Whether you burn incense to cover up strong odors, for relaxation, or to simply make your home smell nice, it’s a turn off to smell heavy smoke instead.
Some types of incense can actually smell less like flowers or resin and more like smoke. It really depends on the quality and sort of ingredients used to make the incense.
Read on to learn why incense can smell smokey and the tools and kinds of incense you can buy to prevent smokiness.
What Does Incense Smell Like?
Ideally, incense smells exactly like the primary ingredient that’s marketed in the packaging. Whether you’re buying rose incense, or sandalwood and whether you burn incense cones or sticks, you want it to smell like that fragrance that you have in mind.
But in some cases, you will scarcely experience aroma and mostly smell smoke. This can be due to a number of reasons.
1. Poor Quality Incense
If your incense is produced using inferior ingredients, then you will likely experience high smoke content.
Chemical accelerants and synthetic fragrance oils found in some incense can produce dark smoke when burned.
There do exist fragrance oils derived from natural plant elements and are not toxic but those are not the ones I’m referencing here. I’m only referencing the completely artificial fragrances that prevent a clean burn and can be harmful, especially to children.
2. Wooden Core Incense
Some incense can be made using natural ingredients but produce more smoke than desired because it has a bamboo core.
As the incense smolders, its wooden core is burning right along with it. In some cases this can cause your incense to smell more like a burning campfire than lavender or lemongrass.
3. Width of the Wooden Core
But it is possible to burn incense that has a thin wooden core without the smell of smoke. The Herb & Earth series by Nippon Kodo is the perfect example of this.
Their bamboo incense is made using natural ingredients and the bamboo is so thin that I was unsure that it would even hold the stick up properly.
Very little smoke is produced, and when I light this incense all that I smell is the fragrance (Right that scent is their refreshing Matcha bamboo incense.)
4. Personal Differences
Another factor to consider is that we all experience incense differently. My sibling strongly dislikes incense and nearly gags whenever entering my room. I rarely burn incense that produces a high smoke content, though, and when I’m in the room, I don’t smell smoke in the same way as my sibling.
So keep in mind that people are different. A brand that you love, another person might strongly dislike. If you feel that your incense smells like smoke, you might have to try a few quality brands in order to find one that is a better fit for you.
Is It Possible for Smoke Not to Smell?
There are some lower to mid-level brands that make incense that produce a moderate amount of smoke without the stench. Companies that form their incense out of charcoal and then dip those incense sticks into fragrance oils are frowned upon by some incense lovers.
But the quality of charcoal used is an important factor. For instance, Gonesh makes incense formed out of their trademarked High Charcoal. While their incense sticks generate more smoke than companies like Nippon Kodo, the smoke doesn’t stink. It’s also not an overwhelming amount that would cause your eyes to dry out.
One of my favorite Gonesh fragrances is Extra Rich Arctic Chill. It has a fresh, crisp scent that helps increase my focus. When I burn it, I see smoke, but I don’t smell it.
From what I understand, Gonesh uses an essential oil based fragrance oil. To me this means that they combine natural and high quality synthetic oils to manufacture the scents that their sticks are dipped into.
So this can be an example of choosing incense that’s made using higher quality ingredients in order to avoid filling your space with the smell of smoke. While you won’t experience physical health benefits when burning Gonesh incense, not all dipped incense is horribly bad for you.
But to play devil’s advocate, even though charcoal is organic material, excessive exposure to it can potentially lead to respiratory health problems. Other factors, like a history of smoking and pre-existing health problems also play a role, though.
I don’t know what makes Gonesh’s charcoal more refined, and I’m sure it’s a trade secret, but solely coming in contact with their incense would be unlikely to produce any major health problems.
Of course you’d have to assess your situation, do your own research, and then decide for yourself. What I know for sure is that their smoke isn’t unbearable or smelly.
Read more: Is Incense Made of Dung
Is It Possible to Make the Smoke Smell Go Away?
If you want to continue to use incense that you already have but reduce the smell of smoke, there are a couple possible solutions.
1. Use An Electric Incense Burner
This solution would be most appropriate for incense cones, resins, and other loose forms of incense.
Cones produce a lot of smoke because it’s material is compacted into one little lump. Resins give off fragrant wafts but since they’re warmed on a charcoal tablet, those tablets produce smelly smoke. Since they burn at an uncontrollably high temperature, the charcoal tablets also cause the resin to produce streams and streams of smoke.
An electric incense burner can help create a more pleasant, low smoke experience. You can control the temperature of the warmer. And since they burn at a more moderate temperature, your incense will burn more slowly, making for a more lasting fragrance.
Here’s an example of how electric burners work:
2. Use a Burner Case or Coffin
Most frequently we see incense burned while sticking straight up from an incense older. You can also stick them in pots of dirt, or a sand filled glass. But incense cases, sometimes called coffins, also exist.
While these containers won’t reduce the amount of smoke produced by your incense, they diffuse the smoke, preventing too much of it from filling the air around you. It’s not the perfect solution, but these coffins seem to filter the smoke smell a bit.
You can burn both sticks and cones with the lid open or closed. This model even has a storage compartment to hold sticks you’re preparing to burn.
Incense That Doesn’t Smell Like Smoke
Even when burning incense sticks and cones that are solely crafted from biological materials, you will experience some smoke. The difference, though, is that there’s less of it, and you’re unlikely to smell it.
Incense that’s a combination of wood powers, plant matter and chopped herbs, tree resins, and essential oil fragrances typically smell like those ingredients. This kind of incense is often held together using tree gums or another botanical ingredient.
In most cases, there isn’t a wooden core. But as I mentioned, the Herb & Earth series is built around a thin wooden stick and doesn’t smell like smoke.
There are a number of brands, some moderately priced, others more high-end, that you can rely on to produce incense that does not smell like smoke.
Here are three suggestions:
1. Shoyeido Low Smoke Collection
Customers who love incense but have smoke sensitivities, enjoy burning incense again when they discover this line from Shoyeido. Other incense collections from this brand produce little smoke as it is, so if you don’t want to smell smoke at all when burning incense, you may want to try this collection.
There are four scents. All of them are made with sandalwood and a blend of other plants and herbs.
2. Nippon Kodo Kayuragi Collection
Pretty much any incense produced by this company as well is going to have a very low smoke content.
The Kayuragi collection produces a very slow and light drag of smoke that is far more pleasant than irritating. Experiencing this incense is quite relaxing. There are fifteen scents in this collection ranging from woody, to floral, to fruity, here are three:
3. Asayu Japan Low Smoke Incense
On the higher end, you’ll find Asayu Japan incense. Using only natural ingredients and fragrances, this low smoke line won’t produce irritating smoke. You’ll only smell pure botanical matter.
They are sold as single fragrances, like this box of lotus sticks. And I really like these combination packs. This one combines green tea and cherry blossom incense sticks – one scent for morning and the other to wind down at the end of the day.
Incense can smell like smoke but the ingredients used and how it’s burned can reduce the amount of smoke produced.
Also consider individual preferences. Sometimes trying a new brand can make a huge difference.