All You Want To Know About Candles


Bright ideas on what to look for, plus tips for safer burning


Which wax to use for candles matters.

  • Paraffin The most common type of wax, it is also generally the least expensive.  Paraffin keeps in shape really well, so it is great for pillar candles – the tall, wide kind.
  • Beeswax The airy honey-combed kind burns faster than paraffin because it contains less wax.  These candles are delicate, so make sure they are well prepared before you carry or store them.
  • Soy and palm If a candle is made with either of these vegetable waxes, you may see a note on the label.  The candles are often found in jars.

Watch your wick

  • Test quality by gently tugging on the end of the wick to make sure it’s secure (You’d be surprised by how many slip out right in the store).  A loose one may bury unevenly or, if it falls into a pool of melted wax, not at all.
  • Look closely at the shape of the wick.  You want one that’s braided, not twisted.  The braid will help the candle burn slower and with more controlled flame.
  • Avoid wicks that have metal cores (a sliver of metal in the center).  Wicks made with a lead or lead-alloy core were banned in 2003 because they give off unsafe emissions.  But these may still turn up on store shelves.

The goods on glass container

  • Buy heavy, thick jars.  Wax – especially the gooey, transparent-gel kind – can get really hot, so you need a sturdy holder.  Make sure you check the glass for cracks and bubbles too.
  • Throw away the candle when there’s an inch of wax left in the counter.  When the flame nears the bottom, it can heat the jar enough to leave a burn mark on the furniture.  To be safe, always place candles on a heat-resistant surface, such as a ceramic dish or tile.

Burn with care.

  • Keep candles away from windows, air-conditioning vents, fans and drafts to prevent soot from forming.  Every time a candle flickers, that black substance is emitted.
  • Limit burn time.  If you let a jar or pillar candle stay aflame for too long, it can end up lopsided.  To avoid that, follow this general rule: Burn up to one hour for every inch of the candle’s diameter (so you’d burn a three-inch wide candle for a maximum of three consecutive hours).
  • Trim the wick to a quarter of an inch before you light it.  The smaller and more controlled the flame, the less the chance of smoke.
  • Use a snuffer.  It can keep wax from splattering when you extinguish the flame.
  • Be careful with decorations.  Trimmings on the outside of candles or items like dried leaves embedded in the wax can catch fire.completedfavicon