21 Different Types of Candles and How to Choose One

White container candle lit next to votive candles in glass holders

The Spruce / Anastasiia Tretiak

A candle uses a wick embedded in wax or another slightly flammable solid material to produce light as it gradually burns. For today's users, candles are the perfect way to create an ambiance, set a certain mood, and introduce a cozy feeling into your home. There's nothing like the scent of a freshly lit candle wafting through a room and filling it with a luxurious aroma, or a few unscented candles adorning the dinner table to instantly elevate an everyday meal. The world of candles, waxes, and wicks is a surprisingly complex one, and this summary of 21 different candle types will help you choose the right one—from beeswax and wood wicks to festive sparklers and floating candles.

  • 01 of 21

    Beeswax Candle

    Beeswax candle wrapped with string and lavender stem

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    Best for: Long-burning, clean candlelight.

    Beeswax candles are best known for their warm golden color, hexagonal pattern, and subtle honey scent, but there is a lot more to them. They act as a natural air purifier and are the cleanest, longest-burning candles, producing a bright, warm-toned flame as they burn. They burn with no smoke and give off very little scent.

    Beeswax is a natural byproduct of beekeeping and, because it is biodegradable, candles made of beeswax are a great eco-friendly choice that benefits both your home and the environment. Dating back to Roman times, beeswax is one of the oldest candle forms and is an excellent pick for candle holders and wreaths, since it generally doesn’t drip very much and has a long burn time.

  • 02 of 21

    Wood Wick Candle

    Wood-wick candle in brown glass container closeup

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    Best for: Candlelight accompanied by subtle sound.

    Wood wick candles are best known for their signature crackling sound, which adds to the charm and uniqueness of this particular candle. One of the main benefits of the wood wick is that it’s wider than a regular cotton one, which leads to a longer and more even burn. Wood wicks also burn much more cleanly than cotton wicks, especially if trimmed after each use. There's a distinct comfort and cozy feeling that these candles evoke as they crackle and fill the room with a soft glow, making them a hygge must-have.

  • 03 of 21

    Soy Candle

    Candle in amber jar with black lid sitting on a white surface.

    Hanneke Vollbehr / Getty Images

    Best for: Clean-burning, natural light.

    Made from soy beans, soy wax is doesn’t contain any artificial materials. Because it’s made from a natural, renewable source, this eco-friendly wax has a slower and cleaner burn, and the candle produces a bright, cool-toned flame that gives off an almost fluorescent glow. Thanks to all of these benefits, soy wax has become an increasingly popular option for container candles and is a great alternative to paraffin wax.  

  • 04 of 21

    Sparklers

    Lit sparkler candle on frosted cupcake

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    Best for: Fourth-of-July, birthday and holiday celebrations.

    Perhaps the most fun of all the candles out there, sparkler candles mean celebration! There’s no better way to light up a birthday party than with a delicious cake topped with these festive candles, which give off fun glittery sparks as soon as they're lit. Once lit, they cannot be blown out, so you have to wait until they stop sparkling, which lasts for about a minute.

    Warning

    Some small sparklers are good for indoor use (always read the label before lighting inside), but generally, larger sparklers should only be lit outdoors on a non-flammable surface, as they can produce a lot of smoke and sparks.

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  • 05 of 21

    Trick Candle

    Striped trick candles on frosted cupcake closeup

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    Best for: Birthday, anniversary celebrations.

    Trick candles are novelty candles often used on birthday cakes as a fun element of surprise, since they relight themselves when someone tries to blow them out. The trick lies in the wick being coated with magnesium powder that has the ability to reignite itself, no matter how many times it’s blown out. To truly make sure the flame is out after the fun is over, simply run the wick under water for a couple of seconds.

  • 06 of 21

    Floating Candle

    Two white floating candles with small flames

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    Best for: Festive table settings or centerpieces.

    A floating candle is one that’s not top-heavy and therefore able to float in water while burning. While the area around the wick warms up, the water keeps the outside cool. This prevents change in buoyancy when the weight is reduced through burning and results in the candle rising above the water.

    Floating candles are a great way to add a festive (or romantic) touch to a table setting, instantly making it feel more elevated and special. Place floating candles in a bowl or other large vessel with flowers or petals to make a beautiful centerpiece, or use individual candles in smaller containers of varying heights for a more dramatic effect. 

  • 07 of 21

    Citronella Candle

    Citronella candle with the three wicks lighted

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    Best for: Evening outdoor activities.

    Citronella is an essential oil that comes from lemongrass and acts as a natural insect repellant in candles. Best known as the top choice for outdoor candles, this plant-based oil has been used for centuries to repel mosquitos, gnats, and other bugs, while emitting a subtle citrus scent and bright flame. Use a citronella candle on your patio, deck, or backyard and enjoy those fleeting warm evenings bite-free.

  • 08 of 21

    Taper Candle

    Two olive green taper candles with small flames

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    Best for: Formal dining, holiday decor.

    Taper candles are long, thin, cylindrical candles that require a holder and are a beautiful choice for a special table setting or as mantel decor. Standard taper candles are usually 12 inches tall and burn for about 12 hours—or an hour of burn time per inch of candle. Known for the variety of colors that they come in, the wax used and the shape they come in also varies, as they're produced in the traditional cylinder base shape but also in countless twisted and ribbed ones that add to their visual interest and uniqueness. White, blue, and multi-color taper candles are often used in menorahs for Hanukkah celebrations.

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  • 09 of 21

    Pillar Candle

    Three pillar candles in varying heights in front of houseplant

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    Best for: Decorative use, mood lighting.

    Pillar candles are made from a dense wax that allows them to stand on their own without having to be contained. Usually made from paraffin wax, they come in all different shapes, sizes, and heights, but are most commonly a cylindrical shape. Use one or a grouping of pillars in lanterns, on mantels, or as table centerpieces to add warmth and accent lighting around your home.

    Warning

    Long-lasting candles can be easy to forget about as you enjoy the light and scnet they provide. But the National Fire Prevention Association reports that more than 7,000 home fires, causing an average of 90 deaths, occur in the U.S. each year, Make sure to not to leave candles unattended, to never go to sleep with a candle burning, and to never let children use candles.

  • 10 of 21

    Tealight

    Light pink tealight candles next to lavender closeup

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    Best for: Accent lighting, decor accessories.

    Tealight candles are the smallest type of candle and come packaged in a metal or plastic container. As the name suggests, they were originally used to keep tea warm, but they’re mainly used for decor and accent lighting purposes now, typically in various holders or seasonal decor such as pumpkins! A tealight will generally burn for up to five hours; the most common size is 38mm in diameter.

  • 11 of 21

    Votive Candle

    Two votive candles with small flames in glass holders

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    Best for: Table/shelf ambiance.

    Votive candles are small and, unlike tealights, don’t come packaged in a container, which means that they burn into the holder they are placed in. While they do come in different colors, white is the most classic and common for these small candles that are perfect for creating an ambiance at the dinner table or tucked in between flowers and other decorative objects on a console, buffet, or coffee table.

    1:01

    One Thing Ep 85: This Unique Candle Holder Takes Only a Few Steps

  • 12 of 21

    Birthday Candle

    Light pink and white birthday candles lit on frosted cupcakes

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    Best for: Birthday celebrations.

    Birthday candles are cake (or cupcake!) toppers that are the quintessential celebration candle. Used as a festive touch that can’t be missing from any good party, they come in countless shapes, colors, and themes: solid and multi-colored, dipped in glitter, plain, twisted, sparkling—you name it!

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  • 13 of 21

    Scented Candle

    Lit scented candle in white holder near essential oil and lavender stems

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    Best for: Seasonal, holiday use; aromatherapy applications.

    Scented candles have essential oils or artificial scents mixed into the wax to produce a fragrant ambiance while they burn. Scented candles are typically made of a blend of waxes. They come in various forms, from tealights and pillars to container candles, and are especially popular for seasonal and holiday scents, such as pine, peppermint, or pumpkin spice.

  • 14 of 21

    Multiple Wick Candle

    Multiple wick candle with three wicks next to houseplant

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    Best for: Maximum illumination.

    While they do burn faster, there's a reason why multiple wick candles are so popular. They burn more evenly and produce more light, and when scented, they give off much more fragrance than single wick candles do. As with other candles, in order to ensure an even burn, make sure to trim the wicks after every use to control the black soot that can begin to form on the container.

  • 15 of 21

    Container Candle

    Unscented wax candles

    Autumn Hassett / Unsplash

    Best for: Decorative use; home candle-making.

    A container candle is one that is packaged in a safe, non-flammable container typically made of glass or metal and that sometimes has a lid. A sort of two-for-one deal since you get both a candle and a holder in one, container candles come in various sizes, have single or multiple wicks, and can be scented or unscented, among myriad other variations.

  • 16 of 21

    Paraffin Wax Candle

    Paraffin wax candle in white holder with small flame

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    Best for: DIY candle-making.

    Paraffin wax is a colorless byproduct of petroleum, and it's what the majority of candles on the market are made from. It is the most inexpensive of all the waxes and holds added fragrance well, partly because it is odorless, making it a great choice when making scented candles. It was first used in candle production in the late 19th century and became widely used in the decades following, until some controversy regarding its environmental consequences arose. While there are arguments for both sides, paraffin continues to be sold and remains the most widely used wax.

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  • 17 of 21

    Flameless Candle

    Three flameless candles wrapped with fairy lights

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    Best for: Guaranteed safety.

    Flameless candles are an electronic alternative to real candles and mean you don’t have to worry about a safety risk, dripping wax, or smoke being released into the air. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, scented and unscented, and designed for both indoor and outdoor use. Most are battery-operated, and some come with a remote, and they all allow you to get the warm glow and inviting atmosphere of a candle without the fire hazard.

  • 18 of 21

    Unscented Candle

    Unscented candles on a tablescape

    Swab Design / Unsplash

    Best for: Setting a mood without distracting scent, meal settings.

    Unscented candles have the benefits of the light and warmth of a candle without the fragrance. For anyone who is sensitive to scents, these are the way to go. They’re also an excellent choice for a table setting, as you won't have a candle scent interfering or competing with the delicious smell of the food that's being served.

  • 19 of 21

    Gel Candle

    Blue gel candles with seashells being lit with match

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    Best for: Long-lasting use in decor applications, maximum illumination.

    Gel candles give off almost double the amount of light and burn for approximately twice as long as regular wax candles do. Instead of wax, they are made out of a combination of resin and mineral oil, which give them their characteristic clear look. Because you can see through the gel, these candles often have things like dried flowers, berries, or petals mixed into the gel to add a decorative touch. 

  • 20 of 21

    Bayberry Wax Candle

    Bayberry wax candles being lit with match

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    Best for: Winter holiday celebrations.

    These rare candles are made from the bayberry plant and have a strong natural scent and an olive-green color to them. They are made by boiling bayberries and collecting the wax that rises to the top, then mixing it with beeswax to form a rigid material. Traditional bayberry candles have been around since Early American times, and their scent is often tied with the holidays, making them a popular Christmas candle. 

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  • 21 of 21

    Aromatherapy Candle

    Aromatherapy candle in brown glass container next to sage

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    Best for: Body/mind relaxation.

    An aromatherapy candle contains essential oils that are purported to inspire various feelings or sensations. Essential oils such as lavender and orange are used to help calm the mind and body and reduce stress, while others such as peppermint or rosemary enhance focus and refresh the mind. These natural scents are added to the wax and are released as the candle burns.

Choosing a Candle

Choosing the right candle is not always easy, as this quick survey of 21 different basic types reveals. Some are best suited for use in specific celebrations or applications, while others vary in the amount of light and scent they emit. And there are even environmental considerations—natural beeswax, soy, or barberry have advantages over petroleum-based paraffin if you are concerned about truly "green" candles. And there are novelty types—sparklers and trick candles that refuse to blow out—for festive occasions. You can even choose among flameless candles that provide light through tiny lightbulbs and batteries for occasions when you want to avoid the hazards of open flames.

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  5. Sharma Ruchi, et al. Therapeutic Potential of Citronella Essential Oil: A Review. Curr Drug Discov Technol., vol. 16, no. 4, pp. 330-339, 2019, Bentham Science. doi:10.2174/1570163815666180718095041

  6. Candles. National Fire Prevention Association.

  7. Suaria, Giuseppe, et al. The Occurrence of Paraffin and Other Petroleum Waxes in the Marine Environment: A Review of the Current Legislative Framework and Shipping Operational Practices. Front. Mar. Sci., vol. 5, pp. 94, 2018, Frontiers. doi:/10.3389/fmars.2018.00094

  8. Lizzarraga-Valderrama, Lorena R. Effects of Essential Oils on Central Nervous System: Focus on Mental Health. Phytother Res. vol. 35, no. 2, pp. 657-679, 2021, Wiley. doi:10.1002/ptr.6854