Candles can turn a space into a home with their warmth and gentle presence, but they are not without their complications.
Here, we’ll share some tips that will answer your burning candle questions, such as “why does my candle burn down the middle?”, “why is the flame so large?” and “why can’t I smell my scented candle?” Read on and you’ll become a candle burning expert.
This candle’s flame is too large
A flame that burns too high is also a flame that burns too hot. An exaggerated flame has three main drawbacks: aesthetically, it doesn’t look great, you may be burning through your candle faster and losing some precious burn time, and it is a fire hazard (if the glass isn’t thick enough, too much heat could shatter your candle’s container). A flame that is out of control, flashing, or smoking should be extinguished immediately, as it can be a sign of something wrong with the candle’s composition.
If you find that your candle flames are burning too high, there are two potential causes. One potential cause is that the wick is too “thick” — a decision by the manufacturer which you can’t do much about. The other potential cause is that the wick is too long, and needs to be trimmed. A best practice is to trim the wick to 1/4 of an inch before each burn, ensuring that control of the amount of ‘fuel’ provided to your flame stays within your control. To trim your wick, you can use a wick trimmer — though we find nail clippers and Joyce Chen scissors do the job just as well.
My candle is smoking
Have you placed your candle in a draft? Assuming your wick is trimmed to the proper height, a draft can cause your candle to create smoke while it burns, something that isn’t good for your lungs or your nose. Any bursts of air that cause your candle flame to dance around also cause your wick to use fuel at an inconsistent pace. Because the wick is drawing oil from the candle wax, this means that a buildup is created within the wick, as the flame fails to burn as much oil as it’s taking in. When the flame gets high again, it burns too much fuel, resulting in the smoke and soot you see. A simple fix is to move your candle away from any fans, open windows or doors, air conditioners, and vents. This will ensure a smooth burn and limit smoking.
There’s a crater in my candle’s center
A common problem amongst candle lovers of all kinds is ‘tunneling’, a term for what happens when a candle only burns down its center, leaving wax residue on the edges of the container and creating a tunnel-like shape. After a while, this makes the candle nearly impossible to burn, as the wick can’t receive enough air to burn steadily, and is ‘drowned’ out by melting wax above it. Additionally, it’s a waste of wax, especially if you purchased a quality candle.
Fear not! This issue can be easily avoided by staying away from short burn times. The first burn in particular is critical: burning your candle for two to three hours on its initial run allows the wax to melt all the way out to the edges of its container. This will ensure that when your wax cools, the surface of the candle will remain even. A fix for tunneling though is simply done by removing some of the surrounding wax to help the candle melt fully to its edges. Wax also has a ‘memory’, this means that it will sometimes refuse to melt beyond its last point of melting and cooling so burning a candle until the wax melts to its edges is so important, it keeps a consistent burn throughout the life of the candle. Other reasons why the melt pool might not reach the edges of the container despite burning it for hours and hours is that the wick might be too small (which, unfortunately, you can't do much about).
My candle is sweating
There can be a few reasons for a candle sweating, but the most common is due to the oil content of the candle. Some candles are scented with fragrance oils, and some, such as soy candles, have a natural oil content that will occasionally ‘sweat’ through the wax of the candle. In most cases, this is just something that will happen on a candle’s initial burn and never again. Once the candle is out and cool, you can use a paper towel to clean up any excess oil. If your candle sweats every time you burn it, this is often due to an overabundance of oil in the candle, which isn't a problem really.
Exposure to heat may also cause sweating; hotter conditions increase the odds that a candle sweats, all else being equal. Apart from questionable aesthetics (and in some cases wasted fragrance), sweating generally isn’t a big issue to worry about.
I don’t really smell anything
It can be quite disappointing to buy an expensive scented candle and discover that it doesn’t emit much of a fragrance. To troubleshoot the problem, first try burning your candle in a smaller room such as a bathroom or home office, in case the scent is simply subtler than expected. Also, try burning your candle for a longer period of time, as it may simply need more melted wax to diffuse the scent. If none of these things work, it could unfortunately just be a flaw in the candle’s creation; the fragrances used may not be potent enough or concentrated enough. Consider purchasing your next candle from brands investing in high quality fragrances.
Keep these tips in mind, and you’ll be a candle pro sooner than you think. If you need some personal candle assistance, our inbox here at Keap is always open to your questions! Get in touch anytime at TheLab@KeapBK.com.