Best home fragrance: 18 amazing scents — reviewed and rated

Luxury but on a budget

Annie's white coffee table with round seagrass matt in the middle and Real Homes magazine on top, with a black reed diffuser and two white candles beside a vase filled with colorful tulips
(Image credit: Future/Annie Collyer)

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. 

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

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.

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. 

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.

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...

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...

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.

Reed diffusers
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.

Reed diffusers
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

Home fragrance testing image with reed diffusers, candles and room sprays on coffee table

A collection of home fragrances on Annie's coffee table

(Image credit: Future/Annie Collyer)

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.

Up next: ICYMI, these are the best air fresheners for a fragranced home, always

Annie Collyer
Head Ecommerce Editor

Hi! I'm Annie, and I'm the Head Ecommerce Editor at Real Homes. Along with my team, I'm here to review all of the products you might be considering buying for your home. As someone who lives in a flat with a small amount of storage space to work with, and with two indoor pets to clean up after, I am forever searching for stylish yet functional appliances that won't blemish my decor if I can't fit them in a cupboard. I love decorating my living room for each season, while my other hobbies include drinking a decent cup of coffee, going on park walks with my dog and enjoying an Instagrammable brunch with my husband.