Are Yankee Candles Toxic? Our Deep Analysis

9 min reading time

Step into a Yankee Candle store and you’ll be enveloped in the sweet, spicy, and downright mouthwatering scents of their famous jar candles. With over 600 store locations worldwide and a catalog of over 500 fragrances, Yankee Candle has dominated the scented candle industry for over 50 years.

But what lies behind the scents we all love so much? Could it actually be true that yankee candles are toxic?

We took a deep dive into the ingredients of these popular candles to find out if they’re really as safe as they claim.

What Else Does Yankee Candle Sell?

Although Yankee Candle is primarily known for its scented candles, they offer a wide range of other products as well.

Their lineup includes:

  • Candles
  • Room sprays
  • Fragrance oils
  • Diffusers
  • Sachets
  • Plug-ins
  • Car fragrances

While our main focus is on candles in this analysis, the same can be said for any of their other scented products as well.

What Are Yankee Scented Candles? How Do They Work?

Yankee Candles are made by adding fragrance oils to melted wax before it hardens. Common waxes are paraffin and soy.

When lit, the candle’s flame heats and melts the wax around the wick, turning solid wax into liquid. This allows the fragrance oils trapped in the solid wax to evaporate into the surrounding air.

More wax melting over time releases more fragrance. The fragrance oils diffuse into the air as they evaporate. The type and amount of fragrance oil, wax type, and wick size affect the level and spread of the candle’s scent.

The candle releases fragrance until most or all of the wax has melted. Once little wax remains, no more fragrance is diffused, signalling the candle is spent.

Ingredients in Yankee Candles

According to their website, Yankee Candle uses a variety of waxes for its candles. Let’s take a closer look at them.

Soy Wax: Made From Soybean Oil

Soy wax is a type of vegetable wax made from soybean oil. It is typically softer than paraffin wax, with a lower melting temperature. Soy wax tends to burn slower, so you can use the candles for longer.

Since it comes from soybean plants, which can be grown over and over again, soy wax is renewable and sustainable. This make sit an excellent alternative to paraffin wax, which is a petroleum byproduct. We’ll talk about paraffin wax later—another type of wax used in candles produced by Yankee Candle.

Here are some more facts about soy wax, and why it’s a safer choice:

  • Soy wax burns cleaner than paraffin wax. Because soy wax is made from vegetable oils, it has fewer harmful emissions when burned compared to petroleum-based paraffin wax.
  • Soy wax produces little to no soot emissions and does not release toxic chemicals or carcinogens into the air when burning. This makes soy wax safer for indoor air quality and your health.
  • Using soy wax significantly impacts soybean farmers, contributing to their livelihood and local agriculture.

For manufacturers and retailers, soy wax can be trickier to work with because it’s softer and more expensive. Paraffin wax remains a top ingredient choice for candle making for its functionality, availability, and affordability.

However, as demonstrated above, it has a lot more environmental and potential health drawbacks. Many candle makers use a blend to balance the pros and cons of each wax type. Soy wax is the non-toxic, natural, sustainable, and overall better option between the two.

Paraffin Wax: Made From Petrochemicals

Paraffin wax is made from petroleum or crude oil, a non-renewable fossil fuel. It is used in various commercial applications, and in this case, to make candles.

  • It’s the most common candle wax because it’s colorless, odorless, and inexpensive, making adding dyes and scents and customizing candle properties easy. As a petroleum by-product, it’s non-biodegradable and non-renewable.
  • There is a carcinogenic risk with paraffin wax. It emits 11 different toxins, with two of them labelled known carcinogens by the American Lung Association: toluene and benzene.
  • Paraffin wax candles also produce petrol-carbon soot deposits when burned, damaging walls, furnishings, and air ducts in our living spaces. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that indoor air quality is more polluted than outdoor air—paraffin wax dramatically contributes to this.
  • Soot is a product of incomplete combustion. It’s another term for particulate matter, a type of particle pollution. It sticks to places like chimneys where combustion occurs, resulting in clogged chimneys where smoke cannot be drawn out as efficiently, leading to possible disastrous situations such as causing a fire.
  • According to the US EPA, exposure to these particles can impact respiratory and cardiovascular health.

For all of the reasons above, at Better Goods, we highly recommend avoiding candles made from paraffin wax.

Beeswax: The Natural Alternative

Yankee Candle also offers candles made from beeswax. It’s an all-natural wax produced by honey bees. It has been used commercially for a variety of purposes, including candles.

Like soy wax, beeswax burns longer and does not release hazardous chemicals when burned. It’s a biodegradable and renewable resource.

Because it burns cleaner, it is a good option for those with asthma and allergies who still want to use candles for their homes.

Overall, it has a lot of benefits for people and the environment.


According to the specifications in their candle listings, the wicks used in Yankee Candle candles are made with 100% natural fibers and pure cotton.

As a member of the National Candle Association, Yankee Candle is among the companies that signed and agreed not to use lead wicks. Lead wicks have been banned in the United States since 2003.

Fragrances: The (Toxic) Elephant In The Room

Yankee Candle uses both synthetic and natural fragrances in their candles. Like most companies that sell fragranced products, they do not disclose the full ingredient breakdown, and it all just falls under the label “fragrance” or “fragrance ingredient/s.”

As we mentioned in our article Is Febreze Toxic?, fragrance is an ingredient we can all do without. Fragrance on product labels can contain a range of potentially harmful chemicals, including known allergens and endocrine disruptors. 

Keep in mind that candle companies are not legally required to provide full ingredient transparency. Yankee Candle’s ingredients are proprietary, so it’s impossible to know precisely what is used in their products.

Are Scented Candles Safe?

Generally, occasional use of scented candles in well-ventilated areas is unlikely to pose significant health risks for most people. As with most things, when it comes to potential harm, the dose and duration of exposure matter.

Still, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Those with sensitivities, in particular, should avoid scented candles, as exposure to candle emissions can exacerbate asthma and allergies.

According to this 2023 study, 117 respondents reported health problems from frequent use of scented candles. The top three reported health problems were headache, shortness of breath, and cough.

Are Scented Candles Safe For Pets?

If used properly, most scented candles are safe for pets. However, precautions should still be taken because frequent and prolonged exposure in confined spaces is not good.

Not all candles are made the same, and some ingredients are more toxic than others. It’s best to avoid paraffin wax candles, especially those with synthetic fragrance oils, and some scented candles by Yankee Candle use those exact ingredients—avoiding those is highly recommended.

Some essential oils like wintergreen, tea tree, peppermint, pine, eucalyptus, lavender, and many others can also be hazardous to pets, especially if ingested, so it’s crucial to research the ingredients and check with your veterinarian at the first sign of distress. Pets who have asthma and sensitivities should avoid scented candles altogether.

There’s also the possibility of pets knocking over the scented candles while lit, which is a major hazard for them and everyone else in the household.

We looked through online threads to see some people’s experiences with scented candles and how using them affected their pets.

byu/adoryv from discussion
byu/graciemose from discussion

Are Scented Candles Good For the Environment?

While some companies are working on being more conscious of the environmental impacts of their production, a lot of waste is generated from single-use candle containers, which end up in landfills.

As mentioned earlier, paraffin wax releases soot when burned. Soot is a pollutant that comes with environmental and health effects. A major component of soot is black carbon.

According to the US EPA, black carbon has been linked to increased temperatures and accelerated ice and snow melting.

So, Are Yankee Candles Toxic?

Based on our findings, we would say yes, Yankee Candles are toxic. At Better Goods, we never recommend products that could potentially have synthetic fragrances.

Safer, Non-Toxic Alternatives To Yankee Candles

Scented candles made from natural waxes are more widely available; many companies now make them. There are many benefits to using these waxes.

Essential oils are far better than synthetic fragrances, too. However, some essential oils are still toxic, too, especially for pets, so make sure always to check the label.

Unscented natural wax candles are the safest option for those sensitive to fragrances. Beeswax candles have a light honey aroma without added scents.

Wax warmers, candle warmers, and flameless battery-operated candles avoid the smoke and air pollution concerns of burning wicks. These options can still provide ambient lighting and scent.

Unfortunately, many candle companies are not legally required to disclose all of their ingredients. Still, reading labels and ingredient lists is critical when choosing safer, non-toxic candle options.

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