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Candle Vs Diffuser – Decadent Scents Served 2 Ways

A great scent can really round out the atmosphere in your home or apartment. It’s no secret that scents and smells can trigger memories. They can make you feel happy, sensual, relaxed, even confident. 

Some studies show there are smells that can even boost the productivity of your brain. When I’m working, I always light a great scented candle or make sure my oil reed diffuser is nearby.

The only question is, which should you choose? Candle, or diffuser?

Personally, I’m a fan of both candles and diffusers, as they both have their place in my apartment. But, there is a spirited debate you’ll see online occasionally as to which is better: essential oils vs candles.

People on both sides will make all kinds of claims, but what is actually the truth, and what choice is right for you?

If you’ve been wondering this yourself, read our helpful guide as we dive deep into this question to find out the pros and cons of both oil diffusers and candles. 

Types of Essential Oil Diffusers 

Before we talk about diffusers vs candles, it’s important to know what kinds of diffusers are out there if you’re going to use essential oils instead of candles. When you go to the store, you’ll see the following types of essential oil diffusers for sale.

These are the three basic kinds of oil diffuser:

  • Reed diffusers
  • Nebulizers
  • Water diffusers

A reed diffuser is usually a glass bottle filled with oil with a handful of reed sticks inside of it. The fragrance travels up the natural reed sticks and into the air. If you’d like to know how to make your own reed diffuser – an incredibly fun craft that will add multiple layers of decoration to your room – read all about how in our DIY reed diffuser guide!

A nebulizer diffuser is a machine that works by turning oil into mist. Similarly, a water diffuser also sends a mist into your room, but instead of an oil mist, water vapor carries the oil. These methods typically require a power source, electricity or batteries.

These three have their own pros and cons, but for our purposes, we will be comparing them as a whole to candles. 

Oil Diffusers vs Candles – Comparison

We’ll start by comparing oil diffusers vs candles, feature by feature, to weigh the pros and cons of both. I’ll give a brief description of qualities such as fragrance, cost, and decorative aspect to give you a good idea of which product wins each category, then tally the points at the end!


One of the best things about a candle is it gives a soft glow when you burn it in addition to a wonderful fragrance. Light is an important aspect of setting a cozy or romantic mood. 

This is why, in many Scandinavian cultures, they never use overhead light fixtures in their homes. It’s all about scattering smaller, weaker light sources around the room to create an overall glow. Using candles is perfect for this purpose.

Unfortunately, the essential oil diffuser comes up short, as most don’t give off a source of light. Your mechanical vapor diffuser might have a little on and off light, but that doesn’t count!


Many consider candles to be a bit of a safety hazard, which makes sense when you realize it’s a controlled fire burning in your home. When you use candles, it’s important to keep an eye on them. Never leave the house if you’re burning a candle.

More and more, apartment rental agreements are including clauses banning candle-burning. If your apartment doesn’t allow candles for safety reasons, oil diffusers are a great choice for you.

If you use essential oils instead of candles, you don’t need to worry about potentially burning down your house or damaging your walls or furniture. There’s no heat generated, no soot, and definitely no fire. 

Health Issues

It’s so important to consider what’s in the air you’re breathing. When you’re in your home, you generally have a good idea, but a careful consumer will keep their eye on the ingredients of their room fragrance. Many manufacturers are not up front about this, so if you have concerns, pay close attention to what’s being disclosed to consumers.

Health issues and candles

For example, before the early 2000’s, many candle companies were putting lead into their candle wicks to make them stand straighter! That’s not something that still happens today, of course, but many people remain wary of what goes into candles. 

Candles can be made from different waxes. Paraffin is most common, but soy is becoming popular, as well.

Studies have been done on the chemicals in candles, and some research suggests burning a candle could be harmful to your health because of the chemicals contained in paraffin wax. Other research argues with this, noting that the amount of these chemicals in simple candles is not nearly enough to affect us.

Use common sense, and pay attention to your own reactions to candles. Don’t burn a huge candle in a tiny room if you’re worried about breathing in particles. Keep a window cracked or ensure good air flow while burning a candle if you find the scent is irritating your nose. 

If candles interfere with your breathing, you don’t need to burn them to enjoy their scent and appearance! Even an unlit candle can still offer a small yet pleasant scent without releasing particles into the air.  

Health issues and essential oils

Essential oil diffusers can be a good option if you find that candles tend to irritate you. They generally have a more mild effect, whether you’re using a vapor diffuser or a reed diffuser. If you, like me, tend to get headaches around strong fragrance, use essential oils instead of candles.

Still, anything can be an irritant, especially if you’re sensitive. And if you have pets, you may want to consider what’s safe for them. Many people feel essential oils are not safe for pets, but more research on the subject is needed to draw conclusions.

You may see some warnings online about using essential oils, but please note that most if not all of the proven health hazards associated with essential oils only apply if you swallow them, inhale a concentration (think: e-cigarettes and vape pens), or rub them directly onto your skin. Still, it’s worth noting that the FDA does not regulate essential oils, so use good judgment. 

Having said that, the FDA does not regulate candles, either. No room fragrance product has ever been certified by this trusted government source, so it’s very important to do your own research and talk to a doctor if you have any concerns about your health.


Scented candles give off a strong fragrance while they’re burning, and the smell lingers for a few hours after. Essential oil diffusers will slowly permeate the room with fragrance by consistently dispensing a smaller amount of fragrance, which lasts for a longer period of time. 

It’s important to note that you’ll get a wider variety of scents when buying a candle. Since diffusers rely on essential oils, you’re limited to a certain number of scents and combinations. With synthetic fragrance, the sky’s the limit. If you’re the kind of person who loves food and baking scents, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to find them in diffuser form.


Candle prices range from the sublime to the ridiculous. You can spend $4 for a candle at a big box store, or you can go to a boutique and spend $75. You’ll run into a similar problem with diffusers and essential oils, but they have one key advantage: re-use. 

You can repurpose a candle’s container for other things, but a diffuser can be refilled with fragrance again and again. Once you buy a diffuser, you simply need to invest in more oils when the time comes. Once you’re finished burning a candle, it’s gone, and you’ll need a new one from the store.

It will take much, much longer for you to run out of essential oils vs candles. A single bottle of essential oil will last a long, long time, making them more cost effective. You need very little oil  – only a few drops – for a diffuser to work its magic in your home. They are, by far, the more cost-effective option.


Candles are prominently featured in advertisements, home décor magazines, spas, etc. because they are luxurious, decadent decorative pieces. They add a touch of elegance, romance, and luxury to your home, meals, or baths. A good candle will provide softness and grace to your room.

The same cannot be said for all diffusers. Most oil diffusers are made of plastic that can be cheap and flimsy or even bulky, which ruins the aesthetics of a thoughtfully decorated interior. If you use a vapor diffuser, you may spend time thinking about how to best hide it instead of displaying it!

A reed diffuser will be a much more stylish choice, on par with a candle. Reed diffusers usually come in stylish or simple glass bottles with long reeds. Using a reed diffuser will bring a more natural touch to your room’s look.

Pros and Cons of Candles

Now that we’ve discussed the many merits and drawbacks of scented candles vs oil diffusers, let’s see the break-down, point by point, to help you decide which is best for your room.


  • Creates soft light
  • Strong fragrance
  • More options
  • More decorative potential 


  • Fire hazard
  • Potential irritant
  • Expensive
  • More waste

Pros and Cons of Oil Diffusers


  • Potentially safer
  • Less irritating 
  • Longer-lasting fragrance
  • Cost-effective 


  • Does not give off light
  • Weaker fragrance
  • Less options available
  • Many aren’t decorative

Candles vs Diffusers – The Wrap Up

Fragrance can do so much for our homes. It can help us to relax and unwind or add to the atmosphere we are trying to create in our rooms. Fragrance can even help mask unwanted smells like pet odors, cooking smells, etc.

Choosing carefully which source of fragrance you use is important. You need to consider the purpose of the fragrance in your home and purchase accordingly. If you’re trying to cover up the smell of kitty litter, you’ll go for something much, much different than if you were setting the mood for a date.

As for the battle of candles vs diffusers, you can choose the one that most suits your needs. Diffusers come in all shapes and sizes, from water vapor diffusers to the attractive glass bottles used for reed diffusers. Candles have such a great variety, as well, and as you’ve learned, there are many factors to think about when finding the one that’s perfect for you.

We hope this information has helped you understand a little bit more about your choices for room fragrance. Let us know in a comment which you prefer – and why!

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