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Pet Safe Alternatives to Scented Candles and Plugins

The other day I watched a video by Dr. Karen Becker warning us about the dangers of scented candles.  Whenever Dr. Becker makes one of these videos, I laugh thinking of the people who will deny that candles are a problem.  I love candles and was bummed at the thought of getting rid of them, but not for long because I had several alternatives.  But let's address the dangers first.

Are Scented Candles Toxic?

Let's be honest.  When you're raising multiple pets, you're going to have odors in your home.  The problem is that many products on the market just mask the smell or make your house smell like Wet Dogs Doused in Vanilla.  And, given that most everything at the store seems to be made with harsh chemicals, it's not a surprise that they're bad for our pets.

Because I'm not one to be satisfied with one source (I still love you, Karen), I did a little deeper dive and with each article I read, my heart sunk.


Turns out that the wax and the wicks may be toxic.  What the hell!!!!  And when's the last time you looked to see what your candles were made of?  Me, the person who won't allow her dogs to eat any old dog treat, has NEVER looked at what my candles were made of.  In fact, I just buy tons of the ones that have the best scents.  I've spent 30 minutes sniffing candles at the store.  I'm insane.

Turns Out that Paraffin is Awful!

If your candle is made of paraffin, toss it in the trash.  Paraffin releases a soot, when burned, that causes respiratory issues and are a pain for people with asthma or heart problems.  Add to that the aromatherapy candles, which are my favorite; turns out that the synthetic oils release teeny tiny particles THAT CAUSE CANCER and other health issues as we inhale them.  So not only do these candles NOT clean the air, they mask the scent while filling our environment with cancer-causing particles.  Lovely.

One paraffin-soy candle endorsed and sold by veterinarians is the Pet Odor Exterminator Candle.  As we now know, paraffin releases soot that causes health issues.  And when researching candles for this blog post, I learned that many soy-based candles are using GMO soy.  I'm not sure if those are safe or not.  I'm so confused!!!

Think Your Candles are Safe? Think Again

I thought my candles were safe until I began looking into the ingredients.  Guess what!  The candles we buy don't list ingredients.  They do have a note that the wick isn't made of lead, which was banned in 2003, but that's it.  So I have no idea what I'm burning in my home with my dogs and cat.  Other candles that I buy say that they don't contain paraffin – yayyyy – and they're made with all-natural soy wax – yayyyy – but they don't state whether or not the soy wax is truly natural or if it's genetically modified (GMO) – booooo.  So I did some research and found one soy candle that is truly safe to use in a pet home – Pet House Candles.

But Pet House candles are expensive.  So, if we're no longer supposed to use scented candles, plug-ins, and air fresheners, and we can't afford quality/safe candles – what are safe alternatives?

1 – Buy 100% Beeswax Candles

The first, and possibly best, alternative to all the synthetic candles we're using is beeswax.  Beeswax is natural and better than any other wax available on the market because it has been subjected to the lowest amount of processing and beeswax doesn't contain a bunch of additives.  And that's not all!  Beeswax actually cleans the air instead of adding chemicals and soot into the air.

  • Beeswax candles have a cleaner burn.
  • Beeswax candles have a nice, honey scent.
  • Beeswax candles freshen the air in our home.
  • Beeswax candles burn longer with less of a mess.

Beeswax candles can also be very expensive so I recommend making candles at home or stocking up on a Black Friday or after Christmas sale.

2 – Freshen a Room by Diffusing Essential Oils

I have three diffusers that I use around the house.  I began diffusing to calm the dogs down and I liked the way the house smelled too.  Over the past year, I've become an essential oils addict and found a company that I truly love  Plant Therapy – and I use their oils on myself and around my dogs and cat.  I was diffusing a calming oil while I typed this article with my cat sleeping next to me.

I'm still learning about the benefits and risks of essentials oils.  So far, I know not to use ea tree oil, oregano oil, wintergreen oil, and thyme oil around my cat or dogs because they are said to be toxic.  While using them in small amounts may be harmless, I'm not willing to take the chance with so many other great oils available.  And until I learn more, I've decided not to use essential oils on my cat.  If Cosmo is in the room with me, I reduce the number of drops I add to the diffuser and I don't diffuse daily in an area where he's commonly present.

Worried about using essential oils around your cat?  Read this informative article by Melissa Shelton, DVM (founder of animalEO).  I often reference Dr. Shelton's book, The Animal Desk Reference II – Essential Oils for Animals, to learn which oils are safe for my dogs and cat.

3 – Freshen the Bedding with a DIY Febreeze Spray

Do you know what's cool about Febreeze?  It's a flea killer; flea eggs too.  When I brought home Jaffrey (he passed away two years ago), he was a flea-ridden, adorable kitten.  I got the fleas under control but forgot about the eggs.  I had another outbreak and someone clued me in on Febreeze.  It worked.  Now let's think about a product that we spray in the air, over our furniture, on the rugs, and on the dog beds – this product also kills fleas and their eggs and our dogs are breathing it in daily.

Ummmm, no thanks!

So now I make my own “Febreeze” by mixing water, vinegar (optional), and my favorite, pet-safe essential oil.  I buy spray bottles at the store, choosing the ones that also mist.  I usually mix 50/50 water and vinegar, and I add a few drops of an essential oil.  The amount of oils depends on the size of the bottle.  My blend doesn't kill fleas and eggs, but it serves as a great smelling deterrent when I use cedar oil.

4 – Disinfect Counters with Vinegar and Water

I use vinegar and water for cleaning.  Our home has tile and hardwood floors and I sweep and mop every other day.  I use a mixture of vinegar and water to mop the floors and clean the kitchen counters.  I worried that our home would smell like I was dying Easter Eggs, but the vinegar odor clears up quickly.  Plus water is free and vinegar is cheap; way less expensive than commercial cleaning products.

5 – Kill Odor Creating Germs with Hydrogen Peroxide

When I want to add a little oomph to my cleaning, I swap out the vinegar for hydrogen peroxide. I usually do this when the dogs track mud into the house, when the house is particularly ripe, or if I've been grinding meat (blood splatter).

I'll be honest and share that I have mixed vinegar and hydrogen peroxide together in the past – yeah, not a great idea. While nothing happened to me (or my mixture), I've learned that mixing hydrogen peroxide with vinegar in the same bottle will create peracetic acid, which is corrosive and harmful to skin, eyes, nose, throat, and lungs.

So, we can use the apple cider vinegar/water mixture and then, from a separate bottle, use a hydrogen peroxide/water mixture – but not it's best not to mix them in the bottle together.

6 – Clean Odors with an Air Purifier

And, finally, an air purifier can work wonders when it comes to cleaning odors from the home.  We haven't invested in one yet – still doing my homework – but I have friends who have seen a drastic improvement in their allergies and hayfever when they began using a diffuser.  Through my research, I've learned that air purifiers clear odors, allergens, dust, and mold – I need one badly!  My allergies are kicking my BUTT right now.  Raw local honey and a good probiotic help.  Clean air would help more.

If you have a brand that you'd recommend, please share in the comments below.

7 – Develop a Cleaning Schedule

I love lists and schedules.  If I'm left to my own devices, I'll just sit on the sofa stressing about how much I have to do and get NOTHING accomplished.  So I have a cleaning schedule that does a great job of keeping me on track.

  • I sweet and mop the floors and vacuum our area rugs every other day.
  • I wash the blankets (the dogs can chill on the furniture) once a week.
  • I swap the kitty litter and clean the pain once a week (I scoop daily).
  • Bathe the dogs every other month (Sydney gets a bath every 3 weeks or so).
  • Vacuum the upstairs once a week.
  • Dust once a week.

And so on.  It's a ton of work, but it's the only thing that keeps our house from smelling like a kennel.

Be Your Dog's Advocate

When it comes to my dogs, I know that I go overboard.  Maybe candles aren't that bad.  Maybe we don't use enough air freshener to harm our dogs.  For me, it's not about whether candles, plug-ins, incense, and air fresheners are or are not bad for our pets.  It's about choosing a less toxic path.  If there is a healthier and safer option, then I owe it to my dogs to give it a try.

To learn more about maintaining a healthy environment for your dog, be sure to check out The Dog Cancer Series.

And return tomorrow to learn tips on how we can improve our home for our dogs.

Read about the common signs of canine cancer.

Scaring People to Share Essential Oils

Whenever I write a blog post warning people about the dangers of a common product, I often get the following comments:

1 – You're just trying to scare people so that you can sell more essential oils.  I'm not affiliated with any of the essential oils MLM companies, however, I am an affiliate and customer of Plant Therapy and Simply Earth.  I have included links to both of these brands in this post, but as you can see, this isn't a salesy post to promote that brand.

2 – I've been using candles for years and my dogs are just fine.  You're an idiot. I have been using candles for years too and although my dogs aren't showing any signs of illness (except Sydney has an occasional cough), I am not willing to risk their health when there are so many safer alternatives.  It doesn't take a lot of time or money to choose a healthier option for my family and I'm including the humans in that statement too.

3 – This blog is owned by ________ and they're just trying to get you to buy their stuff. I own this blog and the trademark to Keep the Tail Wagging.  I don't have investors or partners.  This is not a sponsored post.

Using Essential Oils with Dogs

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