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What you Didn't Know you Needed to Know About Candles

Candle Basics by author Meghan Carter

  • The propper way to smell a candle.
  • Lighting the wick versus a candle warmer.
  • How to get more burn hours from your candles.
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    Despite the fact that candles are one of the most popular decorating items in our homes, most of us know very little about them. We all rest comfortably in our candle ignorance, enjoying the colors, ambiance and scents candles bring to our homes. However, despite their seeming simplicity, there's a lot more to candles than meets the eye, or olfactory system. For example, did you know that candles have a lot in common with wine and fine dining and that there are ways to prevent soot, promote a candle's burning efficiency and increase the number of hours a candle will burn? I didn't before I sat down with Rick Ruffolo, Senior Vice President of Brand, Marketing and Innovation at Yankee Candle. And when I got up, my head was so full of candle knowledge it hurt, or maybe that was from smelling too many candles. Either way, here's the candle knowledge he imparted to me.

Smell the Lid:

    Have you ever had the problem where you go to pick out a candle, grab one off the shelf, plunge your nose an inch from the wax and can hardly smell a thing? You try and try, but you can't seem to get a good sense for how a candle really smells, only a headache from inhaling too much. Well, you and I are not alone; it seems to be a common problem among candle customers. And Rick had an easy remedy for the scent impairment. Smell inside the lid.
    "When you smell the lid, there's a big, big difference," he explained "What's happened is that the fragrance, when it's all condensed in [a container] and trapped, its what's called creating headspace, and the fragrance actually accumulates in the top of the lid, and when you smell it you actually get the full body of the fragrance."
    The full body of the fragrance includes the top, middle and bottom not, according to Rick. "When a customer will smell a candle [by smelling the wax], all they're getting is what is called the top note," Rick said. "And when you smell it [inside the lid] you get the full body, which is the top, the middle and the base note."

Light a Candle, Don't Warm it:

    Candle warmers may seem like a great alternative to having to light a candle. There's no danger of a fire, no sooty ceilings and the scent from a candle seems even more potent. But they're not always the best option.
    "The whole idea is that the melted wax pool services as the way to get the scent into the air, and the flame uses the wax as fuel," Rick explained. "So the wax burns away, and that's why over time the candle wick goes down, and the whole candle goes away. Whereas in a candle warmer, it might be good that first time or that second time, but over time it's not going to work because it's driving all the fragrance out of the candle and all you're left with is the unscented wax."
    So, basically because a candle warmer liquefies all the wax at once, it's letting all the scent out at in one large dose. Whereas burning a candle will slowly release fragrance till the last drop of wax is burned.

Plan 15 to 30 Minutes Before Fragrance:

    If you're a last-minute romantic, be forewarned. From the time you light a candle, it usually takes 15 to 30 minutes before a good-sized wax pool builds and the scent is being released in large quantities. So, if you want your room enveloped in fragrance, plan ahead.
    "Depending on the type of candle you have, the wax pool can happen quicker or slower depending on again the type of wax, the type of wick and the type of candle you're using," Rick coached. "But in general if you wait about fifteen minutes a half hour, you'll get a nice wax pool on most candles, and at that point your whole room will be enveloped in fragrance."

Stopping the Soot:

    Stopping soot really comes down to science. Because as Rick explained to me, soot is the result of a candle burning inefficiently.
    "Really, it's just saying that the flame isn't working optimally, and there are a number of things you can do as a customer," Rick said. "And this is true of any candle."
    Don't worry the "things you can do" are really easy, and you don't have to understand any science to actually do them. First, keep your candles away from drafts. The drafts cause candles to flicker, and that flickering results in soot. Second, keep your wicks trimmed to 1/4 inches. As Rick explained to me, the longer the wick, the more susceptible it is to flickering, and, again, flickering leads to soot. Third, you can use a candle topper, which is a small dome of metal that sits over a candle's opening. The topper helps protect candles from drafts, which, you guessed it, stop flickering. You're probably seeing a theme here. The final clean burning tip from Rick was to only buy high-quality candles, and no, this time it doesn't have to do with flickering.
    "The candle science part of this there is a way that you can integrate the fragrance and the dies and the different types of waxes that companies put together, and the size of the wick and all that," Rick said. "Actually, there are all sorts of variable that are in play there. Most of the better candle companies are going to test that extensively before they put a candle on the market. So, I always encourage people to stay with a reputable candle company."

Longer Burns Equal More Burn Hours:

    It may seem counterintuitive, but burning your candle in short intervals decreases the overall amount of time you can burn your candle, Rick explained. "So, if you actually burn your candle for an hour and you blow it out, and a hour and you blow it out, that is actually probably not as good for your candle because it doesn't allow the wax pool to fully take the full circumference of the candle. So, over time you're going to build up wax on the sides, and that's one of the things that we again look hard at is making sure that you get full consumption, or near full consumption the candle because no one wants to leave anything behind when they buy something. And, so, the more you use it, two hours, three hours, four hours at a time, you actually get more burn hours out of that."

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