How do I get the most out of my candle?
Updated: Mar 29, 2019
Candles, fool-proof...not entirely. You'd think that they would be, but because they can vary so greatly in fragrance, fragrance load, design and environment the variables make for some interesting experiences.. and that's what we'll call them too.. experiences. We love candles as an aid for relaxation, creating a mood and to be honest, their ability to cover pet and house odors! So we definitely want to get the most from the candles we burn, not only from a monetary standpoint but we also want to cut down on wasted materials and ensure we're truly using them to their fullest. We've been asked so many times, 'how do I get the most life out of my candle?' and we're going to attempt to answer that pretty thoroughly here from what we've learned.
The most important piece of advice for getting the most burn time from your candle is to let it burn completely across its entire surface each and every time you light it. We've also found that trimming your wick and avoiding drafts and moisture will help lengthen the life of your candle.
What is a Burn Time?
A candle's 'Burn Time' is the average expected life of that particular candle in a measurement of hours. To get this measurement most candle companies test burn a candle and base their evaluation on several controlled burns of about 1-4 hours per burn. Each time after the flame is extinguished, the wax is allowed to cool completely and the wick is trimmed. So naturally you'd want to burn your candles in this way as well to get all of those hours that your candle is promising you.
Why should I burn my candle to each edge completely?
We've all had those moments where we light a new candle and then almost immediately have to leave the house for an errand and blow the candle out prematurely.
Ensuring that you get an even and complete burn each and every time you light your candle is crucial to the overall enjoyment and value you'll potentially get from it.
When extinguishing your candle prematurely, you'll notice a small circle of wax at a lower elevation closer to the wick. This previous burn pool creates a memory for your candle, on subsequent burns it will favor this area, maybe pull some new wax from outside of that circle, but the burn pool will ultimately not reach to each edge of the vessel if this is the case. A tunneling effect will most likely occur, which may even get worse each time you use your candle. In most cases, this tunnel will result in the flame extinguishing itself by drowning in wax. If you're looking to enjoy your candles to their fullest potential it's so important to ensure an even and complete burn each time to get your money's worth.
When should I trim my wick?
An excess in the length of your wick will create an environment where it needs more fuel to survive and thus eats more wax at a quicker rate.
Trimming your wick at regular intervals while the wax has cooled will keep it at a manageable size for your candle. Larger, mismanaged wicks will also emit more smoke when they've become too tall for the needs of the candle.
When your candle is extinguished and has had a chance to cool, with a pair of scissors, wick trimming shears, or your fingers and carefully break off a portion of the wick at about 1/4" above the level surface of your candle (and remove this debris from the candle). Usually this part of the wick is especially brittle or has a bulbous top and is easy to break off with your fingers.
If you aren't able to reach into your taller candles with either a pair of scissors or with your hands, special wick trimming scissors are available with a curved design and a debris catching tray that can aid you in this part of your candle maintenance.
Why is it important to keep my candle away from a drafts and wind?
Keeping your candle away from drafts and wind will increase its life of and also cut down on some pretty annoying issues you may face during the burn. Including accidental snuffing of your flame, which can lead to the above issues with 'tunneling.'
Drafts can also affect your candle in small almost unnoticeable ways. Struggling candle wicks will grab more fuel and burn quicker. This also creates a taller wick while the wax and fragrance is burning away from your candle quicker than it's burning the wick; that allows the wax to lower and the wick to stay tall. A tall wick will smoke more and also creates a bigger flame that eats up even more wax. Hurricane glass or a candle lantern can help create a draft resistant barrier if you want to enjoy your candles where there may be air disruption.
Should I keep a lid on my candle in humid or moist environments?
Candles left in moist or humid environments will have their own set of interesting problems. If left un-capped moisture can creep between the molecules and de-structure the soy wax while expanding the wax of your candle. This raises the surface of your wax higher or above the wick in most cases and can make a proper burn almost impossible. The resulting smaller wick will be easily snuffed out and drowned by the high levels of wax around it.
In the worst case, trapped moisture in a candle can make your wick spit and sputter or not reach the needed temperature to overcome that obstacle. Candles with this issue, depending on the severity, may be salvaged by removing a 1/4" layer of the affected wax from the top. Or potentially by pressing the wax back down with a paper towel to absorb all of the excess fragrance oil or water vapor that has had a chance to separate from the bonds of the wax.
Moisture that has had a chance to ravage and then evaporate away can also wreak havoc. This creates pockets of oxygen in the once dense soy wax, adding more oxygen will increase the heat and fuel source for the wick which burns your candle faster and also promotes smoke and uneven burning.
Can I burn my candle TOO Long?
Absolutely, most smaller candles have recommendations for a range of time that is best to burn your candle each time you light it. Usually this is between 1 and 4 hours. Above we described how burning it less than that is detrimental to the overall life of your candle, but burning it too long may also cut down on your overall Burn Time.
Keeping a candle lit for longer than the recommended burn length will do several things. First of which affects the wick. Ideally you'd have a depth of melted wax anywhere from 1/4" to 1/2" deep. The wick can burn at a smaller height and still consume this amount of wax without over consuming and smoking. When left to burn longer than the recommended 4 hours, candle wicks will have an excess of burnt wick and will emit more smoke than normal, this excess burnt wick will also consumer more wax, create more heat and ultimately create a deeper burn pool.
Deeper burn pools will release more of the fragrance from your candle from deeper within. This trapped store of fragrance is supposed to be reserved for subsequent burns, so there may be less available fragrance emitted when you burn your candle next. This can also be a potential problem for those that prefer putting their candles on warming surfaces that melt your candle completely each time instead of starting from the top and burning downward with the wick. Don't spend all that fragrance throw in one place!
When you allow a candle to cool that's been burning too long, you may see deep uneven pockets in the wax where it's had a hard time reforming with the lack of fragrance and the addition of carbon buildup from a wick that's been smoking.
Does soy wax really burn longer?
Yes, definitely. Soy wax only needs to reach about 130° F before it starts to release fragrance and provide fuel for your wick. Since this flame doesn't need to burn as hot, your soy wax won't burn off as fast as paraffin wax.
Soy candles can burn up to twice as long as those made from paraffin wax. Always look for candles made of pure soy wax to ensure you're purchasing those with the best possible burn length for your money. From a sustainability viewpoint, you're also cutting down on twice the amount of glass, ceramic and metal materials used for the candle containers because you're buying and burning less candle products. So hooray for you if you're switching to soy candles to Reduce your footprint.