*NEVER LEAVE A LIT CANDLE UNATTENDED OR UNOBSERVED*
How Do Candles Work?
When a candle is lit, the area of wax near the wick melts. The melted wax is absorbed into and the wick and up it by capillary motion before being vapourised by the flame; it is this constant vaporisation that keeps a candle alight. A common misconception is that it is the wick that burns, but it only holds the flame as the wax burns.
Why Soy Wax?
It's cleaner to burn (giving off minimal soot), it contains no harmful compounds, it's renewable (and better for the Earth), and it burns slower than all other waxes. Best of all, its flame burns a bright white, as opposed to yellow. Soy wax has a low melting-point and doesn't get too hot, is softer, and is very easy to wipe up compared to paraffin wax, should you spill any. If you need to pour any out of a jar candle to help it burn, you'll be able to wipe away the unwanted wax from the inside of the jar, once the flame is extinguished.
Because of soy wax's softness, low melting-point, and smoother burn, it's more efficient at throwing the scent of any oil that is mixed into it.
On the 'cleaner' point, it's important to note that burning paraffin wax, of which most commercially-available candles are made (unless stated otherwise), releases 11 known toxins, 2 of which are carcinogens.
Soy wax gives off a minimal amount of soot compared to the commercial-standard of paraffin wax; if you see wisps of soot rising from your candle's flame, its more-than-likely because the wick is too long. Extinguish the flame, allow the container to cool, wipe away any soot from the inside of the container, trim the wick, and relight.
Consider the following points to help further minimise the amount of unwanted soot:
- Before every burn, trim your candle's wick to around 5mm, then extinguish the flame and trim every 4 hours of burn time. Not only will this help with unwanted soot, it is will also ensure the flame stays a a size that isn't unsafe.
- Ensure the candle isn't in the path of draughts or regular currents of air. This will also prolong a candle's life as bursts of air will cause a candle to burn much quicker.
If your jar candle has accumulated soot inside it, simple extinguish the flame, wipe the soot away, trim the wick, then relight.
Wax and fragrance or essential oils can slightly separate and small beads of oil will appear on the candle's surface; be sure to wipe any candle, particularly before its first burn.
The First Burn
After lighting a candle for the first time, allow the wax-pool to reach the edge before extinguishing it, trimming the wick, and relighting.
Tunnelling occurs when a candle is extinguished before the melted-wax pool has reached the edges (or close to the edges). Candles have a 'memory', so to speak, and the pool can struggle to spread out to its potential if it wasn't allowed to on the prior burn. This isn't as much of an issue with freestanding pillar candles, but can be problematic with jar candles. If the edges of your candle become higher than the wick, allow it to burn for a little longer than normal to help the wax level.
Because of its softness, pillar candles made from soy wax can sometimes split. The solid-but-melting side will no longer be able to hold the pool, it'll split, and the pool will drain away. Because of the potential for this to happen, please always sit pillar candles in something with raised edges such as a bowl.
The thickness of our wicks are selected to minimise the possibility of this happening, but please remember the following points to further help prevent splitting:
- Don't let a candle's burn time exceed 4 hours; extinguish the flame every 4 hours, let the wax cool and harden, trim the wick, and relight. Soy wax doesn't get as hot as paraffin wax, but allowing the pool to overheat will increase the potential for a split.
If your candle's side does split, extinguish the flame as soon as you notice it (this is another reason to not leave a burning candle unobserved). Try and plug the split with a piece of dry wax, or by joining the soft wax together and allowing it to try. It may be slightly messy to do this, but it minimises wax wastage. Once the wax has hardened, trim the wick and relight it, allowing a new pool to form.
Allowing a pillar candle to cool every 4 hours will stop the wax overheating and prevent a potential split, but this isn't an issue for container candles. However, sections of the container, particularly those above the flame, can get hot quickly. Please remember 3(.5) points:
- Never move a lit container candle.
- Be careful when you're near a lit container candle not to touch it.
- Allow a container to cool after the flame has been extinguished; exercise caution and safety, and always be vigilant of a container's temperature before touching it. A good visual indicator of when it's safe to touch a container is the wax; if the wax is completely solid or almost solid, the container will be cool enough to handle.
- Extinguish (and allow to cool) our tester jars every 2 hours; as the flame is closer to the edges of the jar, they can overheat quicker than bigger jars.
If your candle burns for too long and the wax pool is deep enough for the wick to lean to one side, extinguish the flame and move the wick back to the centre of the candle as the wax dries; wooden skewers are a good tool to move the wick without touching it with your hands (A quick search will show you 3 tools to help prolong a candle's life). This will ensure your candle continues to burn evenly.
If you have over-trimmed your wick, or it has burnt down too quickly and now the flame is too small, pour away wax as it pools; with the empty space created, the flame will increase in size. You should only need to do this once in order for the flame to grow larger and re-establish itself but sometimes you may need to repeat this process a couple of times.
A wood-wick flame can sometimes be a little trickier to get to maintain itself, but once you've helped it to establish, it'll burn as smoothly as a regular wick with the added feature of crackling as it burns. Employ the 4-hour rule as with a regular wick, paying extra attention to its width and increased likeliness to make any section of the container above it very hot. Flames burn best when there's little burnt wood hanging from the top of the wick, so get rid of any debris when the flame is extinguished; again, you can find dedicated candle-maintenance tools on the internet, but a wooden skewer works just as well. Ensure the part of the wick that rises above the wax is always kept to less than 5mm.
Excess Wax - Pillar Candles
If you have a tealight burner and there is any excess wax at the end of a candle's life, whether its from splitting or the wick burning out before the last of the wax, break off pieces and re-use them in the burner.
Excess Wax - Melts
Once a melt is in a liquid state, oils will generally evaporate at a rate slightly quicker than that of the wax. Because of this, scents can become less-intense towards the end of its life. After you've extinguished the candle (or turned off the lamp if your melt burner is electric) for the final time, put a ribbon into the pool with each side left out. Once the wax sets, you can remove it from the burner cleanly and safely.
This can also be implemented if you want to try a new scent but haven't yet finished with the one you're currently using.