incense sticks vs incense cones

Whether or not to use an incense stick or incense cone mainly comes down to personal preference. This article will discuss how incense sticks and cones are different.

incense cones vs incense sticks infographic

Incense Cones vs Incense Sticks

There are hundreds of options when it comes to incense fragrances and types. You can also choose to purchase either incense sticks or incense cones.

Each one has slightly different properties, and they can be used for different purposes.

incense sticks vs incense cones

How Cones and Sticks Are Made

Incense sticks can be made with or without a core. Most common incense sticks have a bamboo core. The sticks are made by dipping a thin bamboo piece into water, essential oils, and dried incense ingredients.

The stick will be dipped repeatedly until it’s coated, and only a small section will be left bare at the bottom.

Solid incense sticks are made in a slightly different way. Instead of a runny mixture, powdered incense ingredients, oils, and a binding agent are mixed into a paste.

The paste is then formed into small stick shapes. Once it has dried, the incense stick is complete.

Incense cones are made in a way that’s very similar to incense sticks without a core. A thick paste of incense ingredients and a binding agent, which is usually a special type of wood, are mixed together.

The paste is pressed into cone molds. Each cone is then removed and allowed to dry.

Some cone incense has a small hole at the bottom. This hole encourages smoke to flow down instead of up.

These incense cones are called backflow cones, and they can be used in decorative holders that create paths for the smoke to travel.

In general, similar ingredients are used in both incense sticks and cones. However, more expensive ingredients are often formed into sticks instead of cones.

It’s generally easier to make sticks, even if they don’t have a core. Cones, on the other hand, must be made of certain ingredients in order to hold their shape.

For this reason, incense sticks can often be found in a wider variety of scents.

incense stick surrounded by leaves


Both incense sticks and cones are lit by lighting the top tip of the incense and then fanning or blowing out the flame. This leaves a glowing ember that slowly burns the incense, creating a fragrant smoke.

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Incense sticks are usually slightly easier to light, as the tip catches more readily. However, lighting incense cones isn’t too difficult.

It’s important to wait for the flame to catch, which can sometimes take between 10 and 30 seconds, before you fan it out.

Incense sticks can be extinguished and saved for later use by pressing the tip off, breaking off the ember and leaving the rest of the incense intact. You can also put out a stick by cutting the tip off.

Either method will preserve the rest of the incense stick so it can be used at a later time. Many people dip their incense in water, but although this will extinguish the ember, it can cause problems when the incense is relit later.

The only way to put out cone incense is by immersing it in water. This will stop the cone from burning, but you most likely won’t be able to use the cone again, as the water will damage the integrity of the cone and affect the way it burns.

burning incense cone

Burn Rate

Although they are smaller, incense sticks tend to burn more slowly than incense cones. Exactly how long an incense stick burns will depend on what type of stick it is, what the ingredients are, and how long the stick is.

Most incense sticks with a core will burn for about an hour. Shorter sticks without a core will usually burn for between 20 and 40 minutes. Incense cones, on the other hand, usually burn for between 10 and 30 minutes. Backflow cones tend to burn for a shorter amount of time.


Because so much of an incense cone burns at once, cones tend to have a stronger scent. As the ember works its way down the cone, towards the widest part, even more incense burns at once, so the scent becomes stronger the longer you burn it.

Incense sticks, on the other hand, burn evenly, so the scent is even throughout the burning time. Sticks tend to have a lighter scent.

Incense sticks are often a better choice when you need a lighter smell and you want the smell to last for an hour or more.

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Incense cones, on the other hand, provide a quick scent boost, but the smell doesn’t usually linger for too long.

Clean Up

Incense cones are usually easier to clean up. As the cone burns, the ash falls into a small circle or pile at the bottom of the cone. Once the cone has finished burning, it’s easy to dump the ash out of the holder.

The ash from an incense stick can sometimes fall outside of the holder, which can create a small mess.

It’s always a good idea to place a non-flammable mat or dish under a stick incense holder if the holder doesn’t have a space to catch the ash.

It’s important to always make sure the holder is cool, especially when using cone incense, before you pick it up to dump out the ash.

incense sticks burning in a bowl


Both incense sticks and cones are fairly affordable to purchase. Incense cones tend to be less expensive than incense sticks. Expect to pay around $.012-$0.14 per stick and around $0.06-$0.08 per cone. Depending on the size of the package or box you buy, the price can vary.

How are incense sticks and cones different?

We know that the methods of producing incense sticks and cones are slightly different. Other ways they differ are listed in the following table.

Incense stickIncense cone
PriceMore expensiveLess expensive
LightingEasier to lightHarder to light
ScentLighter scentStronger scent
Clean upHarder to clean upEasier to clean up
ShapeLong thin stickCone shaped
Burn rate20-40 min (no core) 10-30 min

How are incense sticks and incense cones similar?

As mentioned, there are some differences between incense sticks and cones. There are also some similarities.

  • Many options to choose from for each type
  • Although the precise ingredients can be different, certain essential ingredients remain the same
  • Similar scents available for both types
  • Both can be used for similar purposes including meditation, creating a peaceful atmosphere, spiritual, and religious reasons.
  • Affordable and readily available

Disadvantages of using incense sticks and cones

There are some known health risks involved in using incense. According to, they include:

  • Cancer-causing agents
  • Can lead to respiratory concerns including asthma
  • Can cause body inflammation
  • Negative impacts on metabolism
  • Increased risk of heart disease

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