Incense vs Candles

Incense vs Candles: Which One to Use and Why?

In the world of aromatic wonders, both incense and candles hold paramount significance because of their variety of scents and also their historical context.

However, both come with their own sets of pros and cons. While some prefer the use of incense for its spiritual connectivity and aromatic variety others prefer candles for their ambiance and less smoke production. 

Join us as we explore the differences between incense and candles, their unique aspects, and tips for using them safely at home. 

The Potential Benefits of Incense & Candles

When we consider the benefits of burning incense and candles, it is important to understand their distinct qualities and how they may serve different purposes in our daily lives. Let’s explore the individual advantages they offer.

Pros of Incense

Incense has been used for centuries in various cultural and spiritual practices to foster a sense of sanctity and to purify the atmosphere. 

We can use incense to create a conducive environment for meditation, as it promotes concentration and relaxation.

A study on the Characteristics of charcoal particles and black carbon emitted by combustion of incense, candles, and anti-mosquito products indicates potential impacts on indoor air quality. 

Learn More: Best Incense for Fertility!

However, the specific use of incense in spiritual practices often outweighs these concerns for many individuals.

  • Spiritual connectivity: Incense can be specifically chosen to align with our spiritual intentions, enhancing the overall experience.
  • Aromatic variety: It offers a wide range of scents derived from natural sources like resin, wood, and essential oils, each with unique properties.

Pros of Candles

Candles provide both ambient light and warmth, which creates an inviting and cozy atmosphere. 

While taking into account what might be healthier, incense or candles, we consider unscented candles or those made with natural waxes and oils as a preferable choice due to their typically lower emission rates. 

According to a Compilation of published PM2.5 emission rates, candles have quantifiable emissions that can be crucial for indoor air quality modeling.

  • Ambiance and warmth: The soft light of a patchouli candle flame can transform a space, promoting tranquility and comfort.
  • Less smoke production: When properly maintained, some candles may produce less smoke compared to incense, which might be favorable for indoor air quality.

The Cons of Incense and Candles

Some minor drawbacks are associated with burning incense and candles. We will weigh specific drawbacks, such as the emission of pollutants and the potential health risks that these aromatic options may present.

Cons of Incense

  • Health Risks: Incense smoke often contains particulate matter, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and carcinogenic substances. Breathing in this smoke can aggravate respiratory conditions and has been linked to increased risks of certain cancers.
  • Air Quality: Studies have shown that burning incense can significantly deteriorate indoor air quality. One study points out that the emission characteristics of air pollutants from incense may pose a health risk, especially when used in unventilated spaces.

Cons of Candles

  • Soot Production: Candles, especially those with paraffin wax, can emit soot and other particles when burned. This not only affects indoor air quality but can also deposit on surfaces over time.
  • Chemical Emissions: Scented candles may release chemicals due to the fragrance and dyes used. If the candle flickers or the wick is too long, the varying emissions from candles can become a concern for indoor air pollution.

In our analysis of burning incense vs candles, or a diffuser, it becomes evident that each method has its unique cons. 

Incense may contribute more directly to poor air quality due to the particulates and compounds it releases into the air. 

Candles, on the other hand, present risks with soot and potential chemical emissions, varying with the type of candle and the presence of fragrances.

A common question often asked is “Which is healthier among incense and candles?”, but there is no straight answer because it will depend on specific ingredients or substances used in their manufacturing. 

However, in a general sense, candles are healthier for people with respiratory and allergy issues as compared to incense. 

Which is Safer for Home Use: Incense or Candles?

When we consider the safety of using incense or candles at home, we must evaluate several variables. These range from how they affect indoor air quality to the risk of fire they may pose. Let’s examine these factors closely.


  • Air Quality: Burning incense releases particles and black carbon, which can deteriorate indoor air quality and have been linked to respiratory issues.
  • Fire Risk: Incense must be placed in a proper holder and away from flammable materials, as the ember can cause fire if not monitored.


  • Air Quality: Candles, especially scented ones, can affect air quality. However, beeswax and soy candles release fewer pollutants.
  • Fire Risk: An unattended flame has the potential to cause fire, so it’s crucial to keep candles away from anything flammable and use stable holders.

Regarding smell, both incense and candles can provide pleasant aromas. However, some people might find the smoke from incense overpowering, whereas candles tend to offer a subtler scent distribution.

When using either, ensure they are well-ventilated in your space. For those with allergies or sensitivities, unscented varieties might be preferable.

Precautions to Take:

  • Use in a well-ventilated area.
  • Never leave burning incense or candles unattended.
  • Keep away from children, pets, and flammable objects.
  • Choose cleaner-burning candle options (like beeswax or soy) if concerned about air quality.

Both incense and candles have their own risks and benefits. By following safety guidelines and considering air quality impacts, we can enjoy their use in our homes more safely.

Tips for Lighting Incense and Candles Safely

When we burn incense or candles, it’s pivotal to prioritize safety. Here are our recommendations to ensure a secure and pleasurable experience:

For Incense:

  • Stable Holder: Always place incense in a sturdy holder that can catch falling ash and is heat-resistant.
  • Clear Area: Ensure the surrounding area is clear of flammable materials like curtains and papers.
  • Ventilation: Incense smoke can be potent; we advise lighting in a well-ventilated space to avoid inhalation of too much smoke.

For Candles:

  • Candle Holders: Use a proper candle holder that is non-flammable and suited to the candle’s size.
  • Surface: Set the candle on a stable, heat-resistant surface away from drafts.
  • Trim the Wick: Keep the wick trimmed to about 1/4 inch to prevent a large flame.

For Both Incense and Candles:

  • Never Leave Unattended: We cannot stress this enough; never leave burning incense or candles unattended.
  • Children and Pets: Keep them out of reach to avoid accidents.
  • Extinguishing: Always snuff out the flame rather than blowing it out to prevent hot wax or embers from scattering.

By adhering to these tips, we help create a safe environment for enjoying the ambiance and aroma provided by incense and candles.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the health implications of using incense compared to candles?

Incense can produce particulate matter and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that may affect indoor air quality more significantly than candles. We must remain aware of these emission characteristics if health is a concern.

How do the benefits of burning incense contrast with those of scented candles?

Incense often plays a role in rituals and meditation due to its strong scent and smoke which can promote a sense of spirituality. On the other hand, scented candles can create a subtler ambiance and may offer a wider variety of fragrances that extend to therapeutic benefits, such as relaxation and stress relief.

Can incense be considered a healthier option than essential oils for indoor fragrance?

The term “healthier” is relative; while incense provides a traditional method of scenting spaces and may come in natural forms, essential oils when used with diffusers may pose fewer respiratory risks due to the lack of smoke. Nevertheless, both have their own distinct advantages in creating a desired atmosphere.

What are the distinct advantages of using incense sticks over candle-based aromatherapy?

Incense sticks are often preferred for their more potent and pervasive scent which is ideal for spiritual practices. They are also user-friendly as they don’t require the monitoring that candle flames do. 

In terms of longevity and scent distribution, how do incense and candles differ?

Generally, incense sticks burn for a shorter period but release a more intense fragrance that spreads rapidly, whereas candles burn longer and provide a more consistent but milder scent distribution. The choice between the two should be based on the desired intensity and duration of the aroma.

Are there eco-friendly or organic options available for incense enthusiasts?

Yes, there are eco-friendly or organic options available for those who prefer more natural products. These variations of incense are made from sustainable, non-toxic materials and are crafted to minimize the environmental impact, catering to the needs of environmentally conscious consumers.


Both incense and candles come with their own set of advantages and hazards. While incense burning is considered sacred and offers a wide range of aromatic and spiritual experiences, it also poses several concerns for indoor air quality and health risks. 

On the other hand, candles have better ambiance, warmth, and subtler fragrances but they too pose certain risks to air quality and safety if not used mindfully.

When comparing incense vs candles spiritually, incense holds higher significance because of its ritualistic and historical contexts, but candles are also considered to be beneficial in meditation and spiritual adventures. 

Understanding the differences between the two can help you better choose between the intense aroma of incense sticks or the ambient warm of candles. You must handle them both properly and follow safety guidelines to create a safe aromatic experience at home.

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