Candles make great sources of relaxation, adding a tinge of coziness to the mood and ambience. Apart from the warm yellow light they produce, some scented candles also provide a form of aromatherapy.
This World Candle Month (September), let’s take a look at some truths and misconceptions about candles.
1. Fact: Don’t put out a candle with water.
Using water to put out the candle may cause the wax to splatter. Similarly, blowing out the candle may also spill the hot liquid wax, on top of producing soot and smoke. The best way is to use a candle snuffer to naturally put out the flame by depriving it of oxygen.
2. Fact: You shouldn’t burn a candle until there is no wax left.
You might think that a candle should burn until there’s nothing left. But it’s safer to leave about half an inch (about 2.5 centimetres) of wax in the container.
3. Fact: A candle shouldn’t be producing smoke when it’s burning.
A candle produces smoke because the wick is too long. To ensure the candle burns properly, simply trim the wick to about a quarter of an inch (about 0.6 centimetres) long.
4. Fact: Candles have been made out of insects, plants and animals.
The candles now are mostly made from paraffin, beeswax, and soy. But in the past, candles have been produced from tallow, a byproduct of beef fat; eulachon, a fish with high-fat content; wax made out of insects and seeds; and spermaceti from sperm whales.
5. Fact: A candle that started tunnelling can be saved.
It may look like it’s the end for the candle that has started tunnelling. This means only the wax near the wick has melted, leaving a ring of hard wax on the edges. But it can still be saved by covering the top of the candle with foil and cutting a hole in the middle where the wick is. The partially trapped warm air will encourage the wax on the edges to melt evenly.
6. Myth: Candle soot is harmful.
Soot is a natural by-product of incomplete combustion. The combustion process may be affected by the length of the wick, as mentioned in point three. As all waxes are essentially hydrocarbons, the soot produced is primarily carbon-based and is nothing different from the soot given off by toasters.
7. Myth: Scented candles are unsafe.
Regardless whether it is scented or not, a well-made and properly burned candle will burn cleanly and safely.
8. Myth: Freezing a candle will make it last longer.
Freezing the candle may instead make the wax crack and damage the candle. Besides, moisture (think condensation droplets) and wax do not mix well.
9. Myth: Lead is used in candle wicks.
Lead wicks have been banned in the United States since 2003. The metal that may be present in wicks now is zinc, which is completely harmless.
10. Myth: Paraffin wax is toxic.
Paraffin wax (or petroleum wax) burns as clean as soy wax. As they are both carbon-based, they fuel a flame the same way.