Candle: thoughtful or crude?
November 28, 2011 4:22 PM   Subscribe

Is it thoughtful or vulgar to leave a candle burning in the guest bathroom when you entertain?

Assuming that you do not have knowledge that guests are fragrance-averse, is this a nice, considerate opportunity to share fragrance or a base acknowledgement that human functions do not always have a nice scent?
posted by Morrigan to Home & Garden (79 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I would be far more concerned that the candle could be accidentally knocked over and start a fire than that guests might find it offensive. I don't think there's much danger of a methane explosion, though.
posted by kindall at 4:25 PM on November 28, 2011 [11 favorites]

I think it's nice, but I love scented candles. I don't think it's vulgar.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:25 PM on November 28, 2011 [5 favorites]

Well, the not-nice-scent is not why I leave a candle. I find the bathroom lighting too harsh for a dinner party vibe. I figure if the guest wants the overhead light, they can turn it on themselves ... my ambiance preference is to keep the light soft and low!
posted by thinkpiece at 4:26 PM on November 28, 2011 [8 favorites]

I would say the least vulgar and most delicate way to do it would be to leave an unlit candle and matches in the guest bath, allowing people to light it as they feel the need.
posted by Rock Steady at 4:27 PM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Ugh, no, gross. Scented candles almost universally smell bad. I don't mind a bathroom smelling a little bit like a bathroom sometimes, but smelling like a bathroom AND scented candle is awful (because of course a candle does nothing to stop the bathroom smell, it just adds an additional smell). And the danger from leaving an unattended candle burning is not a joke -- I know of 2 house fires and 1 death resulting from unattended (or falling asleep) candles. Bad bad idea.
posted by brainmouse at 4:30 PM on November 28, 2011 [6 favorites]

It's hazardous. Candles should never be left unattended.
posted by tel3path at 4:31 PM on November 28, 2011 [29 favorites]

I like scented candles, but I do think they are vulgar because not everyone likes them. A scented candle also may advertise the fact that you're aiming to cover something up. A non-scented candle will work for this purpose, too, and won't be so in your face.
posted by amodelcitizen at 4:32 PM on November 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

I would say unscented is the way to go, since I dislike 95% of candle scents. Or a basket of matches. I think it's the fire that cuts the fumes and not the scent.

Get a super stable candle holder, though, like one of those candles in the tall glass jars.
posted by supercres at 4:33 PM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Shit + strawberries != strawberries.
posted by benzenedream at 4:36 PM on November 28, 2011 [11 favorites]

It's a fire-hazard. Please don't do this.
posted by jchaw at 4:38 PM on November 28, 2011 [5 favorites]

If your guest bathroom is a full bathroom (and not a half-bath), go ahead and light a candle, but put it in the bathtub. This is what my family has done on occasion. It says, "go ahead and poop, this candle smells nice" while also saying "we are aware that things can catch on fire, so are taking precautions."

I have, in the past, blown out candles left lit in other people's bathrooms when I've been over to visit if I think they pose a fire risk (e.g. right under a towel or next to a dried flower arrangement). It might be a little forward, but I'd rather be considered rude for blowing out a candle than know that a fire started when I could have prevented it. YEARS OF RED CROSS TRAINING, I HAVE.
posted by phunniemee at 4:38 PM on November 28, 2011 [6 favorites]

I have a friend who puts a very pretty fresh flower arrangement in the bathroom when she entertains. Obviously, that isn't going to necessarily cover smells, but it always makes the bathroom seem nicer and and more expansive (?) regardless. She said she picked up this idea from bathrooms in very fancy restaurants.
posted by rumposinc at 4:38 PM on November 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

There are scented candles that are as finely-crafted and refined as a wonderful perfume. And, I live in a one-bedroom apartment ... we can see the candle on the bathroom window ledge from the living room!
posted by thinkpiece at 4:40 PM on November 28, 2011

It honestly took me reading other people's responses for me to figure out "why would people think it was vulgar?...." because for me, "candle in bathroom" = "pretty mood lighting." I honestly didn't get the "scented candle to cover poo stink" connection at all.

If it's not totally unattended (i.e., you check on it every so often to make sure it's not set the drapes on fire), and the scent isn't too strong and cloying, I don't see why it'd be any more "vulgar" than the automated scent-spraying things some people have.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:42 PM on November 28, 2011 [9 favorites]

In my guest bath I have a gel candle in a sturdy glass container. It's the kind that has various objects, in my case shells, suspended in the gel and you add a small votive candle to the center. I use unscented candles and I think it adds a nice feel to the room.
posted by SoftSummerBreeze at 4:42 PM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have never smelled a scented candle that didn't stink up the place after a couple minutes. I don't think it's vulgar but I would probably be the guest to pull you aside and say "I saw you left a candle burning in the bathroom. I put it out because I was worried about a fire and I'm sure you forgot because of all the guests arriving."
posted by boobjob at 4:43 PM on November 28, 2011

It never would have occurred to me that it might be somehow vulgar, but come to think of it it is kind of a, "I KNOW YOU'RE SHITTING IN THERE." So, really, I would just find it pretty strange if someone did this for me.
posted by cmoj at 4:49 PM on November 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Maybe some potpourri or another air freshener instead? Lots of people have the "stick"-type diffusion air fresheners in their bathrooms, though personally I don't think they do much to freshen the air. Or you could leave on one of those Glade plug-in gel fresheners if there's a convenient outlet. In short, something that makes the bathroom not stink while not calling too much attention to itself like a candle does.
posted by zachlipton at 4:51 PM on November 28, 2011

Too dangerous, by far.

Never fear. You can make your own air freshener with gelatin and essential oils. Search online for "DIY air freshener gelatin" to get recipes! This way your bathroom won't smell like a petrochemical accident linen breeze.
posted by bilabial at 4:53 PM on November 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

See also this previous thread for discussion on the fire risks of candles in the bathroom.
posted by zachlipton at 4:53 PM on November 28, 2011

I like candles as decoration, but not as room deodorant.

I don't make a big deal about it to my friends and would certainly never complain about how they scent their homes, but fragrance in general does something in between giving me a mild runny nose and making my sinuses feel like someone is stabbing me in the brain with an ice pick by way of my nostrils. Just because you don't know doesn't mean none of your guests have a problem...

Candles give me trouble -- I've finally regretfully given up lighting them for myself -- as do any and all sprays, carpet deodorizers, perfumes, potpourri, even hand soaps. (Ugh, lavender, pine, lilac.)

If odor in your bathroom while you entertain is a problem, perhaps leave a window cracked open, or keep the fan running? Or if you must go the candle route, use unscented candles?
posted by Andrhia at 4:55 PM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I leave an unlit, unscented candle on the back of the toilet with matches next to it so that people can decide for themselves whether or not they want/need to de-stink the place.
posted by greta simone at 5:00 PM on November 28, 2011

It's not thoughtful or vulgar, it's dangerous. If I saw it, I would probably blow it out.

Bathrooms tend to smell bathroomy, so I wouldn't be offended by the presence of something to make them smell a little more pleasant. I would think nothing of a reed diffuser, bowl of potpourri or other type of non-flame air freshener.
posted by Gordafarin at 5:01 PM on November 28, 2011

Why not a nightlight turned on?
posted by JayRwv at 5:03 PM on November 28, 2011

The earthquake that hit DC this year has made me completely recalibrate my approach toward what is/isn't a fire hazard, because before that I would've told you that it was impossible for a lit candle to spontaneously roll off of my bathroom counter. Nope!

I love the fresh flower idea, but otherwise, I'd just leave the possible odor issue politely alone (those Glade things make me queasy, too, for what it's worth).
posted by argonauta at 5:05 PM on November 28, 2011

Those of you with fragrance allergies or sensitivities, are you also affected by candles that are not lit, but are on warmers? I've never used one myself, but I've heard that the fragrance is much less subtle than if the candle was lit. For a small room, it might be enough to leave a pleasant but not overpowering scent.

Anyway, it's a possible solution to the fire hazard issue.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 5:13 PM on November 28, 2011

*much less more subtle
posted by SuperSquirrel at 5:15 PM on November 28, 2011

Lighting a match works just as well, if not better, to cover up poo smell. I always leave a pack of matches in the bathroom. Just make sure they are in an obvious place. Your guests will thank you. I always appreciate it when a host has some matches in the bathroom.
posted by dchrssyr at 5:15 PM on November 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

Not vulgar. And only you can determine it it's a fire hazard, depending on your bathroom setup. It's YOUR house, and if you want to burn a candle in the bathroom then you get to do it.
posted by raisingsand at 5:22 PM on November 28, 2011 [11 favorites]

We just have a scented spray can in our powder room for people to use at their discretion if they emit methane. I'm fond of Zum Mist's sandalwood/citrus flavor. As for a lit candle, when I see this I think people are trying too hard.
posted by Burhanistan at 5:24 PM on November 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm not super into scents, and they might bother my nose, but the nasty smell of butt + fragrance is just not one to underestimate. I'd either crack a window or leave a pack of matches, sans candle.
posted by sm1tten at 5:26 PM on November 28, 2011

Doesn't everyone know that if they leave out a box of wooden matches, it means "light one if you had a poo"? For some reason the smell of a single match, burned for a moment and then put out, will cover all but the most biohazardous of poos. Plus the smell clears quickly and doesn't hang around making the place smell like a brothel.
posted by zadcat at 5:31 PM on November 28, 2011

Doesn't everyone know that if they leave out a box of wooden matches, it means "light one if you had a poo"?

No, I certainly did not know this. I have never seen matches left out in a bathroom, either, though possibly this is a case of whatever-the-opposite-of-confirmation-bias-is-called.
posted by kindall at 5:34 PM on November 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

I think a pack of matches would be vulgar. A pack of matches next to an unlit candle might be okay though. It's all about plausible deniability.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 5:36 PM on November 28, 2011 [5 favorites]

zadcat: "Doesn't everyone know that if they leave out a box of wooden matches, it means "light one if you had a poo"? "

Nope, my mom (in her 60s) didn't know till I told her.

The worst part is that I personally see people leave the candle on the toilet tank - exactly where my hair would hang if I were sitting on it...
posted by IndigoRain at 5:36 PM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I always just buy one of those.99 saint candles in a votive and leave it lit. No fire hazard, and folks can find the light switch. Not about the smell either way.
posted by timsteil at 5:38 PM on November 28, 2011

Good god, please don't do this. Even if you think you know that they aren't fragrance adverse, many many people are allergic/sensitive to very particular scents. Besides being a fire hazard, it is a danger to your guests!
posted by strixus at 5:41 PM on November 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Also, don't people generally take care of their business at home? Sure, there are exceptions, but I'm guessing party people are are probably predominantly peeing.
posted by thinkpiece at 5:59 PM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

there are many candles and lightly scented oils you can leave out on a sound surface. As long as there isn't a pet or child that can reach it. I think vulgar is a seriously strong word for a thoughtful gesture. Also if you'd like find a very mild incense and burn it a couple hours before the guests arrive. You can also crack a window for fresh air, that always smells the best.
posted by gypseefire at 6:01 PM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm annoyed by dim lights in bathrooms, it makes it harder to check how one looks in the mirror....and in public places harder to tell if someone has peed on the seat.
posted by brujita at 6:12 PM on November 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm a little concerned about the number of responses that equate a bathroom candle with a clear/immediate fire hazard. I like candlelight in the powder room; it makes everyone prettier. Just use an unfragranced one, and put a finely-detailed calligraphic sign next to the candle that says, "No Pooping!"
posted by Kronur at 6:17 PM on November 28, 2011 [7 favorites]

I'm badly allergic to most (although not all) of the scents in things like this. Candle warmers, oil diffusers, potpourri, and plug-in units are as bad as lit candles for provoking a response. I am generally OK with very simple things like homemade pomander balls or some essential oil sprays, but even those can be iffy.

I find artificial scents in general very unpleasant, even the ones I'm not actually allergic to. If I were your guest, you wouldn't be aware of this -- I try not to go around telling people or be obnoxious about it. But I don't find people sharing scents with me pleasant. I wouldn't think of it as crude or vulgar, but I would be annoyed at the allergic headache it would probably cause.

Does this bathroom not have an exhaust fan? That's really the obvious and most effective way to vent odors.
posted by pie ninja at 6:19 PM on November 28, 2011 [5 favorites]

I usually have contained votives out in several rooms (of my 1-bdrm apt) when guests come over at night. I keep a small hurricane lamp with an unscented candle burning in the bathroom. It's more about having low, festive lights than clearing the air. I vote thoughtful. It might be crude if you didn't have candles out anywhere else.
posted by mochapickle at 6:26 PM on November 28, 2011

If there was drink, and there were my friends, the bathroom would be full of drunk guys trying to light their farts on the candle.
true story.
posted by scruss at 6:31 PM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

We do this with an unscented candle in our half bathroom during parties. We have a glass shelf that is at (my 5'10") eye level when standing that is directly above the toilet tank. No fire hazard, as there are no curtains in the room at all, the towel is over three feet away, and I alway use a wide-based candle holder with rubber thingies on the bottom. I think it's nice for a number of obvious reason that have already been mentioned.
posted by two lights above the sea at 6:32 PM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Wow, I've seen this plenty of times and there was never an issue! Some people like the candle because they're self conscious about smelling up someone's bathroom. I think the in-the-tub solution is nice if you're worried about fire, but if it's a small dinner party I really dont think it's a big deal.
posted by sweetkid at 6:44 PM on November 28, 2011

Fire hazard issues aside, I'd say it's not unseemly to do if you're having multiple people over. But if you're just inviting one friend to hang out, or, god forbid, a date, no way. The message "Somebody might fart in here at some point, but we'll never know who" is very different from "Either you or I might fart in here at some point," especially if it's someone you're trying to get romantic with.

I've always thought matches left out by themselves to be pretty crass. And from living with people who used them, I've never found them to be an effective cover scent, either.
posted by vytae at 7:01 PM on November 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

delete smell? cover over? spray--no candle
need for light? nightlight
posted by Postroad at 7:12 PM on November 28, 2011

I hate scented things- most of them give me headaches. Nearly all of them make me think I've just stepped into Bed Bath and Beyond (unless they make me think I've just stepped back into a bathing-adverse commune).

However, I like candles in bathrooms, and I like them when they're used instead of nightlights, so that people can find their way in before they turn on the light if you want. I have never had a bathroom catch on fire. In fact, unless you have a very different configuration than my bathrooms, I'm not sure how they could.

How about a nice beeswax candle? A little scent (sort of, especially if they didn't filter the honey out of the wax well) and a nice excuse for the BOX OF MATCHES! you can leave next to it.
posted by small_ruminant at 7:22 PM on November 28, 2011

I keep pimping these, but Costco has big packs of LED candles, and they are widely available everywhere now in various form factors (I was just at CVS and they had a ton in winter/Christmas themes). The pillars have a faint vanilla scent, both pillars and votives flicker like flame. (I used to think LED candles were dumb until the power went out here on a warm night. Also I have happy dogs and they have coffee-table-height tails. It's safer this way.)

I like a bathroom candle, or night light, because so often the previous occupant thoughtfully turns off the lights and then there's a fumble for the switch in a dark bathroom.

If you don't want to go fake-scent, get a fresh pine bough or garland to put on the top of the tank (or on the counter if you've got a lot of space), or a little bouquet of cinnamon sticks in a votive glass on the counter.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:27 PM on November 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

I read a thing that said lighting matches doesn't do a thing to remove any smells, it just covers it up. I always think bathroom smells tend to vanish fairly quickly anyway, although I do keep a can of spray stuff in my toilet room for anyone who feels self conscious, and the window is always open so it's never bad in there unless you go in right after someone else.
posted by thylacinthine at 7:30 PM on November 28, 2011

Doesn't everyone know that if they leave out a box of wooden matches, it means "light one if you had a poo"?
No, I certainly did not know this. I have never seen matches left out in a bathroom, either, though possibly this is a case of whatever-the-opposite-of-confirmation-bias-is-called.

It's called Baader-Meinhoff phenomenon, and now you will notice every box of matches in a bathroom. You will also henceforth notice Baader-Meinhoff incidents all the damn time.
posted by bilabial at 7:31 PM on November 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

I think a scented candle is nice in a bathroom, especially if you can keep the lighting otherwise low. It can be rough transitioning from a low-light party to a fluorescent bathroom, so lighting with candles instead of overheads helps keep the night-blindness down (as well as that moment in the mirror when you realize your eyeliner is really, really too strong.)
posted by elizeh at 7:35 PM on November 28, 2011

zadcat: Doesn't everyone know that if they leave out a box of wooden matches, it means "light one if you had a poo" and vytae: "I've always thought matches left out by themselves to be pretty crass."

Not to derail, but our bathroom has "matches" as the decor theme (aside from the framed picture of Kutter's Cheese): clear glass vases full of spent wooden matches; stacks of old, cool matchboxes; framed graphic and pictorial vintage matchbooks; and at Estate Sales and flea markets, I buy old collections of vintage matchbooks and keep them in a bowl on the tank for use if needed.

And, while I have been known to also use a candle when I expect certain guests (fine, a certain guest) who may or may not have a reputation from previous visits, I usually just keep the window open a crack.

PS - Installing a dimmer switch in the bathroom was one of the best gifts my husband ever gave me.
posted by peagood at 7:40 PM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Agreed with everyone who points out that an unattended lit candle is unsafe, but otherwise I do appreciate it when someone provides a way of de-stinking their bathroom. Building on the matchbook idea that some folks have already mentioned, my sister keeps a book of incense matches in her bathroom; I think they smell nice (and perhaps their purpose is a bit more obvious than a plain book of matches?).
posted by DingoMutt at 8:07 PM on November 28, 2011

put a finely-detailed calligraphic sign next to the candle that says, "No Pooping!"

my husband made this sign, as there was a need for it, due to the aforementioned guest

posted by peagood at 8:14 PM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I actually have a completely different reason why a candle in the bathroom is a bad idea. I had a dinner party a few months ago and put a candle in the bathroom 1) because it was pretty and 2) to diffuse any incidental smells. I always just leave the bathroom door open if its unoccupied, but I've noticed that some people reflexively close the door anytime they leave the bathroom. I guess this is akin to the over-under toilet paper debate and other such bathroom behavior that we pick up from our parents. Anyway, apparently one (or more) of my dinner guests was a bathroom-door-must-be-closed person, because the door was shut after everyone left. The next day I noticed that the stupid fucking candle had left a sooty mess all over the walls and ceiling in the bathroom since the room was poorly ventilated with the door shut. I tried to clean it up but the paint job was totally ruined. I am still not really concerned about a potential fire hazard because I don't dangle towels or curtains over the candle, but the potential for soot is enough for me to never burn a candle in a bathroom during a party ever again.

So, to directly answer the question: no, it's not at all vulgar, but it is still a bad idea.
posted by gatorae at 8:17 PM on November 28, 2011

put a finely-detailed calligraphic sign next to the candle that says, "No Pooping!"

My bathroom has a sign that says, "Pissing Everywhere isn't very Chanel." It's modeled after a sign from Karl Lagerfeld's office bathroom. It does the job I think.
posted by sweetkid at 8:33 PM on November 28, 2011

Oh, for the love of god.
(a) Don't leave a freaking candle burning by itself without anyone around to notice if it gets really flame-y.
(b) Not everyone knows The Match Trick, or think it works.
(c) Just use your bathroom fan and leave a can of air spray in there and LET IT GO.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:37 PM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think that the scented freshener sprays are far more foul than any candle, and I wouldn't assume that they're for guest use anyway.

I have no problem with an unscented candle in a stable container (votive/glass jar/etc), in a sensible location (not the back of the toilet tank.) It's mood lighting plus smell-reducer at the same time. Someone is peeing every 15-20 minutes, so it's not particularly unattended.
posted by desuetude at 9:03 PM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

some people reflexively close the door anytime they leave the bathroom

Growing up with a dog who loved to eat toilet paper off the roll (to the point where we had to physically remove it so she wouldn't choke), this is me.

the stupid fucking candle had left a sooty mess all over the walls and ceiling

At the last place my mom (a huge candle aficionada) lived, all the corners where the ceiling met the wall looked dark and dingy because of this.
posted by dhens at 9:40 PM on November 28, 2011

Can't believe I'm the first one to sugges this-get a bottle of Poo Pourri (no, that isn't a typo.) It's made from essential oils, so it won't bother most people, and it smells much better than the chemical stuff. And most importantly, it works! If used correctly, you'll never know if anyone has done anything odoriferous in your bathroom.

And I swear I don't work for them!
posted by MexicanYenta at 10:02 PM on November 28, 2011

*suggest. Ok, that part was a typo.
posted by MexicanYenta at 10:04 PM on November 28, 2011

Leave an unlit candle, with a small box of matches nearby. Preferably a candle with a strong scent when unlit, such as the wooden-wicked ones they sell at Target. The strong (but not too strong!) scent will be pleasant but not overwhelming, and for those who do know the "match trick", you leaving a small box of matches next to the candle (perhaps with one previously struck, and laying next to the candle) is a great way to provide matches without screaming "THESE MATCHES ARE FOR YOU TO DO THE MATCH TRICK."

Do wander by occasionally to make sure nobody's actually lit the candle, though, and if they have, blow it out.
posted by davejay at 11:02 PM on November 28, 2011

Vulgar? No, not really. Dangerous? Maybe. Thoughtful? Sure why not. Possibly offensive scent? Quite possibly!
posted by 2N2222 at 11:22 PM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Try incense instead, it's less likely to cause a fire.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 1:00 AM on November 29, 2011

I remain firmly on the no canfles in the bathroom camp

Ok, so there are a lot of very happy candle in bathroom burners here. Allow me to add some safety and aesthetic hints. Beyond the obvious 'there is no such thing as a safe unattended candle, in the same way there is no such thing as an unloaded gun.' Candles=guns. Yes. I went there. Let's carry on, shall we?

Smaller tea light candles burn through/out faster, do not collect/create an enormous pool of molten flammable material, (the google search you want is "exploding candle housefire." Tea lights will not 'core' if extinguished 'early.' Shallow candles have a lower profile and may reduce the risk of igniting curtains or hand towels and may be harder to knock over. This is mitigated to their surprising aerodynamic nature when brushed off the edge of a counter.

Smaller candles represent less time commitment to a particular scent.

Candles should always be burned on a flame proof surface, such as glass. Never paper, fabric or a decorative birds' nest.

also do not take Adderall at 10pm with an enormous sugar filled coffee.
posted by bilabial at 1:44 AM on November 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

Unattended candles are a fire hazard and some people, e.g. me, find the smell of most scented candles offensive. Leave a can of air freshener in there if that is what you are trying to achieve.
posted by epo at 3:55 AM on November 29, 2011

I believe the done thing now is sticks. Used to be that sticks were a mild eccentricity, but now the mini-John Lewis on my way home from work has a whole wall just for sticks and you will shortly start to be as ashamed of your stickless house as I am. You might as well get in there with the sticks before this happens. The sticks are very unlikely to cause a housefire unless deliberately lit.
posted by Acheman at 4:21 AM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't think a lit candle in the bathroom is vulger at all, I quite like it at a dinner party. Also, I would much rather the host/hostess lit the candle themselves well before dinner because if I have to light a match or light the candle myself I feel like I may as well come back to the dinner and announce "WHO WANTS TO GUESS WHAT I JUST DID IN THERE?!"
posted by like_neon at 5:45 AM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

My mother always leaves candles n the guest bathrooms when she entertains. Always. I figured it was just a mood-lighting thing (they were generally unscented and looked very pretty in front of the mirror).

In an attempt to minimize fire risk, she would float standard tealights in a lovely crystal bowl filled with water and keep the bowl away from flammable things. Presumably, if someone knocked the bowl over or knocked into the counter the water would douse the flame. No idea if that worked, but our house has never burned down.
posted by AmandaA at 6:48 AM on November 29, 2011

My wife lights a candle in the 'guest' bathroom during our parties, something I'd never heard of before. It tends to provide low light, if needed, and scent to cover any, um, odors that might otherwise be offensive. So far nobody (present party excluded) has complained.

Personally, I'm bothered by scented candles so am the first to go in and extinguish the flame at the end of the party. I do so while holding my breath - and then I leave the exhaust fan on for a minute or two to be sure there's no more smoke/scent in the air.
posted by Man with Lantern at 7:23 AM on November 29, 2011

I've used scentless tea lights in water-filled dishes much like AmandaA's mother due to guests with light sensitive epilepsy that may have issues with our fluros flickering on. I'm basically in the habit of it now.
posted by Jilder at 8:23 AM on November 29, 2011

If the other comments about fire hazards, smells, etc., haven't swayed you, maybe a good amount of time scrubbing the black candle scum off of the walls afterwards will do it. The girl who previously rented my apartment burned candles often, leaving ashy smudges up the walls everywhere. Takes a lot of elbow grease to get those off.
posted by whatzit at 9:26 AM on November 29, 2011

The fire-safety aspect is something I'm sure we can all agree on as being important. Assuming you will either decide against, or find a way to make safe, as you prefer. So this is assuming you've considered the safety aspect and found a way to ensure that, and speaking strictly to the "vulgarity."

I think maybe the better the candle, the less..."vulgar" it would seem. The cheaper scented candles are often really strong and don't burn as cleanly, and the scent is also really cloying. So they sort of call attention to their "hi, I smell good so you don't smell bad things!" nature. Which is kind of...obvious as to their intent.

The better scented candles, however, are a lot more subtle in strength and scent. So one of them would be kind of like, "Hey, how's it goin', I'm just hanging out here being a candle -- oh, I smell good too? Why thank you, so kind of you to notice." It's more plausible deniability as to their purpose.

Actually, speaking of the "subtle scent" and "safety", another thought may be to just put a few dabs of essential oil on the light bulbs in the bathroom (do this while the lights are turned OFF). Then when someone turns the lights on, the heat from the light will heat up the oil, which will subtly dissipate the scent; and most essential oils smell way better than their synthetic versions. So it'd do the same as the candle without the obviousness ("huh, where is that smell coming from? It's magic!") and without the fire hazard.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:28 AM on November 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

Thanks to everyone for their input. I like the ambiance a candle brings and the convenience of having a low light source so guests can find the light switch if they want to turn it on or eschew turning it on to avoid a "Gah! Harsh bathroom lighting!" visual jolt. My guests tend to be old friends and none of them are, to my knowledge, averse to scent. However, the amount of people for whom a candle was suggesting the possibility of odor has convinced me to seek out the LED pillars that Lyn Never mentions. I wouldn't want to even slightly imply that my guests have actual bodily functions and prefer to provide lighting that supports the collective, pleasant fiction that they are just powdering their noses. I'll employ the oil on the light bulb trick that EmpressCallipygos suggests and save the candles for the dining and living rooms.
posted by Morrigan at 3:42 PM on November 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

As an aside, Burhanistan, all of the ZUM products I've tried are crazy delicious.
posted by Morrigan at 3:57 PM on November 29, 2011

If it's not totally unattended (i.e., you check on it every so often to make sure it's not set the drapes on fire), [...]
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:42 PM
That's not how it works. Perhaps I'm oversensitive because my house came literally minutes away from burning down because of a candle that was being checked on "every so often". And when I say minutes, I mean it. The fire consumed all of the stuff in the room, disintegrated the drywall and was just getting into the structural members when the fire department managed to get it put out. Never did find the parakeet or the ferret. Everything plastic in the other rooms on that floor melted. This all happened in mere minutes.

Open flames aren't something to be breezily casual and "oh, I'll get around to it, what's the big deal" about. Even if your bathroom is made of concrete, hot melted wax will start a hell of a fire if your candle holder thing breaks.

Anyhow, everyone poops. Nobody is thrilled about having to make a heavy delivery in a foreign port, but that's nature. Just leave a can of air freshener spray nearby.
posted by gjc at 9:44 PM on November 29, 2011

Papier d'Arménie is an option, leave it out with some matches?
posted by zadcat at 11:11 PM on November 29, 2011

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