'Candle care': Why candles singe or explode - and how to avoid it

Before you light that candle for self-care, take care of the candle itself first.
Before you light that candle for self-care, take care of the candle itself first. Photo credit: Getty.

As the weather gets cooler and the evenings get darker, there's nothing cozier than snuggling down inside with a glass of red, a good book and some lovely scented candles. 

But all candle lovers know the fear of that moment when your candle begins to singe and go black around the edges of the glass. 

Last year we heard of several candle explosion incidents, including a series of burns and explosions from Gwyneth Paltrow's 'vagina-scented' candles as well as a risky incident involving a Kmart scented candle. 

The best way to avoid a dangerous burn or frightening explosion is to engage in proper 'candle care'. Yes, it's a thing. 

It turns out there's a whole set of ways you should be taking care of your candles to lessen the danger, and it's not simply as easy as unboxing them and immediately taking lighter to wick. 

Candle expert Nicole Eckels founded arguably one of Australasia's most famous candle brands, Glasshouse Candles. 

She's put together a series of tips for lighting your candle safely so you can get the most out of them - and actually relax as intended, rather than faring a Paltrow-esque scenario. 

How to safely care for your candles:

  • We always suggest that you let a 380g candle burn for at least one hour and no longer than four hours. You want the wax to melt all the way to the outside of the candle to prevent tunnelling with future burns (tunnelling is when unmelted wax is left around the edges, which can result in a reduction in fragrance throw and burn times).
  • If a candle is burned for too long, the wax pool can actually become too deep and the wicks can move or fall towards the glass. If a candle flame comes in to contact with the side of the glass it risks cracking, so you should make sure your wicks are always trimmed and standing upright. 
  • We always recommend that you stop burning your candle once there is 10mm of wax left because if there isn't enough left to absorb the heat of the flame, in some cases, this can cause the glass vessel to crack.
Trim the wick every time you use your candle.
Trim the wick every time you use your candle. Photo credit: Getty.
  • You need to trim your wicks to 7mm every time before you light your candle - yes, even the first time! Keeping your wicks trimmed controls how much wax is melted, limits the soot created and ensures the candle burns more evenly to prolong your candle's life. (Note: You can buy a 7mm wick trimmer to get a perfect wick length). 
  • Lighting the 'mushroom' (the burnt bent bit at the end of the wick after lighting your candle) usually causes the black soot you may see around your candle. Ensure your wicks are properly placed and trimmed to avoid this.
  • The best way to properly extinguish a candle is to use a candle snuffer. If this is not available, blow gently and steadily until the flame is extinguished.
  • Once your candle is finished (with 10mm of wax left in it), you can clean it out and re-use them. To do so, we recommend wiping out the vessel while the wax is still warm, or you can pop it into the freezer to easily remove the wax.
  • If you need to, you can soak the jar in hot water first (not boiling as it might crack). You can hand wash or pop the jar in the dishwasher for a sparkling clean. Once you have your clean vessel, some ways I love to reuse them is for storing cotton-buds or makeup brushes, spice jars in my pantry and growing seedlings.