Do Candles Expire?

Have you just returned from months of travel, or you’re sorting through old home goods on a cleaning spree? Every home has a few boxes labeled STORAGE, so it’s not uncommon to unearth a candle or two that we forgot to use.

Don’t panic. Almost every candle you find, even if it is a few years old, can still be enjoyed safely when used in accordance with the original burning instructions.  And if you’re worried that the amazing fragrance that compelled you to buy it in the first place may be lost forever – it’s not.  While older candles may not smell like it once did on the outside – gently scratch the surface or simply light it, and you’ll discover that the fragrance oils still exist, at near their original intensity, on the inside of the candle!

Most old candles will still be safe to burn, but they won’t offer the luxurious experience promised when you first purchased them. Candles hidden away for more than 2 years may not greet you with a gentle waft of fragrance and probably won’t emit as gorgeous of a glow.

Fortunately, knowing the anatomy of your candle can help you determine whether yours has expired for good. This guide will illuminate how long candles last and what “expired” truly means. This will allow you to keep your gift boxed candle or glass jar candle in incandescent condition.

How Long Do Candles Last?

Most candles will continue to burn at their finest within 1 to 2 years after you purchase them.

That said, the lifespan of each candle and how long you should burn a candle largely depends on the kind of candle we’re talking about. Candles made with natural soy or coconut wax blends, for instance, tend to have a slightly shorter shelf life than their ‘paraffin’ counterparts. 

Some of the more common natural candle waxes are:

  • Beeswax – Pure, 100% beeswax candles can last several years in storage. However, you may notice they’ve “bloomed” once you take them out, appearing frosty white on the outside. Blooming can mar the appearance of a beeswax candle, but it does not necessarily indicate expiration. 

  • Soy – Soy is a natural and often organic material. Just as the soy or other natural products in your pantry can expire, so can soy candles. These will typically last between 1 to 2 years unburned. 

  • Coconut – Like soy wax candles, coconut wax is also a natural (and often organic) material. A coconut candle will burn at its best 1 to 2 years after you’ve purchased it.

  • So, how long does a candle last when it’s not made with natural and/or organic wax blends?

    Most paraffin wax candles can last virtually forever in the right storage conditions. While paraffin candle wax, for example, is a low-grade petroleum wax that’s often found in candles with a lower price point they are extremely stable.

    How Can You Tell If a Candle Has Gone Bad?

    The first step is to look to see if the manufacturer has listed an expiration date. If they have, best to assume they know what they are talking about! This will give you the best candle burning experience.

    If the candle maker hasn’t listed an expiration date, which is often the norm, follow these steps: 


    1. Check the candle’s cold throw – The cold throw, or the fragrance of an unlit candle, weakens with age. If you breathe in a candle’s scent and it’s hard to detect - gently scratch the outer surface and if it still doesn’t smell, it may be past its prime. 

    1. Observe the candle’s color – Was the candle once a bright red, and has now faded to a sickly salmon? If that color has faded or changed, it is a sure indication that you’re probably holding a candle that is old. It should still burn okay, but it just won’t be as nice to look at. 

    1. Check for dryness and yellowing – If the candle was colorless when you purchased it, yellowing or dry, cracked wax indicates it’s overstayed its welcome.

    Can You Use Expired Candles?

    Do candles expire? Yes, most of them do. But what happens if you try to light an expired candle? Depending on what they made with, what their original quality level was and how they’ve been stored, the answer is “maybe.”  The good news is with a little extra work and care, you’ll be able to tell quickly.

    Candles won’t usually pose a threat if lit past their shelf life and used in accordance with their label instructions - but they may burn less evenly and, depending on the fragrance oils used, they may have lost a step in their ability to deliver the same hot throw of fragrance. Even so, there are a few things to keep in mind if you’re intent on burning an expired candle: 

    • As with any candle, take extra care to make sure you are following the safety warnings and instructions when you're using that older candle.
    • Expect that your wax candle may not be as fragrant as a new candle
    • Your candle may burn unevenly, even after you’ve trimmed the candle wick

    • Your candle wax may tunnel

    • Your wax candle may have less burn time

    • Your candle may not light or stay lit 

    How to Extend the Life of Your Candles? 

    Natural or Organic waxes like soy and coconut are renowned for offering some of the cleanest and most luxurious burning experiences available. 

    If you’ve indulged in a candle with a plant-based wax blend, here are 3 tips for extending its life cycle when it’s resting from glimmering elegantly in your guest bathroom: 

    1. Keep it out of the sun Sunlight is an enemy to just about any candle, and is especially tough on those made with essential oils, natural fragrances and plant-based or organic waxes.  If your end table gets a lot of direct sunlight, you might consider placing your candles in a closed cabinet or closet when they’re not being used

    1. Store it in an air-tight container – Glass jar candles typically come with air-tight lids, which keep their fragrance from leaching into the air over time. To seal in your candle’s freshness, mimic this technique by keeping it in a sealed, air-tight container. 

    1. Avoid extreme temperatures Extreme heat or extreme cold can interfere with both candle’s fragrance profile and the consistency of its wax. Be sure to keep your candles in a cool, dark place to keep them in pristine condition. This is also one of the ways to fix tunneling

    Make A Lasting Impression with Archipelago Botanicals 

    With proper maintenance and care, candles really are the gift that keeps on giving—even if that’s just to yourself. 

    Since 1998, Archipelago Botanicals has made it our mission to concoct home fragrances capable of turning every room into a luxurious sanctuary. Each hand-poured candle offers an essential oil blend that can transport you across the globe, even if you’re just unwinding at home.

    Find your own signature scent with our fragrance finder quiz to find a fragrance tailored just for you and plan your next journey of the senses.


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