Did you know there was a wrong way to burn candles? Neither did I until I started making them. There are a couple of important things to know when burning your favorite candles so you can get the most out of them. "Tunneling" is one of the most common problems with candles. Tunneling happens when the wax doesn't melt all the way to the edge of the container, and you end up with side walls as the flame tunnels down into the center of the wax. This common problem is easy to avoid if you remember:
The Cardinal Candle Rule: Always burn your candle until the wax pool melts all the way to the edge. Wax has a memory, and will only melt as far as the previous burning. That means, if you burn your candle for too short a period and the entire surface doesn't melt, it will never melt all the way to the edge on subsequent burns. Do this over and over, and you get a tunnel down the middle of your candle and end up wasting half the wax as it will never melt and burn. If at any given time you're not sure you'll be able to burn your candle long enough to melt the entire surface, save this one for another time and find a smaller candle to burn now.
Some other handy guidelines to remember to make your candle burning experience the best it can be are:
Try not to burn your candle for more than 4-6 hours. If you do, the wick can “mushroom” creating problems like soot, too large of a flame, crackling, and smoking.
Make sure your wick is trimmed to no more than 1/4″ when you go to light it. This can lead to mushrooming which will give you the issues above.
Stop burning your candle when it has 1/4″ of wax left in the bottom. If you burn it until all the wax is used up, you run the risk of burning your tabletop or whatever surface your candle is placed on, or worse – starting a fire. Most candles will have a little label on the underside telling you this, but you’ve probably never read it. This isn’t just CYA either – I’ve got a friend who ruined her wooden coffee table with a candle that burned to the bottom of the container and it almost lit her table on fire through her glass tabletop. If you simply must burn the whole thing – put it on a non-flammable coaster (but I still don’t recommend it.) And if you have a glass container – just don’t, it’s very likely it could shatter from the heat and that’s not a mess you want to clean up.
You shouldn’t blow your candle out – you should snuff it. Blowing it can create smoke and soot and pieces of the burnt wick can fall into the wet wax. If your candle has a top, this is a great way to snuff it and protect it from dust and dirt.
Keep away from drafts – this may seem like a no-brainer. But, if your candle is in a drafty place, even if it doesn’t blow out it can blow soot which will collect around the rim and look ugly.
So, keep these rules in mind the next time you burn your favorite candle, and hopefully you’ll be able to extend its life and keep it looking beautiful!