Candles make any room warm and inviting. The anatomy of a candle is simple – a candle consists of wax and a wick. Things get more complicated when colorants, fragrances, and additives are thrown into the mix. Paraffin, a petroleum by-product, is the most common type of candle. Other things used to make candles include beeswax (a natural wax from the hives of honeybees), soy wax (a vegetable wax), gels made from mineral oil, and synthetic waxes are also frequently used to manufacture candles.
Candles that burn the cleanest are made from undyed and unscented wax. Soy candles are ideal because they are naturally odorless and do not produce soot. Beeswax candles are lovely because they emit a natural honey scent. Martha Stewart recommends avoiding strongly scented candles in the dining room because they compete with the delicious aromas of your meal.
To keep candles burning bright, try the following:
- Keep wicks cut down to ¼-inch. Longer wicks equal higher flames and more soot.
- To keep candles from burning lopsided, protect them from drafts. Drafts cause larger flames which not only produce soot but also cause the candle to burn lopsided.
- Placing candles on a sunny windowsill or in an overheated room can cause them to droop and be unsafe to light.
- To avoid spills and misshapen pillar candles, try the following: keep the wick centered in the candle by inserting a spoon handle alongside the wick and pressing it into place.
- Try this rule of thumb for burning pillar candles: Limit the burning time of the candles based on their diameter – if a candle is three inches wide, only burn it for three hours. This prevents wax from pooling around the base of the wick and burying it, thus ruining the candle.
- You can burn tapers if they aren’t smoking or dripping excessively.
- If you do find a wick is drowning in its own wax, cut the pillar candle down ½-inch from the top with a sharp knife.
It’s easiest to remove wax from candleholders when it’s still warm. Peel off the warm drippings as soon as you blow out the candles. If the wax has cooled, and the candle holder is waterproof, try running the candleholder under hot water and removing it by hand or with a plastic utensil. At the other end of the temperature spectrum, wax will shrink after a few hours in the freezer and pop right out. The rest should come off by gently scrubbing.
If you should get candle wax on linen, grab an ice cube and hold it on the wax. The wax will freeze and shrink, and you can pop it off the fabric. Then you can treat any residual stain with laundry stain remover.
Stewart, Martha. Martha Stewart’s Homekeeping Handbook. Random House, c. 2006.
Aslett, Don. The Cleaning Encyclopedia: Your A to Z Guide to Cleaning Like the Pros! Dell, c. 1993.
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