Let me start by saying, I am obsessed with my home smelling nice. That's why my apartment (and me) are both Real Homes' guinea pigs when it comes to reed diffuser testing and scented candle lighting. So, yes: My place always smells divine.
With so many different brands to choose from and an abundance of scents to suit each season, I'm here to help you cut through the noise and prove you don't always have to purchase fragrances in person. I believe that scent brings together a space, and whether your home looks just like something you'd find on Pinterest or that's what you're aiming for, the way a space smells controls how we (and friends and fam) see it. If you've ever cooked fish for dinner and found that the next day your kitchen still smells, you'll know what I mean.
So, I've done the dirty work here and made sure that all of the home fragrances below have been tested. Mostly by me, but I've also listed a couple of our editor's favorites. I've separated them by season and I've listed three fragrances that will impress you year-round. Get shopping.
Our 15 favorite home fragrances to buy in 2023
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Year-round home fragrances
The best year-round home fragrance
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.
The best luxury home fragrance
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.
My favorite eco-friendly home fragrance
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.
Spring home fragrances
My favorite spring home fragrance
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.
The best citrus home fragrance
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.
My favorite cozy home fragrance
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.
Summer home fragrances
Our favorite summer home fragrance
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.
Our editor's favorite summer fragrance
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.
The best fruity fragrance
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
A floral home fragrance you won't forget
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.
The best floral diffuser
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.
A home fragrance for your bedroom
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
Editor's choice reed diffuser
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.
A luxurious fragrance for fall
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.
An eco-friendly diffuser for fall
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.
Real Homes review process — How did we test these home fragrances?
Hi! I'm Annie, 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.
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.
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.
Things to think about 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.
Up next: ICYMI, these are the best air fresheners for a fragranced home, always