10 Candle Hacks Every Spa-Lover Needs to Know Before Lighting That Wick
It's amazing how a glass jar of wax can transform a room, and the overall mood inside it, at the strike of a match. There's just something about the cool flickering flame, delicious aromatics, and cozy, snuggly vibe of a candle that turns even a cramped one-bedroom apartment into a momentary escape. The seemingly simple design somehow lends itself to a complete sensory experience that is every bit as calming as a day at the spa. Heck, even just thinking about a lit votive brings about a comforting sigh of relief.
However, you might be shocked to find out you've been lighting your candles all wrong and that black ring around the votive is totally avoidable. Yep, there's more to the calming jar of wax than you may have ever known. I spoke to some of the masterminds behind the industry's most heartwarming candles to get the expert candle-care tips you need to know before you strike your next match.
Commit to the first burn.
“The number one rule when burning a candle is that you must allow a full melt pool to develop during your first burning session,” advised Jon Bresler, CEO and founder of LAFCO candles. A full melt pool means that you have burned your candle long enough to develop a pool of liquid wax along the entire surface of the candle in order to prevent tunneling. In other words, the perfect excuse to cozy up for an afternoon snuggle session.
“Wax has a memory. If during the first burn, you blow out your candle before an edge-to-edge melt pool develops, it will continue to stop there for every subsequent burn, creating a tunnel of wax buildup around the candle jar, instead of a clean level surface,” explained Tim Rossi of Nest Fragrances.
A full melt pool could take anywhere from 20 minutes for a petroleum candle and up to three hours for a soy candle. “It all depends on the type of wax, the size of the candle, and the size of the wick,” Bresler explained. This rule, however, only applies to the first burn, so make sure you commit to it. After that, your candle knows the drill and you can burn for a few precious minutes or an entire Westworld marathon (although we much prefer the latter).
Train your pillars.
If you have a large pillar candle, the kind without a glass votive or jar, try to blow it out just before the wax begins to drip over the edge of the candle after the first burn session.
“If you do that, the candle will be self-taught to never burn over the side and you can avoid creating those drip marks and a mess on your countertop,” advised Rossi.
Trim the wick. Every. Single. Time.
“Before lighting your candle, be sure to trim the wick to about five millimeters to avoid any unnecessary smoke, which causes soot to form in the candle," said Eduardo Valadez of Diptyque Paris.
The bigger the wick, the bigger the flame and the faster your candle will burn. A short, trimmed wick will help your candle last longer, emit a stronger fragrance, and help prevent carbon buildup on the wick, which leads to black soot deposits around the candle jar.
“Wait to trim the wick until the wax hardens again," said Rossi. "This way it doesn’t fall back into the melted wax. If the wick clippings remain in the candle, it will eventually travel to the wick and this debris will clog the wicks, blocking the scent from diffusing. You can’t smell the scent.”
Get the right tools for the job.
Use a specialized tool to trim the wick. “The wick trimmer is designed to smoothly clip the wick and fit nicely inside even a narrow vessel,” explained Valadez. Many wick trimmers have a basin to catch the trimmings (like Bliss Home and Designs Wickman trimmer), or hold your candle sideways so the snipped wicks fall into the garbage, not onto the candle.
You can use a really good pair of scissors, but you want to avoid chopping at the wick and creating frayed edges, which will result in a bigger flame.
One tool to stay away from: wick dippers. “It's a tool that encourages one to dip a burning wick down into the wax to put it out. This will cause the carbon buildup on the wick to be pushed down into the wax and will clog the base of the wick as you continue to burn it,” warned Rossi.
“After you’ve snuffed your candle, allow it to cool slightly and then recenter the wick in the still-pliable wax. This will ensure your candle burns evenly down to the bottom,” explained Valadez.
In order to keep the wick burning as straight as possible, avoid placing candles in areas with a draft or breeze, which would cause the flame to flicker. “A flicker results in immediate sooting because your candle isn't burning evenly. This means keeping candles out of walkways so people don't interrupt the flame when they walk by,” warned Rossi.
Our favorite place to light a candle: deskside. There's something about the orange flame and calming aroma that make even a tough day at the office feel more manageable.
Burn, baby, burn. But don't overdo it.
Yes, there is a limit. “You should only burn a candle for up to three hours max. After that, the oils in the candle begin to burn themselves, and the scent is not dispersed in a very productive way,” explained Alina Roytberg, cofounder of Fresh. The glass will also get extremely hot and form larger carbon dioxide buildups on the wick, leading to soot that can be dispersed around the candle and even throughout your home.
Editor tip: have a candle rotation. I like to keep a starting lineup of favorites candles on display. Once I've maxed out the burn on one, I blow it out and light up another one. This way you'll get the best burns and strongest scents and can avoid ruining any of your candles.
Protect your candle.
“When your candle is not lit, place a lid on top of it to preserve the scent and also ensure the surface doesn’t become covered in dust,” said Valadez. Keep any debris out of there be it with a fancy metal cover or the thin plastic dust covers that come on a new candle (yes, they actually serve a purpose). “Save them, and protect your candles when they’re not in use,” recommended Rossi.
The art of scent layering.
If you are looking to burn a bunch of candles at the same time (which we absolutely recommend for the total spa experience), keep them at least three inches apart.
“When the flames of different candles get too close to each other, they can affect each other’s burn. You can see they will start to burn towards each other, affecting the overall performance of the candle,” explained Rossi.
If you do want to layer the scents, place them in different spots around the house. “The combination works just as well; in fact it creates more unique combinations: for example, a citrus candle, like Fresh’s Citron de Vigne candle, with rich woods, like Cannabis Santal candle,” recommended Roytberg.
Repurpose the votive.
When you have a half centimeter of wax remaining in the candle, stop burning it. “Instead, use hot water to loosen the wax. Then clean the vessel to repurpose it to hold pencils, makeup brushes, flowers, and more!” recommended Valadez. You can also freeze the candle. “This will help you pop out the wax and repurpose the jar for anything,” said Bresler.
Consider the alternatives.
If all of this sounds like a lot of extra work you didn't exactly sign up for when purchasing your last candle, here is something new for you. Electric candles are fine but kind of miss the boat on the whole flame and fragrance elements. There is, however, a new candle breed coming to the market that delivers the same glow, scent, and ambiance without the waxy, sooty mess.
Lucid liquid candles (launching January 2017) look exactly like decorative wax pillars, except instead of a wax composition, they are plastic and a whole lot easier to care for. The wick is positioned inside a Pyrex glass tube that you can fill (and refill) with paraffin burning liquid so your candle lasts forever without so much as a drip or black smudge. I’m not quite ready to surrender my Diptyque just yet, but it sure is a nice addition to the collection and one that will last a long, long time without a wick trim or dusting.