Why don’t my candles smell? If you make your own handmade candles, chances are you’ve asked this question before. Almost everyone who makes candles will have this problem at some point or another, so you’re definitely not alone. Fortunately, there are a few easy things you can do to improve how strong your candles smell!
What is scent throw?
When people talk about “throw” in candlemaking, they’re referring to the strength of their candle’s aroma. There is Hot Throw, which is how strong your candles smell when they’re lit, as well as Cold Throw, which is how strong your wax smells without the candle being lit. Hot throw and cold throw also apply to wax melts and other similar products.
Candles can have a good hot throw while having a weak cold throw. It also can work the other way – where your wax has a strong smell on its own, but the aroma isn’t as strong as you’d expect when the candle is lit. Both of these issues can be very frustrating.
What causes weak scent throw?
There are many things that can cause your candles and wax melts to have a weak aroma. Depending on the process and materials used, there may be more than one culprit behind weak scent throw. Identifying the reason will help you find a solution that works.
Here are a few of the most common reasons that candles and wax melts might not smell strong:
Fragrance Oil Quality
Different brands of fragrance oil can give you vastly different results. If you consistently have issues getting your candles to smell strong, it could very well be the fragrance you are using. There are tons of places that sell candle fragrance oils, but as you might guess, not all fragrances are created equally. Although many companies sell the same fragrance types, this doesn’t mean all the oils are made with the same grade and quality of materials.
As a candle fragrance supplier, we’re obviously a little biased on this topic. However, we analyze numerous formulas before adding anything to our product line and fragrances are tested in wax to see how they perform. If you’re not sure about a scent, just check the reviews because they speak for themselves!
The amount of fragrance you use also plays a big role in how strong your candles smell. This is referred to as the fragrance load. You could logically assume that the more fragrance you use, the better your candles will smell. However, there are a few issues with this.
First, you should never use more fragrance than your candle wax can hold. For most wax types, the maximum amount you can add is 10-12%. Exceeding this amount will often lead to sweaty candle tops, which is actually un-bonded fragrance oil beading on your wax. Not only is this a bad look, excess fragrance can increase the fire hazard of your candles.
Second, some fragrances have a super potent aroma and don’t need to be used at the maximum amount to get a strong throw. In fact, you will often get better results by using 6-8% fragrance instead of 10-12%. The ideal amount of fragrance can be different for each fragrance oil, and it can also vary based on the wick and wax you use. That’s why testing candles is so important!
If you are having trouble with your hot throw, be sure to check how much fragrance you used. In some cases, adjusting the fragrance load to use a higher percent might be the answer. Just don’t use more than your wax can hold.
It’s also helpful to check your candle making math to ensure you’re actually using the right amount of wax and fragrance for your containers. Taking accurate notes is also super helpful. Download our Free Printable Candle Making Note Sheet to keep track of all your candles!
Fragrances Smell Different in Wax
What if you’re already using high quality fragrance oils and the correct amount of fragrance, but still having issues? It’s important to remember that fragrances don’t always smell the same in wax as they do out of the bottle. The same is true when you make soap, lotion, or other scented products. Before stocking up on supplies, it’s helpful to make a small test batch to see if you like how the fragrance smells and performs in your wax. We make every effort to describe our fragrances accurately, but scent is still highly subjective.
As much as we love essential oils, they aren’t always the best option for making scented candles. Essential oils are made from pure plant extracts, whereas fragrance oils are made with a complex blend of natural and synthetic ingredients that are specifically formulated to give you a strong scent throw.
Many people use pure essential oils in their candles because they want to create an all-natural product. While you can sometimes get good results from essential oil candles, the aroma will almost never be quite as strong compared to candles made with fragrance oils.
If you want to make candles with essential oils, keep in mind there are a number of fragrance oils that are formulated to include essential oils. You can find a list of any essential oils used in our fragrances on the product descriptions.
It’s important to be aware that many fragrance oil suppliers describe their scents as being clean or all natural. While these claims may be true of some products, there’s really no such thing as an all-natural fragrance oil. Some fragrance chemicals are better than others, but you should be cautious of fragrance oils that claim to be all natural. Always check the SDS before assuming a supposedly ‘natural’ fragrance is made without chemicals.
Adding Fragrance at the Wrong Temperature
Candles smell their strongest when the fragrance is able to bond fully with the wax. This only occurs when the wax is heated to the proper temperature before adding fragrance. Generally speaking, you will want to add your fragrance when the wax has reached its maximum temperature. For soy wax, this is 185 degrees F. For coconut wax blends, you need to get the wax over 200 degrees F in order for the fragrance to bond.
Most candlemakers are familiar with soy wax having a maximum heating temp of 185 degrees F, and in some ways, it is seen as a standard for any wax type. With coconut wax being somewhat new on the market, there are a number of candlemakers who are still skeptical about heating coconut blends above 185. Trust us – waxes like Ceda Serica and EC-26 need to reach 200+ degrees in order to get the fully-developed scent profile you’re looking for.
The Type of Wax You’re Using
There are benefits and drawbacks to each type of candle wax. Many candlemakers love soy wax because it’s made from renewable resources and is a natural product. However, soy has a very dense molecular structure which can inhibit scent throw (at least compared to paraffin). While this might be a challenge for getting your candles to smell super strong, it’s this dense quality that gives soy candles their long burn time.
Although paraffin catches a lot of (perhaps undeserved) flack for being a petroleum byproduct, it is arguably the best wax for giving you an amazing scent throw. The molecular structure of paraffin is not nearly as dense as soy, which allows your candles to give off a much stronger scent throw – often with less fragrance being required.
Many candle makers have switched to coconut and soy wax blends like CB2 wax, Ceda Serica Wax, or EC-26 Wax for candles (and C55 for wax melts). These blends are formulated with a small amount of food-grade paraffin, which is added to improve scent throw.
Curing Your Candles
Did you know that candle wax continues to harden indefinitely after it is poured into a container or mold? Wax has a crystalline structure that continually changes as time goes on. For this reason, you need to give your candles some time to sit after pouring them instead of lighting them right away. This is a process known as curing your candles.
Wax can behave quite differently the day after a candle is poured compared to a month later, for example. That’s why it’s so important to wait before testing your candles. This waiting period gives you a much more accurate idea of how your candles will burn later on. This is crucially important if you are selling your candles or giving them away as gifts.
Not only does curing your candles give you a better idea of how the wick will perform, it also allows you to gauge the fragrance better. Candles often have a different level of scent throw after curing. In some cases, candles will not have a very strong throw if you light them too soon after pouring them.
The ideal amount of curing time varies depending on the wax you’re using – and who you ask. Paraffin and soy wax should be cured for a minimum of one week, while coconut wax candles should be cured for a minimum of two weeks. Oftentimes, people will recommend shorter cure times for smaller candles and wax melts. For example, some suppliers say that you only need to wait a day before testing tealight candles. When in doubt, try to wait instead of lighting your candles too soon.
Although it’s debatable, the size and dimensions of your candle vessel can sometimes play a role in scent throw as well. Candles made in containers with a narrow opening may not have as strong of a scent throw compared to vessels with a wider diameter.
For example, a tall, narrow candle such as a prayer votive has less surface area compared to a candle with a 3” diameter. At the same time, tealight candles have a narrow opening and typically do not smell any weaker than a large candle (provided that the fragrance, wick, and other factors are all appropriate for the tealight).
While container diameter can potentially be a factor, it’s more likely that something else is really to blame for weak scent throw. For example, the wax type, fragrance load, lack of curing, or wax temp is more likely the culprit. Ultimately – regardless of the container dimensions – you want the candle to be able to achieve a full melt pool (see below). However, if you’ve tried everything else and can’t get the scent to improve, you may get better results by trying different candle containers.
Wick Size or Type
Another possible culprit behind weak scent throw may be the wick you’re using. There are numerous sizes and types of candle wicks to choose from, and the choices can feel overwhelming. While it would be nice to be able to provide specific recommendations for every candlemaker, the best advice we can give is to test different types and sizes of wicks until you find what works for you. There are simply too many variables to give specific advice for every situation.
If you’ve tried curing your candles, switching wax, adjusting your fragrance load, and using different fragrances, then trying a different kind of wick might just be the ticket. Your wick should be able to achieve a full melt pool when burned under the proper conditions. If it doesn’t, your candle may not be wicked correctly.
How to Make Candles with a Strong Scent Throw
Now that we’ve covered the most common reasons for poor scent throw, you should have a good understanding of the factors at play. As a quick recap, here are the best practices for making candles that smell strong:
- Use high quality fragrance oils and avoid pure essential oils.
- Pay attention to your fragrance load and adjust the percentage if needed.
- Let wax get hot enough before adding fragrance oils so they can bond properly.
- Try a different kind of wax, or a wax blend that has paraffin in it.
- Always let your candles cure – preferably for 2 weeks.
- Make sure your candle is wicked properly and try switching to a different type or size of wick if needed.
If you make wax melts, keep in mind that most of these principles will still apply. Tart wax should always be heated to the proper temperature and wax melts should be cured just like candles. Although essential oils can behave differently in candles compared to wax melts, you may ultimately find that fragrance oils are the best option for your wax melts too.