8 Ways You're Using Candles Wrong, According to TikTok's Candle Expert

Sir Candleman Photo Composite

The Spruce / Photo Illustration by Amelia Manley

Think you know everything there is to know about candles? Well, we hate to break it to you, but there are probably at least a few pointers that you could use when it comes to lighting and caring for your candles, no matter the size of your collection. We spoke with expert Kudzi Chikumbu (better known on TikTok as Sir Candle Man), who shared eight of the most common mistakes people make when it comes to using candles. Take note of Chikumbu's helpful tips, then prepare to get lost in his hilarious and informative TikTok clips, which have helped him amass over 90,000 followers on the video-sharing app.

Mistake #1: Not Lighting a Candle the Right Way

Believe it or not, there is, in fact, a correct way to light a candle—and it doesn't just involve striking a match without any prep. "Too many people either don’t know that they are doing this wrong or they may just be lazy, but the first place to start is to trim your wick to a ¼ inch before every burn. This is critical," Chikumbu explained. Why is this step so key? Well, it actually is tied to several benefits, Chikumbu noted. "Trimming your wick stops excess smoke, soot, and popping while keeping your candle jar clean."

Mistake #2: Not Placing Your Candle in a Prime Spot

You don't just want to place your candle in an aesthetically pleasing spot without taking into account the surrounding environment as a whole. "Always pick a level surface to ensure that you have an even burn, so that you don’t have a tunneled candle which wastes wax," Chikumbu explained. And as adorable as your candle may look sitting on the windowsill, this should be avoided if the window is open. "That may lead to uneven burning, smoking, and lower scent throw," Chikumbu added.

Mistake #3: Keeping Candles Lit for Too Short of a Period

We get it—it's tempting to light a candle before you catch up on your favorite TV show and then blow it out half an hour later. But really, there is such a thing as keeping a candle lit for too short of a period. "Burn your candle for long enough so that the wax melts completely across the full surface every time," Chikumbu said. "Yes, I said that—every single time." Generally, he noted, this means keeping a candle lit for a two- to four-hour period, or else you'll face consequences down the line. "If you burn out your candle too early, 'candle memory' sets in, which will cause tunneling during future burns."

Mistake #4: Not Knowing How to Fix Tunneling

If tunneling does occur, rest assured that it can be addressed, Chikumbu said. In fact, the process to remedy this situation is quite simple. "Light your candle (don’t forget to trim the wick before the burn!), place some tin foil around the candle, and leave a small opening at the top," Chikumbu noted. "After an hour or so, this heat mechanism should melt the wax left on the insides of your tunneled candle and get it even again."

Mistake #5: Leaving a Candle Lit As You Nap

Yes, of course it's tempting to drift off to the sweet smell of lavender, but you most definitely do not want to catch up on Zzz's with a candle burning. "We’re dealing with open flames here, so please do not fall asleep when burning candles," Chikumbu warned. Enough said.

Mistake #6: Not Blowing Out a Candle Correctly

The decorative candles in your house shouldn't be treated the same way as those atop your birthday cake. "I recommend a candle snuffer or wick dipper," Chikumbu advised. "These options mean that you don’t splatter any wax and also have a smoke-free experience. Don’t forget to straighten up your wick before the wax cools."

Mistake #7: Storing Candles Sloppily

The next time you take a fresh candle out of its box, Chikumbu noted, be sure to keep its lid handy for the long haul. It will help keep dust and debris away from the wax when a candle isn't in use. Why is this so essential? Well, he adds, "Extra debris can cause soot when candles are burning."

Mistake #8: Tossing Empty Candle Jars

First of all, Chikumbu clarifies that a candle jar shouldn't actually be burned until it's empty. "I get it, you love your candles and you want to get as much burn as possible, but you need to stop about 0.5 inches from the bottom," he said. "If you burn it all the way down, you may overheat your container which can create harm or a big mess." But when you've gotten as much use out of your candle as is safely possible, Chikumbu said that you can feel free to hold onto it. "Pro tip: clean the containers and reuse them—you can use them as flower pots, pencil holders, or drinking vessels."