Incense vs Candles: What’s the Difference? A Guide

Incense vs Candles

Lighting incense and candles have been popular choices for centuries. From ancient times, people have used fragrances and aromas for various purposes, including spiritual, medicinal, and aesthetic reasons.

While both incense sticks and candles are known for their ability to create a soothing atmosphere, it is important to be cautious of their potential as flammable objects and the release of toxic fumes.

Aromatherapy enthusiasts should also consider the impact of the smell on their wellbeing.

Incense has been used since ancient times in different cultures worldwide for aromatherapy and to create a pleasant smell. On the other hand, candles were invented much later during the Roman Empire and are now often made with fragrance oil to enhance their unique aroma.

Both incense and candles come in various shapes, sizes, colors, and ingredients like lavender that contribute to their soothing properties. They can be used for meditation or religious practices or simply as a way to add warmth and coziness to your living space.

We’ll dive into their history, cultural significance and examine the purpose of burning them.

In addition, we’ll explore the different aromas that incense and candles offer, the flammable objects they’re made of, and the potential for fires and soot when using them.

So sit back, relax and let’s begin our journey into the world of incense vs candles!

Incense vs Candles: What’s the Difference?

AromaReleases fragrant smoke when burned.Emits scents when wax is heated.
FormTypically comes in stick or cone forms.Available in various shapes and sizes.
IngredientsMade from aromatic plant materials.Composed of wax, wick, and fragrance.
Burning TimeShorter burning time, usually minutes.Longer burning time, hours to days.
AmbianceCreates a mystical and spiritual aura.Sets a cozy and relaxing atmosphere.
SmokeProduces fragrant smoke when burned.Minimal smoke, primarily from wick.
CleanupLeaves behind ash, requires ash catcher.Melts into wax pool, needs cleanup.
VarietyOffers a wide range of scents and blends.Available in various scents and colors.
UsesUsed in rituals, meditation, and spiritual practices.Used for decor, ambiance, and rituals.
SafetyCan cause allergies or respiratory irritation in some individuals.Fire hazard if left unattended.
Eco-FriendlyNatural options available, but check sourcing.Some eco-friendly options with soy wax.
CostGenerally more affordable per unit.Can vary widely based on quality.

Risks of Burning Incense and Candles

Health risks associated with burning incense and candles

Burning incense and candles can create a peaceful atmosphere with different aromas, but they can also pose health risks. One of the main concerns is that they produce smoke and soot, which can irritate the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs.

Incense smoke contains particulate matter that can be inhaled deep into the lungs and cause respiratory problems. Additionally, candles are flammable objects that can cause fires if left unattended. Use fragrance oil instead of burning candles or incense to avoid these risks.

Candles and other flammable objects are not much better. Some candles contain lead wicks that release toxic fumes when burned. The fragrance oils used in scented candles with different aromas can also cause allergic reactions or trigger asthma attacks for some people.

Lighting incense sticks can also be a potential fire hazard.

To reduce your exposure to these health risks:

  • Burn candles and lighting incense safely by keeping them away from flammable objects and fire risk. Also, make sure to use incense holders for incense sticks.
  • Use unscented candles or those made from natural materials like beeswax instead of paraffin wax. Lighting incense is a way to add ambiance, but be aware of the cons. Aromatherapy can also enhance the experience.
  • Opt for incense made from natural ingredients like herbs or essential oils instead of synthetic fragrances. Additionally, consider using scented candles for aromatherapy purposes instead of paraffin candles or votive candles.

Environmental impact of burning incense and candles

In addition to posing health risks, burning incense and candles can also have a negative impact on the environment. Both products release carbon dioxide into the air when burned, contributing to fire hazards and climate change.

They also produce soot that can accumulate on walls and ceilings over time, especially if made with wax. However, for many people, burning incense and candles is a religious practice to honor their god.

To reduce your environmental impact:

  • Use LED flameless candles instead of traditional ones.
  • Choose incense made from sustainably harvested materials.
  • Open windows or use fans to ventilate your space while burning incense, candles, or wax. Be cautious with fire and always remember to pray to God for safety.

Safety precautions when using incense and candles

Finally, it’s important to take safety precautions when using both incense and candles. They are both fire hazards that should never be left unattended while burning.

Make sure you keep them away from flammable objects like curtains or paper towels. It’s also a good idea to use a holder or tray to catch any ash that falls from the incense or wax from the candle.

Always remember to practice caution when using these items in the presence of God.

To ensure your safety:

  • Always burn candles on a heat-resistant surface.
  • Keep lit candles made of wax out of reach of children and pets.
  • Use incense, scented candles safely, votive candles, and candle jars in a well-ventilated area and never leave them burning overnight.

Indirect vs Direct Burning Incense: Fire Risk and Safety Measures

Incense and candles are both popular ways to create a relaxing atmosphere in your home. However, there are some differences between the two that you should be aware of before lighting up. One key difference is whether the incense is burned directly or indirectly.

The Difference Between Indirect and Direct Burning Incense

Indirect burning incense is usually in the form of cones or sticks that need to be placed on a heat-resistant surface, such as a ceramic dish or metal burner. The heat from an external source, like votive candles, a candle flame or electric heater, is used to warm the incense and release its fragrance into the air.

On the other hand, direct burning incense comes in loose powder form that needs to be heated directly by a flame. This can be done by placing the powder on top of charcoal tablets or using specialized burners designed for this purpose.

Fire Risk Associated with Direct Burning Incense

Direct burning incense and candle poses a higher fire risk than indirect burning because they both involve an open flame. If not used properly, they can easily ignite nearby objects such as curtains or furniture.

Furthermore, if left unattended while still lit, direct burning incense or candle can cause serious damage if it falls over onto flammable surfaces like carpets or rugs. It’s important to always keep an eye on any open flames in your home and never leave them unattended.

Safety Measures to Take When Using Direct or Indirect Burning Incense

Whether you’re using indirect or direct burning incense, there are some proper safety precautions you should follow to avoid any candle mishaps.

1. Use Heat-Resistant Surfaces

Always place your incense burner on a heat-resistant surface like ceramic tile or stone countertop. Never place it on a wooden surface or any other flammable material.

2. Keep Away from Flammable Objects

Keep your incense burner away from anything that can easily catch fire, such as curtains, papers, or furniture.

3. Do Not Leave Unattended

Never leave burning incense unattended. If you need to leave the room, extinguish the flame first.

4. Proper Ventilation

Make sure there is proper ventilation in the room where you’re burning incense. This will help prevent smoke buildup and ensure that your home stays safe.

5. Extinguish Properly

Always make sure to fully extinguish the incense before leaving it unattended or disposing of it.

Scented Candles vs Incense: Choosing the Best Option for You

Differences in scent options between scented candles and incenses

Both scented candles and incense can provide a quick fragrance boost. However, there are some differences in the scent options that each offers.

Scented candles come in a wide variety of fragrances, from floral to fruity to woodsy. These fragrances are created using fragrance oils, which are mixed with soy wax to create the candle. Some popular scents include lavender for a calming atmosphere, vanilla for a cozy atmosphere, and citrus for an energizing atmosphere.

On the other hand, incense typically comes in fewer fragrance options but offers more natural aromas.

Incense is made from plant materials such as flowers or herbs and often has a stronger smell than scented candles. Some popular incense fragrances include sandalwood for relaxation, sage for purification, and jasmine for romance.

Benefits of using scented candles over incenses

While both scented candles and incense can add fragrance to your home or workspace, there are some benefits to using scented candles over incenses.

Firstly, scented candles tend to have longer burn times than incense sticks. This means that you can enjoy the fragrance of a single candle for several hours at a time before needing to replace it.

Secondly, many people prefer the look of scented candles over incense sticks. Candles come in various shapes and sizes and can be used as decorative pieces while also providing fragrance.

Lastly, some people prefer soy wax-based scented candles over traditional paraffin wax-based ones because they are more environmentally friendly.

Benefits of using incenses over scented candles

Although there are benefits to using scented candles over incenses, there are also advantages to choosing incense instead.

One significant advantage is that burning incense can be a form of aromatherapy. Different aromas can have different effects on the mind and body, such as promoting relaxation or reducing anxiety.

Incense is often used in spiritual practices and can help create a calming atmosphere for meditation or prayer.

Lastly, burning incense sticks tends to release more fragrance into the air than scented candles. This means that you may need fewer sticks of incense to achieve the desired level of fragrance compared to using scented candles.

Personal preference

Ultimately, choosing between scented candles and incense comes down to personal preference. Some people prefer the natural aroma of incense, while others enjoy the variety of fragrances offered by scented candles.

Consider what type of atmosphere you want to create in your space and what fragrances appeal to you most before making a decision. Whether you choose scented candles or incense, both can provide a quick and easy way to add fragrance to your home or workspace.

When to Choose Candles or Incense: Factors to Consider

Choosing between candles and incense can be a matter of personal preference, but there are also several factors to consider when deciding which one is more appropriate for a particular occasion or mood. Here are some important factors to keep in mind:

Mood Setting Factors that Can Influence Your Choice Between Candle or an Incense

Both candles and incense have the ability to create a certain atmosphere or mood. The scent and lighting of each can impact how we feel and what kind of environment we want to create.


One of the most significant differences between candles and incense is their scent. Candles come in various scents, from floral to fruity, while incense has a distinct smoky aroma.

When choosing between candles and incense based on their scent, consider the following:

  • What kind of mood do you want to set?
  • Do you prefer sweet or earthy scents?
  • Are you sensitive to strong smells?


The lighting created by candles is different from that produced by burning incense. A candle’s flame provides warm light that flickers gently, while burning incense creates a soft glow with smoke.

When considering lighting as a factor in your choice between candles and incense, think about:

  • Whether you need bright light or just ambient lighting
  • If you want a calming atmosphere
  • If you’re using it for meditation purposes

Occasions Where One Is More Appropriate Than the Other

There are certain occasions where one may be more appropriate than the other.


Candles are often used during romantic dinners, birthday celebrations, religious ceremonies, and power outages.

Here are some examples:

  • Romantic dinners: Use unscented candles for an intimate dinner with your partner.
  • Birthday celebrations: Light up colorful scented candles for birthday cakes.
  • Religious ceremonies: Use religious candles for prayer and meditation.
  • Power outages: Use emergency candles during blackouts.


Incense is typically used in spiritual practices, yoga sessions, and relaxation spaces.

Here are some examples:

  • Spiritual practices: Burn incense during religious or spiritual rituals to purify the space.
  • Yoga sessions: Use incense to create a calming environment for yoga practice.
  • Relaxation spaces: Burn incense to help you relax after a long day at work.

Personal Preference Factors That Might Affect Your Decision

Personal preference also plays an important role in choosing between candles and incense. Some people prefer the smoky aroma of incense, while others find it overwhelming. Similarly, some people enjoy the warm glow of candlelight, while others prefer brighter lighting.

When considering personal preferences as a factor in your choice between candles and incense, ask yourself:

  • What kind of scents do I prefer?
  • Do I like the soft glow or flickering light better?
  • Which one makes me feel more relaxed?

Making an Informed Choice Between Incense and Candles

There are several factors to consider. It’s important to understand the risks associated with burning both, including fire hazards and potential health risks from inhaling smoke or chemicals.

Indirect burning methods for incense can reduce fire risk, but still produce harmful compounds such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Scented candles may be a better option for those concerned about air quality, but they also release carbon dioxide and water vapor into the air.

Ultimately, the choice between incense and candles comes down to personal preference. Consider factors such as scent preferences, desired ambiance, and safety concerns when making your decision.

To ensure safe use of either option, always follow proper safety measures such as using a heat-resistant surface and never leaving burning materials unattended.


1. Can burning incense or candles cause health problems?

Yes, burning incense or candles can release harmful compounds into the air that can potentially cause health problems if inhaled regularly over long periods of time.

2. Are there any fire hazards associated with burning incense or candles?

Yes, both incense and candles pose a fire hazard if not used properly. Always follow proper safety measures such as using a heat-resistant surface and never leaving burning materials unattended.

3. Which is better for air quality: scented candles or incense?

Scented candles may be a better option for those concerned about air quality since they do not release as many harmful compounds as burning direct-burning incense sticks.

4. What should I consider when choosing between incense and candles?

Consider factors such as scent preferences, desired ambiance, potential health risks from inhaling smoke or chemicals, and fire hazards when making your decision.

5. How can I ensure safe use of either option?

Always follow proper safety measures such as using a heat-resistant surface and never leaving burning materials unattended. It’s also important to choose high-quality, reputable brands of incense or candles.

6. What are the pros and cons of using reed diffusers instead of incense or candles?

Reed diffusers offer a flame-free option for adding fragrance to a room, but they may not be as potent or long-lasting as incense or candles.

7. Can I use both incense and candles in the same room?

Yes, but it’s important to ensure proper ventilation and not to overload the space with too many scents at once.