Skip to Content

19 Best Candle Alternatives for Ambient Light and Scent

Flameless battery-powered candles on bathtub ledge

There are 2 aspects to choosing a candle alternative.

First, you may be seeking an alternative lighting option that’s similar in purpose, placement, and ambiance that candles provide.

Second, you may be looking for a scent alternative.

We cover both reasons below.

Related: Types of Candle Holders | Types of Candles | Candle Burning Tips

Candlelight Alternatives

1. Electric/Battery-Powered Candles (Flameless Candles)

Antizer Flameless Candles 4" 5" 6" Set of 3 Ivory Dripless Real Wax Pillars Include Realistic Dancing LED Flames and 10-Key Remote Control with 24-Hour Timer Function 400+ Hours by 2 AA Batteries

Source: Amazon

Electric candles, or flameless candles, are lighting devices that are powered by either a battery or electricity, and they present a lighting effect that’s the same as that of a candle.

We have several of these in our home. We have young kids so it’s a safer option. Besides, whenever we use real candles, our young boys continuously blow them out. It’s actually funny when a 3-year-old tries to blow out a battery-powered candle. He has no chance of course.


  • Can be left on when you leave the room
  • Come in a variety of shapes, colors, and sizes
  • Last a long period of time, since batteries can be replaced
  • Device can be controlled by a remote


  • Don’t give off any fragrance like candles do, unless you can buy certain aroma-infused flameless candles that release the same smell as melted wax
  • Batteries needed are more expensive than generic batteries
  • Some electric candles don’t give off the same lighting effect that a real candle flame gives off

Electric candles, or flameless candles, usually cost anywhere from $5.00 to $20.00.

2. Table Lamp

Aooshine Bedside Table Lamp, Minimalist Solid Wood Table Lamp Bedside Desk Lamp With Square Flaxen Fabric Shade for Bedroom, Dresser, Living Room, Kids Room, College Dorm, Coffee Table, Bookcase

Source: Amazon

A good ole table lamp like the one above is a fantastic candle substitute. The above one may be a little tall obscuring the people across the table, but it’s not any bigger than a full bouquet.


  • No flame (although this can be a con given the flame is an attractive aspect of candles). In this instance, I’m referring to no dangerous flame.
  • No mess.
  • No replacing anything other than a bulb every now and then.
  • Looks great.


  • Fairly large.
  • Need a cord which gets in the way. You could look for a battery-powered table lamp.
  • No ambient flame.

3. Wine Bottle Lights

6 Pack 20-LEDS Spark Wine Bottle Light, Cork Shape Battery Copper Wire String Lights for Bottle DIY, Christmas, Wedding and Party Décor (Warm White)

Source: Amazon

Candle bottle lights are a bit gimmicky, but they work as an alternative to a candle.

4. Illuminated Bowl/Vase

MULTI-SPARKING Solar Power Strand Crystal Ball 30LED Lights 14ft Waterproof UL Certified Mood Lighting for Holiday Wedding Home and Garden Decoration (Cool White)

Source: Amazon

This option is much like the illuminated wine bottle. I like the blue light in this one.

5. LED String Lights in Clear Vase

SEEOU 6 PCS Fairy Lights LED Starry String Lights with 20 Micro LEDs on 3.3FT/1m Copper Wire, Powered by 2xCR2032(Incl) Batteries, for Wedding Party Holiday Halloween Christmas Decorations, Warm White

Source: Amazon

Go ahead and create your own illuminated table piece with a string of LED lights and any transparent object. I like this example the most. It’s a plain glass vase with small LED string lights entwined inside. Simple, but looks good.

Another perk with using LED string lights is there’s no cord getting in the way for a power source.

6. Fairy Lights

Fairy string lights on wall in bedroom

Source: Etsy

Fairy lights are powered by either electricity or batteries, and are presented as small light bulbs on a strand that are used for the decoration of homes.


  • Provide the same relaxed lighting that candles offer
  • Last for long periods of time
  • Come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors


  • Don’t give off any fragrant scents like candles do
  • Light-bulbs need to be replaced after a certain amount of time
  • The strands with the lights on them are usually short, and the long ones can be expensive

Fairy lights or holiday lights cost anywhere from $10.00 to $40.00.

7. Curtain with String Lights

Twinkle Star 300 LED Window Curtain String Light Wedding Party Home Garden Bedroom Outdoor Indoor Wall Decorations, Warm White

Source: Amazon

If it’s unique, ambient interior lighting you seek from candles but don’t want candles, consider an illuminated curtain that you can use on windows, bed canopy, hang on a wall, in a doorway – so many uses. It looks great too. This particular product has sold a truckload on Amazon.

8. Lava Lamp

Lava the Original 14.5-Inch Silver Base Lamp with Yellow Wax in Blue Liquid

Source: Amazon

I’m not getting a lava lamp any time soon (those days are over), but they are popular, inexpensive and certainly function like a candle.

Candle Scent Alternatives

9. Oil Warmers

Hosley White Ceramic Oil Warmer - 4.2" High for Use with Tea Lights. Ideal for Spa and Aromatherapy with Brand Essential Oils and Fragrance Oils. O6

Source: Amazon

An oil warmer is a device that heats up fragrant oils and then disperses the scents from the fragrance into the air. They can be either battery operated or require electricity.


  • Scent lasts for long periods of time
  • Doesn’t affect the air quality
  • Delivers the same relaxed lighting that candles do, if you buy one with a light


  • Can be dangerous to have hot oil displayed
  • Oils are difficult to change in the device

Oil warmers cost anywhere from $5.00 to $20.00.

10. Wax Warmers

COOSA Ceramic Heart-Shaped Pattern Oil Warmer Electric Incense Wax Tart Burner Fragrance Candle Wax Warmer Night Light Aroma Decorative Lamp for Home Office Bedroom Living Room Gifts & Decor

Source: Amazon

Wax warmers are devices that are either electrically or battery powered and they contain a small dish the wax sits in and melts. As the heat melts the wax, the scents are dispersed into the air.


  • Most similar to a candle, since they contain melted wax as well as the same relaxed lighting
  • Scent is strong
  • The same device can be used to put either essential oils or waxes into


  • The waxes are difficult to clean out of the dish to change scents
  • Scents don’t last as long as candles
  • The hot wax is a hazard to have displayed

Wax warmers cost anywhere from $6.00 to $20.00.

11. Reed or Stick Diffusers

Reed diffuser on the table

Stick diffusers are glass bottles or containers that deliver scent by using a wick system. There is a fragrance oil contained in the bottle or container and sticks made of various materials, like reed. And the fragrance from the oil seeps up and out of the sticks, delivering fragrance into the air.


  • No batteries or electricity are required
  • Presents a modern, simple look
  • Natural and safe way for your house to smell fresh


  • Different material sticks give off different amounts of fragrances
  • The scents only last a few days

Reed or stick diffusers cost anywhere from $5.00 to $50.00.

12. Fragrant Flowers

Bouquet of flowers

Fragrant flowers are plants that give off a natural smell when they’re placed in a room. They can be displayed as either bouquets in a vase with water or they can be placed in pots that contain soil.


  • Offer candle alternatives because they don’t offer a fire hazard
  • No electricity, batteries, or heat required
  • Beautiful displays
  • Get rid of harmful toxins in the air
  • Offers a way to bring nature indoors


  • Scent from flowers or plants isn’t very strong
  • The bouquets of flowers die quickly
  • All plants and flowers can die if they’re not taken care of properly

Fragrant flowers and plants can cost anywhere from $10.00 to $30.00.

13. Indoor Herb Garden

Kitchen herb garden

An indoor herb garden is a display of a group of various planted herbs that release a fresh, natural fragrance.


  • Counts as alternatives to candles because they deliver natural scents
  • No electricity, batteries, or heat required
  • Require little maintenance


  • Plants can die quickly if not taken care of properly
  • Expensive

An indoor herb garden costs anywhere from $70.00 to $200.00.

14. Plug-in Scented Oil Air Freshener

Glade PlugIns Scented Oil Air Freshener, Electric Warmer, 2.0 Count

A plug-in air freshener is a device that has a container with scented oil that plugs into an outlet and consistently diffuses the scented oil through the air.


  • Offers candle alternatives because it requires little maintenance
  • The scents last long periods of time
  • The air quality is not affected


  • The oil doesn’t last very long
  • The device takes up outlet space, which most people see as problematic

Plug-in air fresheners usually cost around $10.00 to $20.00.

See 20 natural air freshener ideas here.

15. Potpourri


Potpourri is a mixture of dried petals and spices that are placed in either a bowl or a bag, and the dried petals release fragrance into the air.


  • Present as alternatives to candles because it requires no maintenance
  • Natural
  • Fragrance lasts for several months
  • You can make these yourself


  • The smell is very precise
  • Limited scents to choose from
  • Time-consuming to make yourself

Potpourri usually costs anywhere from $5.00 to $20.00.

16. Automatic Air Freshener Spray

Air Wick Life Scents Freshmatic Automatic Spray Kit (Gadget + 2 Refills), Summer Delights, Air Freshener

An automatic spray is a battery operated device that automatically sprays fragrance into the air on a timer. You can insert the fragrance by placing an air freshener spray can into the container, so that the device can push the nozzle down every few minutes.


  • Comes in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes
  • There is a variety of scents to put into the device
  • Requires little to no maintenance


  • The sound of the spray is loud and unexpected
  • The scent that the air freshener gives off only lasts for a few minutes until the device sprays the freshener again

Automatic spray air fresheners cost anywhere from $5.00 to $20.00.

17. Incense


Incense is a gum, spice, or other substance that is usually present in stick form and is burned for the fragrance that it releases.


  • Encourages emotional release and clams the nervous system
  • Provides the same soothing burning smell that candles offer


  • Affects the air quality
  • Doesn’t provide the relaxed lighting that candles offer
  • The burning of the sticks counts as a safety hazard

Incense usually costs around $3.00 to $10.00.

18. Essential Oil Diffuser

Essential Oil Diffuser

See essential oil diffusers here

An essential oil diffuser is a device that breaks down oils into micro molecules that are released into the air, giving off certain fragrances that are known for their health benefits.


  • Scents help you unwind and relax
  • Acts as a humidifier too, since the oil-infused water is released directly into the air
  • Repels insects
  • Each bottle of essential oil lasts a long period of time, since only a few drops of it are needed for each use


  • Oils aren’t FDA regulated, requiring you to research which brands of oils are healthy and which aren’t
  • Can negatively impact the air quality if artificially-scented oils are used instead of organic essential oils

Essential oil diffusers cost around $15.00 to $50.00.

19. Air Freshener Sprays

Air freshener sprays are scented sprays that come in a bottle or a can container that may be dispersed around a room to spread its liquid fragrance.


  • Cheaper than any other method
  • Comes in varieties of scents


  • Scent doesn’t last very long after it’s sprayed
  • Affects the air quality

Air freshener sprays cost anywhere from $3.00 to $20.00.