The Best Candles of 2020
The Capri Blue has a large presence with a subdued fragrance and could stand as the centerpiece on a coffee or dining room table. Its wide base and blue glass jar give is a distinctive aesthetic, and its metallic silver lid completes the look. We weren't overpowered by the fragrance and really appreciated how evenly it diffused throughout the room.
One issue that we ran into with this product is that the lid is not securely affixed to the top. Because the base is so wide, it can be difficult for people with smaller hands to pick up, so it is important (and sometimes difficult) to remember to pick it up with two hands, lest you risk dropping it. However, we love this product and wouldn't hesitate to keep a couple around the house.
The Glade Jar Air Freshener is a great deal. It is a solid choice for concealing bad odors but is small enough that it can sit inconspicuously on a bookcase or kitchen counter. If you are looking to fill a room with candlelight, you can't go wrong with buying several of this inexpensive model.
The jar is certainly less elegant than some of its more expensive counterparts. It is also comparatively small, meaning you don't get the same total burn time. However, if you find yourself with a potent smell that needs concealing, this model has you covered.
The Bath and Body Works Scented Aromatherapy is our top choice for relaxing after a long day. Its triple wick design and wide diameter allow for a powerful, soothing fragrance to permeate the room in a relatively short amount of time. It is excellent for a bedside table, desk, or bathroom. The metal lid fits securely over the clear glass jar with a rubber gasket.
This is a large, bulky product. You may want it that way, but it also requires a large surface to ensure that it is stable. Its triple wick also means that it creates notably more smoke than other products when you blow it out. However, for those who need a few minutes to themselves after a long day of work, this model will help you decompress.
The Mrs. Meyers Clean Day is an excellent option with rustic appeal. This soy wax model comes in a decagonal glass jam jar with a screw-top metal lid. It is compact enough to fit comfortably on a kitchen counter or deep window sill, and its fragrance is potent and clean, which is surprising only because of its small size.
The smaller size of this product means that it doesn't have a particularly long burn time relative to some other contenders. It also isn't super versatile — we aren't big fans of using it to relax after a long day. However, if you are looking for a model to burn daily and leave behind a wiped-down-the-counters-clean scent, this is your best bet.
The Homesick Scented is a fun gift idea for those who need a little reminder of home. The product itself comes in a smooth, cylindrical glass jar, reminiscent of a soda can. You can select scents from all 50 states, cities, memories, or a handful of countries. It is hand-poured in the USA and made from an all-natural soy wax blend, which creates only a small amount of smoke when extinguished.
Of course, associating an entire state or country with a specific scent might not be relatable to everyone (if you hail from Iowa, for example, we hope you like cumin and eucalyptus). However, if you are looking to remind a friend (or yourself) of the best scents of home, then look no further than this model.
The Nest Fragrances Classic is a product with traditional appeal and just a little flair. It comes in a nice glass jar with alternating frosted and translucent vertical stripes. The fragrance is strong up close and diffuses gradually throughout a living room. It has a buttery wax and burns very cleanly, leaving little smoke that quickly dissipates when the flame is extinguished.
Besides a lofty price tag, our primary concern is with the taper of the jar. It is much narrower at the base than at the top, so although we never managed to knock it over during testing, we would caution that it is a distinct possibility if it is not set on a stable surface. All in all, this is a nice, simple option with a classic feel.
The Chesapeake Bay Medium Jar is an excellent, basic model. It does well in a bedroom, living room, or bathroom. Its frosted glass jar is stable, and the wooden lid is a nice aesthetic inclusion. It is relatively innocuous and blends in almost anywhere. Its fragrance is also pleasantly potent.
We found during testing that the wick was exceptionally short, to begin with, and took some notable time and patience to get it to a point where it would burn as it should. We also think that though it performs well, there is nothing exceptional about the way it looks and is somewhat bland. However, if you are just looking for a straightforward, basic candle, this is a great choice.
The Lulu Luxury Scented Soy Jar is a compact product with a basic aesthetic. It is a nice option if you still want the warmth of candlelight without it being the center of attention. It belongs equally well on a mantle, in a living room, kitchen, or bedroom. It is made from vegan soy wax and is hand-poured in the USA. It comes with a black metal lid that fits securely around the top with a rubber gasket.
There is nothing that sticks out as particularly problematic with this model, but there is also just nothing particularly special about it either. It has a fairly muted presence in all regards but is a nice option if you just need a candle.
The Yankee Candle Medium Jar is a classic workhorse. Its cylindrical jar and 'bubble' lid offer a unique take. It is the kind of candle that you would expect to see on an old fireplace mantle, but it could also stand as a centerpiece on a coffee table. The fragrance is strong within a narrow diameter.
The distinctive lid shape is not for everyone. It has a somewhat old-timey feel that might not fit in with modern decor. The wax itself is also a little uneven and bubbly in a way that suggests it isn't the highest quality. In fact, as it burned, we noticed small streams of smoke wafting up into the air. It's still a nice option for a house with wooden beams and exposed brick.
Why You Should Trust Us
Our lead reviewer, Ben Applebaum-Bauch, loves a good candle. Over the past three years, he has reviewed hundreds of products for GearLab. From high tech to common household items, he has assessed a wide variety of goods. Living for almost a decade in rural northern New England, he has experienced his fair share of power outages and nights spent living by candlelight.
To find the best models, we use an extensive process that starts with researching the market. After seeing what is out there, we purchased the most promising models (at GearLab, always at full retail price) and ran them through controlled and real-world testing to determine which ones shine bright and which ones flame out.
Analysis and Test Results
We settled on four metrics through which we assessed our products. Those metrics are aesthetic versatility, burn quality, fragrance permeation, and additional features.
Aesthetic versatility captures the places in a living space where each product would do its best work. Since most of the life of a candle is spent not burning, this metric is meant to assess the value add that its other aesthetic qualities bring to the table (so to speak). Here, we leverage the input of a wide cross-section of users and consider things like the number and diversity of areas in a home where it would thrive. Whether or not it could be a centerpiece, as well as any other distinguishing characteristics.
There are a few products that illustrate the value of versatility. The Chesapeake Bay Medium Jar has a fairly basic aesthetic, but that also allows it to blend into almost any room. It would be equally at home on a bookshelf as it would on a coffee table. The Capri Blue is a unique model with a distinctive blue glass jar that stands out from the crowd and makes for a bold table centerpiece.
Mrs. Meyers Clean Day makes spaces feel clean, so it really thrives on a kitchen window sill or in a bathroom. The Nest Fragrances Classic doesn't come with a lid, but it is the only model that combines frosted and translucent glass in its jar, which makes for a subtle, unique pattern that would be at home on a mantle or bookcase.
Some models thrive in more specific decors. The Yankee Candle Medium Jar is a good example, with a jar and lid that give off an old-home colonial vibe.
Burn Quality is the complement to aesthetic versatility. It takes into account the quality of the wax and how cleanly it burns. How easy it is to light, the brightness of the flame(s), and the amount of smoke that is produced when extinguishing it.
The highest scorers here include the Homesick Scented, which has notably smooth, almost smoke-free wax. The Glade Jar also performs surprisingly well, along with the Next Fragrances Classic and Lulu Luxury Scented, while the Capri Blue and Bath and Body Works Scented 3 Wick Relax Aromatherapy throw off a notable amount of smoke when extinguished.
Lower scorers like the Yankee Candle Medium Jar have a visibly bubbly consistency. Consequently, this product has a tendency to give off occasional puffs of smoke when the wax can't combust fully while burning. The ** *Mrs. Meyers Clean Day and the Chesapeake Bay Medium Jar** each proved somewhat challenging to light initially but were high-performing an hour or so into their first burn.
Fragrance Permeation refers to the area covered by the fragrance, as well as how completely the fragrance conceals odors. Given people's personal preferences as well as the variety of flavors that each product comes in, we do not consider how much we enjoy the smell of the particular fragrance that we test.
The Bath and Body Works Scented 3 Wick Relax Aromatherapy has by far the most potent fragrance of the bunch. It not only permeated an entire room quickly and completely while lit, but also has a notable odor from three feet away when cool and unlit. The Mrs. Meyers Clean Day also has a powerful fragrance radius for its size and is ideal for lighting after (or during) house cleaning. The Chesapeake Bay Medium Jar is another model with a robust perfume that fills a space uniformly.
Models that had more subtle but consistent fragrance permeation include the Capri Blue, Homesick Scented, and Glade Air Freshener Jar. These ones aren't overwhelming (or particularly strong) even when you are up close to them.
Features are any additional stylings or inclusions beyond jar, wax, and wick. We look for lids, glass textures and shapes, and wax type and color.
Top scorers for features include the Capri Blue, with its deep cobalt glass and metal lid. The Homesick Scented also comes in a unique jar that sets it apart. Though it doesn't include a lid, each of its fragrances has a rich top, mid, and bottom note description.
Other models with distinctive jars include the Nest Fragrances Classic, with alternating frosted and translucent stripes on tapered glass, and the Mrs. Meyers Clean Day, in a rustic decagonal jam jar with screw top lid. Models that come with lids include the Chesapeake Bay Medium Jar (the only one with a wooden cover), Bath and Body Works Scented 3 Wick Relax Aromatherapy, Lulu Luxury Scented Soy Jar, Yankee Candle Medium Jar, and Mrs. Meyers Clean Day. Almost all of the candles are made from soy wax, and many are infused with essential oils that contribute to their fragrance and relaxation-inducing qualities.
Searching for the right candle can be a personal process. Our expert reviewers took a look at each model from a 360-degree view to assess the circumstances that would allow each one to excel. Whether you are looking for your first wick, or are an avid collector, we hope that this review has you well on your way to finding the next right candle for you.
— Ben Applebaum-Bauch