Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Proper Candle Burning

I admit it; before venturing into candle making, I was a self professed power burner (I’m cringing as I admit this!). I’d light candles in the morning and burn all day long, nary a wick trim in site! I didn’t know any better, no one had ever explained how to properly burn a candle. Incorrectly burning a candle is not only a safety hazard, but also a waste of your hard earned money! So what is the right way to burn a candle? To begin with, let’s talk about wick trimming.

Go and grab the last candle you burned. Does the wick look like a long, burned piece of spaghetti? Is there some crazy mushroom looking growth on the top of the wick? If yes, you probably need to trim the wick before the next burn. The proper length for effective candle burning is ¼ inch. A well made candle will come with a properly trimmed wick; it’s your job to make sure the wick stays trimmed after each burn. The purpose of the wick is to draw wax to the flame. The wick draws the wax up to the flame to burn. If the wick is too high, it’s getting to much fuel and the flame will more than likely flicker and throw soot. In a pillar candle, untrimmed wicks can cause uneven burning and dripping. Trimming off the “mushroom” (carbon deposits) on top of a wick will keep your candle free of unnecessary debris. You can purchase a commercial wick trimmer, or use something as simple as nail clippers, but proper wick trimming is essential for safe candle burning. Extending your burn time is another benefit of a properly trimmed wick. Now that your wick is trimmed and ready to go, let’s talk burning!

The very first burn of your candle is an important one. Believe it or not, candles have a “memory”. On your first burn, with a container candle, you need to make sure that the wax melts all the way to the outer edge of the candle. This is called a full melt pool and will help ensure that the candle will burn evenly each time (it’s “memory”), avoiding that dreaded tunnel of wax with inches of built up wax on the sides of the container. In a pillar candle, however, the opposite is true. You should burn until a well is created by the flame and extends to ¼ inch of the sides of the candle. With pillars, you want the wax to tunnel down the center. The general rule for candle burn times is to burn for one hour for each inch of the candle’s diameter. For instance, if you have a candle travel tin with a three inch diameter, you would burn it for a maximum of three hours. Power burning, burning continuously without extinguishing the flame, is a safety hazard and should be avoided. A properly tested container candle will burn clean all the way down, with no wax hang up on the sides of the container. One final point to remember in proper candle burning is to extinguish the candle when there is 1/2 inch of wax left in the bottom of the container. Do not burn a candle all the way down! This can cause the bottom of the container to become overly hot, creating the potential for cracked or damaged containers, and a possible fire hazard. Be sure to let your candle cool completely before re-lighting the (trimmed!) wick. When burned properly, candles can be a magnificent addition to your living space, but you must commit to following ALL the rules!

Rules? There are rules? Absolutely. Of course you already know not to burn candles in a draft, under curtains, or overnight and to burn on stable, heat resistant surfaces…right? But did you know that when burning pillar candles, you should keep them at least 3 inches apart from one another? This keeps them from melting each other and creating drafts which may lead to an improper burn. And although you’ve undoubtedly heard these ones before, they bear repeating (so please humor me):

*Never leave a burning candle unattended
*Always burn candles in a well ventilated room.
*Keep the wax pool free of wick trimmings and debris
*Never touch or move a lit candle
*Burn candles in a well ventilated area
*Burning candles and kitty tails don’t mix, please keep all candles far away
from pets (and of course children!)

Candles are a luxury. We spend our hard earned money on these wonderful luxuries and are rewarded with an array of fabulous fragrances. By properly trimming your wicks, and following good burning habits, you are not only being safety conscious, but are also ensuring a clean even burn, therefore wasting no wax and getting your money’s worth out of each and every candle! Happy (and safe) burning!

Deirdre Motley

1 comment:

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