5 Mistakes We All Make When Burning Candles

Trimming candle wicks

The Copper Bell

What homebody doesn’t love candles? Maybe you burn one every evening as you wind down before bed or can’t work from your apartment without surrounding yourself with a calming scent. I personally have an entire storage bin filled with various candles that correspond to various seasons and moods, and I don’t plan to pare down my collection anytime soon. I also firmly believe that contrary to popular belief, candles do make fabulous gifts when selected with care—I dare you to convince me otherwise! 

Because I’ve loved candles for so many years now, I thought I already knew everything of importance when it comes to how to care for my collection. But after speaking with the pros, it turns out I was wrong! Before you grab your matches, read on to learn more about what experts say are the most common mistakes people make when burning candles at home. 

  • 01 of 05

    Not Keeping the Wick Healthy

    A healthy wick will ensure that your fave candle lasts as long as possible and gives off plenty of fragrance, so it’s definitely something to prioritize. Before lighting your candle, the wick should be trimmed to measure .25 inches, Cat Brantley, director of operations at Candlefish, said in an email. Why is this practice so key? “If a wick is too long, it may split at the top and leave a mess in your candle wax,” Brantley explained. “A shorter wick does a great job at creating the pool of melted wax—which is where the fragrance comes from—and a wick that is too long simply burns your candle faster than necessary.” 

  • 02 of 05

    Not Burning a Candle to Its Edges, Especially on First Burn

    When you unwrap a new candle, you’ll want to keep a few things in mind before you light it, or you risk ruining it for later use. “The first time you burn your candle is an extremely important time,” noted Donagh Quigley, founder of The Handmade Soap Company. “You want to make sure when you light your candle that you let the melted wax pull all the way to the edge of its vessel, because it ensures that for the remainder of the candle’s life, it will have a nice, even burn.” What will happen if you don’t heed this advice? “If you do not do this the first time you burn your candle, you will set it up for tunneling, which is where the candle only burns down the middle, and does not burn out to the edges,” Quigley explained. “You need to allow yourself enough time to have your candle burn to its edges—if you do not have the time, wait until you do for this first burn in particular.” 

    The first time you burn your candle is an extremely important time.”

  • 03 of 05

    Burning a Candle for Too Long of a Period

    What’s cozier than keeping a candle lit during an entire day at home as you work, read, and watch TV? As it turns out, there is such a thing as keeping a candle lit for too long—Brantley said that it’s best to stick to four-hour increments maximum. “When you burn a candle all day long, you risk the vessel getting too hot, which can cause damage wherever you are burning the candle,” she explained, adding, “Always put a candle on top of a heat resistant surface or coaster.” 

  • 04 of 05

    Moving a Candle While It’s Lit

    Once you put away those matches, it’s best to leave your candle in place until you blow it out. Why? “Moving the candle when it's lit—or the wax is liquid—could cause spillage of the melted wax which would create further mess (or fire hazards) in your home,” Katrina Bell of The Copper Bell explained in an email. And if you’ve already burned a candle several times before, moving it will pose even further risks. “When the wax is low in the jar, the glass will be much hotter to the touch than when the candle is new,” Bell added. “An unexpectedly hot candle can startle people and cause them to drop the candle if they grab it while it’s lit. You’d run the risk of spilling wax on yourself or in your home—or even burning yourself with hot wax.” 

    When the wax is low in the jar, the glass will be much hotter to the touch than when the candle is new.”

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Not Caring for Candles Properly

    white candles with cloches on white shelves

    Candlefish / Jamestown

    Don’t just stash your candles out in the open when they’re not in use, Brantley advised. “Keep your candles out of sunlight—UV rays can discolor scented candles—and in a cool, dark spot when not lit,” she said. “Nothing is better than a delicious smelling cabinet where you can keep back-up candles safe from dust, sunlight, and roommates who don't follow candle care protocol.” Plus, who doesn’t love feeling a bit more organized? And when you know exactly how many candles you own, it’s easier to keep track of favorites that are running low (and prevent yourself from making impulse buys when out shopping).