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Top 5 Mistakes with Burning Candles


In this post we look at the top 5 mistakes with candle burning, and how to avoid and/or fix them:

1. Not setting the memory
2. Leaving the wick too long
3. Exposure to draught
4. Using the wrong container
5. Too close together

If you're burning a well-made, good quality candle then all these mistakes can be easily remedied; it's just a matter of understanding the issue and knowing the solution. So let's get started.

Tunneling candle

1. Not setting the memory
A common mistake is to not let the candle burn for long enough during the first burn. The size of the wax pool during the first burn determines the life of the candle; subsequent burns won't melt the wax beyond the initial wax pool, so if it didn't melt close enough to the edge of the candle, tunnelling (when a candle burns hollow, i.e. leaves a thick, unused mantle or rim) might occur. Tunnelling can be avoided by making sure the initial burn is long enough to melt the candle all the way to the edge. This is called 'setting the memory' of the candle.

SOLUTION: As a rule of thumb, burn a new candle for 1 hour per 2.5cm (1 inch) in diameter. So for a 7.5cm (3 inch) diameter candle, the initial burn time should be at least 3 hours.

Trim candle wick

2. Leaving the wick too long
A wick that is too long can cause a candle to start smoking. Keep your wick trimmed at all times; a trimmed wick creates a calm, steady flame, which means the candle's burning process is in balance. The wick is efficiently pulling up the right amount of wax, and the flame creates complete combustion. A wick that is too long won't be able to draw wax all the way to the top, and the wick itself will start to burn, causing it to smoke.

SOLUTION: Before lighting, trim the wick to 6mm (1/4 inch) and remove any wick debris. Any debris left in the wax pool can disturb the burning of the candle.

Smoking candle

3. Exposure to draught
A candle that is in a draught can start flickering and will likely smoke, and a strong draught can cause a candle to start dripping.

SOLUTION: To avoid this, eliminate the source of the draught, move the candle out of the draught or shield the candle from the draught.

Candle in container

4. Using the wrong container
Candles look great and burn safely inside a container or vase, however make sure you use the right size container. If the vase is too small for the candle, the candle might start flickering and smoking.

SOLUTION: To remedy any container or vase issues:
1 Use a container that is open on both sides (top and bottom) so hot air can rise out and cold air can get sucked in from the bottom, or
2 Choose a bigger container and/or smaller candle: make sure that there is roughly half the candle diameter of space between the candle and the vase edge. So in case of a 7cm candle, there should be at least 3.5cm of space between the candle and the edge of the container.

Candle proximity

5. Proximity
A setup with multiple candles in a variety of size can look beautiful, yet make sure the distance between the candles is large enough to avoid irregular melting, warping and ultimately dripping.

SOLUTION: Place lit candles at least 10cm (3 inches) apart to avoid melting and warping due to heat from neighbouring candles.


As you can see from the above, most common issues can be easily fixed and even avoided, and if they cannot then it's usually a symptom of a poor quality candle (low quality wick, wax or make) rather than incorrectly using the candle.

Enjoy your candles and keep them trimmed! For more tips & tricks on how to burn candles, please read here.


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