Backflow Incense Cones — Detailed Guide And Recommendations

When picking the best backflow incense cones, it’s only natural that we consider their scent as well as their style. The unique downward-flowing smoke is the key selling point of backflow incense cones, so it’s only natural that we consider it as important as the scent itself. 

What we want here is a visual allure of the downward-flowing smoke at its best. And since this is incense, we’d like that hit of fragrance to be enjoyable as well. 

With this article, we look at the backflow incense cones with a detailed guide and discussion. The article also includes recommendations for the best backflow incense cones and notes on what to expect. 

Let’s get started!

The Qualities Of Good Backflow Incense Cones

Backflow incense cones are interesting little trinkets. A good part of their charm is that they’re counterintuitive. We expect incense smoke to rise upwards – something we’ve seen all the time. 

Backflow incense cones deliver a pleasant surprise. 

There is a small portion of the incense smoke that rises upwards as normal. Yet, the uniqueness comes from the billowing thick streams of smoke that flow downwards. It looks surreal and also opens the possibility of using backflow incense cones as an element of decor. 

A well-designed backflow incense burner gives this smoke room to show its style. Creatively designed burners use smoke as a design element. The flowing smoke can be so much more than just incense! 

backflow incense cone in action on a burner
Backflow incense cone placed on a backflow incense burner. Notice the smoke waterfall.

I remember the first time seeing a backflow incense cone in action. The visual aspect was absolutely enthralling. The rolling smoke, the masterful execution of the burner, and the sweet aroma create a wonderful scene.

There’s almost something calming and relaxing about watching the incense smoke flow downwards and through the burner. It brings a sense of serenity and poise that can be difficult to come by some days. 

As you can guess, you’ll need a backflow incense burner to unlock the full potential of these incense cones.

Visibility Of Smoke From Backflow Incense Cones And Burners

As with everything these days, it’s important to separate marketing from the truth when buying backflow incense cones. Images on marketing websites often show thick and bright wisps of smoke flowing through the incense. 

Many of these images are slightly touched up. Of course, there is thick, visible smoke from these cones. That’s the reason we buy them in the first place! They might not always be as dense and bright as some images from certain sellers suggest.

Also worth noting is the fact that the smoke doesn’t immediately start to flow downwards after an incense cone is lit. You have to give that smoke some time to gather and cool. It will take a few seconds for the incense smoke to start its backflow!

8 Best Backflow Incense Cones To Try In 2023

Disclosure: This section contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. The product selection is independent of the affiliate status of products presented.

1. HEM Backflow Bundle Incense Cones – Best Smelling Backflow Incense Cones

Hem Backflow Incense Cones Variety Pack

HEM Backflow Bundle Incense Cones

Bundle pack with several fragrances

Good smoke backflow

Hem is one of the better-known names in the world of incense. The company produces a variety of fragrances and incense products, including backflow incense cones. These are high-quality backflow incense cones made from premium materials. 

The result is cones that produce thick smoke and a good aroma. Since we want a thick incense waterfall, the quality and density of the smoke are important. HEM cones fulfill those needs. 

They claim that the cones are made from natural and organic materials and herbs, and use the “purest” essential oils.

I find the quality as well as the scents very satisfactory. Hem offers its incense cones in a variety of scents, and they’re all pretty decent. 

My favorite is sandalwood backflow incense cones. They have a wonderful woody and earthy fragrance with sweet and floral touches. 

However, if you’re new to incense it might be worthwhile to explore new fragrances. So, it might be worthwhile to pick the variety pack or choose individual fragrances

Some of their packages also include a “protective mat.” This is basically a somewhat flimsy circular cardboard sheet. I wouldn’t put much stock in it. Although, it does a good job as a reminder to use a protective sheet for any backflow incense cone.


  • Cone length: 1.5 inches
  • Fragrances: Assorted
  • Burn time: About 15 minutes (usually less)
  • Smoke waterfall quality: Excellent

2. Aro Vatika Backflow Natural Masala Cones

Aro Vatika Backflow Natural Masala Cones

Aro Vatika Backflow Natural Masala Cones

Variety pack with several fragrances

Good smoke waterfall

Aro Vatika is another good brand offering high-quality backflow incense cones. Made from natural herbs and ingredients, these cones make a thick backflow incense waterfall, while also bringing a fresh fragrance.

The brand offers about 12 fragrances, each with a strong and admirable backflow. I like the variety pack here and believe that the general mix of fragrances works pretty well. 

The fragrance is mild, yet easily noticeable. Although the fragrance quality is average, I’d say it’s way ahead of most backflow cones available. 


  • Cone length: 1.25 inches (32 mm)
  • Fragrances: Assorted
  • Burn time: About 12 minutes
  • Smoke waterfall quality: Excellent

3. Wild Berry Backflow Cones

Wild Berry Dragon's Blood Backflow Incense Cones

Wild Berry Backflow Cones

Dragon’s Blood fragrance cones

Available in several fragrances

Average smoke waterfall

Wild Berry backflow cones take the spot on our list primarily for their origins and their wonderful scent. These cones are made in the USA with “premium ingredients.”

They have a pleasing scent, though it can be on the stronger side of things. Part of the reason for this is that they’re using extra large backflow incense cones, which look a bit like the old-school traditional cones. On that note, it seems they’ve used traditional methods to make these cones. 

It appears there is some charcoal used to build these cones. The material has been traditionally used in incense for a very long time, so its presence isn’t surprising. However, its use in a product labeled premium is a bit surprising! 

Wild Berry backflow cones are generally larger than much of their competition. These cones measure about 2 inches, while most of the competition hovers around 1 to 1.5 inches. 

The large size gives them a good burn time. It might also be the reason that these cones struggle to have a good incense smoke waterfall. Although it looks good when it happens, the rate of failure of these cones for the incense waterfall is generally higher than others. 


  • Cone length: 2 inches 
  • Fragrances: Assorted (Dragon’s Blood reviewed)
  • Burn time: About 20 minutes
  • Smoke waterfall quality: Average

4. Satya Backflow Incense Nag Champa

Satya Backflow Incense Nag Champa

Satya Backflow Incense Nag Champa

Available in several fragrance options (we like Nag Champa)

Good smoke waterfall

Nag Champa is an interesting fragrance. It’s a blend of sandalwood and champa flower, giving it an overall earthy and flowery fragrance. Nag Champa is said to be one of the best fragrances for meditation. It’s believed to be favored for spiritual and meditation purposes.

Satya Nag Champa incense cones have a pyramid-like shape and a strong aroma. Equally important, they produce a thick stream of smoke that works wonders as backflow. 

The list here highlights the Nag Champa fragrance, which I prefer from this brand. However, they offer a variety of fragrances for their incense and backflow cones.

The cone and fragrance work as intended. I like the strong fragrance it offers and the thick stream of smoke for the backflow. It’s a pretty good combo!


  • Cone length: 1.5 inches 
  • Fragrances: Nag Champa
  • Burn time: About 15 minutes
  • Smoke waterfall quality: Good

5. Soul Sticks Incense Variety Pack

Soul Sticks Incense Variety Pack

Soul Sticks Incense Variety Pack

Variety pack with several fragrances

Excellent smoke waterfall

Usually available as a variety pack, Soul Sticks incense has quite the combination of fragrances. It also works beautifully as a backflow incense, providing a thick and lovely waterfall. These are masala incense cones made with a combination of traditional herbs, spices, and resins for the scent.

They claim not to use any artificial chemicals, thus keeping the scent and the smoke on the purer side of things. To be clear, this still means that the smoke will leave an oily residue on the burner (like all backflow incense). 

However, they don’t add any chemicals to make the smoke appear thicker than it naturally would be. 

As with much of the incense cones or sticks available, these incense cones are handmade in India, where incense is a part of centuries-old religious and cultural traditions. 


  • Cone length: 1.4 inches 
  • Fragrances: Variety pack
  • Burn time: About 12 minutes
  • Smoke waterfall quality: Excellent

6. NAQSH Natural Backflow Masala Incense Cones (Jasmine)

NAQSH Natural Backflow Masala Incense Cones

NAQSH Natural Backflow Masala Incense Cones

Recommended fragrance: Jasmine

Available in several fragrances

Excellent smoke waterfall

NAQSH is another well-known incense cone maker. Their backflow cones are available in several fragrances, and also as a variety pack. My choice here is jasmine, though the others smell pretty good too. 

The brand has been around for a while. These incense sticks were previously sold under the name “Zahra”, though it’s apparent that they’ve rebranded. The masala cones burn well, have a good fragrance, and don’t contain any charcoal. 


  • Cone length: 1.4 inches 
  • Fragrances: Variety pack
  • Burn time: About 10 minutes
  • Smoke waterfall quality: Excellent

7. Tribal Soul Incense Cones Backflow

Tribal Souls Backflow Incense Cones

Tribal Soul Incense Cones Backflow

Available in several fragrances

Recommended fragrance: White Copal

Excellent smoke waterfall

Tribal Souls incense cones provide a good fragrance, while also emitting a rich backflow of smoke. The company calls these “jumbo” backflow cones. However, they are pretty much regular-sized. A cone measures about 1.25 inches in length.

To be fair, the cones are stocky and thick, so there is some volume there. The brand offers several fragrances and I enjoy the variety pack. Though white copal is my favorite fragrance amongst their offerings.

Apparently, white copal was quite popular with the Mayans and Aztecs. The resin is extracted from trees belonging to the Bursera family. I find this scent somewhat unique and interesting.


  • Cone length: 1.25 inches 
  • Fragrances: White Copal
  • Burn time: About 10 minutes
  • Smoke waterfall quality: Good

8. Pavo Cristatus Backflow Cones

Pavo Cristatus Backflow Cones

Pavo Cristatus Backflow Cones

Pack contains several fragrances

Average fragrance and smoke waterfall

Value pricing

These backflow cones are the value pick for this list. The package offers several cones at an attractive price. It includes about 80 cones in multiple colors and fragrances of sandalwood, rose, lavender, jasmine, lemon, and ocean.

Interestingly, “pavo cristatus” is the name of the Indian peafowl, a very famous and colorful bird. Although this incense is one of the rare incense cones that aren’t made either in the USA or India. These cones are made in China. 

This actually got me thinking, backflow incense is one of those rare segments or niches, where Chinese-manufactured products don’t make the bulk of industrially produced products. But then again, I’m using this list as a yardstick. I might be entirely wrong if we consider the overall market sales. 

Anyways, coming back to the incense, there seems to have been a compromise between price and performance.

The incense is available in a variety of fragrances, but none of them are impressive. Occasionally, some might even give out a “burning” smell. The smoke backflow isn’t impressive either, but it’s average and makes a good show.

Overall, these cones are a good option where value is the key concern. 


  • Cone length: 1.5 inches 
  • Fragrances: Variety
  • Burn time: About 10 minutes
  • Smoke waterfall quality: average

A Few Suggestions On Buying Backflow Incense

It’s easy to notice with this list that incense cones aren’t a big ticket item. They’re easily available across sellers online and offline. You could easily order them online or walk into a store near you for a purchase. I think big box stores and brick-and-mortar stores often offer good deals that might sweeten the pot.

However, I will recommend choosing smaller packs or variety packs for new users. Backflow cones are relatively mild with fragrance, compared to traditional incense. However, it can still feel somewhat strong. 

Also, it might be better to look at branded offerings over cheaper unbranded packs. I’m usually a proponent of giving the unknown little business a chance, but with backflow cones, more trustworthy is better.

A major part of the appeal of this incense is the smoke waterfall. To make the smoke more appealing, some sellers might put in additional chemicals that are unwanted by users. If you’ve ever had the displeasure of smelling some of the awful unbranded cones, you’d know exactly what I’m talking about.

A Guide On Backflow Incense Cones – Characteristics And Features

Backflow Incense Cones VS Regular Incense Cones – How Do They Work?

Backflow Incense Cones arranged on a surface
The tunnel at the base is a characteristic of backflow incense

Regular incense cones and backflow incense cones differ in the direction smoke travels. In backflow incense cones, the smoke travels downwards in thick wafts while in regular incense cones, the smoke rises with the heat. 

So, what makes this possible?

Traditional incense cones are slimmer and have more of a pyramid-like look. To be clear, traditional incense can be in pretty much any shape, though cones prefer to have a pyramid-like appearance true to their name.

Backflow incense cones are usually stockier and thicker. They usually have a cylindrical body with a conical tip. But the biggest difference is that backflow incense cones are hollowed out through a cylindrical shape in their center. 

This hollow tunnel gives backflow incense cones their key characteristics. 

In conventional cones, the hot smoke rises upwards as the incense burns. That’s the only path it can take! For backflow incense cones, the smoke gets trapped inside the tunnel. Here, it cools down. 

The cooled smoke is heavier than air and it flows down through the tunnel, creating the visual effect we love. 

This effect also creates another difference between these two types of cones. Backflow incense cones require a specialized backflow incense burner for best results. Regular cones can work when placed atop any heat-resistant, non-flammable surface. 

To sum up, here are the key differences between backflow incense cones and regular incense cones:

  • Regular incense cones are usually thinner and have a pyramid shape, though they can have any shape. Backflow incense cones are thicker and stockier.
  • Backflow incense cones have a hollow tunnel running through them, regular incense cones are solid.
  • Regular cones can work on any heat-resistant non-flammable surface. Backflow cones work best with specific backflow incense burners.
  • Regular cones usually have a longer burn time.
  • Less maintenance is needed for regular incense cones.
  • There’s more fragrance from regular incense cones. 
  • Backflow incense cones are more visually appealing.

Backflow Incense Cones And Cleaning And Maintenance

Some cleaning and maintenance will be necessary for backflow incense cone burners. With regular incense, the smoke goes up into the air and disperses. When using backflow incense cones, we force the smoke to travel through set paths on a backflow burner.

Because of this, some smoke particles and dust deposit along the paths of the burner. Some oils from the smoke will deposit along this path as well. 

Occasional cleaning of the backflow incense burner is necessary, otherwise, it will get greasy and dirty. It might also start giving out a weird, musky smell that’s not pleasant. In case the smoke spills from the burner, it can also affect the surface. A protective sheet on the surface can be useful if desired.

All incense generates ash, which will need cleaning as well.

We don’t recommend putting incense ash in plants. Any perceived benefits of this practice are questionable, and there is a chance of the ash negatively affecting plant health.

Fragrance And Burn Time Of Backflow Incense Cones

The average burn time of a backflow incense cone is usually about 20 minutes. However, this can vary depending on the size of the cone, the thickness of the cone, and similar factors. 

Usually, the cone seller or manufacturer will provide an indication of the burn time on the package. The numbers aren’t absolute but you can expect them to be a good representation of the burn time. 

As for fragrance, backflow incense cones are usually on the milder side of things. Backflow incense cones will almost always have less ambient fragrance than regular incense.

The reasoning for this is simple. Backflow incense cones are geared more towards a visual spectacle. Their smoke flows downwards and through channels on an incense burner.

burning backflow incense cone laid horizontal

For any incense, the fragrance is carried in the smoke, which then dissipates and fills up a room or the surroundings of the incense. Since backflow incense carries smoke downwards, only a small portion of the smoke and scent escapes into the ambient environment. 

There might still be a small whiff of scent from the smoke flowing in the backflow burner, but it remains a small factor. 

Overall, expect only a mild fragrance from a backflow incense cone.

Lighting And Putting Out Backflow Incense Cones

To light the cone, hold it horizontally and bring a flame to the tip of the cone. Hold the flame for a couple of seconds, then remove it as you see the cone catching fire. Put out the fire on the cone by gently blowing air.

It takes a few seconds before the backflow smoke flows out through the tunnel. Once you see the smoke flowing out, place the backflow cone on the backflow burner. Ensure that the tunnel on the cone and the opening on the backflow burner are aligned.

You can read this article for more details and watch a video on how to light a backflow incense cone.

Once you light a cone, it will stay lit until the incense completely burns out. If you want to put it out before that, use some water. Lift the cone from its base using tweezers or tongs, and dunk it into a cup of water.

Once the incense cone has been put out with water, it cannot be reused.

A Few Cool Things About Backflow Incense Cones

Advantages Of Backflow Incense Cones

  • Visual Appeal: The smoke flowing down looks rather stunning. Then there are a variety of very creative backflow incense burners that give the effect a whole new life. The setup can have an amazing visual appeal.
  • Calming: Incense has long been used for meditation, though backflow is kind of new to the party. Yet, the visual effects of the smoke (and a good burner) can create a wonderfully calming aura. It looks all nice and pretty!
  • Scent: Though backflow cones start with a relatively mild fragrance (compared to regular cones), they can have a long-lasting effect. Mostly, this is because the cold smoke might gather for a longer time and give the scent a longer duration.

Quick Tips On Getting The Most From Incense Waterfall Cones

When you burn backflow incense, there are a few things to keep in mind, so you get the best experience.

  • Avoid Windy Areas: The visual effect of backflow comes from the smoke. If there’s air movement in the room, it will scatter the smoke. While it is preferable to use a ventilated room, it shouldn’t be particularly windy. You might also want to look into backflow burners that have better protection against the wind.
  • Align It Carefully: When placing the backflow cone on the burner, do ensure that the hole in the cone and the burner align. This will make the smooth flow of smoke easier.
  • Don’t Leave Incense Unattended: Even though incense just uses embers, it’s not a good idea to leave a burning cone unattended. While it’s not a big fire hazard, I would rather not tempt fate.
  • Don’t Touch Cones Immediately After Burning: Incense cones can be hot even after the cone has burnt up. Give it a few minutes before you touch the cone, even if it’s all ash.

Disadvantages Of Backflow Incense Cones

  • Regular Cleaning Of Burners: Backflow smoke from the cones will leave oily or resin-like residue on the burner. It’s a natural part of burning incense and since these burners will have a lot of smoke in a small area, there’s bound to be some residue. You might want to clean the burner regularly, or it will smell bad.
  • Difference In Fragrance: Compared to regular incense, backflow doesn’t have the same fragrance. There could be two cones (regular and backflow) made from the same material, but there’s a good chance backflow doesn’t smell the same.
    It might not smell bad, but there is likely a qualitative difference. Backflow works best for a visual spectacle, and less for fragrance. 
  • Cleaning The Surface: We’ve already talked about cleaning the burners, but it might be necessary to clean the surface as well. Some smoke will likely dip from the burner onto the surface and could leave residue. A better approach would be to use a protective sheet under the burner.

Can You Make Regular Incense Cones Backflow?

Considering that backflow cones and regular incense cones can use the same material, wouldn’t it be possible to make regular incense cones into backflow?

Theoretically, it is possible to transform regular incense cones to backflow. Practically, it doesn’t often work as intended. 

My suggestion is not to attempt a conversion. Yet, for the sake of being comprehensive, let’s discuss the most common methods used for this.

Drill A Hole Through A Regular Incense Cone

Technically, the biggest physical difference between regular and backflow cones is the hole running through backflow cones. So, if we carefully drill a similar hole in regular cones, things should work. 

The tunnel should start at the bottom of the cone and go up to ¾ of the cone’s length.

Now the problem is that this method rarely works. Cones often crumble under the pressure of drilling. Or, the tunnel might be too big or too small. There might be structural damage to the cone, and so on. 

Overall, it’s just easier to use purpose-built cones for backflow.

Grind And Reform Regular Cones Into Backflow

Here’s another technique people recommend for this conversion. Dare I say, it’s not a very successful technique either.

The idea is to crush and grind regular cones into powder. This should be a bit coarse, and not very fine powder. The next step would be to add water and make this powder into a putty that’s easy to manipulate into any shape.

Once you’ve got it into the right shape, use a nail or something similar to build the tunnel. Let the incense dry for a few days before you use it.

The problem with this approach is that it often compromises the structural integrity of the cones. It’s very likely that they will crumble when handled or burnt. 

Besides, it’s much easier to buy cones from the market or even use a kit to build them in the DIY route. There’s not much point in going through such a convoluted route.

Conclusion – Backflow Incense Cones Provide A Wonderful Visual Spectacle

Now that we’ve had a detailed discussion and quick reviews of the best backflow incense cones, we can have more grounded expectations from them. 

It’s usually a good idea to first consider them for the visual spectacle and then the fragrance. If you’re looking for fragrance from incense, regular incense or cones are the way to go. 

However, the unique visual appeal of the backflow incense is undeniable and a pleasure to behold. Investing in backflow incense cones and a creative backflow burner is worthwhile for the ambiance and calming effects.