Candles serve ornamental and functional purposes. They are used as decor accents, specialty items, ceremonial pieces, and collectibles, aside from backup lights in case of power outage. Candles are mainstay items at religious services, rituals, processions, and other celebrations. Special candles are made for milestones such as baptisms, birthdays, and weddings. They also add a touch of romance to the dinner table, family room, or bedroom. Scented candles set the mood and fragrance for a luxurious bath or meditation session. They do double duty as air fresheners. Candles provide warmth and romantic ambience. Their bright flames cast a lovely glow around the home. However, candles need to be handled with care to ensure safety for people and property.
Facts and Figures about Candle Fires
According to the London Fire Brigade, each year, well over a thousand home fires in the UK are attributed to candles. Candle fires are reported virtually every day in London. Due to holiday candles and trimmings, December is the month when the most number of candle fires occur. Three-quarters of candle fires are considered severe, resulting in serious injuries to humans and damage to property. Approximately one third of home fire injuries suffered are caused by burning candles. To prevent accidental fires, here are safety tips on candle use from experts and fire authorities.
Read the Warning Label
Candles should come with cautionary labels, usually found at the bottom of each item. At the very least, the warning label or tag should include three key safety rules:
Keep out of reach of children and pets.
Never leave a lighted candle unattended.
Place the burning candle on a flat, heat-resistant surface, away from drafts and flammable materials.
Place the burning candle on a flat, heat-resistant surface, away from drafts and flammable materials. Reading the label is the number one step before lighting a candle. Candle users should follow the manufacturer or vendor’s instructions, if available, for safe home use, maintenance, storage and disposal.
Safety Tips Before Lighting a Candle
Before using a candle for the first time, remove the wrapper, including any decorative wrap. Ensure that the wick length is a quarter of an inch (0.6 cm) and remember to trim it to this length every time the candle is used. Before re-using a candl e, clean the wax pool of wick cuttings, used matchstick, ash, and other debris that will catch fire from the burning flame. Candles and candleholders are meant for each other. Don’t just grab any container to put a candle in it. A candleholder best serves the purpose, and it should be sturdy and resistant to heat. This should hold true as well for candles that come with their own holders, called container candles. If a candle doesn’t have its own holder, then choose one in proportionate size, allowing enough room to catch drippings and molten wax. Grouped candles should be placed apart a minimum of three inches (7.5 cm) from each other. The distance will prevent the candles from melting each other. Also, more draft may be produced when burning candles are positioned in a close huddle, causing the flames to flare up. Avoid lighting too many candles in a small area or room without enough air circulation.
Do’s and Don’ts with a Burning Candle
Position the candle or candleholder on a level, stable surface to prevent tipping over and breaking glass containers. Place a lit candle out of harm’s way to prevent children and pets from playing with it, or being accidentally knocked over by anyone. Make sure that the counter, table or any other surface on which the candle is placed is heat-resistant to avoid damage. Don’t put a lighted candle on top or too close to any object that may catch fire, such as curtains, carpet, paper products, Christmas trimmings, flammable décor, bedding, etc. Handle the lighted candle carefully to avoid hot wax spills and skin burns. When a lit candle is in place, avoid moving it around. There are visual signs to check whether the candle is burning properly. Observe how the flame appears and acts. If the flame looks calm and steady with a tear-drop shape, this indicates the correct balance between the wick and the wax in the process of burning. The wick’s length is just right to effectively use the wax needed to burn the candle and release the carbon dioxide and vapour by-products. A flickering flame that produces wisps of smoke sends a “smoke signal” that either not enough air or a strong air current is getting to the flame. Soot is produced from unburned carbon particles. The trick is to place a lighted candle in a well-ventilated area, but at a safe distance from drafts, fans, and vents. Otherwise the candle will be unevenly burned at a faster rate and drip more than normal. Winds can also blow drapes and loose sheets of paper into direct contact with the flame and ignite a fire. If the flame is getting higher and flaring up, it’s a warning sign to trim the wick. Long and bent wicks also result in excessive drips of melting wax and uneven burning of the candle. Make it a habit to check if the wick’s length is 0.6 cm, or a quarter of an inch. The safety rule is to put out the candle when the flame is getting longer or consistently flickering. Allow enough time for the candle to cool. Keep it away from drafts. Before lighting the candle again, check if the wick needs trimming. Factors such as candle size and wax composition determine the average length of time a candle is consumed. The warning label indicates a candle’s maximum burn time; for example, no more than two hours at a time for a small candle or four hours for a medium candle. Don’t allow the candle to burn down to a small stump. The prescribed safety margin is 5 cm (2 inches) of remaining wax or around half an inch for a container candle. Never leave a burning candle unattended or let it burn overnight. Before leaving a room that has a lighted candle or before going to sleep, snuff out the candle first. Remind other family members to do the same. For added safety, designate someone as the “candle snuffer” doing the rounds in every room. A second person can do candle patrol duty to double-check around the house. During a power failure, exercise caution in handling candles. Rummaging through closet stuff or searching for fuel-powered gadgets with the aid of a lighted candle is inviting disaster. It’s much safer to use flashlights and other battery-operated lamps when the power is out.
Putting Out the Candle Flame Properly
It’s safest to use a candle snuffer to put out the flame. This works best to avoid being splattered with hot liquefied wax. Don’t ever attempt to extinguish the candle flame with water. It may splash out the hot wax and shatter the glass container. Check to see if the flame and the glowing embers have died out. Wait for the liquid wax to cool before touching or moving the candle. Do not remove wax remains from a glass container with a knife or sharp tool. This may scratch or damage the glass, causing it to crack or shatter the next time the candle is lit.
Candle Industry Standards and Quality
International safety standards exist for candle design, materials and manufacturing processes. Manufacturers that are members of industry associations are expected to comply with health and safety regulations and requirements. Candles and candle containers should pass rigorous tests and quality control to follow fire-safety specifications. Buyers should also beware of the possible presence of toxins and allergens in candle waxes, wicks, additives, and fragrance oils. Reputable manufacturers and vendors choose industry-grade, non-toxic materials to produce safe candles. They also provide useful data about raw ingredients, where they are sourced, warnings on allergic reactions, sensitivity to scents, and other essential information. Their products may cost a bit more, but the candles are safer to use, longer lasting, and burn cleanly.
Find Safe Candles on eBay
Forewarned with candle safety knowledge, consumers can make sensible decisions on which kinds of candles to look for and what to avoid. Buyers can type in specific keywords on the search field of the eBay homepage, for example, “aromatherapy candles” to yield the results they want. If a general keyword is entered, such as “candles”, the results can be narrowed down according to category, such as Home Décor, and sub-category, such as Candles & Tea Lights. The search can be further refined by type, such as Floating Candle; by scent, such as Rose; by material, such as Beeswax or by other filters based on individual preferences. Buyers can browse the eBay website for helpful candle reviews and guides, take note of safety tips, and learn from expert advice.
To recap, there are three top safety tips to take away; always keep a lighted candle in one’s line of sight; store candles in a safe place to keep kids and pets from getting hold of them; place a burning candle out of harm’s way from anything that might catch fire. If people remember these basic steps, their home can be a safer place where candles are enjoyed for the cheerful warmth they bring.