of a scented candle. Hot throw (the nice smell of a candle when lit) comes from the melted puddle of wax. The more wax is melted, the more “throw” the candle gives.

Another factor that influences a candle’s hot throw apart from the size and depth of the melt pool is its fragrance load. Different waxes are able to carry different fragrance loads, and there are safe maximums for each wax type. Typically, fragrance load ranges from 6% to 10%, sometimes 12%. (Heart of Europe scented candles are made with 8% fragrance load.) Interestingly enough, you cannot say that a higher fragrance load will always give you a better hot throw. The performance and efficacy always needs to be tested.

Hot throw and types of wax

The type of wax also plays its role. Paraffin waxes are well known for their excellent and strong scent throw. That is why big well-known candle companies prefer paraffin (sometimes using a blend of say 70% paraffin and 30% soy). On the other hand, beeswax is very tricky to carry a good scent throw. In order to make beeswax candles carry fragrance load well, the beeswax needs to be blended with up to 40% of either coconut oil, soy wax or any other type of soft wax. But frankly, why would anyone want to use such an expensive and valuable resource as beeswax and blend it with anything? Especially when it already gives a beautiful mild honey scent naturally.

Finding the perfect combination of specific wax – fragrance – wick – jar combination is a huge part of product development and testing, but this is not a topic for today. I will say though, that it can happen that the fragrance load is too high for the wax to be able to carry, and then the fragrance oil can seep out of the wax forming small puddles on the surface of the candle. That is dangerous, and the fragrance oil is likely to catch fire when lit. So, if you ever came across a candle like this, be careful and ideally don’t light it. (Hopefully, you’re not likely to come across candles like that, so don’t worry about it too much, just be aware of the fact. Also, some soft waxes may start melting in high heat – for example if you leave your candle in direct sun – so tiny droplets on the surface of your wax when you know it has been standing in high heat should be fine.)

Choose the right candle for your intended purpose

What does all this mean for us – consumers? You can indirectly influence how much scent your candle will give out when lit by selecting the right wax type and the size of a candle jar. If you prefer stronger throw, look for paraffin candles and try to find jars that are wider (have a larger surface area), and contain more wicks (give out more heat, and therefore create a deeper melt pool). On the other hand, if you prefer the candle’s throw to be mild, soy or rapeseed waxes and smaller jars will be enough.

If you intend to use your candle in a larger room, you need a larger jar with a larger melt pool. If you want your candle for the hall, the bathroom or a small bedroom, a smaller jar should be enough.

Always burn safely

Keep in mind, that candles generally burn hotter once the flame starts descending down into the jar. This means that the throw of you candle can intensify with time. Once you have only half of your candle left, it will melt more wax more quickly, and the scent can become stronger. You can toggle this process a bit by how you use your candle. Create a stronger throw by leaving the candle burn for longer, or by leaving the wick longer and not trimming it every single time (this will lead to a higher flame, higher burning temperature, melting more wax faster).

Please, always adhere to safe candle burning practices though! You can read about how to safely take care of your candle here, and you will always receive a candle care card with your Heart of Europe Candles order. I personally believe that trying different jar sizes, different types of waxes and different manufacturers for different fragrance loads is a better way to find what you are looking for, than burning your candles unsafely.