Tips On How To Reduce Candle Soot

One of the biggest complaints about candles of all kinds is in regards to the soot that can be produced by them.  There are a variety of ways to greatly reduce the amount of soot coming from your candles which will also help them to burn better.  Today I will share some of these candle burning tips with you to help you have a better experience with you candles and save money. Lets first understand what causes soot from a candle flame.

What Causes Candle Soot

Soot from a candle is caused when there is incomplete combustion of the fuel.  This can be caused by a number of factors.  Two of those factors are the balance between the wax and wick in the candle and disturbing the candle flame.  The fuel to the candle flame is the liquid wax which is being drawn up through the wick.  Once the flame of the candle has started drawing the liquid candle wax up the wick, it does so at a steady rate.  When the candle flame is disturbed the size of the flame changes and the amount of fuel being used is no longer consistent.  When too much fuel is presented to the flame it is not all burned.  The excess fuel is put off in the form of soot.

Avoid Burning Candles in Drafty Areas

Burning candles in a drafty area such as near an open window, air duct, or fan will cause your candle to put off a large amount of soot.  When something causes the candle flame to bounce around the size of candle flame changes.  A steady flame will use a consistent amount of fuel.  A wick that is bouncing around will draw fuel up the wick at a variable rate, sometimes too much, other times, not enough.  When a large amount of fuel is drawn into the wick and then the flame size shrinks, not all the fuel is burned.  The extra oil is expelled as soot into the air.

Use Open Bottom Hurricanes and Vases

candle in hurricanneMany event locations, where candles are used for decoration, require that the candle flame not be exposed above the top of an enclosure.  This could mean the flame of your votive candle must be below the top edge of the glass or that pillars and taper candles need to be in tall cylinders or hurricanes.  At first this sounds like a good idea to also keep the draft away from your candles, and it is.  However, using a closed bottom cylinder or vase can create problems of its own.  Fire needs and uses oxygen to burn.  When you have a candle down inside of a container the oxygen is quickly used up and more is needed for the flame to continue burning.  Naturally, more air is sucked into the container through the top but at the same time the warm air heated by the candle flame is trying to get out.  This fight between the warm and cold air causes turbulence (a draft) in the container which causes the candle flame to dance and produce soot.  The best way around this problem is to use a cylinder or hurricane vase that is open on both ends.  Raise the container up off the table about a half inch using something that can spaced apart so air can get in through the bottom.  For my test I used 3 stacks of coins, which I am not recommending you use, but to give an example of what I mean.

Put Candle Cappers On Jar Candles

If you are burning a jar candle with an opening of about 3″ you can purchase a candle capper for less than $4.00.  Obviously there is nothing you can do about the jar having a closed bottom but these jar cappers will help regulate the air flow in and out of the jars and reduce sooting.  Jars will usually produce more and more soot the further down into the glass they burn.  This is because the flame is getting farther and farther away from the fresh source of oxygen. Here is a video that demonstrates how these jar caps work.

Trim The Wicks

The easiest way to reduce the amount of soot from a candle is to keep the wicks trimmed.  I recommend starting with about a 1/4″ wick for the first lighting.  If after a few minutes the candle flame looks too big or is bouncing around (while not in a draft) you should trim the wick a little shorter.  Keep an eye on your lit candles, they should never be left burning unattended.  If your candle has been burning for a long time the wicks may need to be trimmed again.  Don’t be afraid to blow a candle out, trim the wick and relight it.

Purchase Quality Candles

Make sure you are getting a well made candle.  A well made quality candle doesn’t mean expensive, it means well made.  Anyone can melt some wax through a string in it and call it a candle.  Is it a candle? Yes. Will it burn? Maybe.  Should you spend your hard earned money on it? Probably not.  The internet is full of pages on which people are selling candles.  Google search term candles, currently there are 165,000,000 results.  An experienced candle maker will know how to match the wick size, wax type, fragrance, and candle size to produce a great burning candle.

Conclusion

Use these tips to get the most value and the best burn out of your candles.

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Freezing Candles – Bad Idea

There is an on-going debate about whether putting candles in the freezer (before using them) is a good idea.  The main reason for wanting to put candles in the freezer is the misconceived idea that it will make them burn longer.  At first this seems pretty logical  since a candle doesn’t get used up until the wax is liquefied and burns. The idea follows that if it is frozen, a candle will take longer to melt because it is cold.

Unfortunately this idea doesn’t work.  Not only will your candle not burn longer, but freezing it could cause your candles to crack.  I did a test putting votive candles and pillar candles in the freezer.  I got out my stop watch and started timing (I already knew they would crack, just not how long it would take).  I planned on checking the candles every 15 minutes to see how long it took them to crack.  I went to check on them at the first 15 minutecandles crack in the freezer mark… the votives and the pillars were already cracked when I opened the freezer door! I don’t mean just 1 small crack either!  Check out this picture. There is no way that the pillar candle could be used because if it was lit, the liquid wax would start to drain out the cracked areas in no time at all.  The votive candles could still be used since they are meant to be burned in a votive cup which would contain the liquid wax.

I did the same test with 3 different types of taper candles. And after a little over an hour they had still not cracked.  I did not do the test with a jar candle but I don’t think that there would be a problem with those cracking either.  Our jar candles are made with a lower melt temperature wax which is a littler softer.  The softer wax shouldn’t contract enough for it to crack.  Even if the wax in the jar did crack, you should still be able to burn the candle since the wax is contained…in a jar. To be safe, just make sure your glass isn’t cracked too.  What may happen to a jar candle in the freezer is that the fragrance may be squeezed out of the wax, leaving oil all around the inside of the glass and on top of the candle.

Now, about the candles being frozen and burning longer…The first thing is that when you put a candle in the freezer, if left in long enough, it will get cold all the way to the core.  (We are assuming for this part of the debate that the candle made it through the freezing process unscathed.)  As soon as you take the candle out of the freezer it will begin to go back to room temperature.  The outside of the candle will warm faster than the inside of the candle.  I think that what most supporters (of a frozen candle burning longer) forget, is that when you light a candle you are only heating/melting a small portion of the outside of the candle.  The flame is not pulling wax from the colder core of the candle.  The approximate peak temperature of a candle flame is between 1300 – 1400 degrees C (2500 degrees F) depending on the type of wax/wick being burned.  So when the candle is lit, the surface area of the candle around the flame will warm up far above room temperature extremely fast, undoing any effect the freezer may have had on the candle.  As the wax melts, it will heat up more and more of the surface of the candle faster than if the candle were just left to sit on a table unlit.  By the time you get to burning the “core” of the candle it will have long lost the effect the freezer had on it.

Save your freezer space for important things, like cookie dough ice-cream.  If you want to get the cleanest, longest burn out of your candles, trim your wicks before each lighting.  Always allow enough time to burn your candles long enough.  For pillars, let the “wax pool” get out near the edge; for jars, let the “wax pool” reach the side of the jar.  One of the fastest ways to ruin your candle is to light it over and over putting it out too early each time.  Follow these two basic rules of thumb and get the most out of your candles.

Fix The Air Flow

On of the factors that causes container candles to produce soot is turbulent air flow. Candles in any type of enclosure have to fight to regulate the way the air passes in and out of the container. As the flame heats up the air inside the jar candle or other container it rises to the top and out. At the same time, cooler air is being drawn into the container to replace the rising hot air. In an unregulated environment the cool and hot air have to fight get past each other. This causes turbulent air inside the container which makes the flame dance and flicker and put off soot. I’m sure you have seen little round metal or ceramic disks called candle cappers. These have a large hole in the center and smaller holes around the outside. Other than being decorative these have a purpose which is to regulate the air flow in jar candles. The hot air come up through the center hole and the cooler air fills back into the jar through the smaller outer holes. You will notice a big difference in how still the flame stands still if you use one of these.

candle holdersAnother instance where the air flow problem occurs is in hurricanes. Many wedding decorators and brides use hurricane candle holders for their wedding decorations. A small tip that makes a big difference is to place 3 pennies (in the shape of a triangle) under the base of the hurricane shade. This allows cool air to flow in the bottom and hot air to go out the top.

Dripless Candles Is There Such A Thing?

Dripless candles do they really exist? Typically the term dripless is attached to taper candles. We have all seen the old movies where the candle burning on the night stand has wax pouring down the sides and filling the candle holder. One thing to keep in mind is the term used for dripless candles is “drip-less” not “drip-proof”. There is always the chance that a liquid will drip, when you heat wax it becomes liquid. You can knock over a cup of water and it will go everywhere, while the job of the cup was to keep the water from “dripping” there was an element added which caused the cup to fail – your elbow. That being said there are a few things to keep in mind when shopping around for dripless candles;

1. They may still drip. If they were truly made to be a dripless candle then you should not have the problem in the scenario with the candle on the night stand. You may still get a small, occasional run.

2. You have SOME control on whether the “driplesscandle fails or not. Two major things you can do are make sure your candles are standing as straight as you can get them and try to keep them away from a constant draft. Do what you can to keep the candle flame centered, not heating oneside of the candle more than the other.

3. Buy candles made right here in the United States. Don’t get the cheap imports, there is a reason they are cheap.

Being the candle maker in the family I was in charge of setting up the candelabras in the church. It was not an easy task to get the taper candles to stand up straight, I think the candelabras had seen better days so that didn’t help any either.

That being said we make a dripless taper candle that we’ve been making for years and haven’t had any complaints yet about them dripping.