Scented candles can be tiny miracle workers, creating a full-blown atmosphere with one swipe of a match. The right scent can encourage romance, set the tone for a party, or, if you're looking to sell, entice a potential buyer to linger.
"There's nothing better than walking to a room and smelling a beautiful aroma that enhances the aesthetics of the space," explains Sue Phillips, a fragrance expert with Scenterprises.
But it's surprisingly easy to go wrong with these waxy wonders, especially when you don't quite know how your chosen scent will affect your room. Whatever you do, avoid the following scented candle slip-ups so you don't become known as that crazy candle person.
Did you make fish last night? Are your dogs, lovable as they are, stinking up the house? Before you light an expensive scented candle, beware: Trying to mask odors with a candle doesn't work well, experts say.
"When you light a scented candle to hide an unpleasant aroma, you'll just end up with both odors competing in your room," says AC Brown, owner of the beauty and wellness company Goodnight Darling.
Your best bet: Open a window to air out the room, and then light your candle to bring in a fresh scent.
Truth: Bargain-bin scented candles smell rank. The type of wax you buy really matters. Shop for soy or beeswax, rather than cheaper paraffin or petroleum byproducts, and try to verify that the wick doesn't contain lead, recommends Darla DeMorrow, a home expert with HeartWork Organizing.
"I stick with locally made candles or ones from USA-based manufacturers," she says. Also look for dye- and allergen-free versions made without phthalates.
As for the candle's packaging, strive to marry the product's look with your home's appearance.
"Candles in colored glass are a bit dated," Brown says. "Opt for black, amber, or white, clear glass, as these fit with most decor."
Each area of the house lends itself to a particular set of scents. Make sure you aren't unwittingly sending the wrong message with your scented candles. Not sure what goes where? Here's the breakdown, room by room:
Kitchen: "This space typically doesn't require fragrance because there's nothing better than authentic food aromas," Phillips explains.
But if you can't bake a batch of cookies or whip up a beef stew, turn to a homey scent.
"Research shows that the smell of vanilla and apple pie are very compelling and can transport you back to childhood," she adds.
Consider the time of day when selecting a scented candle, says lifestyle guru Cynthia O'Hara, aka the Harried Housewife.
"Try lemony candles in the kitchen during the day, when a refreshing scent is welcome, and then vanilla in the later afternoon or evening, when a cozier feeling is desired," she suggests.
Living room: This spot is one of conviviality, so turn to warm, smooth sandalwood, one of the oldest aromas dating to ancient Egypt, Phillips says.
"This scent complements a crackling fireplace and will help you relax and entertain," she adds.
Bedroom: The need to unplug from our busy lives can be helped along by the right scent, especially in the boudoir.
"Lavender-scented candles or as a sachet under your pillowcase will encourage relaxation, aid in a good night's sleep, and help you wake up refreshed," Phillips notes.
Bathroom: It's dealer's choice for this spot, so pick a scent that's personally appealing. "Nearly any candle or scented spray will help neutralize odors and that mildewy smell," she says.
You wouldn't light pumpkin spice candles in the spring, right? That's a fragrance that screams cold weather and cozy slippers.
"Match your scent to the season, especially when entertaining," O'Hara says.
She suggests heady aromas like maple or cinnamon in the kitchen or dining room in fall, and bayberry and gingerbread in winter. Balsam and pine aromas are also great in the family and living rooms during colder months. Opt for light floral scents in the spring and summer.
We shouldn't have to say it, but we're going to anyway: Do not leave the house or go to bed with candles still lit.
"Keep them away from drapes, bedding, and tablecloths, and put them on coasters, not directly on the table's surface," says Julie Coracciao, a home organizing professional with Reawaken Your Brilliance.
"Allow 3 feet of open space around the candle, and set a timer as a reminder to blow it out," adds DeMorrow.