Candle Shopping Considerations by the National Candle Association.

Posted by Joseph Johnson on

Candle Shopping Considerations by the National Candle Association.


Fragrance is usually the most expensive component of a candle and one of the most important considerations. The scent of a candle can set a specific mood and is often a very personal decision.  

Most brands work with fragrance houses to create their own mixtures of oils for the burn and smell they want to achieve, says Joseph Johnson, Co- Founder of Maple Hill Candle Company. “Essential oils don’t always burn the best. Because they are natural, they can have a clogging effect on the wick,” he says.

Read fragrance descriptions to imagine what you’ll smell. Johnson mixes his Maple Hill Candle Company fragrance blends to reflect people or places he has researched from our history of places we have traveled. “In one, I wanted to re-create the feeling and atmosphere of South Padre Island in Texas” he says. “We visited south Padre Island during a wedding, everyone was so free, relaxed, happy and just enjoying life with a nice little dink, sunscreen and smiling faces ” The resulting blend of the Padre Island Bourbon candle includes bourbon & coconut.

Vessels and packaging

Mason jars may look great in a country kitchen, but for your mid-century modern living room, you might want a candle in a sleek white or black frosted glass, or in hand-thrown ceramic.  

Many companies spend a lot of time designing vessels. “We are often attracted to the aesthetics of a candle. Does it look beautiful? Does it match the decor?” says Johnson, whose candles are packaged in American-made Libbey glass.

Many makers are also incorporating recyclable packaging. At the New Savant, the seven-ounce candles are poured into stainless steel cans composed of 25 percent post-consumer waste. They are fully recyclable and reusable.

At the Punctilious Mr. P’s Place Card Company, a small artisanal maker in the Hudson Valley in New York, co-founders Karen Suen-Cooper and Martin Cooper released their first candle a year ago (Pax, a lavender nine-ounce candle for $50) in a simple white jar with a gold-framed label. “I love packaging, and it has to convey the essence of the brand,” Cooper says. “Some consumers like strong branding, and I believe in that as well. People later send us photos of the jars that they use as pencil caddies or mascara holders.”


The three most common types of candle wax are paraffin, soy and tallow. Many candles are made with combinations of the three.  Soy wax, which has been around for about 25 years, is made of soybean oil that has been hydrogenated. Natural soy candles, made of a renewable resource that supports U.S. agriculture, have become widely popular, especially with younger artisan makers and eco-conscious shoppers in the United States. Soy candles are known for their long burn time.

Tallow is a byproduct of the beef industry and is refined into wax to be used in many budget-priced candles, LaVanier says.

Candle buyers who favor status labels such as Diptyque or Cire Trudon often turn their distinctive empty candle vessels into vases for flowers or planters for succulents.


Braided cotton wicks are a good choice for lighting easily and burning cleanly. The United States has banned lead in wicks, Johnson says. You’ll find a few wicks with zinc cores in small, tall candles, because the zinc keeps the wick upright. Wooden wicks make a crackling sound when burning.  Sometimes, the use of multiple wicks helps intensify the fragrance of the candle, so look for those if you prefer a stronger scent.

Burn time

In recent years, many candle companies have started putting the burn time of their candles on their packaging, but there is no industry standard for this, and calculations can vary, LaVanier says. The burn time takes into consideration the size of the candle, the ingredients and how long the consumer burns it each time, LaVanier says. Both trimming the wick to about ¼ -inch height before burning and not burning a candle for more than four hours at a time can prolong the life of your candle.