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Updated September 2021
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Buying guide for best pillar candles

Few products offer as much of a boost to home decor and ambience for so low a price as the humble candle. Pillar candles are freestanding, so there's no need to worry about having the right size candlesticks on hand. Plus, they look great alone or arranged in groups. 

Begin by thinking about what size pillar candle you'd like. You can find everything from compact offerings — an inch or two in diameter — to enormous 12-inch wide candles that are suited to those with larger budgets. You also need to consider the wax and whether you'd be happy with inexpensive paraffin wax or prefer something more eco-friendly. Then you need to decide on factors like color and scent. 

If you're not sure which pillar candle to buy, you're in the right place. We've got all the information you need to make your purchase easier.

Pillar candles are usually cylindrical, but they can be other shapes, such as cubes or pyramids.

Key considerations

Wax type

Some limitations exist when making pillar candles since the wax must be hard enough to burn freestanding. Pillar candles made from wax that’s too soft won't burn evenly and can collapse. Softer waxes are often blended with harder waxes to achieve the desired effect. 

Paraffin wax: This wax is hard enough to make into pillar candles without blending with any other waxes. It's also an inexpensive ingredient, which is why it's a popular choice. The trouble with paraffin wax is that it's a by-product of crude oil refining, making it far from an environmentally-friendly choice. 

Beeswax: This is just what it sounds like: wax produced by bees. Like paraffin wax, it's hard enough in certain forms to make 100% beeswax pillar candles. Due to the labor involved in producing it, however, beeswax can be expensive. It's also not vegan-friendly since it's an animal product. 

Palm wax: This is another sturdy option for making pillar candles. It gives a lovely crystallized effect to the finished candle, too. The trouble with palm wax is that land in the Amazon and other rainforests is cleared at a startling rate to grow palm trees for palm oil and palm wax, so it's not an environmentally sound choice unless you choose options made with certified sustainable products.

Soy wax: This wax is made from soybean oil. It burns slowly and cleanly, which makes it an appealing option, but it's too soft to make pillar candles out of alone. You can find some options that blend soy wax with harder waxes, such as those listed above. 


Most pillar candles measure somewhere between 2 and 4 inches in diameter and 4 and 6 inches tall. You can find some much larger exceptions that measure 6, 9, and even 12 inches in diameter. 

When considering what pillar candle to buy, think about the size of the space and your general preferences. Small candles might not be noticeable in a large room, and larger candles provide more light and disperse scent farther. Larger candles will also be more expensive compared to smaller candles.

Large pillar candles sometimes have more than one wick to burn more evenly. 



Ideally, the wick of your pillar candle should be made of a natural material, such as cotton or linen. Flat or plaited wicks are made out of a single material. Cored wicks are a bit trickier because the exterior might be cotton, but the interior could be something less desirable, such as thin wire, which is more likely to smoke when burning than cotton, paper or cellulose cores. 


You can find pillar candles in a wide range of colors, from white to dark gray to every hue in between. It's up to you whether you want a fairly neutral shade or a bright hue that adds a pop of color to your room. If you'll be placing several pillar candles next to each other, you might want them all the same color or each to be a contrasting color. 


Scents range from floral to musky to spicy. Your personal scent preference is the main factor to rely on. Some people love fruity berry or citrus scents, whereas others prefer scents like pine or lavender. Certain scents might work best at particular times of the year, like cinnamon for Christmas or fresh florals for spring.

Place three or four pillar candles of different sizes next to each other for an attractive display, whether you intend to light them or use them unlit for decoration.


Pillar candle prices

Inexpensive: These pillar candles cost less than $5 each. They’re usually made of paraffin wax and are small or medium in size. 

Mid-range: Expect to pay $5 to $10 for these pillar candles. At this price point, they're usually made of natural materials, such as beeswax or vegetable waxes, though you can find some large paraffin candles. 

Expensive: The most expensive pillar candles usually cost between $10 and $30 each, though some extremely high-end options can cost upward of $100. These are almost always made of natural waxes or blends and can be quite large and strongly scented. 

For Your Safety
Always double-check that you've properly extinguished your candles before leaving the house or heading to bed. An unattended candle poses a fire risk. 


  • Check the burn time. Find out the total burn time of your chosen candle to get an idea of how long it will last. But bear in mind that the burn time is approximate, so it's best to allow some leeway if you're buying candles for a particular event.
  • Prevent tunneling. Always allow your candle to burn until the entire surface is molten before extinguishing the flame. This helps prevent tunneling, which is when the center of the candle burns down but the edges remain solid. 
  • Trim the wicks. You should regularly trim down the wicks on your candles to around a quarter of an inch so your candle burns cleaner and with less smoke. 
  • Position candles carefully. Pillar candles make a great centerpiece on a dining table. Be sure to keep them a safe distance from anything flammable. 
Although pillar candles are freestanding, you might want to place them on a small dish or piece of material to catch drips.


Q. Do pillar candles drip? 

A. Quality pillar candles are designed to burn without dripping, but even the best ones can sometimes drip under the wrong conditions. Burn your candle away from fans and drafts and snuff out your candle rather than blowing it out to keep the wick in the center. When you have multiple candles, burn them at least 4 inches away from each other to prevent the heat from one candle causing another to melt or warp. 

Q. Where in my home should I place my pillar candles? 

A. You can position pillar candles anywhere in your home. They're great for creating a warm, welcoming atmosphere in a living room or an intimate environment at the dining table. You can also place pillar candles in a bathroom to enjoy while you have a long bath, in an entrance hall to create a cozy ambience as guests step through the door, or in a bedroom to light while you relax. Just be sure to blow them out before you fall asleep, and never leave a lit candle unattended.

Q. What are the cleanest candles to burn? 

A. All candles give off some compounds that make the air in your home less healthy to breathe, but not in such a high volume that you need to worry — unless you're burning hundreds of candles at once. That said, some candles burn more cleanly than others. If you want a clean-burning candle, choose one with a 100% cotton wick and a core made of cellulose or other plant matter rather than fine wire. Wax material matters more than the wick material, but it can be problematic with pillar candles. Paraffin wax is the worst, but it’s often used to make pillar candles because it's extremely firm. Soy wax, beeswax, and vegetable waxes burn cleaner than paraffin but are softer and less commonly used. You can find some pillar candles made without paraffin wax, but even blends with some paraffin wax and some plant-based or beeswax are better than 100% paraffin wax.  


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