Let's get straight to the point: I am a self-confessed candle buff. Truly, I make a point to switch out all of the home fragrances I use as the seasons change. So, the time has officially come for me to wave goodbye to any warm, woody winter scents that took me from fall to Christmas and beyond, and to finally shout about the spring and summer scents I am loving for 2023 — there's a whole bunch of them, so buckle up.
I spend a fair amount of time "testing" candles in my two-bedroom apartment. Because of this, you can bet I am lighting spring fragrances in winter. This ensures that by the time spring comes around, I can recommend all of the best scents to you. All of the candles that actually impress me get a feature in this guide. And before recommending, I test each candle several times, checking for tunneling and soot. When it's on its last legs, I keep things sustainable, by finding a new use for the vessel afterward.
How can we help?
What to look for
How we test
As well as candles, I also test reed diffusers and essential oil diffusers. I told you: my apartment smells i n c r e d i b l e. Below, I've spoken with a home fragrance expert, too, so if you are wondering which scents best complement each season, I've got answers. Here's what to buy to scent your space this year, from the pros.
What to look for in a candle
Why you can trust Real Homes Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.
We've listed four specs for each candle below, which can help you choose your favorite:
- Burn time — compare this with the size of your candle and the price to make sure you're getting your money's worth.
- Size — choose wisely and based on how large your room is. Go for more than one wick if you can.
- Notes — what does it mostly smell like? does this fit the current season we're in? Avoid any heavy notes (fruity, woody, spicy) in smaller spaces or enclosed rooms without windows.
- Wax — soy is better for your health, but it is more expensive and it's harder to clean from a jar afterward. Paraffin is a common choice and still burns well.
The 14 best candles to buy this year
Our favorite summer candle
Burn time: 50–60 hrs/75–100 hrs
Size: 8.1 oz /21.2 oz
This has to be my favorite candle for year-round use. Not only does it look luxurious, but it smells incredible. I have the three-wick version and it floods my entire bedroom with its scent. It even offers a clean burn, too, so it's a great option if you're guilty of making a few candle mistakes. Aka: soot-filled candle jars! It comes in a luxury pink-tinted glass vessel that's frosted with stripes. If you're wondering about burn time, the largest size can last for up to 100 hours, and I can vouch for that.
Our favorite spring candle
Burn time: 60 hrs
Size: 10.5 oz
I really like this candle for spring and summer. Its gentle yet sweet fragrance has the ability to fill a room from corner to corner. It's best for living rooms, entryways, and bedrooms as it's far too nice for a bathroom or kitchen and it burns super clean. It's made using soy-based wax with a burn time of 60 hours and two lead-free cotton wicks.
Our favorite new candle for 2023
Burn time: 25–35 hrs / 40–50 hrs / 60–70 hrs
Sizes: 3.4 oz / 7.8 oz / 9 oz
Wax: Coconut soy blend
New for 2023, this exquisite blend from Anecdote will wow you. Each candle is hand-poured in the U.S. and this particular scent is the perfect home fragrance to see you from colder weather into the warmer months. It has notes that are a mix of citrus and wood, giving an invigorating yet warm scent. It's also fragranced with ginger, orange, amber, lemon, tonka bean, clove, and cedarwood. I have the medium size which comes in a jar that you can easily reuse. It burns well and I think it works well in a living room or entryway. It's quite a heavy fragrance, so I'd probably avoid it in smaller spaces or inside a bedroom.
Our favorite luxury candle
Burn time: 55 hrs
Size: 9.8 oz
This is my favorite crowd-pleaser scent from The White Company, and possibly the best candle I can recommend if you want something luxurious. Light this candle at any time of year, and in any room in your house, to wow guests and complement your interiors. This subtle fragrance is a crispy floral that fills an entire room. I can recommend the two-wick size, just expect some soot around the corner of the elegant vessel.
Our favorite eco-friendly candle
Burn time: 50 hrs
Size: 7 oz
Wax: Sweedish rapeseed wax
I've said it before and I'll say it again, this is a scent I will forever repurchase, whether for myself or as a gift. It's the perfect floral candle that never takes over a room. When lit, it gives off just the right amount of fragrance to reach from one corner of a room to the other. Poured into a white glass Scandi-style vessel that's made from 30% recyclable materials, this candle burns evenly every time and even has an FSC-certified wooden lid for keeping dust out.
Our favorite citrus candle
Burn time: 55 hrs
Size: 10.5 oz
This candle smells like fresh air but better. With a twist of bitter orange and underlying woody notes, I loved using it in my entryway to subtly flood my entire apartment with its scent. You can really light it in most spaces, though I'd avoid smaller rooms as it might be too overpowering. It burns evenly from start to finish, but I did notice a little soot. The beeswax it's made of will burn for 55 hours.
Our favorite cozy candle
Burn time: 35 hrs
Size: 8.1 oz
Wax: Not listed
I love this warm candle for making my bedroom feel cozy — in both looks and scent. It's a fitting yet subtle blend of honey and oats with an impressive throw performance. I've had guests comment on its fragrance, and I adore its simple yet stunning white glass vessel. It burns clean for 35 hours, though you'll need to trim the wick often. This is definitely one to light in early spring, when it's still a tad chilly outside but the flowers are blooming.
Our favorite fruity candle
Burn time: 38 hrs
Size: 8 oz
Wax: Soy blend
This is our ed-in-chief Melissa's all-time favorite candle. She loves the feeling of being warm, and the Amalfi-inspired candle helps her feel like she's in her happy place: aka swimming in the Med, while eating nothing but pasta for a week or so. The fact it sits in a lovely tin is just a bonus. It has a burn time of 38 hours in total, and it's made with soy wax.
Our favorite floral candle
Burn time: 20 hrs/50 hrs
Wax: Sweedish rapeseed oil
My go-to floral fragrance is eco-friendly and perfect for summer and spring, thanks to its delightful floral aroma. Perfectly subtle yet still nicely scented, it sits inside a pink recycled glass vessel that's decorative, with a wooden lid to prevent dust. It's vegan, cruelty-free, and organic, plus it burns clean. Need I say more?
Our favorite bedroom candle
Burn time: 50 hrs
Size: 14.81 oz
I light this candle in my bedroom a couple of hours before I sleep and it aids in relaxation. Fragranced with 11 essential oils to soothe, this fruity yet sweet smell is designed to fill a bedroom. Though it's clean and soot-free, you'll want to keep your wicks trimmed at all times as they tend to curl. My room is quite spacious, so you might want to avoid lighting it in smaller bedrooms if strong scents aren't your thing. It's made with vegetable wax, and it'll burn for 50 hours.
Our favorite Jo Malone candle
Burn time: 45 hrs
Size: 7 oz
I have this candle sitting in my entryway as I write this, and it emits a gorgeous yet serious smell of rose and smoky oud wood, making it elegant and unique in comparison to other floral fragrances. Note that it is strong and can sometimes scent a room without being lit. It comes with a lid to conceal its fragrance and to act as a protective plate when the candle is burning. Crafted with natural cotton wicks, I have the limited edition version which has black wax. It gets major points for its luxury vibe.
Our favorite candle for kitchens
Burn time: 60 hrs
Size: 6.7 oz
Made in France and designed to banish odors in your kitchen while cooking, this candle is scented with basil, mint, and tomato leaves. I like to light it 30 minutes before cooking something smelly, then I will blow it out 30 minutes after I've finished cooking and it banishes odors. It offers an impressively clean burn from start to finish, and its amber glass vessel looks super luxurious. It's great for when you have friends over for dinner.
Our favorite candle for bathrooms
Burn time: 28 hrs
Size: 4.9 oz
My go-to herbal home fragrance is uplifting and anything but subtle as it's a unique citrus blend with added herbs and fruits. I like moving it around between my kitchen and bathroom. It's better suited for smaller spaces and is a great option for year-round use. Filled in the UK using high-quality mineral wax, it sits inside an elegant white ceramic vessel, complete with a lid. Though it burns clean, it does leave behind a little soot.
Our favorite vanilla candle
Burn time: 40 hrs
Size: 7 oz
Warm, creamy, and best of all, not too powerful once lit. I always say this is a candle you can light at any time of the year, whether it's a sunny summer day or a chilly winter evening. It sits inside a yellow glass vessel, standing out as much in looks as it does in scent. Floral Street is vegan, cruelty-free, and sustainable, and all of the products are responsibly made.
Which candles are the best?
- The best candle for summer — Nest New York Himalayan Salt & Rosewater
- The best candle for spring — Damselfly Grace Universe
- The best candle for 2023 — Anecdote Candles Orange & Ginger Flower
- The best luxury candle — The White Company Blanc
- The best eco-friendly candle — Skandinavisk Lempi
How to choose a scented candle?
"When scenting your home, the most important thing to note is what season it is," explains interiors and home expert Stephanie Goldstone from The Fragrance Company. "You want to create an ambiance that either emulates the season or completely juxtaposes it. For example, during the winter seasons you want to create warmth with home fragrances, and for summer you want to create light and airy freshness, like being at the beach."
Here is what Goldstone has to say about choosing a candle for each season:
"Autumn [or fall] is perhaps the most versatile scents of them all, complementing many different fragrances," she says. "It's at this time where you want to bring in earthy and natural fragrances and add subtle hints of sandalwood and ylang-ylang."
"Winter is the most scent-worthy time of the year," explains Goldstone. "For winter home fragrance, opt for light pine, cinnamon, vanilla, and neroli citrus for that warm and cozy feeling that will truly make you feel like you're living in a winter wonderland." We've rounded up some Christmas candles to tackle this task.
"Spring is the time of year when you're excited to be venturing outside again," she says. "Bring that excitement indoors by complementing your home with fresh scents of floral and notes of citrus. Fragrances such as lavender, jasmine, and patchouli are great options."
"Summer breeze and beach holidays never cease to put you in a good mood, so bring that same mood into your home with light, fruity, and floral scents," she says. "Aromas such as coconut, geranium, gardenia, and a favorite of mine, rose, are all great staples. "
After this, your next consideration should be where your new candle will live...
For the living area, it's best to consider your aesthetic or decor. You can pretty much go for any scent in this room, from floral to herbal to spicy. We would recommend going for a scent that matches the season, and avoiding any heavy woody or spicy scents in the spring and summer. However, you will want to go for a strong scent to fill each corner of this room, especially if you spend a lot of time in here.
For kitchens it's best to reach for something lighter and airier; the last thing you want to do is compete with food aromas, so we suggest a herbal or ozonic aroma.
For a bedroom you'll want to opt for an aroma that's lavender or vanilla-based. This will calm your senses and create a peaceful oasis. Anything scented with essential oils is also a great option for a bedroom.
Which candle wax is best?
From testing a bunch of candles, and speaking with a few experts, we know our stuff when it comes to candle wax. Our favorite candle wax has to be soy, though it can be harder to find and slightly more expensive. If you're on a budget then paraffin (otherwise known as mineral wax) is your best bet.
Here's a quick comparison of the two types of wax from Goldstone.
- Soy: Eco-friendly, better for your health, melts faster, not easiest to clean but offers a longer burn
- Paraffin/mineral: Common, holds a lot of fragrance, normally cheapest, easy to clean from a vessel, clean burn but leaves behind soot
What brand is best for candles?
It's hard to choose the best candle brand, but if I had to choose, I would say Nest New York. These candles scream luxury for a budget-friendly price. Their scent throw is impressive and they come in a range of sizes. The company releases new fragrances for each season and its stunning frosted vessels are easy to clean and reuse. The only thing I don't love is the wax it uses — paraffin — but its candles do offer a clean, soot-free burn every time.
What candles give off the most scent?
There's no one straight answer as this will depend on the size of your room and how insulated it is. If your space is large, go for a larger candle (perhaps with three wicks) to scent your space. Always place your candle in the center of your room for maximum scent performance. And, if you have a window open, you'll smell your candle a lot less. The same goes if your room is cold. Warmth will move the scent around a room and stretch it from corner to corner.
Rather than narrowing it down to candles that give off the most scent (all of the candles I featured in this guide have an incredible throw performance), I would opt for certain scents if you want something stronger.
Woody/warm fragrances tend to be strong for the winter and fall
Floral/fruity fragrances are strong performers for the spring and summer
Avoid fresh fragrances if you want something super powerful, as these tend to be toned down slightly. The same goes for some citrus-based fragrances.
Real Homes review process
Annie is our head ecommerce editor and she has been writing our home fragrance guides since 2018. She also used to curate the home fragrance guides over at Homes & Gardens, Livingetc, and Ideal Home. Plus, she has previously written a few candle guides for Woman & Home. Annie lives in a spacious two-bedroom apartment in South East London and tends to lean towards anything warm and spicy in the winter, but in warmer months she loves a fresh fragrance. Each and every one of these candles in this guide have either been tested by Annie or another member of the Real Homes team. She will always test these candles until they've burned almost halfway, and she has reviewed 40+ candles. The ones featured in this guide are only the best of the best.
Here's what we look for when testing candles:
- By scent — how fitting is it for the current time of year
- By throw performance — does its fragrance spread itself around a room?
- By design — what does its vessel look like on display?
- By burn — does it burn clean and is it soot-free?
- By price — is it affordable? Can you realistically afford to replace it once it's empty?
While testing these candles, Annie is completely aware of the environmental impact, which is why, at Real Homes, we have guides on what to do with leftover candle wax, and how to reuse a candle jar.
Up next: Obsessed with that TikTok-famous candle warmer? We found 6 budget-friendly options