Care and Feeding of Candles
June 7, 2004 1:11 PM   Subscribe

Candles. Recently I've discovered the joy of using mainly candles at night to light my house, especially when I'm just relaxing watching TV or on the computer. I use mainly pillar and votive candles. I have two problems with candles.

1) The flame flickers heavily (I've been told to trim my wicks to alleviate this)
2) The candles constantly go out, because there is huge concave shape in the candle as the candle burns. Should I trim the candle somehow?
posted by patrickje to Home & Garden (13 answers total)
I'm lucky to have a religious supply company nearby that stocks candles designed to burn efficiently for long periods of time (with number of burning hours designated). They don't ask or care if you're buying them for a church. Google has other interesting links as well, such as 90-hr oil-burning candles (scroll down), 120-hr camping or emergency candles, and church-style (but scented) 15-hr votives (and, oddly, I came across a website offering Zoroastrian religious supplies, heh!)
posted by Shane at 1:29 PM on June 7, 2004 [1 favorite]

I like candles when I'm writing, and usually they last much longer in the winter. The draft from fans, open windows, or a/c finishes them off much quicker in the summer. Obsessively trimming wicks can help with this, but they'll always burn longer and more evenly when there's no draft.

I don't use the votive or wide candles, but thin ones. Ikea sells them for a good price.
posted by muckster at 1:30 PM on June 7, 2004

As you've noted, keep wicks trimmed.

Try burning the candle long enough to melt it to the edges (easy to do with jarred candles). If this takes too long, get a thinner candle. Or after you've extinguished the flame, wait for the melted wax to harden a bit, but while the candle is warm, take a sharp knife and trim off the excess.
posted by Feisty at 1:35 PM on June 7, 2004

My wife tells me that, at least for the initial burn, pillar candles should be left alight for as many hours as they are inches in diameter. This supposedly gives the right shape bowl to sustain the flame on subsequent lightings. Tapers usually take care of themselves. I've found votives to be wildly variable in quality and performance. Once you've found a winner, stock up. The religous stores are a great idea.
posted by cairnish at 2:01 PM on June 7, 2004

Thin tapers are the best for consistent light and no wick/thickness issues. They're also cheap in large quantities. But they're also easy to tip over, and they burn fast. I recommend you buy some safe holders for them, and find a good bulk source. The problems you describe above sound like the kind of thing that happens with thick candles.

I'd also really like to try Candela. But not for $70.
posted by scarabic at 2:03 PM on June 7, 2004

You can freeze your candles for (temporarily) slower burning.

I wonder if that affects the light output...
posted by five fresh fish at 2:10 PM on June 7, 2004

You can buy a giant bag of approximately one million tea lights at Ikea for about three dollars and World Market (sometimes called Cost Plus, I believe) has dozens of really cool, really cheap tea light holders. I like to scatter them all over the place. Very romantical. And the tea lights just go out after a few hours, so no worries about wicks and pillar candles that start to bulge or sag or go all lopsided, as they are wont to do.
posted by CunningLinguist at 2:28 PM on June 7, 2004

Then there were the multi-wick cheap Chinese-manufactured candles that were exploding and starting house fires...
posted by five fresh fish at 4:17 PM on June 7, 2004

cairnish's wife is right - the first time you light a pillar candle, let it burn as many hours as it is inches wide. If you're still having problems, trim the extra wax off the sides or scrape it out of the sides of the jar. If you use jar or container candles, burn to achieve a full liquid surface every time you burn it. Jars burn better than pillars in my experience, and last longer. Tealights and votives in containers work well too. Trim your wicks and keep your candles out of drafts.
posted by Melinika at 4:54 PM on June 7, 2004

you could also buy some hurricane glass to put over the candles to keep the draft induced flickering to a minimum.
posted by Mick at 5:15 PM on June 7, 2004

A couple living in my old apartment building loved candles. One romantic evening, one lit several on the bathroom floor as she prepared to take a long luxurious bubblebath. She absentmindedly pushed the bathroom door against the wall and went into her bedroom to get a change of clothes. When the door was closed, the cotton bathrobe hanging on the door swung over the candle and instantly caught fire. Paint liquefies under intense heat and then ignites, not unlike gasoline. Five minutes after she pushed the door against the wall, the fire department showed up. By then, three apartments had gone up in flames.

Electric radiators, halogen floor lamps, dropped cigarettes--none of these can hold a candle to a candle for starting a house fire. Candles are the quickest way to burn your house down.
posted by y2karl at 6:01 PM on June 7, 2004

For added fun, save the wax from dead candles and re-melt it into new candles. Cheaper, and you get to melt things!
posted by mimi at 7:01 AM on June 8, 2004

Tea lights burn cleanly and don't need trimming, but make sure they are quality. One brand I tried got so hot the actual metal base would catch on fire. Actually, now that I think about it, they were longer lasting tea lights, supposed to last for hours more than the regular ones and were slightly bigger. Just get the normal ones which are four hours or something.

Oh yeah, and what y2karl said, make sure you have really safe tea light holders.
posted by lucien at 9:26 AM on June 8, 2004

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