How To Burn Candles


Lit black pillar candle

First burn  |  Best practices  |  Common issues

Candle Kiosk pillar candles are made of fully refined wax and finished with high quality lead-free natural wicks to ensure a beautiful, clean burn. Our candles are designed to burn evenly all the way down without dripping, smoking or tunnelling.

To get the most out of your candles, read through the tips below on the common issues, and learn how to prevent and fix them.

First burn

Setting the candle memory

Initial burn time
Let the wax melt close to the edge the first time you burn your candle. This may take up to 3-4 hours of burning, so make sure you let your pillar candle burn for at least 3 hours the first time you light it.

This is because 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, it could leave a thick, unused mantle ('tunnelling').

Setting the memory
To avoid this tunnelling effect we need to maximise the size of the initial wax pool. This is called setting the memory of the candle, and it is done by burning the candle for 1 hour per 2cm in diameter the first time you light it. For our 7cm diameter pillar candles, the initial burn time should be 3-4 hours, and for our 10cm diameter column candle it should be at least 5 hours. Due to their shape, our cone candles do not have such a requirement.

How a pillar candle should burn

Best practices

Trim the wick
It may seem counter-intuitive, but a short wick gives a cleaner, brighter flame and an even burn, while a long wick can cause smoking and can cause mushrooming of the wick, where a mushroom-like shape forms at the top of the wick which obscures and disturbs the flame.

Before lighting, trim the wick to 6mm and remove any wick debris. Any debris left in the wax pool can disturb the burning of the candle. We recommend trimming the wick every 4 hours; extinguish the flame, let the candle cool down, trim the wick, and relight.

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. A wick that is too long can also cause a candle flame to grow too long and flare, again producing soot.

Keep distance
Place lit candles at least 10cm apart to avoid melting and warping due to heat from neighbouring candles.

Draughts
Candles burn best in still air - if too much (or too little) air reaches the candle flame, it will disturb the ideal teardrop shape of the flame and may cause the candle to start flickering and smoking. To avoid this, always burn your candles in a well-ventilated room, away from drafts, vents or strong air currents. If a draught can't be avoided, try shielding the flame from the draught, for instance by placing it in a candle holder, and turn the candle periodically to avoid uneven burning and possible candle collapse.

Wax pool
The wax pool should always be kept clean. Any debris (e.g. pieces of wick, burnt matches) should be removed so as not to disturb the burning of the candle.

Burn time
For best results, don't burn your candle for longer than 4 hours at a time. Extinguish, let the candle cool down, trim the wick, and relight.

Storage
Candles are sensitive to temperature and light. Prevent candles from fading, cracking and melting by storing your candles in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight, dust and fluorescent light. Store your candles in an upright position and don’t leave them in a car on a warm day, or they might warp from the heat.

 

Common issues

How to prevent candle tunneling

1. Tunnelling

When a candle burns hollow, or leaves a thick, unused mantle or rim, this is referred to as 'tunnelling'. Tunnelling has some negative effects: if tunnelling continues unchecked, you'll end up throwing away a large part of your candle, as the rim won't melt away. A tunnelling candle will also smoke, as the tunnel disrupts the airflow to and from the flame.

It can be avoided by making sure the initial burn is long enough to melt the candle all the way to the edge, or in other words; to maximise the wax pool. See above for details of this process, which is referred to as setting the memory of the candle. As a rule of thumb, burn your pillar candle for 1 hour per 2cm in diameter the first time you light it.

If the tunnelling hasn't gone too far, a way to fix it is by 'hugging' the candle; pushing the soft wax rim inwards towards the flame, so that it has a chance to melt.

If however the tunnelling has gone too deep to fix by hugging, the rim can be trimmed down with a sharp knife when the wax is warm. Blow out your candle, make sure the wax pool solidifies or clean it out to avoid dripping wax everywhere, and cut off the excess rim. Be careful not to damage the rim or the candle might start dripping when you relight it.

Note that a single-wick candle with a diameter greater than 10cm will always tunnel, as the wick won't generate enough heat to melt the wax all the way to the edge. 

How to prevent a candle from smoking

2. Smoking

A well-made candle can produce a little smoke every now and then, but it should never continuously smoke. If your candle flame keeps flickering, it might also be smoking. If a noticeable amount of smoke is being generated, or the sides of your container show black marks, knowing the causes can help stop it.

Keep your wax pure
It is a common misconception that sooting is caused by the type of wax (e.g. beeswax, coconut, palm, paraffin or soy wax), but sooting is primarily due to flame and combustion disturbances1. Contrary to popular belief, the wax type has little to do with whether a candle smokes or not, but what is important is the purity of the wax that is used. Any impurities mixed into the wax, including scent oils3, can impair combustion conditions and cause smoking2. Always choose candles with high-purity wax, and make sure the wax pool is free of any debris.

The most common culprit for a smoking candle is a flame disturbance, which itself can have multiple causes, as outlined below.

Move away from draught
If a candle is exposed to a draught, vent or air current, the flame will start flickering and it will likely smoke. To avoid this, move the candle out of the draught or shield the flame from the draught.

Keep the wick trimmed
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. A wick that is too long can also cause a candle flame to grow too long and flare, again producing smoke. If the wick has gotten too long, extinguish the flame, let the candle cool down, trim the wick to 6mm (1/4 inch) and light again.

Avoid tunnelling
A tunnelling candle will usually smoke, as the tunnel disrupts the airflow to and from the flame, similar to a container that is too small - the next paragraph explains how this works. To prevent or fix tunnelling, read our tips here.

Choose the right container
If your smoking candle is inside a candle jar, vase, lantern or container, then it could be that the vase is too small for the candle. As the oxygen inside the container burns up, more air is sucked into the container from the top, yet at the same time warm air, heated by the candle, is rising up and trying to escape the container. These two flows or air disrupt each other, causing a draught inside the container that disturbs the flame. You can often see the results of a soot-producing candle on the rim of your jar in the form of a black ring.

To avoid this, choose a bigger container and/or smaller candle: make sure that there is enough space between the candle and the vase edge. As a rule of thumb, ideally you should be able to insert two fingers between the candle and the edge of the container.

    Choosing the right vase for your candle

    Don't blow it!
    Last but not least is the process of extinguishing the candle. The greatest amount of sooting from a candle generally occurs when the flame is extinguished. One of the cleanest ways to do it is to dip the wick: extinguish your candle by pushing the wick into the pool of hot wax and pulling it back out.

    Any candle that continually flickers or smokes is not burning properly and should be extinguished and allowed to cool. The wick can then be trimmed, the wax pool checked for any debris and the candle relit after ensuring that the area is free of draughts.

    How to keep candles from dripping

    3. Dripping

    A dripping candle can have a number of causes. Fortunately, if you're burning a well-made, good quality candle then all these issues can be easily remedied; it's just a matter of determining the cause and knowing the solution. So let's have a look at how to keep pillar candles from dripping.

    Keep away from draughts

    A strong draught can cause molten wax from the wax pool to get blown over the sides of the candle. Eliminate the source of the draught, move the candle out of the draught or shield the candle from the draught.


    Not too close
    
If the candle is too close to other candles, this can cause irregular melting and warping. Place lit candles at least 10cm apart to avoid melting and warping due to heat from neighbouring candles. It could also be that your candle has been placed at an angle - make sure the candle is standing up straight.

    Check your container
    Placing a candle or multiple candles inside a vase or container looks great, but due to the heat build up (the heat cannot escape as easily & the container walls heat up and reflect the heat back to the candle) it could melt the rim of the candle and lead to dripping. Solutions are to use a larger container, placing less candles inside the container, burning the candle for shorter periods of time or to pre-tunnel the candle: rather than burning to the edge, create a thick rim (see above regarding tunnelling) which is less easy to melt down inside the container.

    Our 7cm diameter pillar candles have been tested not to drip in cylinders from 10cm diameter upwards, so keep this in mind when choosing your vase.

    Burn time
    
When you first light your candle, burn your candle for at least 3 hours; you want to get close to the mantle to avoid tunnelling, but you don't want to melt through the mantle. As a rule of thumb, burn your candle for 1 hour per 2cm in diameter the first time you light it.
    After the first burn, avoid burning your candle for longer than 4 hours; extinguish, let the candle cool down, trim the wick, and relight.

    Don't let the wick get too long
    If you notice your candle (might start) dripping, check the wick; it could be that the wick is too long, causing a large, flickering and unstable flame. Extinguish the flame, let the candle cool, trim the wick down to 6mm and relight.

    As you see, most of the causes of dripping can be easily fixed and avoided, and if they cannot then it's more likely a symptom of a poor quality candle (low quality wax, incorrect wick size or positioning, poor make quality) rather than incorrect use of the candle.

     

    How to extinguish a candle

    When the time comes to extinguish your candle, you could do better than blowing it out. Instead of filling your room with smoke and potentially splashing wax everywhere, dip the wick: extinguish your candle by pushing the wick into the pool of hot wax and pulling it back out. Use a specially designed wick dipper or any suitable non-flammable tool (we use a BBQ skewer!). Dipping the wick eliminates wick smouldering and smoking. Added bonus: the wick gets coated in wax and is primed for the next lighting.

     

    Enjoy your candles!

    That's it! Follow the above guidelines and you should be well on your way to enjoying your candlelit evenings and events. If you have any feedback or further questions, please get in touch.

     


    1. Report on the Ökometric Wax and Emissions Study - Bayreuth Institute of Environmental Research in Germany (Ökometric GmbH), 2007

    2. Characterization of Scented Candle Emissions and Associated Public Health Risks - J. David Krause, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, College of Public Health, University of South Florida, August 1999

    3. CANDLES AND INCENSE AS POTENTIAL SOURCES OF INDOOR AIR POLLUTION: MARKET ANALYSIS AND LITERATURE REVIEW (EPA/600/R-01/001) - Knight, L., A. Levin, AND C. Mendenhall, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C., 2001