Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on Candlefind November 2007. It has been completely revamped and updated to reflect our current branding and content strategy.
Are you looking for simple, useful candle tips? I hear you and I feel your pain. I can remember when I first started burning candles, in the early 90s. I cringe now when I think about all the wrong ways I was burning my candles. I wish I had had a candle mentor…someone who could have given me some candle tips and kept me from wasting so.much.money. The only good news is that I’ve learned the hard way. Through lots of trial and error (and by becoming a part of this wonderful candle community), I have learned a lot about proper candle care and how to get the most out of my candles. Learning these simple tips also helped me cut down on my waxidents (accidents while using wax). It all ties in together and makes this hobby of buying and using scented wax all that more enjoyable.
Candle Tip #1: To Trim Or Not To Trim…
I know, I know…we’ve all heard the mantra about trimming your wicks, especially before the first burn. The length that most often gets thrown about is 1/4″ (or 1/8″). Trimming your wick is very important to the success of burning your candle…but so is knowing when not to trim.
For instance, some candles already come with extremely short wicks – for various reasons. I have some comrades (who shall remain nameless) who absolutely insist on trimming these wicks. They then end up with a barely burning candle and wonder, What the heck??? Don’t trim those wicks. Don’t be that person.
There are also some brands that burn better with a tad longer wick and some that burn better with a shorter wick. You learn this by trial and error and getting to know a brand’s products intimately. However, a good general rule is to trim your wick before the first burn and in between burns, too. When you do trim your wick properly, the candle will burn slower and more evenly. It also helps keep that coveted tear-drop shape flame, which is important to minimize the chances of a sooty mess. The National Candle Association stresses the importance of wick trimming to keep your candles in good burning shape.
You can use a formal wick trimmer, which is a long tipped pair of scissors specifically made to trim candle wicks. We love the Wickman brand of wick trimmers, if you’re going to go that route. They are sturdy, long-lasting, and don’t hurt your fingers while trying to trim. (We’ve tried a number of cheap wick trimmers, and they are simply not worth the trouble.) You can also use a small pair of regular scissors or spare nail clippers. Just be sure to turn your candle upside down when trimming so that debris doesn’t fall into your candle.
Trimming your wick is very important to the success of burning your candle…but so is knowing when not to trim.
Candle Tip #2: Burn By The Clock
We’ve been there before. You get so excited about that new candle acquisition, you just can’t wait to get it home and set it alight. But wait…hold up…do you really have the time to give that bundle of wax right now? Candles have this strange thing called ‘memory,’ and once you light it, the memory wheels start turning. If you only burn your candle partially (meaning you don’t get a full melted wax pool all the way across), your candle will ‘remember’ where it stopped on that first burn, and you’ll be stuck with a tunneling candle throughout the life of that candle. (Yes, there are ways to try to correct this, but it’s not easy and we want to avoid this from happening if at all possible.)
A general rule of thumb is to burn your candle for one hour for each inch in diameter. If your candle is 4″ in diameter, you want to commit to a first-time burn of about 4 hours. That should give plenty of time to get that full wax melt pool…the top layer should be liquid all the way across. If not, continue to burn it a little longer until you get that full wax melt pool. (If your candle is already tunneling or it’s evident that you won’t get a full wax melt pool, you may have a poor quality candle on your hands, and you’ll have to whip out some advanced candle tips for that…stay tuned as we’ll post about some of those in a future article.) The next time you burn the candle, you do not have to let it burn this same length of time, but it’s always better if you do. It’s the first burn that is most important, so make sure you have the time to burn it properly the first time.
Candle Tip #3: Stay Centered
As a candle burns down, the wax melts around the wick and is liquid. You’ve done all the right things, so your wax melt pool is nice and full and deep. Now that the wax is no longer all solid, there could be trouble brewing with your wick. The wick can start to wander a bit in the liquid wax, leaning to one side or the other. This will contribute to uneven burning of your candle and cause one side of the container to get too hot compared to the other, risking breakage. When you snuff out your candle (properly…see Tip #4 below), take the time to give your wick a little tender loving care. Check to see if the wick has migrated at all and use the end of your wick trimmer (or some other flat tool) to push your wick back to the center. The same applies if you have a multi-wick candle – make sure the wicks aren’t getting too close to each other. Set them straight while the wax is still warm. If you do this while the wax is semi-solid, there’s less chance of that wick migrating again before the wax fully hardens.
Using a candle snuffer or wick dipper instead of your candle lid keeps the smell of smoke out of your freshly burned candle.
Candle Tip #4: Don’t Lid Snuff
While we admit to breaking this rule frequently, it really is something that should be heeded most of the time. Yes, candle lids are convenient. Yes, candle lids help contain fragrance of your candle. They keep dust out, too. We love candle lids! We just don’t love them for the purpose of extinguishing a flame. Why is that? When you snuff out your candle with the candle lid, you’re trapping all that smoke inside with your freshly melted wax. The scents are going to co-mingle. Trust. While that might not make a big difference with a bold candle scent, your softer, more subtle fragrances will take a hit. We prefer to use a candle snuffer or wick dipper instead – there will be no trapping of smoke in your candle and the fragrance will remain like new! Wickman makes a great candle snuffer and wick dipper, but we’re not beholden to the brand for these tools. Cheaper ones will work just fine, or you may find some more expensive, decorative ones. As long as they dip or snuff out your wick, you’re good!
Candle Tip #5: Foil It
OK, so you’ve done everything right (or maybe not), and you still have a candle that won’t burn all the way to the edges. Grab yourself a little bit of tin foil and force the candle to a full wax melt pool! You will fold the tin foil in half and then use it to wrap around the top half of your candle. Leave enough of it over the top so that you can curve the edges inward. Don’t cover your flame(s)…just try to contain some of the heat. You’ll be directing that heat inward and on to the top layer of the candle wax. It shouldn’t take long to get your desired effect, but it does depend on the size of your candle and the number of wicks. We recommend only doing this for 30 minutes at a time then repeating the process only if necessary. In case you’re more of a visual person, be sure to watch this viral YouTube video on the tin foil trick for candles.
If you don’t have any tin foil (or if the trick didn’t work), use a blow dryer instead. You’ll turn your blow dryer on the lowest warm setting and gently pass the warm air back and forth over your candle. Of course, don’t do this while burning! Snuff out your wicks and immediately begin the process. Once your wax starts to melt, you can light the wicks again (trimming, if necessary) and you should now have a nice, full wax melt pool.
One thing about using either one of these tricks you need to remember – you may have to pour out some of the newly melted wax to keep your wicks from drowning. Once you get the wax to melt more, the melt pool will be deeper. Depending on the state of your wicks at the time, the extra liquid just might take them over and drown them. Whenever we have to employ one of these tricks, we play it safe and always pour out a little of the liquid wax. That wax doesn’t have to be wasted! Pour it into a wax warmer and turn that on next to your burning candle. See…we told ya you’d be a pro!
These five amazingly simple candle tips will help your candle burn longer and better. Plus they will help you get the most out of your money, which is important to most of us. Try these candle tips and you’ll look like this really cool lady and a candle pro. Well…maybe you won’t look exactly like her…or even a little… But you for sure will be the candle guru of amongst your casual candle burning friends. Go ahead and take all the praise…your secrets are safe with us!
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