Reed diffusers vs scented candles – which is better? I'm a master perfumer, and this is my verdict

When looking at luxury home scents, you'll come across the reed diffuser vs scented candle debate. They're both great, but everyone has their favorites

reed diffuser vs scented candle on a table with a blurred background
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Whether it's the atmospheric flicker of a candle, or an elegant splay of reeds on the mantel, there are lots of ways that you can scent your home. The two most popular methods use luxury candles or reed diffusers

If you're like me, choosing between the two will put you in a predicament. Both can offer a wonderfully luxurious home scent, but whether one is better is open to debate. Experts will tell you there's no cut and dry winner, because they're each well suited to different homes. However, everyone has their favorites.

I tested the best candles on the market. They're aromatic, atmospheric, and are often cheaper than reed diffusers. If you're looking to set the mood and you want a strong scent, these are brilliant. However, if you would like consistent, low-maintenance fragrance throughout your home, reed diffusers are the better option. I tested both in my home for months, so that I could put them head-to-head.

As you can imagine, my house now smells incredible, but there was definitely a winner for me. I'm a qualified Master Perfumer and have worked in luxury fragrance, so I know what I like and I know what to look for. From scent throw to longevity and maintenance, I've compared the best candles and reed diffusers on the market. Infused with expert advice, this is the definitive guide for undecided or divided candle and reed diffuser enthusiasts.

Benefits Of Candles

A single candle with lavendar wrapped around it and smooth dark stones

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Every quintessential self-care scene needs the flicker of a candle somewhere in the room. These atmospheric burners provide gentle and soft light, which has even been shown to improve focus. Viviana Hurtado, founder of an eco-luxe candle brand, says that 'the unique combination of inhaling the hot throw, combined with a candle's flickering light immediately quiets the mind, slows down racing hearts, and lowers blood pressure'. With the right scents, a bubble bath, and a good book, you've got the winning formula for the perfect wind-down.

The beauty of a candle is that you can control the intensity. Leave your candle open to the elements and you'll be able to smell it, but when you burn it, that's where you've got liquid gold. A lit candle releases strong scents all your room. While it smells good, it looks beautiful too. Once you've burned your wick down to the bottom of the vessel, your jar can be upcycled into a new life. There are even candles that are better after burning.

Granted, candles can be messy and a fire hazard, so you need to be careful around them. They have a shorter life span and are hard to find re-fills for, so the ongoing cost of candles can mount. However, if you buy a good quality wax (coconut, vegetable, beeswax) candle, it should burn for at least 50 hours.

After testing the best candles on the market, these are some favorite scented candles:

Viviana Hurtado
Viviana Hurtado

Viviana is the founder of Viviana Luxury, a spa-inspired home fragrance and candle brand, which specialise in Latin American casa and cultura. She prefers scented candles, because of their therapeutic glow, but will respect those who don't love a candle. She loves reed diffusers too.

Benefits Of Diffusers

reed diffuser

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I worry about things that don't even need worrying about, so imagine how I feel about candles when they're unattended. Diffusers can be left on the mantel without you needing to think about soot or burning the house down. They'll also release a steady stream of scent into your room, rather than in one intense burst. Used properly, they can last up to six months.

Candles are becoming increasingly re-fillable, but diffusers are better suited to re-using the same vessel. Once you've bought more essential oils and reeds, you can start all over again with scenting your room.

Jason Wells, aromatherapy writer and expert says that 'reeds are typically more discreet than candles, but they can be used to add a touch of style to your home. They're very low maintenance, but will typically have a lighter scent throw than candles, which means that the fragrance may not be as noticeable in large rooms. If you're looking for a diffuser that will fill your home with fragrance or cover up bad smells, a scented candle may be a better option'. They're also more of an initial investment and, depending on your reed diffuser, you might struggle to find refills too.

After testing the best reed diffusers on the market, these are my favorites:

Aromatherapy expert
Jason Wells
Aromatherapy expert
Jason Wells

Jason is an aromatherapy expert and writer for Calm Corner Shop, a site which covers all things aromatherapy, essential oils, and home décor. He's had years of experience with all things fragrance, so can sniff out the good from the bad.

Reed diffusers vs scented candles: head to head

candle and diffuser with blankets in the background

(Image credit: GettyImages)

If you're stuck in the reed diffusers vs scented candle debate, there are three key features of each product that you need to consider: scent throw, longevity, and price.

It's tricky to compare scent throw, because every product is different. However, candles aren't designed to be burned all day long. If you compare a candle burnt for an hour to a reed diffuser open for an hour, the candle will smell stronger. Over time, the two will balance out. I'd always choose a reed diffuser, because the scent throw will be consistent and not dependent on your regularly burning your candle. However, if you have pets - only ones that won't jump up - a candle will mask their smell much better.

Generally, reed diffusers last longer than candles, because the diffusion process is slower. As they burn down, candles also need more maintenance than a reed diffuser. Eric Kaiser, professional candle maker, recommends 'trimming a candle's wick to ¼ inch before each burn. This practice not only prevents the wick from 'mushrooming', but also promotes a clean, even burn, reduced soot, and prolongs the life of your candle.' The best wick trimmer is something like this one from Walmart . It doesn't need to be fancy.  You can flip reeds in your reed diffuser to maintain potency, but this can be messy and it will use up more of your essential oils. So, once you've put them in their essential oils, you won't need to do much else with them.

Candle maker
Eric Kaiser
Candle maker
Eric Kaiser

Eric is an experienced candle maker with a unique perspective on candle creation, since he also has a technical background too. He's done lots of research into scent diffusers, so is ready with lots of expert insight.

Depending on the brand, reed diffusers tend to be more expensive than candles. However, you can re-fill diffusers and they'll last a lot longer. Michelle Alfano from ScentAir home fragrances, says 'regardless of which option your choose, it's important to choose quality products. Quality effects throw and longevity, so you may pay a little more, but you'll get more fragrance from a higher quality product. Often, higher quality also translates into finer materials for candle and reed vessels, which can really make a difference in experience with a product you're going to display in your home.'

Eric Kaiser, professional candle maker was telling me that 'cheap candles often use paraffin, which carries many potentially harmful drawbacks and can cause black on your candles and walls. Natural waxes, like beeswax and coconut wax are superior with a cleaner burn and better sustainability credentials, even if they do cost more'. The same applies for reed diffusers: always buy the best quality essential oils that you can. You'll smell the difference.

I've tested a candle and reed diffuser head-to-head in my home. Different scents and perfumers will make their products differently, so it's only fair to compare a reed diffuser and candle from the same brand. Jo Malone is my go-to for reliable luxury. They won't break the bank with prices, but it's still a treat.

Marketing Content Manager
Michelle Anna Alfano
Marketing Content Manager
Michelle Anna Alfano

Michelle is the Marketing Content Manager at ScentAir, a home fragrance and scent marketing company. They create scents to enhance environments and experiences through improved air quality and scents.

My Verdict

candle and diffuser

(Image credit: GettyImages)

Candles are brilliant for atmospheric, aromatic, mood setting. Burning them is a lovely ritual which just happens to scent your home. I'd always gift a candle over a diffuser, because I think they have more thought behind them. They can also give a more personal touch to gifting, because candles are so bound-up in self-care routines.

As a practical purchase, a reed diffuser is better. Reeds release a consistent home fragrance and they're flameless, so you don't need to worry about leaving them around. You can rely on the fact that they'll deliver the same scent that you choose throughout the room; sometimes flames can do funny things to candles. Some people say that reed diffusers are an eyesore, but they can look extremely elegant on the mantle.

If you pushed me for my favorite, I'd have to say reed diffusers. They're low maintenance and I want my home to always smell good. However, nothing beats some candlelight for an atmospheric evening.


Why choose a diffuser over a candle?

Lots of people choose diffuser, because they're lower maintenance, flameless, and diffuse a consistent scent across the room. They cost more money, but if you look at the value and how long you'll use it for, a diffuser comes out on top.

Does a candle last longer than a diffuser?

It depends how much you burn it. Each time you use a candle, you should burn it so that the whole surface is a liquid. This will prevent your candle from tunnelling and becoming hard to light. If you burn it properly and use it enough to make your room smell as strongly as a diffuser would, it won't last as long.

Which scents are better as candles?

The warmer, woody, spicy, and aromatic scents make really good candles. They pair with the flame aesthetics to create a really cozy atmosphere.

Which scents are better as diffusers?

Light, clean, and green scents make really good diffusers. The reeds will release consistent aromas into the air, so it's good to use fresh scents, so that you don't overpower your room.

Finally, is a candle or a reed diffuser better? The answer is that it depends on what you want. Candles can be atmospheric and they're great for an intense burst of scent. However, if you want consistent, flameless home fragrance, a reed diffuser the better option.

Laura Honey
eCommerce Editor

Laura is our eCommerce editor. As a fully qualified barista, she's our expert in all things coffee and has tested over thirty of the best coffee makers on the market. She has also interviewed Q-Graders and world-leading experts in the coffee industry, so has an intimate knowledge of all things coffee. Before joining Homes & Gardens, she studied English at Oxford University. Whilst studying, she trained as a master perfumer and worked in the luxury fragrance industry for five years. Her collection of home fragrance is extensive and she's met and interviewed five of the world's finest perfumers (also known as 'noses'). As a result of this expansive fragrance knowledge, she always puts quality and style over quantity and fads. Laura looks for products which have been designed simply and with thoughtful finishes.