Northern Beaches Mums Group
Northern Beaches Mums Group

How To Burn Candles

To get the most out of your candles, read through these tips on?the common issues, and learn how to prevent and fix them.


Initial burn time

Let the wax melt close to the edge the first time you light your candle. This may take up to 3-4 hours of burning, so make sure you burn your pillar candle for at least 3 hours the first time you light it.

This is because the size of the wax pool during the first burn determines the life of the candle. Subsequent burns won’t melt the wax beyond the initial wax pool, so if it didn’t melt?close enough to the edge of the candle, it could leave a thick, unused mantle (‘tunnelling’).

Setting the memory

To avoid this tunnelling effect we need to maximise the size of the initial wax pool. This is called setting the memory of the candle, and it is done by burning the candle for 1 hour per 2.5cm in diameter. For a 7.5cm diameter candle, the initial burn time should be at least 3 hours.


Trim the wick

It may seem counter-intuitive, but a short wick gives a cleaner, brighter?flame and an even?burn, while a long wick can cause smoking and can cause mushrooming of the wick, where a mushroom-like shape forms at the top of the wick which obscures?and disturbs the flame. Before lighting, trim the wick to 6mm and remove any wick debris. Any debris left in the wax pool can disturb the burning of the candle.

A trimmed wick creates a calm, steady flame, which means the candle’s burning process is in balance. The wick is efficiently pulling up the right amount of wax, and the flame creates?complete combustion. A wick that is too long won’t be able to draw wax all the way to the top, and the wick itself will start to burn, causing it to smoke. A wick that is too long can also cause a candle flame to grow too long and flare, again producing soot.


Place?lit candles at least 10cm apart to avoid melting and warping due to heat from neighbouring candles.


Candles burn best in still air -?if too much (or too little) air reaches the candle flame, it will disturb the ideal teardrop shape of the flame and may cause the candle to start flickering and smoking. To avoid this, always burn your candles in a well-ventilated room, away from drafts, vents or strong air currents. If a draught can’t be avoided,?try shielding the flame from the draught, for instance by placing it in a candle holder, and?turn the candle periodically to avoid uneven burning and possible candle collapse.


The wax?pool should always be kept clean. Any debris (e.g. pieces of wick,?burnt matches) should be removed so as not to disturb the burning of the candle.

Burn time

For best results, don’t burn your candle for longer than 4 hours at a time. Extinguish, let the candle cool down, trim the wick, and relight.


Candles are sensitive to temperature and light. Prevent?candles from fading, cracking and melting by storing your candles in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight, dust and fluorescent light. Store your candles in an upright position and don?t leave them?in a car on a warm day.



When a candle burns hollow, or leaves a thick, unused mantle or rim, this is referred to as ‘tunnelling’. Tunnelling has some negative effects: if tunnelling continues unchecked, you’ll end up throwing away a large part of your candle, as the rim won’t melt away. A tunnelling candle will also smoke, as the tunnel disrupts the airflow to and from the flame.

It can be avoided by making sure the initial burn is long enough to melt the candle all the way to the edge, or in other words; to maximise the wax pool. See above for details of this process, which is referred to as setting the memory of the candle.

If the tunnelling hasn’t gone too far, a way to fix it is by ‘hugging’ the candle; pushing the soft wax rim inwards towards the flame, so that it has a chance to melt.

If however the tunnelling has gone too deep to fix by hugging, the rim can be trimmed down with a sharp knife when the wax is warm. Be careful not to damage the rim or the candle might start dripping.


A properly burning candle can produce a little smoke every now and then, but it should never continuously smoke. If your candle flame keeps flickering, it is usually also smoking. If a noticeable amount of smoke is being generated, knowing the causes can help stop it.

DRAUGHT: A common cause is draught; if the candle is exposed to a draught, the flame might start flickering and it will likely smoke. To avoid this, move the candle out of?the draught or shield the flame from the draught.

WICK LENGTH: Another cause can be the length of the wick; extinguish the flame, let the candle cool down, shorten the wick to 6mm and light again.

TUNNELLING: A tunnelling candle will usually smoke, as the tunnel disrupts the airflow to and from the flame, similar to a container that is too small – the next paragraph explains how this works.

CONTAINER: If your smoking candle is inside a candle vase, lantern or container, then it could be that the vase?is too small for the candle. As the oxygen inside the container burns up, more air is sucked into the container from the top, yet at the same time warm air, heated by the candle, is rising up and trying to escape the container. These two flows or air disrupt each other, causing a draught inside the container that disturbs the flame.

There are two ways to avoid this:

  1. Use a container that is open on both sides (top and bottom) so hot air can rise out and cold air can get sucked in fromthe bottom, or
  2. Choose a bigger container and/or smaller candle: make sure that there is roughly half the candle diameter of space between the candle and the vase edge. So if you have a 7cm candle, there should be at least 3.5cm of space between the candle and the edge of the container.


When the time comes to extinguish your candle, you could do better than blowing it out. Instead of filling your room with smoke and potentially splashing wax everywhere, dip the wick: extinguish your candle by pushing the wick into the pool of hot wax and pulling it back out. Use a specially designed wick dipper or any suitable non-flammable tool. Dipping the wick eliminates wick smouldering and smoking, while the wick is coated in wax and primed for the next lighting.


That’s it! Follow the above guidelines and you should be well on your way to enjoying your candlelit evenings and events. If you have any feedback or further questions, please get in touch.

Article provided by?Candle Kiosk

Candle Kiosk is an Australian-owned candle maker based on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. They specialise in quality pillar candles at affordable prices, delivered by the box.?Simple pleasures, delivered.