Autumn means a lot of things… Crisp walks, hot chocolate, cosy nights in, huge socks and chunky jumpers, and, oh yes, I haven’t forgotten… scented candles.
The beautiful hand-poured vessels aren’t just about the glow. The choice of designs turns them into l’objet d’art, an object of visual pleasure, and the scent transforms the entire experience into a seasonal memory. Without a doubt, candles are that touch of luxury most of us can afford without getting a second mortgage. I don’t know about you but for me bringing them home on a dark October evening feels like a special ritual. I set the box on a table, release a polished heavy glass from a beautiful packaging and whispering wrapping paper, inhale the aroma and get to dream a little. And then there is always the magical enticing light that has a life of its own, waltzing in the darkness for hours on end.
For years I had a scented candle at home. I bought them if I loved the fragrance, the look – or both. As the time went by, I completed my nutrition studies and watched the science behind paraffin and artificial substances emerge, my choice of candles shifted towards more natural options. Somehow I didn’t fancy clogging our lungs with cancer-causing particles.
And then… then I got my dogs. Which made me re-think the entire concept of a scented candle in my house. To be fair, it was a fluid and conscious transition because I made it a big deal to provide our boys with the most natural, often organic, non-toxic and dog-friendly options when it came to the house they live, products I use for grooming or the toys we have thrown all over the place. Candles were the easier part of the big swap.
This year I decided to look into the choice of candles in detail. Admittedly, I have already been very careful limiting my choice to very few and environmentally-friendly brands. Now I simply wanted to know exactly what a scented candle can do for our dog’s health – and share this information with you.
So let’s discuss…
First of all, the aroma. We think we are good at smelling scents, yet in comparison to dogs, our olfactory is absolutely pathetic. We have about 5 or 6 million receptors. Dogs, on the other hand, possess between 200 and 300 million! They are able to detect a 1/2 tsp of sugar in an Olympic-sized swimming pool or scent-iffically dissect any prepared meal into separate ingredients! And cockers, in particular, are one of the most gifted breeds when it comes to sniffing out anything and everything. Take my Fred, for example. The guy can tell if a person he loves walked through the village earlier, can happily lead us to the house of his favourite vet (he doesn’t actually know she lives there, nor ever saw her coming home or leaving the house – he simply knows…), spot a pheasant miles away or run to a certain field because there was a bunny out there somewhere…
Now imagine how terrible it must be for our dogs to live in a house that, for them, stinks of perfumes and essential oils! They tolerate it, of course, but I cannot imagine any canine actually enjoying such fragrances…
Next, the oils themselves. Some of them can be, indeed, beneficial for our pups. But all essential oils contain limonen and linalool known to be allergic for some dogs – and toxic – for all of them. Of course, it is the matter of quantity and one would need to inhale or consume quite a bit of both to have a toxic reaction. However, if you notice that your dog’s behaviour, habits or appearance change when you start using scented candles, think twice about continuing…. or look for alternatives.
It is also vital, absolutely vital, to make sure that the candle is made with bees or organic vegetable wax, not paraffin. Technically, the paraffin wax isn’t considered to be toxic for dogs, but if consumed it can cause digestive problems and even lead to coma. But it’s a mineral oil, which to me, is as unnatural for our bodies as one can possibly imagine. Besides, it’s all about the end-product of burning petroleum waste-based wax.
According to the 2009 study, the burning candle pollutes the indoor air with “undesired chemicals, such as alkans, alkenes, toluene” and formaldehyde that have been linked to “cancer, common allergies and even asthma in humans”. These substances are not only poisonous to dogs, but, just like in humans, can lead to disease, inflammaiton, and affect the nervous system. The same study also concluded that “natural waxes did not produce such a harmful effect”.
If the label on your favourite candle does not specify “lead-free” then chances are, the wick was made with a metal lead core. The burning of the lead will release the toxic lead particles into the air above recommended safety levels, potentially leading to acute poisoning or slowly causing imbalance of essential minerals in the blood – and as a result, a change in behaviour and chronic illnesses.
Now imagine a cocktail of lead and the by-products of paraffin burning, and we get quite a concoction to deal with!
None of this does not mean that you must avoid the candles from now on. You can still enjoy them by following a few basic rules.
Skip anything containing paraffin, artificial fragrances or wicks that aren’t specified as “lead-free” on a label. Ironically, these aren’t only among the inexpensive ones – some high-end brands still happily pour paraffin into their expensive candles, so always check the label.
Choose the options made with vegetable waxes (coconut, apricot, soy or rapeseed) or bees wax, cotton wick and natural oils (be careful with citrus oils, they are more likely to be allergic for dogs). These scented candles will reward you with a real moment of pleasure and peace of mind. Simple!
Below are a few of my favourite. Just in case you need somewhere to start…
Dogs Rhubarb & Ginger scented candle is made from vegetable wax poured into a re-usable glass container adorned with art work by Margaret Mace (1).
Art candle by Bella Freud is inspired by the artist’s studio. It will fill your home with the scents of cedar wood, lilac and musk and add a touch of whimsical creativity to the decor (2).
I love Voluspa so much, I’ll share two of my favourite candles. This one is from Maison Noir range. The description of scent that says “sparkling wine, vanilla and oak” is very plain compared to the sensation you get when the candle is lit. The scent is delicate yet completely envelops your entire home in a manner of an invisible soft blanket (3).
The Panjore Lychee candle will be enhancing your home with the fruity scents of lychee, pear and vanilla for 60 hours. And then you can re-use the tin to keep a few precious trinkets (4).
Bois Copaiba is one of the candles by Esteban Paris. It gets double-points from me because it’s not only natural, looks like a precious jewel and smells like the most luxurious perfume, but it’s refillable, too (5)!
The Nomad Society Smoke & Wood candle is the one I adore so much. It literally smells like the burning campfire and is the most enticing and season-appropriate scent for me. Have been buying them for several seasons now. Absolutely beautiful (6).
The Tuscan Suede by Azzi Glasser is an intimate fragrance story created with the scents of jasmine and violet. Perfect for the most wonderful magical night-in (7).
If you have everything you heart desires (or want to give me a present that will send me dancing all night long), it’s all about Fornasetti’s Regalo Gold, the one and only treasure to have and to hold (8).
If you have a favourite scented candle, please let me know. My search for them will never end.
Photo source: one of my favourites Christmas, both photo and collage are by me