How to Burn Your Candles, According to the Experts

Get the most out of your flame with these simple tips.

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Every Christmas, my mom always burns the same candles. I've come to associate candles (especially the holiday-scented ones) with wintertime. But after working, eating, and doing just about everything else from home over the last year, I've begun to do little things that bring me a small amount of joy each day. One of my new habits is burning a candle (or a few, don't judge me) every day, even during the warmer months. Maybe it's the nostalgia, or perhaps it's being immersed in delicious scents, but it's become an easy habit that really cheers me up.

How to Burn Your Candles Evenly

I burn through about two 3-wick candles each week, and most times, I end up with a perfectly even burn, but other times, I'm left with a sizeable amount of wax around the perimeter of the jar. After chatting with some friends and co-workers, I realized I was not alone in my inconsistent candle burning. After speaking to a few experts, I learned I was making some candle-burning faux pas, and you might be doing the same. These tips will help your candle look better and last longer, but they'll also keep you safe. The National Candle Association notes that candles are an open flame, and you should always follow proper fire safety protocols while you're burning them. Here's what the pros have to say on how to expertly burn your candles at home.

Candle flowers and decorative items on a wooden tray
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1. Burn the Top Layer Completely

Your candle actually has a "memory" each time it burns. "The way you burn your candle the first time will dictate how it behaves for the rest of its 'candle life,'" says Lindsay Silberman, founder of Hotel Lobby Candle. "To burn your candle properly, you're going to want to keep it lit until the top layer of wax is melted all the way to the perimeter of the vessel. If you blow it out prematurely, aka before the wax melts all the way to the edge, you'll create a 'memory ring,' which you don't want," she explains.

Tamara Mayne, owner of Brooklyn Candle Studio says you should allow one hour or burn time for every inch of diameter in the container, so make sure you have enough time before you set the candle alight. As long as you let the top layer burn completely, you'll avoid the tunnel effect and have a much better looking candle.

2. Extinguish With a Candle Snuffer

I'll admit it. Every time I want to put out my flame, I blow it out. "Blowing out candles is, unfortunately, not the ideal way to extinguish a candle," Mayne explains. "[This] causes wax to spray onto your face and smoke to fill the room. Blowing out candles can also bury the wick in the wax making it hard for you to light your candle the next time. Ideally, you should use a candle snuffer to extinguish the flame," she adds. Try the ILLUME Gold Candle Snuffer ($12, Crate & Barrel).

3. Use a Wick Trimmer

Now that you know how to put the flame out, the next step is what to do when you're ready to re-light. "A wick trimmer is used to maintain a clean and even burn throughout the lifetime of your candle," Mayne says. "You use the wick trimmer like regular scissors. They are usually angled so you can lower the trimmer into the candle vessel as your candle burns down. Just cut the wick before you light the candle so about ¼ of an inch remains."

If you're not using a trimmer, you'll notice a build-up of carbon that looks like a mushroom. "Lighting the 'mushroom' can lead a wick to crackle and pop and release soot into the air and around your candle vessel," Mayne explains. "This is what causes the big black rings you'll sometimes see around the rims of candle containers."

4. Stop Burning Before the Bottom

It's tempting to want to get every single minute out of your candle, but you shouldn't let the wax burn to the very bottom. "Always stop burning your candle when about ¼ of an inch to ½ of an inch of wax remains to prevent your candle vessel from overheating," Mayne says. But once you get to that point, don't toss your item just yet...

5. Save the Container

...because you can repurpose the vessel for storage. Just follow a few easy tricks on how to get the wax out of your jar, and use the container to hold your home office desk supplies or to keep your hair accessories together.

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