Beeswax candles create an inviting and warm atmosphere in any room and home. The sweet gentle scent of honey wafts through the air. Flicking flames provide light and dancing patterns of sparks throughout the room. Sometimes from the flames there is a soot-like coloring which makes some wonder what causes this.
Beeswax candles burn hotter than many other waxes; therefore, they emit less soot than other candles. Candles made from beeswax burn cleanly, which makes them close to soot-free.
There are steps you can take to reduce the minimal soot that emanates from beeswax candles. Continue reading for information on soot and how to reduce the impact from your candles.
Combustion and Soot
Did you ever wonder why some of your candle jars turn black? The blackness on candle jars is the result of the buildup of soot. Soot is a black chalky residue. Buildup of soot is called dirty house condition. So, the black streaks you see in your jarred candles is a condensed version of what is building up near where you burn your candles.
Different waxes cause more soot than others. If you frequently burn candles, there is an increased likelihood that you will begin to notice the impact of the soot, especially if you are burning paraffin candles. Over time, soot can stain or leave residual black streaks on your walls and cabinets.
Additionally, candles that release soot or smoky flames can impact the filters in your HVAC system. Continual usage and burning of candles can eventually clog your filters. Dirt will eventually build up in the filters. Without cleaning or changing your filters, your HVAC systems will not run as efficiently. If you are burning candles often, be sure to check your filters.
Lighting the wick of the candle initiates the burning process. From the flame’s heat the wax nearest the wick begins to melt. The candle wax is the fuel that lets the candle burn. Its wick creates a passageway to carry the fuel, which is the melted wax, to the flame.
Combustion occurs when carbon reacts to oxygen in the air. For a candle, the carbon is the wax. When carbon or wax responds to oxygen, it creates light, heat, and water vapor or steam. The wick generates sufficient heat to circulate back and melt more wax. This circuitous process continues while there is enough fuel or wax and oxygen.
Candles with a steadily burning flame
demonstrate a state of effective combustion. In stabilized combustion, the flame is emitting carbon dioxide and water vapor. However, if the flames are receiving too much or insufficient fuel or air, they might flicker or flare-up. When either of these situations happens, incomplete combustion occurs.
When incomplete combustion is occurring, there is soot escaping from the flames. Particles released contain tiny specks of carbon. These microscopic pieces that float into the air result in blackened flames. This transfers into soot and darkened streaks on walls or window treatments.
It is believed that the amount of carbon released by candles is not a health hazard to those in the room.
Another contributing factor to incomplete combustion is added fragrances. If a manufacturer adds too much fragrance, the candle does not burn correctly. This negatively impacts the ability of the wick to create sufficient heat for the candle to burn at a hot temperature. Additionally, most fragrances used in candles are manufactured; therefore, they are from chemicals, which adds to the emissions of tiny particles in the air.
Beeswax and Soot
Not all candles burn the same way. Beeswax candles burn differently than many other waxes. Candles made from beeswax burn at a higher temperature than other candles. With a higher melting point, the flame on a beeswax candle is hotter, which produces a consistent flame.
Burning beeswax candles, with their higher melting point and hotter flame, generates complete combustion. Therefore, beeswax candles burn the cleanest of all waxes. While no candle is completely smoke or soot-free, beeswax candles are the closest to a soot-free candle. Another feature of the hotter burning beeswax candles is that they do not usually drip any melted wax.
Another cause of soot from burning candles is added fragrance. Natural beeswax candles are already scented. Since beeswax is produced by honey bees in their hives as part of their pollination process, the beeswax has a gentle honey scent. Depending upon the variety of flowers that the bees visited, there can be an infusion of different scents. Therefore, burning unscented beeswax candles will reduce the chance of black soot emissions.
Minimizing Soot from Candles
Even though burning beeswax candles is close to soot-free, there are steps that candle users can take to minimize the soot emitted from all candles.
Best Ways to Burn Candles
When you light your candles, you want to be sure to position them in a safe area. Keeping lit candles out of the reach of children and pets is certainly important. But it is also necessary to consider the air flow around the candle. If a candle is situated near a drafty area, it is more likely to generate soot. Vents, fans, and open windows will alter the amount of fuel or wax that is burning. This causes the wick to draw up the fuel at an inconsistent rate. Flames that bounce, grow, and shrink are signals of an erratic flow of fuel.
One of the most effective ways to reduce the amount of soot from your candles is to trim the wick. The first time you light a candle, you should trim your wick to ¼ of an inch. If the wick is too tall, you create a high flame, which does not allow for a consistent burn. If the wick is bouncing or appears extra tall, extinguish the flame. Then you need to trim the wick a little more.
Cotton wicks burn better than other fibers. This is because cotton absorbs the wax better than other materials. With cotton wicks, your candles will burn cleaner, which reduces the soot.
Another suggestion to minimize the amount of soot a candle produces is to use a cylinder or another type of container around free-standing candles. Placing pillar shaped candles or the smaller votive candles in a container will reduce or eliminate drafts. Cylindrical containers with open bottoms will work most effectively. The open bottom will allow for better airflow.
There are a few different ways to extinguish your candle. Blowing the candle out often creates a blast of smoke. This ball of smoke contains soot, which you have now blown into the room. If the wick is not fully extinguished, it will smolder. The lingering burn also releases soot into the air.
Another way to extinguish your candle, without a puff of smoke, is with a snuffer. The snuffer is placed on the wick. This action removes oxygen, so the flame cannot continue to burn. If you do not have a snuffer, you can use a toothpick. First, bend the wick gently into the wax. Once the flame is smothered, use the toothpick to straighten it.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it safe to burn scented candles?
Quality scented candles are safe to burn. For purchased candles, check their ingredients. Be sure the manufacturer includes details about fragrances added to the candle. Added fragrances should be approved for use in candles and for burning in candles. The International Fragrance Association develops and sets fragrance safety standards.
Are candles toxic?
Candles do emit VOCs into the air; however, there is no definitive proof that the VOCs released from candles cause health concerns. The amount of chemicals produced from burning candles is significantly below what would cause health issues.
What are VOCs?
VOCs are volatile organic compounds, mainly comprised of carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen. These compounds are released as gas into the air. The EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, provides information on VOCs that can cause health issues in humans. Acceptable levels of VOCs are developed by the EPA for the federal government. States can also set guidelines.
What factors increase the toxicity of candles?
Burning candles in rooms that do not have good air flow can increase the risk of toxins being emitted into the air. Always follow manufacturers’ directions when burning your candles. That includes the length of time you burn your candle and where you situate your candle.
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Please note that the contents of this blog are for informational and entertainment purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Any action taken based on the information provided in this blog is solely at your own risk. Additionally, all images used in this blog are generated under the CC0 license of Creative Commons, which means they are free to use for any purpose without attribution.
Meet Shawn Chun: Entrepreneur and Candle Business Fan.
I’m a happy individual who happens to be an entrepreneur. I have owned several types of businesses in my life from a coffee shop to an import and export business to an online review business plus a few more and now I create online candle business resources for those interested in starting new ventures. It’s demanding work but I love it. I do it for those passionate about their business and their goals. That’s why when I meet a candle business owner at a craft fair, farmers market, retail location or anywhere else I see myself. I know how hard the struggle is to obtain and retain clients, finding good employees all while trying to stay competitive. That’s why I created Candle Business Boss: I want to help candle business owners like you build a thriving business that brings you endless joy and supports your ideal lifestyle.