On the Problems with Candles and the Joys of Homemade Stove-top Scents:

Lemon Rosemary Potpourri. Photo by Samantha McClellan
Lemon Rosemary Potpourri. Photo by Samantha McClellan

I have a confession, I am a recovering candle addict. I always had at least one deliciously scented candle in the kitchen area of my apartment that I lit every single night. I loved the ambient light, I loved the scent, and I loved that even if I hadn’t cleaned up from the day or cleaned the apartment just lighting that lovely little candle made me feel like things looked nice. (irrational? yes, but true)

So, what is the problem? Well first, candles are expensive. Even the cheapest candles sold at the grocery store are at least 7-9 dollars or more. Which when you are going through them every few weeks, adds up. Secondly, most candles contain very dangerous levels of toxins and potential carcinogens. The only beneficial, healthy type of candle is a pure beeswax candle which is much more expensive. In fact, beeswax candles have even been shown to help reduce the symptoms of asthma, allergies, and hay fever in some cases. However, most candles, especially the deliciously scented type, are generally made of either soy or, more likely, paraffin. Paraffin alone contains a large amount of toxins and carcinogens when burned, and all scents and dyes are chemically based and potentially toxic because even pure essential oils are not safe when burned because the heat changes the molecular structure of the oil. Finally, even soy candles which have a reputation of burning cleaner release a smaller amount of toxins and carcinogens as well as carrying with them a large environmental concern, because over 90% of all soy is genetically modified.

So, what can we do to avoid the use of candles but also have a home that smells yummy and inviting? Why, make some stove top potpourri of course! There are so many variations of this type of potpourri the possibilities are as endless as the options at the Yankee Candle store. You simply get together a couple of natural aromatic ingredients, add water, and simmer on a very very low heat setting while you are at home. Obviously, the while you are at home part is important… you will need to remember to turn it off when you leave, as well as add water if it starts to get low.

My husband recently asked if the potpourri saved money in the end when the cost of running the stove was included in the price comparison with candles. I did the math: Generally the cost of the ingredients involved in one batch of potpourri is less than 3 dollars, if you simmer it on the stove for even 5 hours a day (which is a lot) you’re looking at a cost of less than $0.50/day in electric costs. That means that for a week’s worth of potpourri you are looking at a max cost of about $6 or less. Which comes out on par if not cheaper than the cost of a moderately priced candle with the added bonus of a lack of harmful substances.

So, what are some potpourri recipes? Here are three of my favorites to get you started:

Summer Time Citrus: 

1 can of pineapple juice

a few orange slices

a few lemon slices

a few lime slices

a teaspoon on coconut extract

Lemon Rosemary Vanilla (The Williams Sonoma Scent): 


one lemon, sliced

a few sprigs of fresh rosemary

a TBS of vanilla extract

Citrus and Spice: 

a Few orange slices

a few lemon slices

2 cinnamon sticks

2 bay leaves

1-2 TBS of whole cloves

1 tsp of vanilla extract

Making a few batches of Potpourri makes for a wonderful DIY Gift. Photo by Samantha McClellan
Making a few batches of Potpourri makes for a wonderful DIY Gift. Photo by Samantha McClellan

As an added bonus making a few of these batches in jars with pretty labels and ribbon makes a lovely DIY gift Idea. Enjoy 🙂


Jesse St. Jean

Jesse St. Jean

I am many things: a wife, a daughter, a sister, a nutritional therapist, a dog-mom… and I’m an autoimmune warrior.


  • I didn’t know about the carcinogens and other things released when burning candles. Very interesting. I assume the cost to do stove top potpourri can vary depending on the appliance used (more energy efficient versions, etc.).

  • Sam,
    Love this post – you know how I feel about scented candles & how sick they make me. Another thing people often don’t realize is how toxic the chemicals in burning candles and especially those “Glade” type air purifiers are to pets. I’ve just about used the last of the Lemon Rosemary that you gave to me (hint, hint) and I Love it. You’re right, jars of these lovely liquid potpourris are a great gift!

  • I love these blends! I use a mini crockpot instead of the stove. Works great!

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Nutritional therapist Jesse

Hi, I'm Jesse

I empower women autoimmune warriors to reclaim their health by teaching each woman how to make the right food choices to heal her body while confidently owning her journey so she can live a vibrant life with chronic illness.


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