This is a topic we’ve been talking about recently here on the blog in the comment section, after I shared my favorite candles and home fragrances for autumn last month… how to select a quality candle, and how to make the most of candles you spend more money on. From preventing “tunneling” to finding a candle that won’t give you that dreaded headache, I’m sharing all of my tips in today’s blog post- and I have a LOT to say about candles. I spent months researching, sampling, and learning about the candle making and burning process last year as I was creating my own candle collection for Tuesday Made (check out more on that in this post). I’d love to share some of the helpful things I discovered with you… it’s really interesting stuff- especially if you’re a candle lover who burns them often! Click through for everything you need to know about candles.
First let’s chat about how to choose a good candle. What should you look for? Think natural, quality materials!
1. Choose Soy Wax
First you’ll want to look at the ingredients. I recommend choosing soy wax over parraffin or a wax blend, for multiple reasons…
- Soy wax is eco friendly and a natural ingredient.
- Soy wax is carbon neutral and burns clean (without creating soot or dark smoke like paraffin or candles that contain a “wax blend”).
- Soy wax is non-carcinogenic and non-toxic… meaning it won’t give you a headache like other candles (more on this later in the post)!
- Soy wax burns cooler than paraffin wax, which increases the life of your candle- by over 50%!
- Soy wax can easily be cleaned if spilled, since it’s biodegradable… a little soap & water is all it takes.
The bottom line? It’s a safer, premium ingredient that is technically food safe on its own.
2. Choose a Cotton Wick
Candles containing cotton wicks are best because they provide a consistent, stable, and eco-friendly burn… that means their flame is free of toxins and heavy metals- like zinc. It also ensures a clean burn, free of smoke & soot.
One of the most asked questions is why do some candles lead to headaches while others don’t?
Most people assume it’s the strong fragrance that leads to a headache, but it’s actually caused by the candle ingredients (according to the experts I worked with)… petroleum soot emitted from paraffin wax, limonene, alcohol, and even formaldehyde can be found in candles. Certain candles can actually be pretty icky for you based on their contents (and can result in headaches, dizziness, asthma attacks, allergies, etc). Most of the higher quality candles, that tend to cost a bit more, use better natural ingredients and soy wax with cotton wicks- which means no chemical headache.
3. Quality Candles Are a Smart Investment
If you burn candles often, spending the money on a higher quality candle is well worth the added cost. My personal budget for a quality candle can range anywhere from $30-$100. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s dependent on the ingredients, size, and fragrance for me. Why?
- They last longer… up to 50%, because they typically burn cooler.
- They are healthier. Is saving money worth ingesting harmful chemicals?
- They smell better and are more complex, which means finding a unique home fragrance.
- They often come in beautiful packaging that can easily be reused or repurposed.
- Simply put- they’re a luxury home item that feel really special and are made in small batches by perfumers who are passionate about candles & fragrance.
I’ll do a little food comparison because I used to design in the chocolate industry and somehow this seems relevant. Before I started working in that space, I was perfectly happy eating a bag of M&Ms. After learning more about chocolate, the industry, the way it is made, and discovering quality, bean to bar, not-highly-processed ethical chocolate, the way I consumed it began to change. I appreciate knowing where it comes from, how it’s made, and that I’m getting the pure flavor, aroma, and the experience. Does fancy, fair trade, small batch, organic chocolate cost more? You bet. Do I really enjoy it? I sure do, and now I prefer spending more money on a quality chocolate bar less frequently than consuming bags of M&Ms. I tried to eat a handful of M&Ms and realized they really didn’t even taste like actual chocolate to me anymore. They have a waxy flavor that tastes sugary and processed to me now.
These days (after learning SO much) about candles, I kind of feel the same way. Somehow I can tell the difference in a poorly made candle and one that is well crafted of natural ingredients (even without the chemical headache). I don’t spend my money on quick M&Ms from a vending machine or the cheap scented candles at HomeGoods anymore. It feels wasteful because I know I’d rather spend a bit extra for the real deal and a better experience I feel good about. It’s totally a personal preference at this stage in my life. I’d just rather spend my money on something I know is well made with quality ingredients by people who are passionate about creating it. Ready to move onto the tips and tricks? This is the super fascinating part!
Let’s talk about candle care & candle safety. I hope these quick tips will be helpful! Emmett’s childhood home actually burned down because of a candle, so we’re extremely cautious.
The Obvious Instructions:
- Burn your candle within sight at all times.
- Keep out of the reach of children and pets.
- Never burn a candle on or near anything that can catch fire.
- Keep your candle away from drafts or heavy air flow, and never burn in an unventilated room.
- Keep your candle clean! It should be free of soot lining the vessel, debris in the wax, and dust.
- Extinguish your candle properly- never use water or a liquid to put out the flame. Instead, use a candle snuffer or gently blow the candle out.
When in doubt, check the instructions and care guide on the box or packaging! It’s the law that candles contain this important information, and something I found super interesting when designing our own candle packaging.
Next, let’s cover the tips that are a bit more interesting! Perhaps you already know some of these?
- Keep the wick trimmed to ¼’’ at all times and trim your wick before each burn! Untrimmed wicks lead to popping, smoking, and soot. This is how candles end up looking dirty and become dangerous.
- Place the candle on a temperature safe or heat resistant surface to avoid damage. I always place something underneath my candle to protect the surface beneath it- like a pedestal, trivet, or tray.
- Do not burn candles for more than 4 hours at a time.
- Discontinue use when ¼’’ of wax remains.
- Burn your candle edge to edge to prevent “tunneling”… more on that below!
HOW TO CORRECT…
Tunnel burning is when the candle burns straight down, leaving unmelted wax around the edges. It looks like a ring or tunnel in the center of the candle. This wastes wax and your candle, leaving an uneven burn and unused wax around the perimeter. To ensure your candle doesn’t tunnel, allow it to burn until the wax is totally melted from the wick, all the way to the edge of the jar before extinguishing. Never light a candle for a few minutes only to blow it out… you’ll be left with a tunnel. Make sure you have some time to invest!
What happens if your candle is already tunneled? The best way to fix that is with a little tin foil hack. Create a cone with a hole in the center, and place it on top of your candle (like a witch hat or upside down ice cream cone, with a hole in the end for venting). This will help the wax melt evenly, holding in the heat, and will rid the candle of the tunnel. Once the wax is fully melted, carefully remove the tin foil.
A Mushroom Wick
A mushroom wick is a large unstable flame that takes on the shape of a balloon, burnt piece of popcorn, or a mushroom (that’s the term in the candle world). If you’re seeing a soot ball on the end of the wick- you’ve got a mushroom. It’s very important to remove and trim mushrooms before lighting your candle. You should always trim your wick before lighting a candle, but especially if you have a mushroom wick! You could end up with a popping, large, and smoking flame that is a fire hazard. What leads to a mushroom wick? Burning your candle for an extended period of time can create a mushroom… they’re really quite common. Just remember to constantly trim your wick to avoid them!
Since soy wax has a lower melting point, if your candle is sitting in the direct sunlight or in a very hot room, it may begin to sweat. If you see beads of condensation on your candle, allow it to cool or dab the wax to rid it of any moisture, so it can return to its normal, solidified state. Never light a sweating candle until the moisture is gone.
REUSE THE VESSEL
I never throw my candle containers or vessels in the trash once the candle has been completely burned. To remove the last bit of the wax, place the jar in the freezer to loosen, then it will pop right out with a knife. Once the wax is removed, I’ll wash it with hot soapy water or run it through the dishwasher.
Choosing a candle with a beautiful jar is half the fun, because I know I’ll find a way to repurpose or reuse it afterwards. If you’re looking for ideas on that, l’ll share 10 ideas below…
- Use it as a planter.
- Use it to corral items on your vanity (cotton swabs, cotton rounds, cosmetic brushes, travel perfume bottles, etc).
- Use glass vessels as a drinking or cocktail glass (after thoroughly cleaning).
- Use shallow candle vessels as a catchall bowl on an entry table or nightstand.
- Use the jar as a votive for a pillar candle or tea light.
- Use it to corral pens or pencils on your desk.
- Use it on the kitchen counter to contain tea & coffee bar packets.
- Use it as a vase for fresh florals or greenery.
- Use it to hold matches or vintage match books for easy candle lighting.
- Try your hand at a DIY soy or citronella candle and refill it for life as a candle once again!
I hope this post wasn’t boring or stuffed with too much info, but I wanted to keep a permanent resource here on the blog to share whenever it’s needed. Feel free to pin it for later! Who has a favorite candle or has adopted a signature home fragrance? I tend to switch things up seasonally to keep it interesting and unique, but I certainly have some go-to candles. Let me know if you have any questions in the comment section below. I’ll do my best to help!
Since I’m just getting home from High Point Market today, and have a lot to catch up on, in lieu of scrambling to create a blog post for tomorrow (and running on little sleep, ha)– I’m going to work on compiling a big blog post for you filled with some of the inspiration, trends, and materials I saved and loved from market for Monday! It’s going to be a good one- so be sure to check back next week. PS- if you’re ever looking for incredible chocolate recommendations, you know who to ask! Haha! Believe me when I say, I’ve tested them all. Candles & chocolate… two of my favorite things. Anyone else with me on that? Have a great day!