I’m with you, candle-phobes. Much as I love a gorgeously-scented jar of wax burning away in the corner, I do find that I am mentally uneasy for every second that the wick is lit. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t take extra care when a candle is lit, not by any means – you should never leave one unattended – just pointing out that my over-cautious sense of health and safety takes some of the enjoyment out them. My fear often goes above and beyond what would be considered normal. I have to clear a space around a lit candle – I call it a no-go area – that stretches for what seems like about three miles, just in case a random piece of paper manages to float its way into the flame, causing an inferno so instant and so fierce that there is no escape. I have to stand the candle on a mat and then another, just in case the heat from it is so great that the wooden shelf beneath it bursts into an unstoppable blaze.
So: candle alternatives. Note that pot pourri isn’t on this list. Ha! Do you remember pot pourri? It was so fashionable at one time, wasn’t it? We had baskets of the bloody stuff dotted all around the house when I was little – I used to hide things in it. Money, conkers, small plastic dinosaurs, the tiny brushes that came with Sylvanian Family figurines…
1) The Reed Diffuser or “Jar o’ Twigs”. These vary in price and quality – the very best, in my humble opinion, are from Jo Malone. The Red Roses one I had was just brilliant, it lasted for over half a year and still continued to scent the hallway and lounge when the liquid had run out! (The Jo Malone Red Roses Scent Surround Diffuser is here.)
Some of the cheaper reed diffusers seem to use up all of the liquid within weeks, probably because it’s mostly water and just evaporates. I’ve tried loads, and most are a false economy. Saying that, a nice affordable brand for reeds is Rituals; their fig one is up there with my favourites and it’s pretty long-lasting. Find Rituals diffusers online here.
Molton Brown fans will be pleased to know that they are now doing reed diffusers too (here) – you can scent your home to match your shower gel/body lotion duo. The great thing about reed diffusers, I think, is that you never have to turn them on and off or spritz them or light them or do anything to them. They’re just…there.
2) Room Sprays. Go for a quality one, if you possibly can, high in essential oils and low in…well…crap. Many are little more than just a watered-down version of an eau de toilette – in fact, you may as well just be over-enthusiastic when you spray on your perfume and waft it about a bit.
I like the sprays that have been specially formulated to fragrance rooms and not people. Clever blends of oils, scents that can uplift or relax you. I can highly recommend ILA Spa’s Essence of Joy room spray (here) for some seriously indulgent downtime, or NEOM’s organic room mist (here), that subtly scents your surroundings without sending a load of nasty chemicals into the air. There are others, of course, but these are my two most-used of recent months. I like to use sprays to create my own little treatment “space” if I’m going to be applying a face mask or what have you – I’m absolutely petrified of having candles in the bathroom in case I fall asleep and…er…set fire to the bath water. (Told you I’m over-cautious.)
3) Ah, the trusted oil burner. Aromatherapy Associates have taken the danger (?!) out of oil burning by creating a beautiful ceramic plug-in burner. The smooth, pebble-like container warms up just enough to heat the drops of oil that you place in the top so you don’t have to worry about turning it off. The pure essential oil blends from Aromatherapy Associates are divine – as effective as the bath oils, but kind of better because you don’t even have to bother filling the tub. Just flake out on the sofa and allow yourself to be de-stressed!
Aromatherapy Associates home fragrancer is usually £43 but is £32.25 at the moment on BeautyBay.com – the oils are here, they are currently reduced from £21 to £15.75. You can use the oils in your traditional oil burner, too, of course. They are far, far superior to most of the ones I’ve tried on the high street, and (with the discount) not very much more expensive.
4) Finally, the piece de resistance; Diptyque’s diffusing system, beautifully named Un Air de Diptyque. Possibly the priciest room fragrancer in existence, but if you’re a longterm Diptyque candle addict then actually, this could save you some money over the years. It’s a mains-charged unit that gently disperses fragrance into the air, running for an hour at a time and then automatically cutting itself off. It doesn’t need to be plugged in, only when it’s charging, and the scent that it releases is enough for a whole day at least.
The diffuser is a beautiful metalwork cage overlaid with a ceramic outer sleeve that you press down to start a scent cycle. Scent comes from capsules (bought separately) that are available in the classic fragrances including Baies, Feu de Bois and Figuier. Each capsule lasts for around 40 hours and costs £25, which is why I think that if you were a serial Diptyque candle-burner, you could save yourself some money. I mean, you’d have to have some serious dough to start off with, but if you burn one candle a month or more, you’d pay off the mortgage on the diffuser (joke, but only just) within a year.
I must say that the fragrance diffused from this is fresher, perhaps even slightly sharper than the scent that you get from burning a candle. It’s somehow cleaner and clearer. I don’t know whether that’s purposeful or not, but it is rather lovely. Almost “linen fresh” and, I would imagine, perfect for the hot summer months. I can see these Air de Diptyque objects popping up at chi-chi boutique hotels in Ibiza and minimalist New York loft apartments. Artfully placed atop a pristine white baby grand piano.
Suggestions of your own below, please – if there are any budget options that don’t smell like the candle section in IKEA (yaks over computer) then definitely flag them up for me and I’ll give them a whirl!