Our 16 Favorite Scented Candles of 2024 | Reviews by Wirecutter

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We’ve added six new candle picks: Kishmish’s Kashmiri Chai, Bath & Body Works’ Rose Water & Ivy, Diptyque’s Classic Roses, D.S. & Durga’s Pasta Water, Flamingo Estate’s Roma Heirloom Tomato, and Smell House’s Juice Hoax. Printed Folding Boxes

Our 16 Favorite Scented Candles of 2024 | Reviews by Wirecutter

Burning a scented candle is an effortless way to create a cozy, luxurious, or tranquil mood in any room.

After spending about 50 hours researching more than 80 candles and testing 53, we’ve found our favorites for all of your olfactory endeavors.

Whether you want your home to smell like a Provençal perfumery or you just need to mask some persistent pet odors, we’ve got you covered.

In its handsome container, this candle pairs a main course of cypress smoke with sides of warm amber, sweet vanilla, florals, and fresh moss. But the glossy vessel shows fingerprints, and the label is sometimes crooked.

As its name suggests, Boy Smells has offerings that playfully subvert expectations of what is considered “traditionally masculine,” from its scent combinations and cheeky names to its jars (including black glass topped with a pink label).

The scent is unique and complex. The Boy Smells Hinoki Fantôme Candle we tested has a layered scent that’s hard to pin down (hinoki is a Japanese cypress tree, and fantôme is the French word for ghost). At the forefront, there’s an earthy woodsmoke tinged with warm amber, sweet vanilla, and just a bit of mossy freshness and florals. The scent is fragrant but not ostentatious, providing an elegant, aromatic backdrop for any occasion—whether it’s a dinner party or a day spent daydreaming.

It comes in a handsome vessel. We like the contrast of the white wax and wick with the glossy black glass vessel, and the signature black-and-pink label is sophisticated and striking. The company’s other candles are equally attractive, in colored or metallic glass jars, with matching labels that peel off easily, should you want to repurpose the jar.

Flaws but not dealbreakers: We noticed that a few of the labels were not applied perfectly straight, and the glossy exterior of the glass tends to show fingerprints. Finally, we wish this candle came with a lid: A lid would help seal in the scent and maintain its potency, as well as prevent dust from accumulating on the surface of the wax.

We also loved: The scent of  the Boy Smells Polyamberous Candle is beautiful and eclectic—with notes of geranium, tobacco flower, tonka bean, spices, and incense.

This candle offers an energizing blend of anise and cardamom, but a creamy base scent keeps it comforting. However, it’s not sold as widely as some of our other picks.

The Kishmish Kashmiri Chai Candle is the perfect blend of East and West. This candle—from a company founded by two South Asian women and hand-poured in San Francisco—merges the spicy-sweetness of a cup of tea with US-sourced and -grown products.

It smells like pure coziness. The Kashmiri Chai Candle evokes the same feeling as a warm cup of chai—spicy and invigorating but also mellow and cozy. Testers described it as “sweet and spicy,” and some picked up notes of licorice, fruit, and maple.

The jar makes a great container. After you’ve melted down all of the wax, this vessel—matte-black glass with a matching black wooden lid—can be a pretty container for trinkets. And the label is easy to peel off cleanly, so there’s no sticky residue.

Flaws but not dealbreakers: Kishmish candles are sold only on the company’s website, so you’ll likely have to order this one without knowing whether you’ll like the smell. Kishmish doesn’t accept returns, except for defective products, and it doesn’t offer sample sizes.

We also loved: If you like a pure, rose-only scent, the red-rose-scented Kishmish Gulab Candle is one of our favorites. Staff writer Dorie Chevlen (who co-wrote this guide) and supervising editor Daniela Gorny both loved how this candle evoked dipping your nose into a fresh bouquet. Kishmish’s jasmine-forward Motia Candle didn’t score quite as well with our panelists—some said it was too floral, and others likened it to “artificial rose.” But if you prefer things to be a little more flowery, this candle could be just the ticket.

This candle isn’t the most strongly scented of those we tested, but it has a rich, complex aroma, with notes of pine resin, moss, eucalyptus, and vanilla.

With their amber-colored glass jars, faux-typewritten labels, and gold screw-on lids, P.F. Candle Co.’s offerings are reminiscent of an earlier age (even though the company opened in 2008). The Amber & Moss Soy Candle is among the company’s bestsellers, thanks to its crowd-pleasing, subtly musky, fresh smell.

It smells like you’re on a forest stroll. The Amber & Moss candle presents a balanced smell of pine resin and earthy moss, peppered with notes of minty eucalyptus and rich vanilla. This is a great candle to give to someone you don’t know very well because the scent is inoffensive and not overwhelming. And for the person with a discerning nose, this candle has a more-nuanced and complex fragrance than most in this price range.

It comes in a functional vessel, and it’s widely available. P.F. Candle Co.’s signature vessel is unfussy, allowing it to blend in seamlessly with most decor, whether that’s a twee apartment or a rustic farmhouse. And this candle is sold widely online, at Amazon and Urban Outfitters, as well as at the company’s brick-and-mortar shops in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Flaws but not dealbreakers: Although we appreciate the utilitarian aesthetic of this vessel on the whole, its label feels a bit flimsy, and it can start to peel off or bubble up over time. If that happens, it’s easy enough to remove with a razor blade, or you can turn the jar so the label faces a wall. This candle is also not the most strongly scented one we tested, and for those who prefer a powerful scent, that might be a letdown.

We also loved: The P.F. Candle Co. Golden Coast Soy Candle has a pine-forward scent and undercurrents of wild sage, warm honey, and sea salt. We think the Amber & Moss candle has a more complex and enjoyable scent overall, but this candle is a great alternative.

This candle comes in an eye-catching ceramic vessel, and its cedar-and-patchouli fragrance is subtle yet heady. But the wax pours are sometimes uneven.

The Paddywax Tobacco Flower Form Candle offers a subtle, smoky-sweet scent that perfectly complements the abstract, earthenware vessel it comes in. (Paddywax is based in Nashville.)

It has all the fun of a cigar, with none of the downsides. The Tobacco Flower Form Candle has notes of orange, cinnamon, patchouli, clove, and sandalwood—and while it doesn’t contain nicotine, its smoky-sweet fragrance is certainly habit-forming. This candle makes us want to throw on a bluegrass record and sew a patchwork quilt. The scent is warm, spicy, earthy (but not musty), and faintly floral (like a sprig of jasmine).

It comes in a beautiful ceramic vessel. Sturdy, stylish, and unbranded, the ceramic vessel (with a matching ceramic lid) makes this candle well worth the price. You can easily reuse it as a planter; there’s a small hole at the bottom, for easy drainage, and the lid doubles as a plate to catch water.

Flaws but not dealbreakers: This candle’s fragrance isn’t the most potent, but it still provides a homey aromatic backdrop. Also, the pour is somewhat sloppy; in our testing, there were rogue ripples of wax around the perimeter, but that evened out after the first burn. Our burn estimate was lower than the company’s, but it was still well within the average when compared with burn times of our other picks. Conditions can vary widely when a candle is burning, so we didn’t think this difference was a dealbreaker. Lastly, not all of Paddywax’s scents are available in sampler sizes.

We also loved: The Paddywax Spanish Moss Form Candle is housed in the same great vessel as the Tobacco Flower candle—though this one boasts a different geometric design and a green glaze, instead of white. This candle has a more-potent scent than the Tobacco Flower candle. To us, this one smells like melon, honeysuckle, bee pollen, rainwater, thickets of marsh grass, and creeping vines.

This candle has an upscale look and a sophisticated scent that fills a room without being overpowering. However, since the label can’t be removed, the jar isn’t the most reusable.

With its sleek aesthetic and refined smell, the Apotheke Charcoal Candle re-creates the feeling of sitting in a hip restaurant or boutique hotel—from the comfort of your own home.

It smells chic. The Apotheke Charcoal Candle smells like charred sandalwood and cedar after a heavy rain. The scent is very fragrant but also mild enough that it’s not heavy or too dominating.

It also looks chic. Like our picks from Peacesake and Kishmish, this candle comes in a matte-black vessel that’s adept at hiding soot streaks, fingerprints, and other smudges. But unlike those candles, this one is made from black wax, so it has a monochromatic aesthetic that feels both contemporary and classic.

Flaws but not dealbreakers: As much as we like the look of this candle, we wish it came with a lid or dust cover. And though you certainly could reuse the vessel to hold pencils or makeup brushes, the company name is printed on the glass, so it’s impossible to remove.

We also loved: The Apotheke Earl Grey Bitters Candle is just as well constructed and elegant-looking as the Charcoal pick, but this jar’s frosted glass shows more soot and smudges than the black vessel does. The herbaceous bitters and citrusy bergamot aromas both come through, and there’s a luxurious creaminess to the scent. This candle would be especially good for someone who prefers a milder fragrance.

This palo santo–scented candle looks elegant, and its scent is exquisite. The jar is less ideal for reuse, however, thanks to a especially stubborn label.

Offering all of the heady smells of palo santo without the fuss of burning bits of wood, the Brooklyn Candle Studio Palo Santo Minimalist Candle is a sexy alternative.

It smells exactly like palo santo. The Palo Santo Minimalist Candle’s potent fragrance smells just like a thick, burning shard of palo santo (an aromatic wood that originates from Latin America and is commonly used as incense). When this candle is burning, there’s a sweet, minty, juicy freshness at the front end and a sharp, smoky ashiness at the back. It’s the kind of scent that instantly transports you.

It’s an artisanal candle at a great price. At its workshop, located in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park neighborhood, Brooklyn Candle Studio pours and labels all of its candles by hand, using US-grown soy for its wax. Despite the luxury feel, this candle is reasonably priced. At less than $30 for a 7.5-ounce candle, this is among the lowest-priced candles in our artisanal and small-batch picks.

Flaws but not dealbreakers: Although we like the look and feel of the label, the glossy-white finish inevitably attracts some fingerprints and smudges. The label is also nearly impossible to remove, and it leaves a sticky residue, so this jar is not as reusable as many others.

We also loved: We wish the streets of Brooklyn actually smelled like Brooklyn Candle Studio’s eponymous Brooklyn Escapist Candle. It’s fun to burn this candle while imagining that you’re sitting in the shady, verdant backyard of a multimillion-dollar brownstone. The scent contains lots of leather and florals, and though it’s quite fragrant, it doesn’t punch you in the nose.

This candle is incredibly fragrant, and it gives off a resiny, warm, inviting scent (though some people may find the scent too strong). It has a long burn time, and it’s available in the widest variety of sizes of any of our picks.

Hand-poured in California, the Voluspa Baltic Amber Candle emits a viscous, enveloping fragrance that’s warm, spicy, woodsy, and musky, with a bit of freshness at the end.

It comes in a pretty jar, in multiple shapes and sizes. The large, 18-ounce candle we tested comes in an intricately patterned, ornate vessel. The metal lid suctions on to form a tight seal, keeping out dust and preserving the scent. If you want a different size, Voluspa offers the most size options of any of our candle picks—from a 4-ounce mini tin to a gargantuan, 123-ounce version.

Peeling off the jar’s label can be tricky, and doing so will reveal an unpatterned rectangular section. But otherwise this vessel makes a great trinket jar.

It offers plenty of bang for the buck. In our melt test, this candle lost only about 3 grams of wax in an hour, making it one of the longest-burning candles among our picks. At just $1.80 per ounce for the 18-ounce size, this one is also among the least expensive candles we tested. Only the Target Project 62 candle cost less per ounce, and we think the Voluspa candle has better depth of fragrance than most others in this price range. These candles are a bargain, but “they don’t smell basic,” photo editor Michael Murtaugh said. “People who like those huge Yankee Candles should upgrade to these.”

Flaws but not dealbreakers: This candle’s biggest drawback is that the 18-ounce size we tested has only a single wick, which can make it burn unevenly (though we have tips on how to correct this). Also, since the scent is so warm and syrupy, it can start to feel stuffy after a while—especially in a small, enclosed space.

We also loved: It was difficult for us to choose between the Baltic Amber and the Voluspa French Cade Lavender Candle because both scents deeply impressed us. The lavender in this candle doesn’t smell like any kind of lavender we’ve ever encountered, but the scent is still elegant, and it permeates nicely throughout a room. We’d describe it as something akin to a powdery soap, clean linen, and new leather.

This rose-scented candle has a surprisingly realistic scent. It’s sweet like the flower yet nothing like the treacly perfumes rose is often associated with. However, it burns faster than most.

May be out of stock

Best known for its super-scented mall presence, Bath & Body Works actually makes a decent candle for the price. The company’s Rose Water & Ivy Signature Candle (part of the White Barn collection) emits a strong, pleasant scent that evokes rambling in a garden with someone you want to smooch.

It offers a high-end scent at a nice price. For the low price, this candle ranked as high as our priciest candle, the Diptyque Roses Classic, in our tests. And for an 8-ounce candle, it was bested in price only by the Target Project 62 candle. Also, the Rose Water & Ivy Signature Candle comes with a lid to preserve the smell and protect it from dust.

Returns are easy (with a generous time frame). Since Bath & Body Works is such a ubiquitous product around the country, you can return your order at any store (or via mail). Among our picks, this candle has one of the most generous return policies: You have up to 90 days to make any returns.

Flaws but not dealbreakers: Bath & Body Works swaps out its offerings pretty regularly (the 7-ounce screw-top “mason” version we tested is no longer available), so your favorites may go out of stock. The sizes are all listed individually on the company’s website (instead of on one product page), which can make the site confusing to navigate. And though our candle came with a lid, not all of the sizes do.

We also loved: Bath & Body Works’ Dark Amber + Oud also scored high with our testers, who commented that it smelled a bit like men’s cologne. For some this was a positive, but others thought the scent was closer to an “Old Spice smell.”

With a potent rose scent (and a price tag to match), this pretty candle smells beautiful.

Like the rest of this French company’s status-symbol offerings, the Diptyque Roses Classic Candle earns its acclaim, with a delicate floral smell that powerfully fills a room.

It’s strong and floral but not cloying. Rose scents often run the risk of smelling like old-lady perfume. But this candle perfectly evokes the real deal: It smells like you’re walking through an English rose garden. Our 2023 testers ranked this candle and the Bath & Body Works Rose Water & Ivy Candle among their favorites.

You can buy sample versions or smell it in person. It’s no secret that Diptyque’s candles are expensive (that may even be part of their appeal). But the company offers its bestsellers in 2.4-ounce “discovery” sizes. (P.F. Candle Co., Smell House, and Voluspa all do something similar). And many department stores—such as Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Bloomingdales—also carry Diptyque candles, so they can be sniffed in person.

It makes a great gift. For a friend who loves candles, Diptyque candles are a fancy housewarming gift. The company also offers complimentary gift wrapping, so you can send a candle straight to someone’s home.

Flaws but not dealbreakers: Diptyque candles are the most expensive of our picks. And though they are indeed beautiful and smell gorgeous, in our testing they scored no better than the much cheaper Bath & Body Works rose candle pick. Also, for something at this price, we would have appreciated a lid; they are available—but for an additional $30.

We also loved: Our testers also really liked Diptyque’s Figuier (Fig Tree) and Feu de Bois (Wood Fire) candles. The Figuier candle in particular was described by some testers as being more woodsy and earthen. So if you want a Diptyque candle but aren’t keen on florals, this one would make a great alternative.

Housed in a sturdy and colorful vessel, this candle packs a powerful punch in both its looks and fragrance (and, depending on your preferences, it could even pack too much punch).

Just like our Bath & Body Works and Diptyque picks, the Otherland Daybed Candle has a strong rose presence. Yet thanks to the addition of peony and pear water, this candle also offers a little more nuance.

It’s incredibly powerful. This candle is the opposite of understated. The scent is knock-your-socks-off floral—like a rosebush in full bloom. It’s so strong that you can almost taste it. In fact, for those who have more-sensitive noses or smaller homes, this pick may prove to be too much. And like its potent fragrance, this candle’s vessel—white glass, with a bold label—is no wallflower.

It makes a great gift. Otherland’s candles can be mailed straight away as a gift, and the company gives you the option of adding matchboxes with a message and a note for free. And the candle has a suctioning lid, which can later serve as a drink coaster. (If the recipient wants to repurpose the vessel, though, the sticker’s wavy edges can be time-consuming to remove.)

Flaws but not dealbreakers: This candle’s lid is made from cardboard and plastic; it’s not durable enough to reuse forever, like the wood or metal lids that come with some of our other picks.

We also loved: The Otherland Canopy Candle is just as fragrant as the Daybed, and it comes in the same great vessel. It has a lush, verdant, juicy, grassy, cool, contemplative scent—everything a forest canopy should be. We had more fun with our pick’s in-your-face florals, but just barely. If you want to try a few different scents, you can get the Mini Set of five 2.3-ounce scents for $55.

This candle offers a soft, natural-smelling scent, with lavender and eucalyptus both coming through clearly. However, it burns at a faster rate than most of our picks.

Considering it’s from a big-box company, the Target Project 62 Lavender + Eucalyptus Candle is a surprisingly good candle at a very reasonable price. It has a faint, fairly neutral scent, so it’s ideal for someone who is prone to headaches or allergies.

It has a subtle aroma. The Project 62 Lavender + Eucalyptus Candle smells a lot like real lavender and eucalyptus, though the mintyness of the eucalyptus is more of an after note. This candle smells slightly soapy and powdery, so it would be good in a bathroom. And its subtle scent will be easier on the nose than the scents of most of our picks.

It is a wildly good value. This is the least expensive candle we tested.

Flaws but not dealbreakers: This candle has no lid, so dust can easily accumulate on its surface, and the fragrance may fade faster in storage. Also, Project 62 doesn’t seem to have the best quality control—the wick on ours was off-center, and the wax pour was a little sloppy around the edges. We had no issue with the delivery of this candle, but other Target-exclusive candles we’ve tested in the past have arrived broken (we recommend buying them in-store). It also burned the fastest (losing around 7 grams per hour) of any of our picks.

We also loved: Like the Lavender + Eucalyptus candle, the Project 62 Aloe + Bergamot Candle is great for those who prefer a subtle scent. However, this one gave off a little too much vanilla for our taste.

This candle is a sophisticated interpretation of Froot Loops (yes, you read that correctly), and it’s available with either a wooden or cotton wick. But it has among the strictest return policies of our picks, and it tends to tunnel.

Mala the Brand’s candles are hand-poured in Vancouver, Canada, with a focus on sustainability. They have a refined smell and a serious mission, yet they’re still packaged with plenty of playfulness.

It’s not too serious. Mala the Brand’s Cereal Scented Soy Candle smells exactly like what your favorite sugary cereal—think Froot Loops, Fruity Pebbles, or Trix—would smell like if your favorite sugary cereal were concocted by a master perfumer. The scent is fruity, flowery, and creamy, and the vessel (a tiny paint can) is equally playful and kitschy.

You can choose from a wooden or a cotton wick. And if you choose the former, you get to enjoy its cozy, sizzling sound, even after your nose has tuned out the fragrance. The wax is a coconut-soy blend, and in the candle we tested, it appeared to have been carefully poured. The wick is well centered, and if you choose the wooden wick, you won’t have to worry about trimming it.

It’s eco-conscious. As a bonus, this company plants a tree for every purchase. Mala the Brand uses recycled materials and compostable peanuts to pack its candles. And when you’re checking out, you can choose your preferred packaging (a recycled paper box or no box at all). After the candle is done, the metal vessel can be recycled, repurposed, or returned to the company for reuse.

Flaws but not dealbreakers: This company has among the strictest return or exchange policies of our picks. There are no returns allowed (and you have only 48 hours after receiving the product to report any transit damages for reimbursement). Also, perhaps because of the lip around the vessel, this candle can sometimes quickly form deep tunnels (we have tips on how to burn candles more evenly).

This candle emits a dreamy blend of florals, citrus, and sandalwood. And it comes in a thick, matte-black, recycled-glass vessel, topped with a cork lid (though the lid can crumble).

Our testers loved the Peacesake Neroli and Musk Candle. The bright citrus of neroli oil complements the smokiness of sandalwood, resulting in a scent that is sweet-bitter. And this candle comes in a pretty vessel.

It oozes sophistication. This candle smells like the ruins of a grand estate overgrown with jasmine (perhaps after a light rain), and we can’t get enough of it. The fragrance is potent and sophisticated, with orange blossom, petitgrain, neroli, and jasmine highlights that intermingle beautifully with the musk and cedar undercurrents.

It’s elegantly contained. The vessel is made of thick, matte-black recycled glass that feels sturdy and robust, and it’s stylish enough to be reused as an odds-and-ends container (the label peels off easily). Like the vessels of the Boy Smells and Kishmish candles, this jar is black, so it helps to hide soot streaking. And the matte finish is better at hiding fingerprints than the glossy finishes of some of the other jars. It also has a tasteful yet functional cork stopper, and the label is one of the most attractive we’ve seen.

Flaws but not dealbreakers: Until you’ve burned the candle down ¼ inch or so, the cork lid won’t fit on top, and it instead presses onto the wick. Also, the lid on our test candle started to crumble around the edges after we used it for just a couple of weeks. And Peacesake candles are not sold as widely as most of our picks (at time of publishing, they were available only directly on the website, but we’ve occasionally seen them at other online retailers).

We also loved: The Peacesake Currant and Amber Candle has a dark, opulent fragrance. It’s juicy like a blackberry and warm like fresh caramel.

This strange but satisfying candle emits a fascinating, savory-and-salty smell. It’s also very expensive.

D.S. & Durga’s unusual scents divided our testers—they either loved them or hated them. This company bypasses the typical florals and musks to instead capture the essence of specific scenes, such as breakfast in a Leipzig café or a basketball game. And then there’s the Pasta Water Candle, a collaboration between Jupiter, a New York City–based restaurant, and D.S. & Durga.

It’s hard to place. Unlike a basic vanilla or jasmine candle, this candle has an elusive scent—you want to keep inhaling it to sort out the complexity. Our testers described it as smelling like everything from “sweat” (which makes sense, given its salty water base) to “a prairie field.” Jupiter’s chef and owner, Jess Shadbolt, collaborated with D.S. & Durga to create the unique scent. Shadbolt was inspired by the subtle aroma of pouring boiling water over semolina flour while tinkering in the kitchen.

It’s expensive, but it lasts a long time. The D.S. & Durga candle is almost as expensive as the Diptyque candle, but in our burn tests, the D.S. & Durga candle melted more slowly than the Diptyque pick. So for a similar price, you’ll get a longer-lasting candle.

Flaws but not dealbreakers: Like many D.S. & Durga candles, this one is polarizing. Testers either loved or hated it. Those on the hating side said it smelled like everything from shrimp scampi to dirty gym socks. So this is not the type of candle you give as a gift to the uninitiated, unless they’ve indicated that they have an incredibly quirky scent-sibility. The wicks on some of the candles we received were slightly off-center. And these candles don’t come with lids, which is disappointing considering the price.

We also loved: With its more-conventional profile of saltwater, eucalyptus, magnolia, and wood, D.S. & Durga’s Big Sur After Rain scored slightly higher with our testers than its noodle-y counterpart (yet not higher than candles with similar fresh and woodsy scent notes).

Fresh and green, with an undeniable tomato scent, this candle made us feel like we were strolling through a Sicilian garden (hold the meatballs). But it’s also pricier than most entrées at your favorite Italian restaurant.

Tomato-scented candles are having a moment. And Los Angeles–based Flamingo Estate’s Roma Heirloom Tomato Candle earns a place among the best, thanks to its sharp, sweet scent and pretty green vessel, featuring the company’s stylish logo.

It smells fresh and “green.” Our testers were mixed on how much they appreciated the effect, but all of them agreed that this candle smelled “green,” with other scent notes including “earthy,” “outside,” “green bell pepper,” “mown grass,” and “citrus.” It’s more tomato-on-the-vine than tomato-in-a-jar, so it will help freshen up a space rather than create a red-sauce-Italian-restaurant vibe.

It has a long burn time. According to our burn tests, this 8-ounce candle should burn for about 75 hours (similar to the burn times for the 8-ounce Mala the Brand and Kishmish candles, which both reached the same estimate at the same size). The Flamingo Estate candle is the third-priciest candle among our picks, but it burns longer than the more-expensive Diptyque candle.

Flaws but not dealbreakers: This candle has a subtler scent than some of the others we recommend; for someone who prefers a less-intense smell, that could be a positive. But if you’re looking for a major, room-filling scent, this isn’t the one. And since this candle costs just a little less than the D.S. & Durga and Diptyque candles, it’s among our priciest picks. Also, its logo is printed on, so you can’t remove it, and it doesn’t come with a lid.

We also loved: Flamingo Estate’s Climbing Tuscan Rosemary Candle was even more popular with some of our testers than its tomato counterpart. This candle has more-delicate, more-herbal notes and a “gentle moss” quality.

This candle has a fruity, vegetative smell—a little sweeter than a salad and a little sharper than dessert. But we wish we could peel off the label to reuse the jar.

Hand-poured in Vietnam, the Smell House Juice Hoax Candle is heavy on the green juice—it’s like inhaling pure health and wellness.

It’s equal parts smoothie shop and garden stroll. The Juice Hoax Candle reminded us of our favorite smoothie shop or a vegetable garden in July. Some of our testers picked up on the fresh tomato scent that leads its flavor profile, but most described the scent as “fruity,” “fresh,” “warm,” and “tropical.”

Flaws but not dealbreakers: Unlike the jars of most of our other picks, Smell House’s colored glass vessel has the label printed right on the glass. So this jar is less ideal for use as a trinket collector or a drinking vessel (unless you don’t mind the text). Also, Smell House candles are available directly from its site only. And they don’t come with lids.

We also loved: The Szechuan Sugar Candle emitted a spicy, sweet, complex scent that some of our testers described as evoking “candied bacon” or “gingerbread.” Testers also picked up on cinnamon, clove, and anise.

Over several years, we’ve spent dozens of hours researching scented candles—their history, how they’re made, how to care for them properly, health and safety concerns, and what distinguishes the good from the great.

We scanned the websites of major retailers to identify the most widely available candles, as well as some lesser-known brands. We surveyed our staffers and collected responses on their favorite candle brands and scents, how fragrant they like their candles to be, how much they typically spend on a candle, and how much they’d spend on a great candle.

We interviewed several fragrance professionals, including Virginia Bonofiglio, associate chairperson of cosmetics and fragrance marketing at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, and Saskia Wilson-Brown, director of the nonprofit Institute for Art and Olfaction in Los Angeles.

We sought out a wide variety of scents to account for different tastes—our experts told us that people tend to be more intrepid with candle fragrances than with perfumes or lotions because candle scents don’t stay on your body all day. We gravitated toward candles that had lids (to stave off dust and help preserve the fragrances) and those with attractive vessels. We also gave preference to companies that allow you to return an unused candle if it breaks en route or if you can’t stand the smell of the unlit candle. (If you don’t want to commit to a scent right away, some candlemakers sell discovery sets or tea-light samples.)

Finally, it’s incredibly tricky to determine whether a candle is sustainable—even waxes that are renewable, biodegradable, and certified sustainable are often derived from monoculture crops grown on deforested land. Therefore, we gave preference to candlemakers that are striving to be environmentally conscious in some way, such as by using recyclable vessels or plastic-free packaging.

In 2021, based on our findings, we rounded up 32 candles under $50—two scents from each company. In 2023, we rounded up another 16 candles (two to three scents from each company) and also re-tested our existing picks. Where possible, we tried to test candles in the standard 7- to 12-ounce range.

Once we had our contenders in hand, we noted any imperfections in the wax, wick, or vessel—such as a sloppy pour, an off-center wick, or a chipped container—and how carefully each candle was packaged. We smelled every unlit candle (taking breaks between each one) and described the scent and its potency. After lighting each candle, we logged any additional notes on the aroma, the flame height, how much smoke it produced, and how well the fragrance permeated. In 2023, we also conducted testing with a 14-person panel at our office, doing blind scent tests with the candles lit and unlit.

The lifespan of a candle varies depending on its size, how many wicks it has, and how often you burn it. Complicating things even further, most candles contain a blend of several waxes (such as paraffin, soy, or coconut) with different burn times, and they’re not always listed on the label. So after our initial tests, we conducted a wax-melt test with the front-runners. On a digital kitchen scale, we weighed each candle in grams (to avoid any confusion over fluid ounces versus dry ounces), and then we weighed them again after leaving them to burn for one hour. To calculate how many total hours of burn time you should expect from each candle, we divided the wax weight listed (by the company) by the amount lost in one hour.

Trim the wick. Before you light a candle, most candle makers recommend trimming the wick to about ¼ inch. This will help the candle burn more evenly and with less soot. Candle companies also recommend that you burn a candle all the way to the edges on the first burn (about an hour, depending on a candle’s size), to give the wax “memory” (or soften the wax on the surface) and avoid uneven burning or tunneling.

What is tunneling? As a candle burns, the wax closest to the wick melts first. If you blow out the candle before allowing the wax to melt the entire surface (especially on the first burn), you’ll be left with a narrow tunnel around the wick. If this tunnel is allowed to deepen, it can prevent the candle from lighting at all. And it will shorten the candle’s overall burn time by burrowing straight down.

Can you correct tunneling? Even if you burn a candle all the way to the edge on the first use, tunneling can still happen if you do only several short burns afterward. If you start to notice any tunneling, a good tip we’ve found is to make a vented tin-foil hat around the rim, as seen in this video. By redirecting the heat from the lit wick to the outer edges of the candle, you can even out the melted surface. Voilà! Just like new.

Keep an eye on lit candles. Lastly, don’t burn candles for more than three to four hours at a time. And definitely don’t leave them unattended. Also, when you’re done burning a candle, put a lid or cover on it to keep dust out and maintain the potency of its scent.

Throughout our testing, we tried 11 different candle-burning accessories to see how much they improved the experience. We found there was less smoke and splattering when we extinguished a candle flame with a snuffer than when we simply blew it out (we especially like this candle snuffer from Crate & Barrel). And wick dippers extinguish the flame with almost no smoke (we like the ones that come with the Ronxs 3-in-1 Candle Accessory Set). To put out a candle, a snuffer simply cuts off the flame’s air supply. By contrast, a dipper (basically a flat piece of metal with a crook on one end) dunks the wick into the pool of melted wax to douse it and then fishes it back out. Neither tool is strictly necessary, but both allow you to conclude your aromatherapy session without inhaling any smoke.

Wick trimmers, on the other hand, seem less worthwhile. The ones we tested all excelled at their main job—trimming wicks. But soot and wax accumulate on the blades after each use, so they require frequent cleaning. To remove the excess residue, we prefer to pinch the top of the charred wick—once it has cooled down—and then wash our hands. Or you could use a square of tissue, to keep the soot off of your fingers. This method is easier and less messy, and it doesn’t cost anything.

If you like the smell of fruity soda, freshly cut grass, aloe, and the ocean: The 8-ounce Capri Blue Cactus Pineapple Flower Petite Jar’s fragrance is strong and a little artificial, but not offensively so. We like the look of the cobalt-blue glass vessel. And though we wish the brushed-metal lid attached firmly to the base (rather than simply sitting atop it), the vessel seems ideal for repurposing as a container to hold cotton rounds or other household bric-a-brac. This candle costs $2.75 an ounce, and we calculated it has a burn time of 25 hours.

If you want a citrusy candle with beachy vibes to burn in warm weather: The Capri Blue Volcano Petite Jar candle smells like grapefruit, blacktop on a hot day, and something creamy that’s hard to pinpoint. One of our staffers and her dad splurged on Anthropologie’s “colossal,” 130-ounce version of this candle for her mom’s birthday, since it’s collectively been their family’s favorite scent for years. We also like the look of the black- and white-jarred versions, because they appropriately call to mind igneous rock and volcanic ash, respectively.

If you’re seeking great candles for your kitchen and bathrooms: The candles we tested from Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day (Honeysuckle and Lemon Verbena) smell distinctly synthetic and soapy, but somehow it works. Senior staff writer Michael Sullivan loves them, but “for the bathroom only.” (We could see these candles being nice in a kitchen or on a screened-in porch, too.) They come in utilitarian glass jars with metal lids to tightly seal in the fragrance. The wax is a soy blend, and these candles currently cost just $1.40 per ounce. Based on our wax-melt tests, they should provide about 34 hours of burn time. And the company accepts returns for up to 60 days (which is longer than returns for most candles we tested).

If you like well-balanced and sophisticated fragrances, with a wooden wick: The 9-ounce, soy-based Threshold Leather + Embers Wooden Wick Candle and the Threshold Coconut + Honey Wooden Wick Candle both have well-balanced and sophisticated fragrances—despite costing just $1.30 an ounce. Plus, their calculated burn time is a whopping 57 hours apiece, and they’re backed by Target’s liberal one-year return policy. We like these candles a lot, and they’re an especially good option if you’re partial to the smoldering crackle of a wooden wick. However, many of our picks are more attractive, have more complex and pervasive scents, and cost about the same or a little more per ounce. Also, although we like the tight seal and look of their wooden lids, the glass vessels don’t seem especially durable (one of ours arrived broken).

In a previous version of this guide, we recommended the 7.4-ounce, coconut-wax Keap Lavender + Petals Candle. We still think Keap’s candles smell really good. We also like that the company tries to do good (or at least better than most) by using recycled, recyclable, or biodegradable materials in its products and packaging. And the two Keap candles we tested—the Lavender + Petals and the Keap Wood Cabin Candle—both have a strong throw and a complex, deep smell. However, the company has made buying most of its candles very difficult: You have to sign up for a monthly scent subscription or hope for the occasional limited release for non-subscribers. As of this writing, The Lavender + Petals and Wood Cabin scents are the only two available for a one-time purchase, but this wasn't always the case. If you’ve already tried a Keap candle and love it, then a subscription might make sense. But for most candle buyers, we don’t think this is ideal.

On the whole, our least favorite candles were the ones we tested from Yankee Candle (namely, the Pink Sands Signature Large Tumbler Candle and the MidSummer’s Night Signature Large Tumbler Candle). Generally speaking, we like powerful fragrances, but these candles were more pungent than pleasant—their scents have more of an artificial, cloying quality than scents of other candles we tested. They currently cost about $1.70 per ounce (depending on what size you get), so they’re more expensive than our Target Project 62 pick. We also had numerous problems with Yankee Candle’s website and customer support. We ordered a candle topper (which is supposed to help distribute the fragrance and make the candle burn more evenly), but it never arrived. After spending hours on hold with customer service, we gave up and ordered the item again—and that one never arrived either. For this reason, if you do have a favorite Yankee Candle scent that brings you joy (several of our staffers are die-hard fans!), we recommend that you buy these candles in person.

The candles we tested from Hearth & Hand with Magnolia (the housewares line sold at Target by HGTV’s Chip and Joanna Gaines) were also a disappointment. We tried the Colored Ceramic Golden Hour Jar Candle and the Coastal Sage Two-Tone Ceramic Seasonal Candle (discontinued), both of which have subtle, beachy aromas. The Golden Hour candle had notes of coconut and lemon, which pair well together, but we found the scent to be a bit saccharine. Both of the Hearth & Hand candles we ordered arrived completely shattered, and one of the Threshold candles was broken. This is a pattern we’ve noticed with Target orders over the past year, so we recommend buying breakable items in-store.

This article was edited by Daniela Gorny and Christine Ryan.

Virginia Bonofiglio, assistant professor and associate chairperson of cosmetics and fragrance marketing at the Fashion Institute of Technology, phone interview, April 21, 2021

Saskia Wilson-Brown, director and founder of the Institute for Art and Olfaction, phone interview, April 22, 2021

Dorie Chevlen is a staff writer from Youngstown, Ohio, now living in Los Angeles. She has worked as a copy editor, fact checker, and sandwich maker, but this is probably her favorite gig. Beyond her Wirecutter work, Dorie writes screenplays and contributes frequently to other sections of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The LA Review of Books, and Slate, among others. She has been called—both flatteringly and not—“a lot.”

Sarah Witman is a senior staff writer who reports on powering and charging technology for Wirecutter. She previously worked as a writer, editor, and fact checker for several science magazines. Though she researches and tests chargers for a living, her phone battery is usually low.

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Our 16 Favorite Scented Candles of 2024 | Reviews by Wirecutter

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