Incense sticks are one of the best ways to fill your home with wonderful, fragrant scents. Today, I’ll show you how to make incense sticks that are powerful smelling and long lasting. We will be minimising the black smoke by using dipropylene glycol (DPG) and infusing the stick with fragrance oil.
- Incense sticks are commonly called agarbatti in India and I prefer them over other types of air fresheners as burning these turns the act into more of an event, instilling me with tranquillity as I strike the match. This may be psychosomatic, but at the very least your home will smell great and you can impress your friends with an amazing, homemade gift!
- If you really want to impress, when you make your incense sticks you can substitute the fragrance oil with essential oils, which have been used for centuries for their mood altering and boosting properties. But their price tag may put you off a little. More on this later on.
- This recipe will produce around 30 homemade incense sticks. When showing you how to make incense sticks many recipes will tell you that you can do it in batches of 5, but for a strong smelling incense you need to do them in batches of no less than 20-30. Keep in mind that the more incense sticks you get out of this recipe means more bang for your buck!
What You Need To Make Incense Sticks
- 2 tsp (10 mls) Premium Sandalwood fragrance oil – Amazon
- 1 tbsp and 1 tsp (20mls) Dipropylene Glycol (DPG) – Amazon
- 20-30 Plain, unscented incense sticks (depending on length) – Amazon
Important notes on unscented incense sticks: You must buy pre-prepared, unscented incense sticks. Ordinary bamboo sticks will not work. You can pick them up very cheaply online from Amazon or from your local aromatherapy store. If you have a store that sells Wiccan supplies nearby, you’ll likely find them there as well. I have said that this recipe can make around 30 incense sticks dependant upon the length.
Note on DPG: Dipropylene glycol is a chemical (although has exceptionally low toxicity) that will help your incense burn properly and reduce black smoke. I wouldn’t omit this, unless you want your house to smell like you did a bit of indoor barbecuing. It is used widely in craft and industrial perfume making, and again is available inexpensively online at Amazon.
Equipment For Making Incense Sticks:
- Rectangular box or dish (must be lipped), long enough to fit your unscented sticks.
- Rectangular box, cooling rack or anything you can use to dry the sticks.
- Teaspoon and tablespoon measurers or measuring cylinder (in mls).
How To Make Incense Sticks
Step 1. Measure out 1 tbsp and 1 tsp dipropylene glycol into the box or lipped dish you intend to soak your sticks. Then, measure out 2 tsp of your chosen fragrance oil (or essential oil) into the box/dish with the DPG. This time I’ve opted for sandalwood. Stir well, but be careful to let the oil on your spoon drip back into the box/dish.
Step 2. Take your sticks, in batches of 10, and soak them in the oil blend. As we have 30mls of oil, you won’t want to soak any more than 10 at a time as you’ll need the sticks to be fully (or at least mostly) submerged in the oil. If you’re using longer sticks, remember you might have to put in a few less, and you can trim the plain, bamboo stick end if you need to make them fit.
Step 3. Cover the box with plastic wrap so that nothing can evaporate and place aside, out of direct sunlight, for 24 hours so that the sticks will fully infuse with the oils.
Step 4. Once they have soaked for 24 hours, get another box/dish. I’ve used one similar to the box I infused the sticks with, only longer. Wearing a rubber glove, pick out the sticks and place them, spaced out onto your second box/dish so that air can circulate around them (see picture).
Step 5. Then put aside, out of direct sunlight, to dry for 24 hours. Depending on the climate of where you live, you may need to leave them a few days, particularly if it’s humid. If you find they aren’t drying quickly enough for you, pop them somewhere a bit warmer and dryer.
Step 6. Repeat steps 3 and 4 of how to make incense sticks until you have 2 or 3 batches. You may find your sticks do not fully return to their original colour once dry, which is fine.
Once your homemade incense sticks are dry, they will be ready to burn. I keep my batches separate at first and burn one from each as quality control. There will be less oil after each batch soaks, so you will need to be sure that each batch has been fully infused. If I’m making them just for me, sometimes I skip this step, but it’s vital if you’re planning to gift these.
Try to store them in a zip lock plastic bag to maintain their strength.
How To Use Incense Sticks
Now you know how to make incense sticks lets have a look at using them in your home.
These are very easy to use if you get yourself an incense stick burner. In fact, I wouldn’t really recommend burning without one. These vary in price, but you can get a a cool incense holder or burner on Amazon for a couple of dollars. If you’re crafty with wood or metal, you could even make a diy incense holder!
- Simply slide or prop the bamboo end of the stick into the end groove of the tray. It will hang over the rest of the tray so that when the stick burns the ash will collect for easy disposal (see picture above for better explanation).
- Once secure, light the tip of the incense with a match or butane lighter. As soon as it catches, blow it out and allow the ember to burn down the stick, vaporising the essential oils into a delightfully scented smoke.
- Depending on the length of the unscented stick you’ve bought to use in this recipe, your sticks could burn for up to 2 hours! The length I have usually last about an hour, sometimes more and sometimes less. If yours are quite long and burning for over an hour is too much for you, when you’re half way through you can extinguish by dipping just the very tip of your burning stick (where the ember is glowing) in a bit of water and then relight when you want to use it again. I sometimes do this if I have to rush out after lighting but don’t want to ruin a stick.
Important: This probably goes without saying, but be careful to watch your little ones when incense are burning in the house, and NEVER let them light them themselves.Store in a dark place, out of the reach of children. Also, do not attempt to burn these until they are fully dry.
How To Gift Homemade Incense Sticks
Like so many homemade crafts on this site, homemade incense sticks make the perfect homemade gift! Craft a designer fragrance with a special selection of oils, just for them! Include an incense stick tray with the sticks to complete the gift set. I like to pop a bit of lovely ribbon around the sticks, tie it in a bow, place in clear plastic bags and arrange in a box on a bed of shredded colored tissue paper for that wow factor! Be sure to let them know that it’s handmade!
The choice of fragrance oil is entirely yours. There are literally hundreds of different varieties of online at Amazon, such as those that mimic essential oils or a variety of different aromas like toffee, vanilla, honey or even mock designer perfumes or colognes.
Be experimental when making your incense sticks, try more than one and be creative! Keep in mind that smoke is the vehicle for your scent to waft through your home. You’ll want to avoid anything that might be unpleasant when mixed with a delicate smoky smell (e.g. chargrilled blueberry muffin stinkiness).
Try some of these combinations out if you’re struggling for inspiration!
- Calm Yourself:
Frankincense and Jasmine
- Welcome to My Home:
Vanilla and honey
- Juicy Fruit Delight:
Cherry, mango and lemon
- Kindergarten Dreams:
Cotton candy and bubblegum
How To Make These Using Essential Oils
You can use essential oils as a substitute for fragrance oil if you want to make your incense sticks extra special. I rarely do this, as essential oils can be expensive and we’d need to use a lot here. If I want to use essential oils I generally switch to my essential oil difusser as it only needs a few drops so is a lot cheaper.
However, you can still get 20-30 sticks, and if you’re gifting to that extra special someone, then go for it! Make sure they know about all the aromatherapeutic properties of their new, essential oil incense sticks.
Although we’ve only made 20 or 30 homemade incense sticks today, in the future you can make batches of hundreds by multiplying the ingredients. 200-300 sticks will need 100mls fragrance oil and 200ml DPG. Soak them in batches of no more than 100 at a time. You can then store them to gift all year round, or work out good price and sell them at your local craft fair!
There you have it, how to make incense sticks! I’ve made a lot of these and they smell wonderful, I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. Post any recipes, comments or questions below 😉