When the weather starts to cool, people begin to think of warm, cozy scents. It’s part of the reason why many retailers hold candle sales in the fall.
Scent is tied to memory, and aromatherapy has been proven to affect mood, so it’s no surprise that a candle with a certain smell can create a sense of nostalgia and promote relaxation. Unfortunately, any time you use an open flame or heat source for an extended period of time, you put your safety at risk. Follow these tips to make sure the memories related to your favorite smells always stay good.
It’s true that scents can be relaxing, but it’s important to be aware and alert when burning candles. The maximum burn time is four hours. Let the candle come to room temperature before relighting. If you’re using candles to create ambiance or to help you relax or to sleep, it’s wise to consider a safer alternative, like flameless candles or scented oil diffusers. Or, meet both needs at once by using a wall plug-in air freshener that includes a built-in nightlight.
Flameless candle alternatives
There are many safe alternatives that imitate candles’ flickering glow and inviting scent. Electric candles and nightlights provide gentle light to rooms, while oil and reed diffusers can quickly disperse scent throughout a room, even without heat. Some electric or battery powered candles even come with a remote control that can be used to turn them on and off, adjust how they flicker, and more.
If a candle comes in a must have scent that you can’t find anywhere else, flameless candle warmers are another great option. They’re especially useful when you can set timers for automatic shutoff.
If you do choose to burn candles, keep in mind that certain lighting methods are safer than others. Long lighters are a safer option because they keep your hands away from the flame and become cool almost immediately after the flame is extinguished. Some of them also provide a switch that lets users adjust the size of the flame, giving you even more control.
Pocket sized lighters share some same safety features with long lighters, but they’re often only safe and effective for tapered candles or fresh candles. Using a small lighter to light a candle in a jar or container is dangerous, as holding the lighter upside down to reach the wick tilts the flame up toward your hand. Holding the lighter upright and turning the candle upside down isn’t wise either, as wax or flaming bits of wick can fall out, creating a potential burn or fire hazard.
Finally, matches are generally the least safe way to light a candle. They can break, fall into the hot wax, and if they’re not extinguished and disposed of properly, can cause fires when thrown away. If you do choose to use matches, opt for wooden ones over matchbooks, and store them away from the candle, especially when the candle is lit.
Maintenance and candle-safe containers
It’s also important to keep the candle’s wax pool clean. Dust, hair and remnants of wick or matches are flammable and may cause the candle to burn too hot for its container. Do not use plastic containers, which can melt, and make sure glass is solid and not cracked. Inappropriate containers can release hot wax and free the flame. When the flame is not confined to a container, the risk of fire increases greatly.
In order to protect the container and the area surrounding the candle, trim the wick to 1/8 inch before each burning. A scissor-like tool with a small plate near the blade, called a wick trimmer, can help you complete this task properly every time. The small plate helps you remove the wick from the candle to keep the wax pool area clean. Also, if the wax in your candle gets too low, it can’t be safely burned. A good rule of thumb is to stop burning when a jar candle hits ½ inch of wax. For candles that aren’t in containers, the limit is 2 inches before the candle is too low to burn.
Safe candle placement and use
Remember to keep candles away from drafts, high traffic areas, pets and children. Also avoid placing lit candles near curtains, under shelves or cabinetry, or on the floor. Candles should be placed on a stable, heat resistant surface.
When burning candles, follow these safety rules:
- Keep burning candles within sight
- Read and follow the manufacturer’s use and safety instructions
- Only use candles in a well-ventilated room
- Don’t burn a candle all the way to the bottom of the container
- Use a snuffer to extinguish the flame, not water
- Extinguish lit candles before leaving the room or going to bed.
- Keep candles at least 3 inches apart
If candles are part of your holiday ceremonies or décor, make sure to never place them in or near trees, near paper, or within reach of children. Get a head start on holiday season safety with these tips.