What Is Candle Throw and Why It Matters

If you’ve ever purchased a candle online, then you might be somewhat familiar with the terms “candle throw,” “hot throw,” and “cold throw.”  

And if you haven’t, just take a quick scroll through the reviews sections for any candle and you’re likely to find a couple of candle connoisseurs commenting about how strong (or weak) the throw is. 

Why is it so important? 

These terms used to be jargon for candlemakers, but today they’ve become important concepts for candle consumers to learn. Knowing what candle throw is will help you understand the differences between candle brands and how to choose the right candle for your space. 

The Definition of Candle Throw

Candle throw is a term that describes how well scent travels through the air to fill a space. 

If you’ve tried a variety of candles from multiple brands or companies, you might have noticed that sometimes you’re only able to savor a candle’s fragrance from a few feet away, while other times you’re able to smell a candle in another room all the way on the other side of your home. 

While scent and fragrance describe what the candle smells like, throw describes the quality of that smell — how strong or weak it is, and how it permeates throughout the room. 

A strong candle throw means that the fragrance travels farther and can fill up a larger space, while a weak candle throw means that the fragrance can only be noticed up close. 

When buying candles, most people only think about finding a combination of fragrances that they enjoy and neglect to consider the scent throw. Once they start burning the candle, they might be disappointed to realize that the scent isn’t as noticeable as they expected.

Cold Throw vs. Hot Throw

The terms “cold throw” and “hot throw” describe how scent travels before a candle is lit and after it’s lit, respectively. 

In other words, cold throw is how strong a candle smells when you pick it up off of a store shelf. Hot throw is how strong a candle smells when you’re burning it at home. 

One important thing to understand when buying a candle is that a strong cold throw doesn’t necessarily guarantee a strong hot throw (relative to candles from other brands). Depending on a candle’s design and the type of wax used, it might have a robust cold throw but a weak hot throw or vice versa. 

Cold throw can also smell differently from hot throw, depending on the type of candle you buy. For cheaper candles with a single dominant scent (e.g. a standard lavender candle), there won’t be much a difference. But for a luxury candle with a well-balanced combination of many different scents, you’ll notice that the fragrance may seem to undergo a transformation after you light it. 

In the end, as a person who appreciates luxury candles, you’ll most likely care more about hot throw than cold throw. After all, you get the most out of savoring and enjoying a beautifully scented candle while you’re burning it. 

The Science behind Candle Throw

From a scientific perspective, candle throw describes the rate at which fragrance molecules evaporate from the candle wax into the surrounding air.  

The scents we love come from fragrance oils and other ingredients mixed into candle wax, which is then poured, cured, and packaged into an elegant candle. When molecules from the fragrance oils evaporate into the air and into our noses, we perceive the “smell.” 

This process of evaporation is constantly happening even when the candle is unlit, producing cold throw — but it speeds up significantly at higher temperatures. As the candle burns and the wax becomes hot, a large amount of fragrance molecules are quickly released into the air, producing hot throw. 

We mentioned before that cold throw sometimes smells differently than hot throw. That’s because different types of fragrance molecules evaporate at different rates and temperatures. Due to these differences, we describe fragrances as having top, middle, and bottom notes. 

  • Top notes have lower evaporation points, meaning they start evaporating more quickly at lower temperatures. As a result, you’ll notice that top notes are more dominant when the candle is unlit. Common examples of top notes are fruity and citrus-y scents like mandarin and bergamot
  •  Middle notes have a moderate evaporation point and come through next. Although not as obvious as top or bottom notes, you might notice the middle notes coming out in the early stages of burning the candle — as the fragrance starts to change right after you light it. 
  •  Bottom notes have high evaporation points and become more dominant when the candle is burning. Examples of bottom notes typically include deep, full-bodied aromas like patchouli, amber, and musk.

The size of the room and how air circulates also plays a part in determining candle throw. After the fragrance molecules evaporate into the air, good circulation will help the scent travel farther.  

Therefore, when choosing which candle to buy, you should be mindful about where you plan to burn it.  

  • If you’re planning to place it next to a tub in a small bathroom with closed doors, you might opt for a candle with a gentler, less overpowering scent throw. 
  • On the other hand, if you’re trying to fill a home or large living room — or even perhaps an office or retail store — then you’ll want to look for candles with a robust and far-reaching scent throw.   

There is no such thing as good or bad candle throw — it all comes down to your preference and the ambience that you’re trying to achieve.

How to Choose a Candle with Strong Hot Throw

Candle throw is largely determined by 4 main components of a candle: the wick, the wax, the fragrance oils, and the container.  

By understanding how each of these affect the throw, you can get a pretty good idea of how strong a candle is, even when you’re trying to order one online without being able to smell it first. 

The wick controls the temperature at which a candle burns. And as we discussed earlier, higher temperatures lead to more evaporation and therefore stronger hot throws. 

Look for candles that use thicker and higher-quality wicks or have double wicks (like the ones we make at the Harlem Candle Company). 

The type of wax is another critical factor. People often say that soy wax has a worse hot throw than paraffin. That’s because soy wax has a lower melting point, so in its liquid state, melted soy wax is not as hot as melted paraffin and therefore has a weaker throw.  

But that doesn’t mean paraffin is better than soy wax — makers of high-quality soy candles compensate for the difference in melting point by using thicker wicks to increase the temperature of the liquified soy wax, resulting in equal or better scent throws. 

The quality and quantity of fragrance oils also affect the candle throw. Pure, high-quality fragrance oils that are free of impurities like phthalates and are mixed into the wax at an optimal concentration will give a cleaner burn and stronger throw.  

Lastly, the size of the candle container also plays an important role, since it determines the maximum size and surface area of your wax pool. The larger the wax pool, when the surface is fully melted, the faster fragrance molecules can evaporate and produce a strong scent throw.

Other Tips for Maximizing Candle Throw

  • Let your candles burn longer. You’ll get the strongest hot throw when the entire top layer of wax has melted and reached its maximum temperature.  
  • Avoid tunneling. A larger wax pool allows fragrance molecules to evaporate faster, giving you a stronger scent. Check out our article about how to fix and prevent tunneling
  • Circulate the air. Keep doors open to allow the scents to permeate. A gentle breeze from a fan or window will also help the fragrance spread.
  • Read reviews. Now that you know what candle throw means, you’ll be able to decipher how others describe their experiences with a candle before you buy it.