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Incense Sticks vs. Incense Cones

Incense Sticks vs Cones


We're passionate about incense and its long history. While there are many different types of incense, sticks and cones tend to be the most popular, so we thought we'd dive into the differences between the two.


Read on to learn more about incense sticks vs. incense cones. Let's start with sticks, as these are probably what spring to mind when people think about incense.


How do you make incense sticks?

Did you know that China's earliest stick-shaped incense dates to the Ming Dynasty (1348-1644)? Since then, stick incense has remained the most popular form of incense. For a while, cheaper and lower-quality incense sticks were called "joss sticks," but we prefer straightforward incense sticks. 


There are two types of incense sticks: one with a centre, and one without.


Generally, the type with a wooden centre is seen as Indian in its origin and associations, and Nag Champa incense is almost always made with a bamboo centre. 


Bamboo centre: You make stick incense with a bamboo centre by dipping a thin, bare bamboo stick into a mixture of water, essential oils, and incense powders. Repeat this several times until the incense stick achieves the desired size, leaving a section at the bottom that you are holding free of incense. This section at the bottom is what you use to place into an incense holder.


No centre: more commonly used in China, Japan, and Tibet, you make this type of solid incense stick by rolling an incense paste (a mixture of powdered dried incense ingredients, a binding agent, and some water). Then the incense paste is formed into a stick shape and allowed to dry – a bit like rolling long thin strands of pasta.


How do you make incense cones?

You make incense cones in a similar way to incense without a core. But, instead of rolling the paste into a long, thin stick shape, you place the incense paste into cone-shaped moulds, then allow it to dry.  


Back flow cones

Back Flow incense cones are unique in that their incense smoke flows downwards instead of upwards. These cones have a small hollow tunnel through 3/4 of the cone and a hole at the bottom.


Do you make back flow cones with the same ingredients? 


Generally, yes. You make all incense types from similar basic ingredients. 


How do you light stick incense and cone incense? 

Light incense sticks and cones in a similar way. Use a lighter and hold it to the tip of the incense cones or stick, then fan out the flame, leaving a glowing ember. Incense sticks often light quickly, while cones can take a little longer.


Do incense sticks and incense cones smell different? 

Incense sticks generally have a lighter smell than incense cones, with the scent being fairly even. Incense cones tend to give a more intense scent that increases over the length of the cone as more surface area burns. 


How do I clean up burnt incense sticks and incense cones? 

Ash is a natural residue from burning incense. Using an incense holder for your stick incense can help aid the direction the ash falls. Our back flow incense cone holders keep everything inside for a nice, neat incense-burning experience. 


Clean up after burning incense sticks in two ways:

  1. If using an incense holder with an area that collects incense ash, wait for the burnt incense and holder to cool down (about 5min), then hold the burner over a bin and tip the ash in. 
  2. If using an incense holder that does not collect ash, lay a silicone mat (or other non-flammable material) under the incense holder. Once the burning is finished, remove the burner, pick up the mat, and empty the collected ash into the bin.


Cleaning up after burning cone incense:

  1. As the ash stays in place in a cone shape, once burnt through, wait for the burnt incense and incense holder to cool down. Pick up the plate on which the incense cone is sitting and drop the cone-shaped ash into the bin. Take care when handling cone incense ash as if it loses its shape and crumbles, you may need a damp cloth to wipe up the ash.


When should I use my sticks and cones?

Use incense sticks if:


  • You want a gentle, not too overpowering smell to accompany mindfulness activities 
  • You only want the scent for 30 mins or so 
  • A slow release of scent is fine


Use back flow cones if:


  • You want to give your home a quick boost of delicious scent
  • You want the scent to increase over time
  • You want to add a visual element - the interplay of back flow incense smoke with burners is often stunning. 


There you have it – almost everything you need to know about incense sticks and incense cones. The benefits of burning incense are many, from reducing anxiety and stress to improving poor sleep hygiene. If you thrive on routine, lighting incense as you get ready for bed in the evening or as you are getting ready in the morning can help start or end your day on the right note.


Loved for centuries, incense knows no bounds and is part of many everyday religious and cultural ceremonies worldwide. Incense waterfall or backflow incense burners are a great way to enjoy the aroma and the smoky aesthetics incense offers. 


Check out the best backflow incense waterfall burner in the US today.