8 Tips to Help You Burn the Perfect Candle
Pro tips and tricks to get the most out of every candle
According to the National Candle Association, 7 out of 10 U.S. households use candles. And based on manufacturer studies, 90% of all candles are purchased by women. No matter what type of candles you buy, chances are you have at least one container candle, pillar candle, taper candle, votive or tealight in your home.
And while the candle basics are easy (light and enjoy!), here are 8 candle etiquette tips to help you get the most out of your candles:
- TRIM THE WICK
Always, we repeat, always trim your wick to 1/8 - 1/4 inch before lighting any candle.
If the wick gets too tall, the flame will also grow too tall and leave black burn marks on the glass, even with soy candles that do not produce black soot; and, if the flame physically touches a glass container it can cause the glass to crack. Cracked glass + hot liquid wax = cleanup (see below).
This is where a wick trimmer comes in really handy: especially with tall, narrow and deep candles (like pillars) and candle containers (like our beer bottle candles). If you don’t have a wick trimmer, you can use scissors but it can become challenging after the candle has burned down.
If I had a dollar for every wick I've battled with a pair of scissors...*imagines of all the things I'd buy and places I'd travel*... ... ... ... oh! my apologies, I got lost daydreaming of my riches. ;) As I was saying: if you never invest in any other candle accessory, invest in a wick trimmer.
Pro tip: if you don't have a wick trimmer, use toe nail clippers to trim wicks that can’t be reached with scissors.
- AVOID DRAFTS
Dancing flames do not a candle party make.
Do not put burning candles near heating and air-conditioning vents or open windows. If you notice the flame of the candle flickering in any direction other than straight up, there is a draft.
A calm, centered flame distributes heat equally which leads to a clean and even burn; it eliminates excessive smoking, tunneling and wasted wax around the inside edge of the candle; it enhances the fragrance throw and it extends the lifespan of your candle because it burns slower.
Pro tip: place candles in a hurricane or lantern to help block unavoidable drafts. This works great for us at breezy outdoor events but is also useful indoors near vents or just as an added accent to your decor.
Cold candles burn slower.
To cool your candle, cover it with foil or cling wrap (to prevent the wick from absorbing any moisture) and chill it in the fridge for about an hour before lighting.
Although we haven’t personally tested the refrigerator theory, we've tested lower temperatures. Vending at the Made in Philadelphia Holiday Market last year, a 6-week outdoor event during winter in downtown Philly, it got down into 20's...much colder than a refrigerator, brr! We burned candles the entire time and noticed the colder temperatures definitely extended the life of our candles. But, don't go to that extreme, just throw them in the fridge.
- BURN LONG ENOUGH…
Before extinguishing, make sure the candle spools entirely across the top. If not, it can cause tunneling and wasted wax around the inside edge of the candle. For pillar candles, make sure to burn them at least one hour for every inch in diameter.
Side note: something else that can cause tunneling is too small a wick size. If the diameter of the wick isn’t large enough for the diameter of the candle (or the area of the candle it’s supposed to burn, if there are multiple wicks), it’ll leave wasted wax around the inside edge of the candle.
Here's a picture we took after doing a wick test. See the wax rim around the edge of the bottle? The wick was too small. (Please ignore the chipped bottle, we just used it for the test.)
- …BUT DON’T BURN TOO LONG
Do not burn more than 4 hours at a time. After 4 hours, the candle gets too hot and begins to evaporate fragrance oil and burn off quicker. We recommend burning in 2 to 3 hour increments.
If the candle gets too hot, depending the candle, the wax can completely liquefy; and if that happens, the glue holding the wick can release and move across the bottom of the container. Caution: if that happens, the flame can directly touch the glass and crack it. This is why you should stop burning a candle once 1/2 inch of wax remains.
Pro tip: Let’s be honest, sometimes 4 hours just isn’t long enough. We get it. That's why we recommend keeping multiple candles on-hand so you can rotate through them when you want to continue burning candles longer than 4 hours. That way you can either rotate fragrances or always have an extra of your #1 favorite on-hand.
- EXTINGUISH IT
When you’re ready to extinguish a candle flame, you’ve got a few options: blow it out (duh!), use a candle snuffer or a wick dipper.
Pro tip: when blowing out a candle, place your index finger in front of the flame and blow gently, this minimizes hot wax from splattering and causes the air to surround the flame.
A candle snuffer and wick dipper essentially have the same function: extinguish the flame without the wick smoking. With a candle snuffer, you place the bell of the snuffer over the flame to exhaust its supply of carbon and hydrogen thus extinguishing it. With a wick dipper, you use the tool to push the wick into the hot wax pool then lift it out of the wax for the next burn.
Pro tip: although wick dippers aren’t as widely known about, they are generally less expensive than candle snuffers and get the job done just as well.
- CLEAN UP
Spills can happen.
If a spill occurs, the first thing to determine is what type of wax your candle is made of. Unlike paraffin wax, which can be impossible to remove, soy wax is biodegradable and cleans up easily with soap and water.
For most spills:
1) Either let the wax harden and scrape off the excess wax or use a hair dryer to heat the wax then blot up as much as you can with paper towels (they are the most absorbent). You can use an ice cube to harden any wax drippings, making them brittle and easy to scrape off. A credit card or stiff plastic spatula works really well to scrape off frozen wax.
Pro tip: use a credit card you don’t care about because it might snap in two.
2) Wipe down the spill area using a soft, absorbent cloth and hot soapy water or a solution of half white distilled vinegar and half water.
If wax has spilled on carpet: remove it with a paper towel and an iron. Place a paper towel over the spill. Place a heated iron over the paper towel. The heat from the iron will cause the wax to melt and be absorbed into the paper towel.
If wax spills on fabric, you can also remove it with a paper towel and an iron. Place a paper towel over the spill and underneath the fabric to soak up the wax; otherwise it will soak into your ironing board, which will transfer it onto the next item that gets ironed. After ironing for 30 seconds, lift the paper towel up to see how much wax you have absorbed: move the paper towel to a fresh spot and continue until the paper no longer absorbs wax from the fabric, this means you have absorbed as much wax as you can using this method. (Safety tip: don’t leave the iron on the wax-soaked paper towels, it is ridiculously flammable.)
Use OxiClean to get out any stains from candle dye.
- SAFETY FIRST
Last but not least, be safe.
Always burn candles in a well-ventilated space. Do not place lit candles near window treatments and other objects that can catch fire. Keep all lit candles out of the reach of children and pets. Never leave a burning candle unattended.
For added safety and to protect your home furnishings, place candles on coasters or plates and in hurricanes or lanterns.