Ever since we answered the question about whether or not Bath & Body Works candles are toxic, we’ve received several questions about the other very popular candle brand: Yankee!
Growing up, my mom absolutely loved Yankee Candles. Every year at Christmas, we’d buy her a few of her favorite eucalyptus and lavender scents and we’d fill our home with what *felt* like fresh aromas.
Years later, after I became an adult and more information started coming out about the potential dangers of things like phthalates (which are commonly used in candle fragrances), I was disappointed to find out that the luscious scents we thought were being emitted from those Yankee candles weren’t fresh at all—in fact, they were actually a big source of indoor air pollution!
In this article, we’re going to break it all down for you: Are Yankee Candles toxic, and if so, why exactly? Are they safe to burn around pets and children? And what are the better alternatives?
Let’s get to it.
Table of Contents
- What Are Yankee Candles Actually Made Of?
- We Asked Yankee Candle for More Information… Here’s What They Said
- Are Yankee Candles Toxic for Dogs, Cats, or Other Animals?
- What About Yankee Candle’s Wax Melts, Plug-In Air Fresheners, and Car Fresheners?
- What About WoodWick and Chesapeake Bay Candle—Are Those Toxic, Too?
- Does it Really Matter?
- Where Are Yankee Candles Made?
- Who Owns Yankee Candle?
- So, What Scented Candles Are Safe?
- TL;DR: Are Yankee Candles Safe?
What Are Yankee Candles Actually Made Of?
When shopping for candles, there are three primary ingredients to consider:
- the wax
- the wick
- the fragrance (if there are any dyes or colorants, these are often included under the “fragrance” umbrella)
So these are the three things we looked at to figure out whether or not Yankee’s candles are non-toxic.
According to Yankee Candle’s website, there are three main types of wax used for their candles:
- “Premium-grade paraffin wax “
- “Soy wax blend”
- “Premium soy-wax blend”
The majority of their candles are made using the “Premium-grade paraffin wax,” which is our first indicator that Yankee candles may not be good for you or your family.
Since it’s derived from petroleum, coal, or oil shale, burning paraffin in your home is basically like burning fossil fuels inside. When burned, paraffin releases a group of chemicals with the acronym BTEX into the air. BTEX stands for benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene.
These chemicals are each unsafe in their own ways… Benzene and ethylbenzene are carcinogenic, toluene is a development toxicant, and xylene can irritate the eyes, lungs, and central nervous system. They can also cause nervous system damage, reproductive harm, organ damage, and more.
Now, one might argue that the levels of BTEX chemicals that are emitted into the air through burning a candle or two are probably (maybe?) too low to matter… We’ll address this concern toward the end of the article.
Let’s move on to the “soy-wax blend” candles—those have to be better, right?
Not necessarily. Although it has its shortcomings, soy wax does burn cleaner than paraffin. However, our question here isn’t necessarily about the “soy” part of the wax, but rather about the “blend” part of the wax. WHAT exactly is the soy blended with, and how much of the wax is actually made with soy? Soy “blends” can include any number of *mystery* waxes, including paraffin, hydrogenated palm oil, rapeseed, sunflower, and more.
Since this isn’t something that’s regulated, it’s virtually impossible to know what’s actually in these blends. (We did reach out to ask Yankee Candle for more clarification… We’ll get to our conversation with them in just a minute.)
In general, whenever you see a candle that’s made out of a wax “blend,” you should be able to find out what exactly is in that blend (along with how much of each type, and how they were sourced). If the brand isn’t willing to be transparent about that, it’s usually a yellow flag.
Yankee Candle lists their wicks as being made from either “Cotton” or “100% natural fibers.”
Back in the day, cotton wicks often contained a lead core, which was used to help the wick to stand up straight and keep from falling into the liquid wax.
Of course, most of us know by now how dangerous lead can be, especially for children. The good news is that since 2003, it’s been illegal to manufacture or sell lead-core wicks in the U.S. The risk isn’t completely gone since some manufacturers in places like Mexico and China have been found to still be using lead in their wicks, so it is still something to be aware of when candle shopping.
But most of Yankee candles are made in the U.S. and Europe, so lead wicks are not something you really have to worry about.
If you thought “wax blends” could be sneaky, wait until you hear about “fragrance.”
The scent is, of course, the core feature of a candle. From Balsam & Cedar and Pink Sands to Sage & Citrus and Clean Cotton, people love to fill their homes with these smells. But unfortunately, these fragrances are often made out of known toxins. Here are a few things you should know about fragrance ingredients before you buy your next candle (or bottle of perfume, laundry detergent, or all-purpose cleaner, for that matter):
- Under U.S. law, companies are allowed to hide almost 4,000 different chemicals in their products under the one ingredient label of “fragrance.”
- Some of these ingredients are perfectly safe, while others are known toxicants (like phthalates and VOCs).
- Because the law doesn’t require any transparency from brands on this issue, it’s almost impossible for consumers to tell whether their scented products are safe or not.
If you want to learn more about fragrances and some of the common toxic (and non-toxic) chemicals included on that loophole list, you can check out this article.
We Asked Yankee Candle for More Information… Here’s What They Said
We weren’t satisfied with the lack of information available on Yankee’s website, so we reached out to their customer support to get some more info. Here’s what we asked:
Can you give me some more information about your materials and ingredients? I’m having a hard time finding this information on your website. Can you tell me:
– What exactly is in your “Premium soy-wax blend” and “Soy wax blend”? About what percentage of the blend is soy and what other types of waxes are used?
– Can you confirm that all of your wicks are 100% cotton and completely free of lead and other heavy metals?
– What ingredients are used in your fragrance oils?
And here was their (non)reply:
Thank you for taking the time to contact Yankee Candle. We truly appreciate your interest in our products.
We are sorry for the inconvenience. For the soy-wax blend, it means that the soy wax was blended or made together with the other kind of wax or other ingredients in making a candle.
These are the benefits of having soy-wax blend:
- Renewable Material. Since soybeans are grown extensively, soy wax is readily available and renewable
- Long-Lasting Candles
- Clean Burning
- Easy to Clean Up
- Adaptable and Easy to Work Wit
- Vegan Soy Wax Candles
- Non-Petroleum Candle Choice
- Fragrances for Soy Candles.
If I can be of further assistance, please reply to this email directly so that we can see all previous replies.
As you can see, they answered exactly zero out of the three questions we asked. The last two questions weren’t acknowledged whatsoever, and their “answer” to the first question is basically a non-answer with bullet points that don’t make sense.
So essentially, not only is Yankee Candle not willing to share ingredient information on their website, but they’re also not willing to give more info when customers specifically ask for it. It essentially means that Yankee Candles could contain toxicants like endocrine disruptors, allergens, and carcinogens and you wouldn’t even know it.
For conscious consumers who want to know what’s actually in the products they buy and use in their homes, this is definitely not ideal.
Are Yankee Candles Toxic for Dogs, Cats, or Other Animals?
Those with furry friends in their home should be extra careful with candles and other scented products because animals are especially sensitive to certain plants and oils that are safe for humans. This includes:
- Sweet Birch
- Ylang Ylang
You should be most concerned about your pet actually eating these types of oils, so be sure to keep candles and essential oils put away so that your pet won’t get curious and start licking around.
When it comes to burning or diffusing these oils into the air, it’s more of a grey area. Unfortunately, there isn’t any real research on whether or not these oils are safe for pets to inhale in small amounts. Many pet owners do burn candles with these scents in them, but you should do so at your discretion. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to ask your vet!
What About Yankee Candle’s Wax Melts, Plug-In Air Fresheners, and Car Fresheners?
Unfortunately, the other products in Yankee’s collection aren’t any better. The Wax Melts, for example, are made out of the same ingredients as the candles. (Here is a guide to non-toxic wax melts if you want some alternatives.)
For some of these products, however, Yankee does provide a little more transparency about the ingredients. This is because of a recent California law that requires brands that sell products in the Golden State to disclose the ingredients in cleaning products. For Yankee’s collection, that means disclosing the ingredients for the following:
- Car Jar Ultimates
- Car Jars
- Concentrated Room Spray
- Electronic Home Fragrance
- Fragrance Spheres
- Good Air Candle
- Smart Scent Vent Clips
- WoodWick Auto Reeds
(As a side note, it’s interesting to see that these products qualify as “cleaning products” while candles don’t.)
On Yankee’s Product Data page, you can click on each product to discover what’s actually in each specific scent. And while we love to see this increase in transparency, the actual ingredients are nothing to rejoice over…
Let’s look at the one candle that’s actually on that list: the “Just Plain Clean Good Air Jar Candle” (Kind of an ironic name.) Here’s a screenshot of the ingredients listed:
As you can see:
- 6 out of the 10 ingredients are classified as allergens by the E.U.
- 3 of the ingredients are STILL not disclosed.
- Several of these ingredients (and/or ones that are similar in their chemical makeup are on MADE SAFE’s Banned List (which essentially means they’ve been found to be potentially toxic in one way or another).
Let’s look at one more product, this time in a different category. How about the Balsam Cedar Car Jar Ultimate:
Some observations on this one:
- 7 out of the 11 ingredients are still withheld (looks like there are still some loopholes in the law that need to be fixed).
- 3 of the disclosed ingredients are listed as E.U. Allergens.
- 1 of the ingredients exceeds the exposure level set by California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC).
- And once again, several of these ingredients and/or similar chemicals are listed in MADE SAFE’s Banned List.
(If you want some alternatives, you can check out this article for some safer recommendations for plug-in air fresheners.)
What About WoodWick and Chesapeake Bay Candle—Are Those Toxic, Too?
These days, Yankee Candle owns two smaller but still popular candle companies: WoodWick and Chesapeake Bay Candle.
Unfortunately, these candle brands aren’t any better when it comes to ingredient transparency and safety. Essentially all of the information above regarding Yankee can be applied to WoodWick and Chesapeake Bay as well.
What’s even more frustrating, though, is the extent of Chesapeake Bay’s greenwashing. Their website is filled with language like, “A fragrance-filled journey into wellness for the mind & body” and “With high-quality, nature-inspired fragrances and clean, simple designs, we make it easy to practice mindfulness and find a sense of harmony every day…”
Carcinogens, allergens, and hormone disruptors don’t exactly promote “wellness,” do they? This kind of marketing just misleads, confuses, and frustrates customers, and we don’t like to see it one bit.
Does it Really Matter?
As mentioned earlier, some may wonder if any of this really matters in a practical way. Even if these chemicals are released into the environment through burning candles, is it really enough to negatively effect one’s health?
To that, there are two considerations I’d suggest:
- The bigger and more important picture has to do with one’s overall exposure to environmental toxicants. Even if you inhale small amounts of toxicants from candles, what about when you add that to everything else: the everyday air pollution from transportation and manufacturing, the contaminants in drinking water, the chemicals in cleaning products, the plastics in food containers, the PFAS in clothing… All of these things add up, and unfortunately, we have limited control over much of it. Not burning candles (or burning safer ones) is one easy thing we can actually do to decrease our exposure to toxic chemicals.
- It’s also worth considering that some people are more sensitive than others. Children and pregnant people are more susceptible to the potential effects of toxins. Those with chronic disease like autoimmunity, cancer, allergies, asthma, multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), and other conditions are also much more likely to experience problems with burning candles.
Where Are Yankee Candles Made?
For years and years, Yankee Candles were always produced in Deerfield, Massachusetts. According to their website, the “majority” of their candles are still made there. However, some of their candles are now made in Europe as well. It’s not clear what percentage of their stock is made where.
Who Owns Yankee Candle?
In 2013, the Jarden Corporation bought Yankee Candle, and then two years later, Newell Rubbermaid (now Newell Brands) acquired Jarden.
(As a side note: if you want to read a telling tale that involves Newell its role in the destruction of one specific “all-American town,” I recommend the book Glass House by Brian Alexander.)
So, What Scented Candles Are Safe?
The good news is that there are plenty of brands out there making safe, non-toxic candles with scrumptious and refreshing scents… and we’ve done all the research for you! Here are some of our popular non-toxic candle guides:
- Here is our ultimate guide to non-toxic candles where you can learn more about the different types of waxes and more.
- This article will give you the best non-toxic soy candles.
- Want non-toxic coconut wax candles? Click here.
- If you’re interested in natural beeswax candles, check out this article.
- And this one is for non-toxic tallow candles.
- Here are the best non-toxic holiday & winter candles (to replace that Balsam & Cedar Yankee Candle!)
- And here are our picks for non-toxic fall candles.
TL;DR: Are Yankee Candles Safe?
Sadly, because of the paraffin wax, harmful fragrance ingredients, and lack of transparency, Yankee Candles cannot be considered safe or non-toxic. So the next time you’re looking for a candle to set the mood or freshen up your home, shop from one of our curated non-toxic candle guides listed above instead!
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