Candles, Incense, and Unsightly Carpets

Candles, Incense, and Unsightly Carpets

Candles, Incense, and Unsightly Carpets

Candles and incense create a warm, inviting atmosphere and scents associated with pleasant memories and feelings, but some candles and incense can be a real problem in homes or businesses, especially those with carpeting. Harmful effects include diminished indoor air quality and an unsightly graphite film on carpeting that can be notoriously difficult to remove. Read on to learn more about these problems and discover healthier, cleaner ways to create the ambiance you want.

Harmful Effects of Candles and Incense

According to the Environmental Protection Agency,

The estimated total sales of candles in 1999 varied between $968 million and $2.3 billion, while imports were $486 million. The U.S. imports and exports of incense in 1999 were $12.4 and 4.6 million, respectively. The scientific literature review gathered information regarding the emission of various contaminants generated when burning candles and incense, as well as the potential health effects associated with exposure to these contaminants. Burning candles and incense can be sources of particulate matter. Burning candles with lead-core wicks may result in indoor air concentration of lead above EPA-recommended thresholds. Exposure to incense smoke has been linked with several illnesses, and certain brands of incense also contain chemicals suspected of causing skin irritation.

Heavily scented oil candles and ordinary incense create graphite pollution, a type of indoor air contamination that can be compared to cigarette smoke. These products may mask odor, but they contain cancer-causing chemicals associated with migraines and sinus problems. They can trigger symptoms in people with COPD and other breathing-related conditions.

Carpeting and upholstery are highly absorbent. The soot left behind by certain candles and incense can infiltrate the fibers of your carpets, rugs, and upholstered furniture. It can cause a carpet problem called filtration soiling, that is, a graphite film that creates dark, dirty areas along the edges of carpet and around HVAC vents. Once this problem develops, it can be difficult to resolve without damaging the carpet, even with professional carpet cleaning.

There’s a Better Way…

Your family, guests, employees, or patrons can enjoy soft, flickering candlelight and clean aromas without harmful health effects and negative consequences to your carpet and upholstery. Here’s how:

  • Do not use ordinary oil-coated incense with a bamboo core. This type of incense creates a lot of soot. Instead, use incense made with cosmetic-grade oil and no bamboo core.
  • Do not use paraffin-based candles. Paraffin is a harmful petroleum byproduct. Clean burning alternatives include candles made with soy wax, palm wax, or liquid wax. The best alternative, by far, is beeswax candles. They actually produce negative ions that, when burned, purify the air. Beeswax candles burn longer than other types of candles, too. You may also consider battery powered or rechargeable flameless candles.
  • Use candles without large wicks. Thick wicks produce heavy soot. Thin cotton or wood wicks produce the least amount of soot.
  • Use unscented or naturally scented candles. If you must use scented candles, look for brands that use 100% naturally-derived essential oils.
  • Vacuum often. This simple practice inhibits contaminants from settling and bonding into the fibers of interior textiles. The longer contaminants remain, the more likely they are to cause damage to carpet and upholstery dyes and fibers.
  • Clean air ducts once per year. This will minimize the spread of contaminants.
  • Change or clean air filters often. To lower chances of pollutants escaping your air filtration system, your air filters should be changed or cleaned every two to three months. Use high quality disposable or reusable air filters.
  • Clean and dust hard surfaces on a regular basis. This will help keep your space as pollutant free as possible, which can help prevent offputting odors.
  • Have your carpets and upholstery periodically professionally cleaned. As a general rule, your interior textiles should be cleaned once or twice per year. You may need to adjust the frequency depending on the level of traffic and use your fine surfaces get. Professional cleaning will help eliminate odors so you won’t feel the need to mask them.

With proper care and a few simple precautions, your space can remain fresh, clean, and inviting with or without candles and incense.


This article is one of a series of articles written and published on behalf of SurpHaces PRO Partners.