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Few things are as captivating as the soft light and glow of a candle. But there’s an art to burning a candle properly and safely. You can generally tell if a candle is burning properly just by looking at it.
A Calm, Steady Flame
This means that the candle’s burning process is in balance. The wick is efficiently pulling up the right amount of wax, which is then being “consumed” by the flame to produce water vapor and carbon dioxide.
No Flickering or Wisps of Smoke
Constant flickering and smoking occur when the teardrop shape of the flame is disturbed. This allows small amounts of unburned carbon particles (soot) to escape from the flame as a visible wisp of smoke. If too much (or too little) air reaches the candle flame, it will disturb the flame’s teardrop shape, causing it to soot. To avoid this, always burn your candles in a well-ventilated room, away from drafts, vents or strong air currents.
No Flare Ups or Leaping Flames
A too-long wick can cause a candle flame to grow too long and flare. That’s why it is so important to trim the wick to ¼ inch before every use. Always keep the wax pool free of wick trimmings, matches and other debris that could catch fire from the flame. If you like to group your candles, make sure they are at least 3 inches apart when burning. Candles placed too closely together can create their own draft and cause the candles to flare.
Burning a Candle Safely
Remember, a lighted candle is an open flame. Be careful. Always follow the basic rules of fire safety when burning candles.
A few simple rules and best practices are all you need to keep your candles in tip-top shape!
- Always store your candles in a cool, dark and dry place. Tapers or dinner candles should be stored flat to preventing warping.
- You can remove dust and fingerprints from a candle by gently rubbing the surface with a piece of nylon or a soft cloth. The cloth can be dry or slightly dampened with water.
- Wax drippings can be removed from most candleholders by running hot water over them. Some home care experts prefer removing wax by first placing the candleholder in the freezer for an hour or so. This allows the wax to shrink and easily pop out when the candleholder is removed from the freezer.
- Never use a knife or a sharp object to remove wax drippings from a glass votive holder. It might scratch or weaken the glass, causing it to break upon subsequent use.
- Avoid burning candles in any glass item not specifically designed for candles. Glass candleholders are specifically manufactured to withstand the temperature changes that occur when burning a candle. Everyday glassware is not designed for burning candles.
- Votive holders will clean more easily afterward if you add a few drops of water to the glass before inserting the candle. Caution: Don’t add more than a few drops of water and don’t add water unless you intend to burn the candle immediately afterward. Over time, a candle wick could absorb the water and won’t burn properly.
- Avoid placing your candles where they will be directly exposed to sunlight or harsh indoor lighting, such as a spotlight. Candles may fade if they are left in bright light for an extended period of time.
Learn how to stop worrying and love the leftover wax!
If you love candles, but don’t like when the candle doesn’t burn all the wax, you might look for a way to make the wax burn completely. Here’s what you should do about leftover wax on the side of the jar.
- Avoid short burns. If you light your candle for brief periods only, the wax is not able to melt completely. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions, and never burn candles unattended.
- Don’t touch! Pushing the wax down into a hot candle puts you at risk of skin burns, and shortens the length of exposed wick. This can actually result in more wax remaining in the next burn.
- Accept ‘leftover’ wax. Residual wax can have the benefit of preventing the candle from becoming too hot. Variability in burning conditions result in different amounts of leftover wax. For example, the length of time the candle’s been burning or the temperature of the room can affect the amount of leftover wax. The candle is likely performing as designed, in some conditions.