candle 101: all you need to know about burning a candle and more
To most of us, burning a candle is a no-brainer. All you need to do is light it up and let it burn for as long as you want to. Easy-peasy.
As it turns out, there’s a proper way to do this. Correct candle care ensures the brightest flames, the longest burn times and the easiest re-lights. Because we are dedicated to creating high-quality, healthy candles, we are also invested in your use and enjoyment of them.
Whether you are a life-long candle lover or a new collector, you may find that a simple habit shift or small addition of knowledge could help you get the most out of your favorite candles. So please accept our invitation to review the most efficient way of burning a candle and tips on candle care, selecting candles, and getting more mileage out of your favorite ones.
how to burn a candle like a pro
To prevent unsightly soot and the formation of memory rings, observe the following professional candle burning tips:
#1: REMEMBER TO TRIM THE WICK FIRST
Every time you want to light a candle, trim the wick to somewhere between 1/8 and 1/4 inches long. You can use scissors, nail clippers or a special wick trimmer — but really, whichever tool you use for trimming the wick doesn’t matter for as long as you always trim it.
Trimming the wick ensures you’ll get you a cleaner and brighter burn. Leaving a wick untrimmed can lead to the formation of a weird mushroom-like shape that can dull and obscure the flame. If you allow the candlewick to grow excessively long, it can lead to unsightly smoky stains that usually end up on glass container candles. But by trimming the wick, you keep the flame in control and prevent smoke stains from forming.
Also, a wick that’s allowed to grow long or crooked can lead to dripping, flaring, uneven burning, and sooting. So by trimming the wick every time, you’re actually helping to prolong the service life of your candle. In fact, you will find that your candles tend to burn up to 25 percent longer if you religiously trim the wicks every few hours.
Another thing to remember before lighting your candle is to check for dirt or debris, as this can add more fuel to the candle than it is meant to handle. This can lead to unexpected flare-ups or small fires near the candle flame. So, make sure to remove or scrape them away.
#2: KEEP IT BURNING & LET THE WAX MELT ALL THE WAY ACROSS
Everyone knows this scene: the power’s out, you don’t have emergency lighting, so you light up a couple of candles. When the light’s back on, you blow out the flame. Seems like the normal process, right? Unfortunately, this can be detrimental to the structure of the candle. We have an easy solution for you, though.
Once a candle is lit, it should not be put out until after the first layer of wax has melted all the way across. You see, candle aficionados will tell you that the first burn is actually the most important. Candles are meant to burn for an hour for every inch in the diameter of the actual candle. To illustrate this, if you have a candle that measures two inches across, you need to keep it burning for two hours.
Prematurely putting out the flame without allowing the wax to completely liquefy or melt from one end to the other end of the container will lead to the creation of a memory ring. And once a memory ring is created, there’s no turning back as the candle will continue to tunnel for the entirety of its lifetime. The wick will begin to sink deeper and deeper, much like a tunnel slowly boring through the center of the candle.
Soon, the tunnel would have grown so deep that it’ll be next to impossible to light the candlewick at all as it will be covered in liquefied wax. When tunneling happens, you’ll be cutting the service life of your candle short, leading to wasting all that surrounding wax.
Unused wax deducts hours of enjoying the lovely fragrance and light of the candle and undervalues the time, effort, and money you spent during the selection process.
Properly burning a candle can take several hours, so don’t light up a candle unless you have time to allow for a complete melt. It takes a lot of patience, yes; but if you do this right, the surface of all your candles will stay flat. The sides of the containers will also stay clean until after the candle is all used up.
CANDLE RESCUE TIP: If you want to restore a slightly tunneled candle back to its proper form, you can use a hair dryer set on low to even out the wax surface. You can also put the candle in an oven at a setting of 175 degrees Fahrenheit for about five minutes. Either way, doing this will melt the wax, and produce a smooth and level-topped candle. Make sure to scoop out any wax that overflows and trim the wick before reusing the candle.
#3: OBSERVE SAFETY PRECAUTIONS
For safety purposes, don’t keep a candle burning for longer than is recommended in the manufacturer’s instructions. If you burn a candle for too long, carbon can collect on the wick and make it unstable. This can lead to a dangerously large flame, smoke and soot. So, always follow the candlemaker’s instructions. As a rule of thumb, candles should not be allowed to burn for longer than four hours. After putting out the flame, let the candle cool for two hours before relighting.
Also, make sure you keep the flame away from moving air. Do not place your lit candle close to open windows, fans, air conditioners or high-traffic areas in your home. Moving air can disturb the flame and lead to soot or stains on the glass. Ensuring the candle is covered or positioned far away from flammable objects can help prevent fire accidents originating from an unattended candle.
Candle rescue tip: As much as possible, use a snuffer to put out the flame instead of blowing on it. When you blow out a flame, it leads to the formation and spread of annoying black ash particles that usually get stuck in the wax. But if you don’t have a snuffer, get candles that come with their own lids, such as our apothecary or tins.
This way, you can use the lid to smother the flame in the same fashion. Plus, having candles with lids helps to keep dust and dirt away. Make sure you let the candle cool completely before touching it or moving it elsewhere.
candle buying guide
If you’re new to the world of buying candles for the sake of enjoying their scent or their aesthetic, relaxing effect, then, take heed. We want to make sure you enjoy the candles you purchase, and to help guide you through the selection process. Here are a few candle buying tips:
KNOW THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF CANDLES
Pillar candles, which are the cylindrical freestanding types, come in different sizes. These can be displayed solo or as part of a group in decorative, heat-resistant candle dishes.
Taper candles are typically taller and thinner, with a tapering shape, and are popularly used as dinner candles.
Also called prayer candles, votive candles are usually small and cylindrical in shape. They are made to go molten, therefore they must be burned in a container, preferably made of glass. They are best suited for setting on bedside tables, bathroom units, and bookshelves.
Tea lights are tiny round candles usually displayed in clusters across surfaces or sometimes left to float on water in tin containers.
WATCH THE SIZE
It’s up to you if you want to buy a few bigger candles or a couple of small ones for your space. You can opt for a larger candle to deodorize a large space or spread a few small candles of the same scent in the same space.
NOTE THE WAX
Candles made of paraffin wax (a petroleum by-product) release carcinogenic soot made of benzene and toluene when burned. These toxins are similar to the ones contained in diesel fuel fumes. This knowledge is why we began our journey into creating GoodLight - to help others enjoy healthy and affordable candles.
So, to ensure good indoor air quality, opt for paraffin-free options such as those made with 100% non-GMO plant-based palm wax. Soy and beeswax are also plant-based candle mediums and good alternatives to paraffin wax.
SMELL THE SCENT
Choosing the right scent for you and your space is entirely subjective. Make sure to select one that resonates with you and will complement your space. Some candle experts recommend opting for woody notes like sandalwood or cedar for industrial-themed spaces, and going vanilla or floral if your place is cozy and shabby chic. Just remember; like paraffin wax, synthetic fragrances can release harmful toxins when burned. Look for candles that are scented with essential oils and plant botanicals rather than synthetic fragrances.
CHECK OUT THE CONTAINER
Depending on the aesthetics of your space, you can choose between candles in open-mouth containers or those with lids. Both options have their own advantages. Whichever you end up buying, consider these four safety rules:
- It should be heat-resistant.
- It shouldn’t catch fire.
- It shouldn’t leak.
- It shouldn’t break or crack.
One good option is jelly containers, which are designed to withstand extreme heat and can hold wax quite well. Other types of glassware should work perfectly fine too. What’s important is the material is thick enough to take the heat. Other excellent container materials to consider include heat-treated flower pots, ceramic bowls, and well-sealed metal tins.
CONSIDER THE WICK
Whether you’re buying scented or unscented candles, don’t forget to consider the material used for the wick. Consider looking for candles with lead-free cotton wicks as these are a safe, low-cost, and easier-to-maintain alternative. All of our candles use 100% cotton wicks, helping to ensure the cleanest burn possible.
candle care tips
At first, you may discover that finding the perfect candle that burns for a long time, or also has a fresh, clean, and soothing scent can take some time mastering. But once you’ve developed a keen sense of which candles, scented or unscented, work best for you, you can focus on maximizing the lifespan of your candles by implementing the above advice and following after-care tips:
- When a candle begins to emit smoke, blow it out, trim the wick and relight.
- Ensure that pools of liquid wax are free of wick trimmings and matchstick ends.
- Avoid burning the last half an inch of wax to protect the candle container.
- You can maximize the scent throw of your candle by keeping doors and windows closed in the space you wish to deodorize for 30 minutes before entering the area.
- Get rid of dust and fingerprints by gently rubbing the candle surface with a damp or dry soft cloth or one made of nylon.
To protect the wax and the fragrance, store candles in a cool, dark and dry place with the lid on. New candles should be kept in their original packaging, especially those that don’t come with a container and lid. This will also protect your candles from fading or discoloration.
Heavily scented candles usually have a life span of six to 12 months — but this depends largely on the fragrance. If you love scented candles, avoid keeping them in storage for too long to prevent deterioration in terms of their performance and appearance.
candle love with GoodLight
Now that you’ve learned about the proper way of burning a candle, and everything else that matters in candle care, you can use your favorite candles for longer and maximize your investment.
If you’re in the market for responsibly sourced candles, consider GoodLight candles. Our candles include clean, plant-based ingredients, and reflect our commitment to using our business to promote positive change.
Want to know more about GoodLight and how you can indulge your love for candles while doing the world some good? Please reach out to us — we’ll be more than eager to share our story.