If you're on a hunt to make sure your home smells nice, then I am your go-to gal. I've been testing home fragrances — reed diffusers and scented candles — for years in my two-bedroom apartment. So if you're wondering which are the hottest buys right now, for spring and summer 2023, I can help.
With so many home fragrance brands out there, I've listed my favorite places to shop just below. And my top reed diffusers, candles, essential oils, and more. This way, I am your eyes and nose, and you don't even have to leave your sofa. Result.
How can we heplp?
2. Spring & summer
4. Fall scents
5. Types of home fragrance
6. How to choose
7. What to consider
8. How we review
Personally, I feel like scent really makes a space feel like home. And it can transform a space from being okay, to something that's rather quite impressive. You know how everyone has their individual scent which that person can't actually smell? Well, let's make sure yours is incredible as this usually derives not from your perfume, but from how your home smells in general.
These home fragrances have all been tested, mostly by me, but I've also listed a couple of the Real Homes team favorites, too.
Our 18 favorite home fragrances to buy in 2023
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Year-round home fragrances
These year-round scents are fitting for all seasons, meaning they can be used until they run out — you won't need to rush using them.
Size: 1.6 oz./7.7 oz.
I've been obsessed with this Rituals reed diffuser for at least a year now, and its strong oriental notes of rice milk and cherry blossom always wow me. It's the perfect year-round fragrance and I love it in my entryway. There's no need to flip your reeds regularly as the diffuser will stretch its aroma from one side of your room to the other, and the smallest size lasted me way longer than the recommended five weeks. The fragrance sits inside a luxurious white ribbed container that looks lovely on display. Though it's not recyclable, it is refillable.
Size: 9.8 oz.
This is my favorite crowd-pleaser scent from The White Company, and possibly the number one candle I can recommend if you want something luxurious. Light it any time of year and in any room in your house to wow guests and complement your interiors. This subtle, crispy, and floral fragrance fills an entire room (I recommend the two-wick size). Just know to expect some soot around the corner of the elegant white glass vessel. It can burn for up to 55 hours, and it's made with mineral wax.
Essential oil diffuser
Size: H4.25" x W2.72" x L2.72"
This is rated our favorite essential oil diffuser for small spaces, and I think it's great for scenting a bathroom in particular. It's cordless and nice and compact — mine sits above my toilet. It doesn't work with water, it only needs some essential oils to do its job. I use mine with Neom's Scent-to-Sleep essential oil (you can buy it from Amazon) which smells like lavender, basil, and jasmine. It has a 50-hour battery life and comes in two colors, plus it can be used literally anywhere, and it's super safe in comparison to a candle. It has touch buttons on the top and you can control its intensity based on your room size. I'm obsessed with mine and guests have also commented about it.
Size: 7 oz.
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, giving off just the right amount of fragrance to reach from one corner of a room to the other. It burns evenly every time in its Scandi-style vessel that's made from 30% recyclable materials. The candle even has an FSC-certified wooden lid for keeping dust away. It has a burn time of 50 hours, plus it's made with Swedish rapeseed wax.
This super fresh candle is ideal for your bathroom, bedroom, or entryway. It's definitely not too powerful for small spaces, yet its scent will flood through your home. Its fragrance is slightly ozonic and reminds me of the ocean mixed with a spring morning — it's just suuuuper fresh. It sits in a cute amber glass vessel to fit in with your decor, plus it burns so clean and it would make the perfect housewarming gift idea. It arrives in recyclable packaging and is vegan and cruelty-free.
Size: 8.1 oz./21.2 oz.
I'm a little obsessed with this scent from Nest New York and I'd say it's my favorite from the brand. Not only does it look luxurious, but it smells incredible and works perfectly for summer. My only complaint? It's made with paraffin wax. I have the three-wick version and it floods my entire bedroom with its scent. It offers a clean burn, which is great 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.
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 its blend might be overpowering. It burns evenly from start to finish, but I did notice a little soot. The beeswax its made of will burn for 55 hours.
For your bathroom
Size: 5.9 oz.
I'll admit that I wasn't immediately sold on this reed diffuser — until I moved it into my bathroom. Now, it perfectly fits this space and it's strong enough to banish odors as they come. It's fresh thanks to the mint and the eucalyptus helps strike the perfect balance. My bathroom is windowless, so I didn't use all of the reeds, but its luxury-looking vessel definitely looks on point 24/7.
Size: 8.1 oz.
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.
Spring and summer home fragrances
These spring and summer scents are subtle, fresh, fruity, and floral, and they welcome the sticky warmth of summer so are never overpowering. Perfect for warmer weather, they evoke the smell of a perfect summer's day.
Size: 10.5 oz.
I love this candle for spring and summer. Its gentle yet sweet fragrance sweeps across any space. It's best for living rooms, entryways, and bedrooms because it's way too lovely to hide away in your bathroom. Its two lead-free cotton wicks and soy wax burn super clean for 60 hours.
Size: 8 oz.
Our ed in chief's all-time favorite candle, Melissa loves the feeling of being warm and this 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, plus it has a burn time of 38 hours in total and it's made with soy wax.
Size: 7.85 oz.
As approved by one of our writers, this uplifting diffuser is long-lasting, sweet, and refreshing without being overwhelming. It's scented with everything you love to eat in the summer, including mango, tangerine, passion fruit, and pomegranate. Its aroma manages to reach each corner of a room, and we think that its minimal bottle lends itself to the fragrance. You can buy refills and its vessel is recyclable.
Floral home fragrances
Floral fragrances aren't for everyone, but they are great for the spring and summer, admittedly. Here are some of our favorite floral scents that are never too overpowering...
My go-to floral fragrance is eco-friendly and perfect for summer and spring thanks to its delightful floral aroma. Perfectly subtle yet still fragrant, it sits inside a pink recycled glass vessel with a wooden lid to prevent dust from collecting inside. The vegan, cruelty-free, and organic candle also burns clean. The smaller size burns for 20 hours and the largest for 50 hours. Oh, and it's made with Swedish rapeseed oil.
Sweet yet subtle
Size: 3.38 oz.
Scent: Sweet, floral
If you love a sweet fragrance, then I can recommend this incredible long-lasting diffuser that has a gorgeous floral yet slightly sweet aroma, fueled by rhubarb, sour juniper berry, and fresh muddled rosemary. It's housed in an elegant black glass vessel with black silk reeds you'll rarely need to flip. It's cruelty-free and vegan, and I think it's best for an entryway. Just bear in mind though that it's not recyclable or refillable.
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 as it can be quite strong. It's made with vegetable wax and it'll burn for 50 hours.
Fall home fragrances
In fall, we love warm, woody scents to get us ready for winter. These are our favorite powerful ones, that will never induce a headache...
Size: 3.5 fl. oz.
Our editor-in-chief is obsessed with this reed diffuser. In fact, she says it hits the nail on the head for her as she's not a floral person and actually prefers musky scents. She says this one is anything but overpowering (another pet peeve of hers), instead, it's subtle and earthy. It comes in an amber glass bottle and it'll instantly give your apartment a cozy feel. It's not refillable, sadly.
Size: 5 fl. oz.
I am obsessed with this woody fragrance from The White Company for fall and winter. It makes a recurring appearance in my apartment every single year. It makes your home smell like you have a fireplace, and no matter how large your room is, its scent will reach every corner. I love it for my living room or bedroom. You can also recycle its glass vessel after use though it's not refillable. I'd avoid it in smaller spaces.
Size: 5.07 fl. oz.
I've just finished this diffuser and it was sitting in my entryway. Its serious and luxurious fragrance impressed my guests more than once. It's equal parts warm, fresh, and woody. It came with a bottle stopper and it sits in a subtle green glass vessel that's recyclable. In fact, the brand's ethos is sustainability. Though it's not refillable.
Types of home fragrance
Using a candle to scent your space offers an explosion of fragrance over time. Be sure to consider the wax of your candle, with soy being the best and most clean option in our opinion, and also consider the candle's size in comparison to your room size, and how many hours it can burn for. Another thing to think about is the safety of lighting a candle at home. If you have small children or wandering pets, then you might be better off with a much less risky reed diffuser.
You can't really go wrong with a reed diffuser. They are sensational if you want more control over how strong the scent will be or have concerns about the safety of burning candles. Keep in mind that you'll need to flip the sticks to change which end is in the oil every couple of weeks (some reed diffusers require this every other day) for a fragrance boost. Add reeds or remove reeds to control fragrance depending on the size of your space. Though they're not necessarily dangerous, you will still want to place them out of the way of children or pets to avoid spills on your furniture. I would avoid putting them in bedrooms, but if you do, take it out while you sleep because pets shouldn't inhale them all day long.
Essential oil diffusers
Using essential oil drops and water, essential oil diffusers produce water-fragranced vapor into the air of your home to make it smell nice. We've only included one essential oil diffuser in this list, and it actually works without water. Instead, it uses cold fusion rather than water to get those essential oils diffusing. Essential oil diffusers are a lot safer to use to scent your home, especially since if you accidentally leave them on, they usually automatically shut off once their water tank empties. They just need to be placed near a plug socket (usually!).
How to choose a scent
Fragrance is very subjective. Put simply — just choose what you love the smell of. if you're unsure, there are a few general rules that can help you make the right choice.
Living rooms: The living room is usually the largest room in the house and can take a strong fragrance. Bold florals, rich amber-based or woody-smoky fragrances, and sweet scents can all travel beautifully across a living room. We'd avoid anything herbal or overly subtle, as you probably won't be able to smell it much.
Bedrooms: Choosing a scent for a bedroom is all about making sure you won't disrupt your sleep with an overly strong or stimulating fragrance. Avoid citruses or cloyingly sweet scents. We recommend subtly blended white florals, minimalist scents with tea notes, or herbal fragrances with lavender or chamomile.
Kitchens: The best fragrance for a kitchen will need to blend perfectly with the smells of food being prepared, so it's always a good idea to pick something that harmonizes with those smells. Notes of tomato, passion fruit, basil, citrus, or mint all work really well in kitchens. While a reed diffuser works well in any other room, we avoid putting them in kitchens where they might take on cooking smells, or heat could impact their oils.
Bathrooms: This is your wild card of a room that can accommodate almost any fragrance, strong or subtle — it's all about preference. We prefer to stick to herbal or fresh fragrances in a bathroom and wouldn't opt for anything too heavy, especially if your bathroom is windowless.
Entryways: An entryway announces what your home is like to guests, so why not go for a blast of scent? Opulent white florals, rose scents, or complex woody fragrances will make a strong first impression.
Home office: A home office fragrance (or a room in which you work) needs to support productivity without being too distracting. Bright citruses will help you stay awake and concentrate, while a grounded fragrance with notes of amber or tobacco will conjure up a calm and controlled atmosphere. An essential oil diffuser can work well in a home office, too, for a calming scent that's not too soothing.
What to consider when choosing a home fragrance
We've listed a range of specs above, along with each product we recommend. Specifications differ from reed diffusers to candles, but when it comes to both of these home fragrances, we've made sure to list both size and scent. Go for a larger candle if you are considering this for a big space. If it's a reed diffuser, then be sure to use all of the reeds if your space is large. Consider each fragrance's notes and think about the scents you usually pick up, or ones you already own (and like) at home.
When it comes to candles we've also been sure to list the burn time of each fragrance. Consider this and compare it to the candle's price. The last specification for candles that we listed is wax. This is mostly down to personal preference, but we have found that soy wax burns cleaner than others — and it does tend to be a better option for breathing in.
When listing reed diffusers, we've made sure to check if each reed diffuser has to be fully replaced once finished or if refills are available. Refilling your reed diffuser isn't only an eco-friendly option, but it's also more affordable than buying the entire diffuser vessel and fragrance again and again. Some vessels are recyclable, too.
How we reviewed these home fragrances
This guide was written and is consistently updated by me (Annie). I am Real Homes' head ecommerce editor and I've been testing home fragrances since 2018. I live in a two-bedroom apartment with my husband and my pug, and I've reviewed 100+ candles and reed diffusers. Only my favorites, and the fragrances I would repurchase made it to this list. I tend to know whether I like a fragrance before it's half empty, and I'll move fragrances around my home as I use them, to see which room(s) they work best inside.
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