We burn candles a little more often than the average household.
One reason for this is that when you have a household with a partially incontinent pet or a senior pet, accidents happen. And when accidents happen, odors linger.
Despite regularly burning candles, however, we have never invested in a pet-friendly candle before. This is mostly due to scent loyalty.
You know what I’m talking about. You find a candle scent that you love, you purchase more candles than you need, and you burn that same scent until your supply has dwindled.
As we near the end of our last commercial brand candle, I have noticed a thick black soot forming on the toilet seats in our house. The intriguing thing is that we can burn our last candle in the kitchen, and all two and a half bathrooms in the house will develop this black soot on the toilet seats. This got me to thinking – what was in the candles that I was burning so regularly and how were they affecting my boy?
Traditional Candles, What You Need to Know
Most of us don’t give much thought to the candles that we burn short of the scent that they put off when burned. So, it’s time for us all to take a crash course in traditional candles.
The majority of candles these days are made from something called “paraffin wax”.
Paraffin wax is a product of petroleum refining. Huh? When crude oil is refined to make gasoline, it creates a petroleum waste product which can be used to make paraffin wax.
When paraffin wax candles are burned they create that black soot I mentioned above. That soot is made of unburned carbon particles that escape during the candle burning process. These particles go airborne and, in my case, settle on toilet seats.
These carbon particles don’t only make for sooty toilet seats, however, they also find their way into your lungs and your pet’s lungs too. As the small carbon particles pass through the air you can easily breathe them in and from there they can cause irritation and blackening of the nasal passages, throat, airway, lungs, and alveoli.
For most people, this blackening or irritation is little more than a nuisance, but prolonged exposure to candle soot or exposure to it when you are an asthmatic or someone with an existing respiratory condition is bad news.
Most of us choose our candles for their scents. We want something that will smell good and a scent that will linger. But where do these scents come from?
Commercial candle scents are made from artificial fragrance components that 99% of the time are toxic or harmful to your (and your dog’s) health.
What types of toxic components are in the scents of commercial candles?
- Benzene derivatives – linked to cancer
- Aldehydes – linked to liver disease, cancer, and respiratory distress
- Amines – linked to cancer
- Ethers – linked to respiratory paralysis, unconsciousness, and respiratory irritation
Lead wicks in candles are of significantly less concern than they used to be in the United States since they were outlawed in 2003.
At one time, candle manufacturers used lead core wicks in candles because they created slower burning candles that were more appealing to customers.
Unfortunately, just because these wicks are no longer permitted in candlemaking within the United States, does not mean that they are not being used elsewhere. In fact, many countries such as China with lax production regulations, still use lead core wicks in their candles today.
The problem with these wicks, as you can imagine, is that as they burned they released lead into the atmosphere. Five times more lead than is considered hazardous for children (and thereby animals.)
As we burn these lead wicks and release this lead, we are exposing ourselves and our families to a wide range of risks including:
- Kidney Disease
- Psychological conditions such as anxiety and depression
- Developmental delay
- Memory loss
- Learning difficulties
So How Are Pet-Friendly Candles Different?
It’s important to note that there are no regulations when it comes to labeling something as “pet-friendly”. However, looking in the market for pet-friendly candles is a good place to begin when looking for candles that do not have the harmful properties of the traditional candles.
True pet-friendly candles are candles that are:
- NATURAL soy wax, 100% beeswax or 100% other plant or vegetable waxes
- Made with a cotton or paper wick
- Use natural essential oils for scenting
Pet-friendly candles burn clean without releasing harmful chemicals into the air. These candles will also release much less soot, just be sure to trim down the wick before using.
Pet-Friendly ≠ Pet-Safe
Comparing Pet-Friendly and Traditional Candles
Most pet-friendly candles will be scented since the purpose of using candles for many pet owners, is to reduce pet odor. You will find that the natural essential oils used to scent these candles don’t tend to last as long as traditional scents, but under the circumstances, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
You will also notice, when shopping for pet-friendly candles, that they can be quite expensive in comparison to your favorite big name brand candle. This is particularly true for 100% beeswax candles. The increased cost is the result of not using petroleum sludge, a cheap byproduct to make the candle wax.
Lastly, you will see that pet-friendly candles have much longer burn times on average when compared to traditional candles. Not a bad trade off when combined with the eliminated toxicity for the additional cost!
Just remember that just because a candle says that it is “pet-friendly” does not mean that it is pet-safe. Look at the ingredients of the candle you are purchasing and investigate the company who makes it.
A Few Trusted Pet-Friendly Candles
There are quite a few “pet-friendly” candles out there on the market and beginning your hunt for the right one for you can be a little overwhelming. So, to get you started, here are three very reputable choices.
Way Out Wax – Way Out Wax is a Vermont company who specialize in using 100% beeswax and a combination of hemp oil wax and vegetable wax. Their fragrances all come from essential plant oils and their wicks are either cotton or hemp.
Honey Candles – Honey Candles use only 100% pure beeswax in their candles, their scent comes from honey, and their wicks are 100% cotton or cotton with a paper twist. Honey Candles are bee friendly candles, they support the Foundation for the Preservation of the Honey Bee. Additionally, the company remelts all leftover wax and makes candles to donate to families in need!
Beehive Candles – Beehive Candles is another company who use only 100% pure beeswax in their candles. Their candles are lightly scented by the honey itself and their wicks are 100% cotton. Their candles are all hand crafted.