6 Candle Alternatives That Don’t Feel Like a Downgrade from the Real Thing

published Jan 15, 2020
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image

Maybe you’re sensitive to smell, or maybe you get nervous with open flames—especially if you have pets or kids in your home. Or maybe you want to save some money, since regular candles can get expensive. Whatever your reason, there’s nothing wrong with exploring alternatives to traditional candle jars (and this is coming from a diehard candle lover). In fact, you might be surprised by just how many alternatives are out there—I certainly was. If you’re ready for a change, check out what we found below, and let us know your personal favorite candle alternatives in the comments.

Essential Oil Diffuser

Looking for something that’s multifunctional? You’ll want to consider an essential oil diffuser, which fills your space with the therapeutic scents of your favorite essential oils and can act as a humidifier during the dry winter months. We featured this small but mighty diffuser on our guide to the best essential oil diffusers, and we still love it. Compact and cute, it’s available in five colors and has an uninterrupted run time of three hours. If you’re willing to spend a little extra, we also recommend the editor-favorite Vitruvi diffuser. And don’t forget your oils!

Buy: Serene House Ranger Essential Oil Diffuser, $25 from Urban Outfitters

Credit: Nordstrom

Reed Diffuser

Another option is a reed diffuser, many of which also use essential oils. The main benefit of a reed diffuser is that it disperses scent consistently for several weeks, so all you have to do is put the sticks in the vessel and leave it be. It’s the most low maintenance option, with no flames, no wax, no plug in—really no effort at all. Plus, it’s inconspicuous and can hide behind decor if you don’t want it out in plain sight. We recommend this highly-rated diffuser from NEST, which lasts for about 90 days. (Or you can DIY one if you so choose!)

Buy: NEST Fragrances Lemongrass & Ginger Reed Diffuser, $48 from Nordstrom

Credit: goop


Prefer something that has the same ritualistic feel as lighting a candle? Incense is your best bet—although it might take some trial and error to find one that’s not too strong, especially if you’re sensitive to smell. Personally, the cult favorite Palo Santo incense from Incausa is the only one I haven’t hated—it’s not overpowering, smells really good, and doesn’t remind me of dark churches. And if you’re looking for an incense holder, you can find plenty on Etsy, including this small handmade find made specifically for Palo Santo incense sticks.

Buy: Incausa Palo Santo Incense, $12 from goop

Room Spray

Room sprays are a quick and easy way to freshen up your space, although it’s important to find one that actually lasts longer than five minutes. If you’re already a fan of Anthropologie’s signature Volcano scent, you’ll be happy to know that it’s not only available as a candle—it’s also a room spray, and a surprisingly good one, too. (Our Home Director Danielle Blundell even sprays it on her pillows.) Another option is from P.F. Candle Co., one of our favorite candle brands, which has room sprays available at Urban Outfitters.

Buy: Capri Blue Volcano Room Spray, $24 from Anthropologie

Credit: Amazon

Flameless Candles

If you don’t like scented candles to begin, or want the cozy vibe of a candle without the open flame, you need some flameless candles in your life. Typically battery-operated, these candles feature a fake flame that gives off the same low light without any fragrance or heat. For a budget-friendly option we recommend this set of 3 candles from Amazon, which comes in a variety of colors and comes with a remote. (And has over 1,000 5-star reviews!) Other places to check out include West Elm, Pottery Barn, and Terrain.

Buy: Aku Tonpa Flameless Candles (set of 3), $25.99 $21.99 from Amazon

Credit: Amazon

Wax Warmers

Another flame-free alternative you might know about? Try a wax warmer (also known as a candle warmer). They work by warming up scented wax melts or cubes to release the smell without a flame, and allow you to control the fragrance level by deciding how much wax you want to melt at a time. This wax warmer from Happy Wax comes in seven stylish designs, and includes features like a silicone melt dish and integrated timer for easy use. They also sell a variety of wax melts in a range of scents.

Buy: Happy Wax Signature Wax Warmer, $39.95 from Amazon