A beginner’s guide to fragrances for the home

Posted 30 November 2016

As autumn ticks over into winter, it’s likely that the cold weather will see us spending a lot more time indoors. For that reason, you may wish to consider the scent of your home, whether you’re going to be entertaining guests or simply for your own comfort.

But where to start?


Types of home fragrance

The main types of home fragrance options are candles and reed diffusers.

Scented candles not only improve a room’s smell they also add to a room’s ambiance. These can be expensive, so purchasing smaller votive candles is an excellent way to test out a fragrance before investing in a full-sized option. Most candles are made from paraffin wax, which allow the scent to travel well across a room but can also produce soot marks over time. To avoid this “sooting”, be sure to trim the wick of your candle to somewhere between 5 and 9mm after burning, and don’t let the wick fall back into the wax.

Vegetable wax and soy wax are also popular options for candle composition. Soy wax in particular is an excellent choice for the environment, as it is a renewable source and burns cleanly without producing toxins or very much soot. Beeswax candles are another option which add another layer of fragrance whilst purifying the air. These candles also burn longer than other types of candle.

To maximise your candle’s burning time, make sure that the entire surface of the candle becomes molten before you extinguish it. Otherwise, the candle will burn right down the middle in a process called “tunnelling” which wastes a lot of wax whilst drastically reducing the burning time. Snuffing candles instead of blowing them out can also help to avoid a lingering smoky scent reminiscent of childhood birthday parties. When storing candles, make sure they are in a temperate setting and don’t go unused too long, as the fragrance may sweat out and become weaker over time.

Reed diffusers, also sometimes called room diffusers, are an excellent option for the safety-conscious as they do not require heat. Reed diffusers are made up of a number of reed sticks placed in a scented solution of oil and alcohol. The solution travels up the reeds and into the air, producing a constant stream of fragrance. If more reeds are placed into the solution, the scent becomes stronger, so experiment with reeds until you find the perfect fragrance strength. You may occasionally need to refresh the oil or replace the reeds, but this option is generally quite low-maintenance.

Other options for home fragrance include room sprays or air fresheners – both manual and automatic – as well as decorative oil burners and humidifiers.  

Choosing a scent

Scents are often grouped into “families”, the descriptions of which can be quite vague. Fragrances described as woody tend to consist of sandalwood, cedar and patchouli, while citrus fragrances consist of oranges, lemons and grapefruits. These differ from fruity scents, which are made up of non-citrus fruits such as berries and peaches. Green fragrances are also popular, consisting of grassy notes or even mint and tea.

Scents and locations for your mood

If you are struggling to decide between certain fragrance families, you can easily pick a scent based on your mood. Lavender and vanilla are particularly soothing fragrances which you may want to place in your living room to greet you after a long day at work. Similarly, ylang-ylang, sage and camomile are known for their restorative and relaxing properties, making them suitable for the bedroom. You may prefer a more romantic atmosphere in the bedroom, so consider cocoa, jasmine or amber.

When thinking about location of your fragrance, it’s also important to consider this in terms of the type and strength of the scent. Be careful not to choose a fragrance that’s too strong in the kitchen as it may not mix well with the natural aromas of the food you cook and can impact on your tastebuds. It’s also best to save the strongest notes for less well-used rooms in the home – such as hallways and corridors where people tend to pass through. Bathrooms are also appropriate for strong fragrances, for obvious reasons. Subtler fragrances work well in living rooms and bedrooms. 

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