Why Don’t Your Homemade Candles Smell? Here’s Why

So, you’ve made your first scented candle. Proud of yourself, you properly trim your wick to 1/8” and light it. The flame burns but no scent wafts out…. Looks like your first attempt at an aromatic candle has no scent throw. What happened?

Not getting a good scent throw means something is wrong with the composition of a candle. Here are the most likely reasons a scented candle might not smell strongly enough.

  1. Fragrant oils incorrectly added
  2. Wrong size wick
  3. Improperly cured candle
  4. Inappropriate wax

Homemade candle hobbyists often underestimate the difficulty in achieving good scent throw. It’s one of the trickiest parts of candle making. To get good scent throw from a candle, you need to not only make sure that the fragrant oil binds to the candle wax correctly, but you need to also make sure that the size of the wax pool is just right. That means the composition of your candle must fall within certain parameters. 

From most likely to least likely, these are the mistakes that are probably responsible for your candle’s poor scent throw.    

Mistake 1: Fragrant Oils Incorrectly Added

The top mistake made by beginner and pro candle makers alike that results in poor scent throw is the incorrect adding of fragrant oils. This boils down to either one of two possible errors: the incorrect amount of fragrant oil or the incorrect temperature of the wax when the oil is added. 

Incorrect Proportions of Fragrant Oils to Wax

Why Don't Your Homemade Candles Smell? Here’s Why

Did you know that each type of wax can only bind with a certain amount of fragrant oil? Using too much or too little fragrant oil with a particular wax can cause premature scent dissipation, a top reason why your candles don’t smell strongly enough.

Fragrance load is the percentage of fragrant oil in your total mixture. You can calculate a fragrance load by dividing ounces of fragrant oil by ounces of wax. This will give you a candle’s proposed fragrance load. 

Many vendors will include a wax’s optimal fragrance load in the item description, but here are some general guidelines:

  • Paraffin has a fragrance load of 6%. Use 1 ounce per pound of wax.
  • Soy wax has a fragrance load of 10%. Use 1.6 ounces per pound of wax.
  • Beeswax has a fragrance load of 6-12%. Use 1-2 ounces per pound of wax.
  • Palm waxes have a variable fragrance load according to composition. This product information sheet shows an optimal fragrance load of 3% for one type of palm wax. This would equal half an ounce of fragrant oil per pound of candle wax. 

Using the correct percentage of fragrant oil to wax is the first step in making sure your candle smells the way you want it to.

Incorrect Temperature When Fragrant Oils are Added

A second mistake I see frequently from candle makers of all levels is adding fragrant oils to wax that is too hot or too cold. The Goldilocks rule always applies to candle wax when adding fragrant oils: it must be just right. 

If your wax is too hot, your fragrant oils will burn off instead of binding with the wax. Then, when you go to light your candle, there will not be enough fragrant oils left for a strong aroma. 

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Here are the temperatures at which you should add fragrant oils for individual waxes:

  • Paraffin should be at 185 degrees Fahrenheit (85 degrees Celsius).
  • Soy wax should be at 180 degrees Fahrenheit (82 degrees Celsius). 
  • Beeswax should be at 160 degrees Fahrenheit (71 degrees Celsius).
  • Palm wax should be at 185 degrees Fahrenheit (85 degrees Celsius).

 Mistake 2: Using the Wrong-Sized Wick

The second major mistake candle hobbyists make when candles don’t achieve their expected scent throw is using incorrectly sized wicks. The advertised size of a candle wick refers to its thickness. The right thickness for your candle will depend on the type of wax used and the size of the candle’s container.

Here’s Why the Wick Matters

Why Don't Your Homemade Candles Smell? Here’s Why

Wicks matter when it comes to scent throw because it is the diameter of the wick that determines how fast or slow your candle will burn. You can tell how fast a candle is burning by the size of its wax pool, or the amount of liquid wax surrounding the wick. Wax pools should not exceed half an inch in depth and should reach all the way to the sides of the container.

If your wax pool isn’t large enough, your candle might “tunnel” resulting in a hole around the wick. This will leave too little of the fragrant oil to burn, causing your scent throw to suffer. If your wax pool is more than ½ an inch thick, your candle is burning too quickly, causing your oil to burn off instead of properly vaporizing into the air with the wax.

How to Calculate the Right Wick Size

There are two ways to find the right wick size for your candle. First you can use an online wick calculator like this one by Candle Science. All you need to do is input your wax type and the size of your container. For instance, if you use soy wax formulation M124B and the diameter of your candle container is 2.75 inches, the calculator will recommend you use a CD 12 wick.

Second, you can, through a process of trial and error, find the proper wick size for yourself. The Flaming Candle has a thorough tutorial on finding the proper wick size through testing different sizes. 

The best approach is to employ both methods simultaneously. I use an online calculator to find the nearest wick sizes and perfect the process by doing my own testing. This achieves the best results when helping my homemade candles smell the way I want them to. 

Mistake 3: Not Curing Your Candle 

Not curing candles for the correct length of time is another common mistake. Sometimes people are so excited about making their candles, they want to try them out as soon as their candle wax has visibly solidified. Doing this is a mistake. 

Proper binding of fragrant oil to candle wax takes time. Not curing your candles for the recommended length of time can result in candles whose smell is severely underwhelming. Here are the recommended curing times for different waxes commonly used in scented candles:

  • Paraffin should be cured for at least 5 days.
  • Soy wax should be cured for at least 14 days.
  • Beeswax should be cured for at least 10 days.
  • Palm wax should be cured for at least 2 days.

How to Cure a Candle

Curing candles is the easiest part of candle-making. All your need is patience. To cure your candles, make sure they are on a flat surface in a warm and dry place. This will ensure properly settling of the wax as well as the binding of the fragrant oils.

Mistake 4: Using the Wrong Wax for Scented Candle Making

Why Don't Your Homemade Candles Smell? Here’s Why

Technically, you can achieve scent throw from any type of candle. But some waxes are more accommodating to fragrant oils than others. If you are making candles for the purpose of filling your home with a pleasing aroma, you should use a candle wax that is top-rated for achieving good scent throw. 

Not using a top-rated candle wax could be a reason why the scent throw of your candles is weak. Here are the top-rated waxes to achieve excellent scent throw:

Paraffin Wax

Paraffin is a hands-down winner when it comes to scent-throw. It’s also the cheapest of candle waxes, meaning you can make stronger-scented candles for a lower price. 

While paraffin candles are common like these from Yankee Candle, many homemade candle enthusiasts avoid paraffin since it is derived from petroleum, opting instead for one of the all-natural waxes listed below. 

Soy Wax

Of the natural waxes, soy wax is the best scent-thrower. It’s also easy to work with and environmentally sustainable. It’s reputation as a non-polluting, soot-free candle wax makes it a number one choice to use in candles made for burning at home.

The only drawback of working with soy wax is its relatively long curing time of two weeks. If you plan to sell your candles, you need to keep this in mind, as you will have to do some proper planning to make sure you always have inventory in stock. 


Although not as versatile as soy wax, beeswax is another great candle wax for scented candles. Already embedded in the wax is a soothingly sweet honey aroma, and you can also add complementary fragrant oils like coconut and cedar for even more delicious blends.  

Betterbee is an excellent online retailer dedicated to beeswax and beeswax products. 

Top 5 Best Wax for Scented Candles

Related Questions

What Are Some Spring Scents for Candles?
What is a simple recipe for homemade scented candles?

You can find recipes online for homemade scented candles, but if this is your first time, you might want to try a complete DIY kit that has everything already sized and in the correct proportions like this Date Night Candle Kit from Wooden Wick.

What if my candle still doesn’t smell strong enough?

Even if you do everything this article suggests, you still might come up short when it comes to your candles having a strong smell. Conducting burn tests before large batches is key. Burn tests can accurately predict how your candle will really smell. 

Looking to start your own candle making business, check out my startup documents here

Please note that the contents of this blog are for informational and entertainment purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Any action taken based on the information provided in this blog is solely at your own risk. Additionally, all images used in this blog are generated under the CC0 license of Creative Commons, which means they are free to use for any purpose without attribution.

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