Candle Selection & Candle Care Tips

Candle Selection & Candle Care Tips - roomfortuesday.comThis 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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

Candle Selection & Candle Care Tips - roomfortuesday.comI’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!

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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:

  1. Burn your candle within sight at all times.
  2. Keep out of the reach of children and pets.
  3. Never burn a candle on or near anything that can catch fire.
  4. Keep your candle away from drafts or heavy air flow, and never burn in an unventilated room.
  5. Keep your candle clean! It should be free of soot lining the vessel, debris in the wax, and dust.
  6. 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.

Candle Selection & Candle Care Tips - roomfortuesday.comNext, let’s cover the tips that are a bit more interesting! Perhaps you already know some of these?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Do not burn candles for more than 4 hours at a time.
  4. Discontinue use when ¼’’ of wax remains.
  5. Burn your candle edge to edge to prevent “tunneling”… more on that below!

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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!

Candle Sweating

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.

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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…

  1. Use it as a planter.
  2. Use it to corral items on your vanity (cotton swabs, cotton rounds, cosmetic brushes, travel perfume bottles, etc).
  3. Use glass vessels as a drinking or cocktail glass (after thoroughly cleaning).
  4. Use shallow candle vessels as a catchall bowl on an entry table or nightstand.
  5. Use the jar as a votive for a pillar candle or tea light.
  6. Use it to corral pens or pencils on your desk.
  7. Use it on the kitchen counter to contain tea & coffee bar packets.
  8. Use it as a vase for fresh florals or greenery.
  9. Use it to hold matches or vintage match books for easy candle lighting.
  10. Try your hand at a DIY soy or citronella candle and refill it for life as a candle once again!

Candle Selection & Candle Care Tips - roomfortuesday.comI 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!

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  1. Good morning! Holy smokes.😉 Who knew candles were such a science?! You’ve definitely influenced our candle burning habits. Before trying a Tuesday Made example, I didn’t imagine a luxury candle could really be worth the cost. Lesson learned. I might request extravagant candles as my annual birthday gift moving forward. As for your tips, I do have several questions. I understand why soy is preferable to something synthetic; where does beeswax fit in the mix? For some reason, I feel like I only see tapers fashioned from it. I confess that I never trim the wick…I’ll do better. Your tip about fixing the tunnel is genius!! I knew I was supposed to burn until the whole top was melted, but sometimes I don’t plan perfectly. Now that I’m thinking about it, a pillar candle has to have a tunnel, right? It can’t burn to the edge. Also, I am curious about the admonition against burning longer than 4 hours. That’s certainly a long time so I’ve likely never done it, but now I wonder! At the moment, my signature home scent is Woodland! Have I mentioned how much I love, love, love that scent? Grove is my second fave for the warmer months. Can you recommend a spicy floral to try for spring? I already have snoot tendencies, Sarah. You are not helping. Now I think I can’t scarf M&Ms anymore. At the risk of my wallet, what’s a favorite chocolate treat or brand? I’d be game for some “research.”
    I’m glad you enjoyed your Market trip! I remember how invigorating a quality professional conference can be. I’ll look forward to hearing (and seeing!) all of your inspiration! Happy catching up weekend!💜

    1. Good morning!! Candles are always my go-to gift- I feel like a good candle is always appreciated and a thoughtful option! Awesome questions. Beeswax is amazing! It’s super comparable to soy… it burns clean, is natural, has a similar (slightly higher) melting temp, and is also an eco-friendly option. The main reason I opted for soy instead of beeswax is because of the color and fragrance. Beeswax has more of a honey or golden color, where soy is more neutral or creamy. Beeswax is also more difficult to perfume because it already has a stronger, sweeter, natural smell. Both are excellent options for candles though! I’d choose either one of them over paraffin. Tapers are often made from beeswax because it’s a denser material, and tapers usually are not perfumed or fragranced, like a regular scented candle. I’ve definitely had to use the tin foil trick on some tunneled candles in the past. Sometimes I’ll light one and then something comes up, where I need to extinguish it sooner than expected. It happens, but it’s an easy fix! Burning a candle too long really can be a fire hazard. That’s when the wick will begin to mushroom, the flame grows, can produce smoke from the build up on the wick, and it just becomes less predictable. At that time period, you should also have more than enough fragrance wafting through your home, so blowing it out or snuffing it within that time window will allow you to extend the life of your candle as well. I’m so happy you love our candles! Woodland is my signature fragrance at home, too. It really is my favorite from the collection- though I hate to play favorites. Haha! As for spicy floral scents, I’ve heard great things about Floral Rose and I love Burning Rose (a splurge for sure, but SO good- I got a travel size mini free with my perfume purchase a few years ago and I’m tempted to get the big one). Ooook, chocolate- one of my favorite things on the planet. Ha! For the sake of “research”, a handful of my favorite brands include: Vosges, La Maison Du Chocolat, Norman Love Confections, Ritual Chocolate here in Utah is a local favorite … really any company that uses Valrhona or Callebaut chocolate. You will LOVE the Vosges flavor profiles (so interesting!) and packaging… they’re a cool company! Can’t wait to compile some of my images and share my favorite things about market- I’m still recovering and catching up over here. Lol! Have an awesome weekend ahead, Peggi! xo

  2. Great post Sarah! I’m with you on quality candles and chocolate. Personally I prefer to support a small business when making these types of purchases and usually Christmas is when in splurge on both of these decadent luxuries. I find good quality soy candles have much longer burn times and a good quality one can last me quite a while. Your candles at Tuesday Made are one of the finest, I have been buying soy candles for about 20 years or so. I love to buy local and from small business when making these types of purchases. Supporting my community chocolatier that makes fresh yummy delights in small batches with less sugar and better ingredients is important to me as I prefer quality over quantity. The same with candles too. All your tips on burning candles are spot on Sarah but I didn’t know how to fix tunneling so I’m anxious to try it. I generally buy 3 or 4 candles of the same scent such as grove as I’m fussy on scents and when the candle doesn’t burn any longer there is usually a bit of wax left on the bottom. I collect the wax from all jars melt them down and pour back into the jar with a new cotton/soy wick and I can get another few hours of enjoyment from them. Yay! I love both good quality candles and chocolate as well as most of my family so generally it’s my go to gift at Christmas. In my opinion it’s the perfect prezzie for any occasion 😜 The jar is also so very beautiful and useful as I planted a cute succulent recently but your all your tips are awesome 👍 More fantastic ideas 😍 Sweet!
    I just placed an order for more Grove candles as my husband will land in Florida today and I’m hoping you have stock so he can bring them back but if not no worries we will be back in January 🥳 and Florida is the most perfect place to enjoy that scent. Have a wonderfully productive weekend, and I will be back on Monday 😉

    1. Thank you, Colleen! Such an excellent point you make- I’d also much rather support a small business. I’m so happy you’ve been pleased with our candles- that makes me so happy! I wanted to be really intentional with that collection, as so much research, care, and love went into creating them- we opted for premium ingredients, and you’ll be happy to hear we partner with another small women-owned business who pours them in small batches and packages them for us. That’s one of the things I’m most proud of in our shop, so we really appreciate your support and feedback :) Chocolates are also a go-to gift for me as well. We have some amazing local chocolate here in my community, too! I’d much rather give them my business. If you ever come across Ritual Chocolate from Park City, UT… it’s one of my favorites! I’m also a fan of beautiful packaging, in addition to the quality ingredients. I feel like that creates part of the experience as well. I loved seeing your jar as a succulent planter on the counter- it looks so perfect and charming up there! Emmett boxed up your order last night and it will be picked up by our delivery man this morning. It should be to your husband in FL in no time! Thanks again! Have an amazing weekend ahead, Colleen. xo

      1. Awe thanks so much for getting the candles out so quickly 🥰 Amazing! I will definitely keep on the lookout for Ritual chocolate as I’m a bit of a chocoholic especially for greater quality ☺️
        Can’t wait to be smelling the deliciousness of the Grove candles in my home soon. Yay! Have a super fabulous weekend ❤️

        1. You got it, Colleen! Let me know what you think :) I’m also a chocoholic (obviously), haha! xo

  3. Good morning and welcome home! High Point Market looked like loads of fun, and I’ll be looking forward to Monday’s post. These candle tips are great tools to have in the knowledge bag-most I already knew, but the ingredients affecting the way a candle burns is new-to-me information. In T-minus ten minutes I’ll be furiously checking all my candle ingredients, haha! My number one guilty as charged offense is burning my candles too long. I don’t intend to, they just smell so good! Now I’ll be setting a timer for myself. I’m the person that has wick trimmers and candle snuffs in every room-Jeff thinks I’m crazy. It’s mostly because I know I burn my candles too long, and when blown out, small pieces of charred wick end up in the melted wax…one of my biggest candle pet peeves. I have a favorite scent that I’ve long searched high and low in an effort to find a cleaner version, but sadly I’m still hunting. I’ll have to check this one and see if it’s a horrific offender of horrible ingredients. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us, and yes…candles and chocolate are a must have in my book! Have a wonderful Wednesday Sarah.

    1. Thank you, thank you! It was a super fun and fulfilling trip. I’m excited to share some images on Monday! I’m with you on burning candles for too long… I lose track of time so easily. Setting a timer is a good idea! I also have more wick trimmers and snuffers than I care to admit, haha! They’re great for styling and since I have candles sprinkled throughout our entire house, they’re handy to have close by. Candles and chocolates are really two of my favorite simple luxuries. Ha! I’m glad I’m not alone :) Have an awesome Thursday, Lauren! xo

  4. Hi Sarah – great tips – thanks! I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on why some high end candle companies (like Diptyque, for example) use paraffin wax instead of soy? I stopped buying them because of this, but I miss my Feu De Bois!

    1. That is such a good question! I’m not sure why Diptyque uses paraffin. Even though that particular brand says it’s high quality, it’s still petroleum based. I haven’t purchased one in a long time, but their fragrances are so beautifully done. It’s a bummer they haven’t moved to soy or beeswax. Their candles also don’t last as long because of the wax they’re using, so it makes it more difficult for me to justify the price. I wish I had a solid answer for you, but I’m really not sure!

  5. Such excellent advice! I’m hoping you know the answer to my conundrum too: when cleaning out the last bits of a candle to reuse the vessel, how do you remove the glued-down metal “wick holder” in the middle? I put my candle in the freezer and indeed the remaining wax comes right out with a knife, but then I’m left prying REALLY hard with the knife (sometimes shattering the glass vessel in the process, oops) to try to remove the metal wick holder.

    1. Ahhh, that’s a tricky one! I usually pop them into the freezer first, so the wax comes out easily. Then I’ll let the vessel come back to room temperature… if the glued down wick is being tricky, you can boil hot water, pour it in, let it sit for a couple minutes, that should loosen the wick base. I’ve also used Goo Gone to help with the sticky adhesive that the wick base leaves. Depending on what I’m reusing the vessel for, sometimes I’ll just leave the base in place, if it won’t be visible. I hope that helps, Lisa!

  6. I loved this post! So informative and helpful! I’ve always “known” these things about candles, but never really knew why. Now I’m thinking I need to get rid of the cheapies I have and splurge. Thanks for taking the time to put this together – such a great resource. I don’t have a wick trimmer, but will be getting one. I also should get a little tray or pedestal for my candles. Right now they’re just on whatever surface I have them on, but using something like that elevates (literally, ha!) the whole experience I think. Glad the Market was fun – can’t wait to see more. Happy almost weekend Sarah!

    1. I’m so happy to hear it, Amanda! We used to have “candle care kits” in our shop, but our wick trimmers and snuffers are still on backorder. The tools really do help though and I think they make the experience feel more special and artful. I enjoy taking care of our candles, haha! We just unboxed a TON of marble yesterday and we have new pedestals coming. I’ll be sure to share once they’re live. I really do think they elevate the look (and literally of course), while doing an awesome job to protect your furniture, countertop, or whatever surface is beneath them. Market was so much fun! I’m excited to pull that post together this weekend and share more. Have a great day! xo

  7. I really learned a lot from this post (and many of your others – love your blog, Sarah!). I was wondering about pillar candles — are there any “best practices” you could share for them to help them burn down evenly? Thanks again for the tips — I will definitely be putting some of them to use this winter!

    1. I’m so happy to hear that Hannah! For pillar candles, I try to burn those evenly, and a lot of the same principles apply. Keep the wick trimmed, let the candle burn for one hour per diameter inch- for example, if the pillar is a 4” diameter, the first burn should last 4 hours. I hope that helps :)

  8. Great info. I burn candles sparingly because I’m leery of the toxins, and didn’t realize soy was a better option. Will have to seek those out!

    Also nice comparison with the chocolate. Once I had good chocolate the cheap stuff was barely tolerable. Small luxuries.

  9. Hi Sarah! I’m a little late to this post, but I loved how informative it was! Thanks for the time you put into this. Also, I have a quick question: Last year I purchased a few of the Henro Company match strikers you have in some of these photos and recommended in past posts. I still love them aesthetically, but they no longer work well as their bases seem to have lost their magic touch (strikability?). Have you experienced this? If so, do you have any suggestions for getting a little more longevity out of them? I had hoped for a few years of us at least. Thanks in advance for any advice you may have!

    Have a great day.

    1. Hi Emily, I’m so glad to hear that! I’m not familiar with the Henro Company match strikes, but I haven’t experienced that with any of my strikes. Is the finish still rough? Are you using strike-anywhere matches? You might be able to take some abrasive sand paper to rough up the striking surface, if it has gone smooth over time. That should definitely help create some friction! Have a great Friday!!

      1. Emily Linebaugh says:

        Sarah, apologies for the delayed response and thank you so much for taking the time to write me back! I thought for sure you had recommended the Henro Company, but I was wrong! I’ll be trying your sandpaper tip this weekend and crossing my fingers that it works. Thanks again, I love following along on you blog.

        1. No problem at all, Emily! Let me know how the sandpaper works :)