Whether you’re putting the finishing touches on a freshly-cleaned home or about to welcome guests into your home or planning to unwind with a home spa day on your own, candles are synonymous with comfort, luxury, and relaxation.
But before you draw a bath and soak in your favorite botanical scents, it’s important to understand how to burn candles properly to get the most out of your new flame.
So, how long should you burn a candle? Most single burn sessions should last no longer than 2 hours. That said, every candle is unique and depends on if it is a glass jar candle, tin candle, or boxed candle. The better you know yours, the more you’ll enjoy basking in its incandescent glow.
Below, we answer your burning questions about how to take care of your candles so they can take exquisite care of you.
Candles 101: Waxes, Wicks, and Why They Matter
Before you know how long to keep your favorite candle going, it helps to understand how candles get their glow.
There are two main parts to a candle: the wax and the wick. When expertly combined, these elements work together to create and maintain a flame.
Wicks are made from absorbent materials, which enable them to coax the wax (the fuel) up the cord to feed the flame. Candle wax is solid at room temperature, but it melts when the wick is lit. This consistency is what allows the wick to pull it up toward the flame.
While these candle mechanics are universal, different types of waxes, wicks, and candle vessels can all influence how individual candles work. Let’s examine each component and the unique benefits they offer.
In scented candles, the wax is the part of the candle that holds fragrance. When heated and melted, the wax gently releases the fragrance into the air. Higher quality candles use blends of natural and renewable waxes. They throw fragrance well and turn to burn “cleaner” than their paraffin counterparts.
Even so, some waxes are optimal for “scent throw”—in other words, they hold and release the essential oil blends (fragrance) better than others. The three most popular types of wax for candles are:
- Paraffin wax – Petroleum-derived paraffin is the most frequently used type of candle wax used.. It tends to be inexpensive and, while some people take exception to the fact that it is not renewable, it can deliver intense fragrance.
- Beeswax – Beeswax candles are made from (you guessed it!) beeswax. This wax’s texture burns slowly and smoothly, but it isn’t ideal for holding fragrance.
- Soy, Palm and Coconut waxes – These eco-friendly, plant-based blends offer a nice, slow and clean burn that allows the fragrance to lift effortlessly off the top of the candle. They tend to cost a little more, but most people think that the end result is worth it!
Just as there are many varieties of wax used in candle making, there are different types of wicks as well.
Most fiber wicks are made from braided or knit textiles like cotton, but they are prepared differently to ignite different aromatic experiences. The most common varieties of fiber wicks include:
- Flat wicks – As the name suggests, these are made with a flat braid. They offer a clean, consistent burn. When lit, they are intended to curve gently inside the flame, which allows the wick to self-trim as it burns.
- Square wicks – Square wicks are considered the best choice for beeswax candles. While their name suggests otherwise, these have a rounded, sturdy appearance and provide a strong flame when lit.
- Cored wicks – Like the flat and square wicks, cored wicks are also made from a braided material. However, they usually use another material, such as paper or zinc, in the interior to help the wick stay upright.
Another type of clean-burning wick is the wooden wick. While they evoke thoughts of snowy nights next to warm, crackling fires, they also tend to burn hotter and faster than cotton. If you’re looking for a fiber wick candle, those made with 100% cotton are the best choice for the cleanest, chemical-free burn.
The expertise in candle-making is to match the right wick, to the right wax, to the right types of fragrance oils. Do that, and you have a great burning candle that will result in hours of enjoyment
Beyond the combinations of wax and wick choices, candles are also available in a variety of shapes, sizes, and containers. The most common types of candles include:
Votives, jars, and boxed candles are ensconced in vessels that are usually made from glass or metal, which provides a buffer for the melting wax. These containers introduce an element of ambiance to rooms by softly filtering the glow of the flame. They are also ideally suited to hold and deliver fragrance.
Tapered candles and pillar candles need to be placed on or in something supportive, like a candelabra (for tapers) or a plate (for pillars). In addition to helping them burn safely and catch wax drips, candle holders can add a touch of decorative drama.
4 Tips for Getting The Most Out Of Your Candle
Before embarking on a sensory adventure with the candle of your choosing, bear in mind that a burning candle requires a degree of care and attention.
Whether you’re lining your hearth with votives or lighting a glass candle before your guests arrive, these four tips will ensure that your candle enjoys a long, luminous life.
#1 Master The First Burn
Is there anything more satisfying than watching the velvety-smooth wax melt the first time you light a candle?
When lighting a candle for the first time, take these 3 steps to ensure it looks and burns clean:
- Start by trimming the candle wick to ¼”.
- After lighting the candle flame, keep it burning until the top layer of wax melts all the way to the edges of the vessel.
- Allow at least two hours for the wax to melt completely.
Taking these steps will help extend the life of your candle (by preventing candle tunneling, and delivering fragrance that will fill the entire time).
#2 Limit Burn Time To 2 Hours
When you’re enjoying the gentle glow and subtle aroma of a midnight flame, it can be difficult to know the ideal time to finally put out the candle flame and call it a night.
So, how long can a candle burn?
A good rule of thumb is to limit each candle to 2 hours of burn time, but absolutely no more than 4 hours at a time. If a candle isn’t manually extinguished, it can stay lit for a long time—and burning down to the bottom of the candle wick can create potential fire hazards.
Remember, just because a candle can burn for hours and hours doesn’t mean it should. And if you’re eager to indulge soon after a burn, always allow the candle and its container to cool completely before lighting it again. Always read the burn instructions included with each candle - it will include recommendations designed to make sure that you safely get the very most of your candle.
#3 Invest In A Candle Snuffer
When it’s time to extinguish the flame, try not to blow out the candle if you can avoid it.
Instead, treat yourself to a candle snuffer. These devices are designed to:
- Minimize the amount of smoke in the room
- Encourage an even disbursement of wax around the wick
- Prepare your candle for a cleaner experience the next time you light it
As a bonus, a beautiful candle snuffer adds an extra layer of sophistication to the candle-burning experience.
If you are using a jar candle and it has a lid, avoid putting the lid on while the candle is still lit. Instead, put out the flame and only replace the lid once the flame has been completely extinguished. Lidding on your candle will keep its wax surface clear of dust and debris, which can help enhance its fragrance.
#4 Know When It’s Time For A New Candle
While you may be faithfully enjoying the candle and the beautiful fragrance that it delivers, there comes a time when you need to part ways. Always discard your candle when only a half inch of wax remains. Burning it longer can overheat the bottom of your candle and create a safety hazard - and the very best candles on the market actually have a safety clip in the bottom designed to automatically self-extinguish the flame in case you forget (or just can’t bring yourself to let go!)
Many people wonder, do candles expire? The general answer is: no. When stored properly, a candle is safe to burn at any time when following the safety instructions. Even if your candle seems to have lost the scent that caught your attention in the first place, don’t fret. Rest assured that the fragrance is still there, only the outermost layer, or the “skin” of the candle has lost its scent. Scratch off the outer-surface of the candle, and you’ll be delighted to find that the full amount of fragrance is still on the inside of the candle.
The end of a candle isn’t a final goodbye, however! Many candles come in beautifully designed vessels that you can keep and repurpose. If you’re feeling creative, consider:
- Turning your spent candle container into a succulent planter
- Using it as a flower vase
- Storing pens or utensils on your desk
Moving from one candle to the next is also a perfect time to rotate a new fragrance into your repertoire. If you’re used to floral-forward scents like jasmine or magnolia, experiment with a fresh, citrusy aroma like pink grapefruit or the herbal serenity of a lavender fragrance with thyme.
Quick Candle Safety Tips
Before it’s time to luxuriate with your favorite scented candle, keep these candle-burning tips top of mind to keep your favorite candle in tip-top shape:
- Trim the wick to ¼ inch before lighting
- Only use your candle on a solid, flat, heat-resistant surface
- Keep hair and clothing back when lighting a candle
- Do not leave your candle unattended
- Keep candles far away from pets and children
- Place your candle in an area free of debris and flammable material
- Avoid burning your candle in drafty areas
- Do not burn for more than four hours at a time
- Allow candles to cool completely before relighting
- Never leave a child alone in a room with a lit candle
- Always extinguish your candle before going to bed or leaving the house
Savor A Calm, Clean Burn with Archipelago
By learning the art of candle handling, filling your home with warm candlelight and elegant fragrance takes little more than a strike of a match.
Relax, unwind, and experience the art of living well with a lushly fragranced candle out of Archipelago’s wide selection of home fragrances. Since 1998, our botanical-based products have been filling homes with sophisticated scents inspired by nature and travel. The option between our diffusers vs candles is definitely something to consider. Both deliver the full-bodied, luxurious scent to your room, but each has its own unique desirable qualities.
Whether you want to evoke the tropical heat of Botanico de Havana or prefer the clean, classic spa scents like eucalyptus, each Archipelago candle is crafted to transport you to your own paradise. Embrace serenity and transform your space by browsing Archipelago’s complete candle range today.