Thursday, July 15, 2010


I didn't mean to. I didn't mean to overheat my lovely cast iron skillet and scorch the remaining crumbs from the most delicious chickpea patties I think I've ever made. I'm just forgetful. I often forget to turn off the burners when I'm finished. I blame this on my electric stove. I grew up with a gas stove. Gas stoves remind you they are still on by shooting blue flames up at you. Electric stoves are more tricky. Their heat is invisible and silent and you don't realize the burner is on until you a) burn the tar out of your hand when you touch it or b) burn the crummies of your dinner into a charred oblivion.  The skillet will recover and dinner was fantastic but the smell of burned chickpeas permeated our home.Everyone's house has a smell; smoke, laundry detergent, a certain often used cleaning product....but on that particular day, my house would be the house that smelled like scorched falafel.

Enter the candle. I love candles. I always have. I use them for light, for ambiance and to freshen those not so sweet odors that sometimes occur in an otherwise pleasant smelling household. The flickering glow of a candle soothes me in a way I can't quite describe and if I'm home, there's usually one burning somewhere in the house.

When I started to reassess the products my family uses, it never even crossed my mind that most candles are little environmental disasters waiting to release their toxins at first light. I might sound dramatic but listen to this. Let's talk about wax. Most commercially produced candles are made with paraffin wax. Paraffin is a waste product of petroleum refining. I've been trying to "just say no" to petroleum products so most candles don't fit in to my eco-friendly lifestyle. Plus, the chemicals used to process paraffin candles like benzene and esters, are released into the air, polluting both indoor and outdoor air with unhealthy fumes and soot.

And wicks. Don't even get me started about the wicks! Conventional candles often use a synthetic wick that have a metal or zinc core which, you guessed it, emits toxic stuff when lit. Lead wicks are banned in the U.S. thank goodness, but many countries continue to use them. Be wary of imported candles! Personally I can't believe any manufacturer would use such dangerous substances in their products. I guess that goes for many items in the world today but truly, I though candles would be one the last things I needed to worry about!

Luckily, I am not the only one disgusted by poisonous candles. There are several reputable candle makers who use soy and bees waxes instead of questionable paraffin. They use 100% organic cotton wicks too and they use essential oils to smell up their creations. I'm partial to the Eco-Candle Company out of Wisconsin. They are a Mom and Pop effort which I love and have enough scents to burn a new one every month for a couple of years. The candles burn clean and steady, no soot, and come in reusable glass tumblers. I used mine to hold cotton wool and swabs! (Please disregard the spotty mirror in the background. I haven't cleaned it in a while!)

The Eco-Candle company also has line called MANdles, candles for men. If you need a good giggle, I highly suggest you check them out. There's "Frat Boy" which smells like beer, "Dirtbag" which claims to cover up your man smells, and "Stoner" which smells like, well... you know what it smells like!

No, I am not being paid to endorse this company I just really like it. There are lots of other people who make sustainable candles. These guys are just my current favorites. Wherever you get your candles, make sure you're buying the paraffin free, cotton wicked version. The earth, and your lungs, will thank you!


  1. How did you become so knowledge about where your candles come from? I LOVE candles, burn them daily and now may have to break my candle habit or start phasing out the "bad" ones for more green options.
    Thanks for the education!

  2. Abbie,

    I've researched a lot but a good comprehensive book is Easy Green Living by Renee Loux. She covers all the bases...things you would never imagine being potentially harmful. She has lots of suggestions for places to find eco-friendly choices. It was kind of my "bible" when I was starting out!

  3. Hey Steph, I completely feel you with the soot and toxins in candles.

    A few months back we had a pot on the stove and the same kinda thing happened, except we managed to melt the handles. We had a HORRIBLE melted plastic stench in our house and though we were going to have to get a hotel room because it was so bad. The best advice I think I have ever received was to boil some vinegar, water and lemon juice on the stove with your exhaust fan on. Vinegar is a natural deodorizer and the lemon makes it smell good....and the best part, it is natural.