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Burning Candles At Both Ends


The other day as I soaked in my ylang ylang oil infused beauty bath with my hair slathered in a hot oil jojoba treatment and my skin covered in a soothing honey mask I enjoyed the fabulous aroma of several vanilla scented candles.

As I lay in the candlelight darkness my mind wandered to new frontiers. I pondered why some of the candles burned brighter than others, why some had a stronger vanilla aroma and why the ones in the metal holders seemed to burn slower. I wondered if others combined their regular hair and skin treatments with the same trappings of candles, aromatherapy and soft music as I did. Redirecting my mind to the topic of candles I promised myself I would research these wondrous little lights and find out how to maximize their aromas and life for the ultimate in enjoyment.

The result of my candle research is included in this article. If you love to use candles when you work your beauty magic or even if you love candles with dinner you might find some new hints on the art and history of candle burning.

History of Candles

Historians place the use of candles back to ancient times when the people of Crete and Egypt burned a form of candles to provide artificial light during darkness and for all forms of major celebrations. Basically it is fair to say that humans have been burning candles since someone figured out how to transform animal fat into tallow that would burn

Like everything in our current lives, selecting a candle is no longer a simple task. Whether you are anticipating dressing up a formal dinner with elegant tapers or adding intimate votives to a small party setting, the choices are mind-boggling.

Do y ou select scented or unscented candles, beeswax, soybean or paraffin, leaded or unleaded wicks? Should you use votive cups or a more ornate candleholder? Even taking a relaxing bath can become a major ordeal when trying to select the best illumination. Ah, decisions, decisions.

Does candle etiquette exist? Or should you just follow your own preferences for selecting and burning candles?

Obviously there are certain rules of candle burning that should be considered.

1. Avoid scented candles except in informal settings.

Candle merchants often recommend that scented candles never be utilized for dinning situations. This includes formal dinners or as decoration for a casual buffet table. The reason? Some scents can actually overpower and mask food aromas.

There is also the issue of guests that may have either an allergic reaction to some scents or find them generally offensive. Although you may love a strong peppermint scent, this does not mean that your guests will automatically agree.

If you must have scented candles around food, consider a very light vanilla or other light food related scent that will blend well with your menu selections.

2. Match candle size, shape, color and holders to the event.

Select traditional taper candles set in an simple but elegant candle holder for more formal settings while small votives tastefully displayed in a variety of glass cups are perfect for informal parties or intimate group settings.

Candles can be used to extend a formal dinner setting theme. Use colored candles that match your china or floral centerpiece. Most candle experts believe that you can never go wrong with white or cream colored candles in any setting.

3. Position all candles for safety and to avoid blocking views.

Of course candles should always be placed for maximum safety since they do contain a flame, and when unattended, can cause potential fire damage.

Also important, place candles on formal dinner tables or other settings to allow for easy conversation. Candles are often used at wedding receptions to add intimacy to a larger setting. Small tastefully appointed votive candles make excellent centerpieces but allow for easy conversation flow.

4. Use a variety of holders for instant pizzazz.

Instantly dress us candles with unusual holders that can range from frosted candle holders and hand blown triangle glass holders, handmade candle pots and even wine bottles.

Votives must always be burned in an appropriate container. A secret that candle makers know is that the tighter the fit of the candle to the holder, the longer the candle will burn.

If you wish to reuse a candleholder after the current candles has melted completely, put the container in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. Remove and press on wax until it pops out.

5. Buy the best candles your budget can afford.

Like everything else, you get what you pay for. The more expensive the candle, the better the burn. The higher priced candles are often made with lead-free wicks, which eliminates the problem of smoke and carbon buildup. Soybean candles burn cleanly although most experts agree that beeswax candles are the absolute best.

Scented candles that give off the strongest aroma for the longest time period are usually made with the most expensive beeswax that gives off more oil and more fragrance. Many people are not aware of the fact that the scent is added last to inexpensive candles, which is why they often do not have a strong aroma. With expensive candles the scented oils are blended throughout the entire candle when they are crafted. The combination of the finest wax along with the highest quality oils give expensive candles their strong aromatic essence.

Not all vanilla candles will have the same aroma. Depending on the type of wax, oil and container used, the scent will differ from manufacturer to manufacturer. Candles that come in their own glass, metal or other container will usually have a stronger scent than taper, pillar or individual sticks.

Candle making experts tend to agree that products made by Yankee and Root have a consistently good aroma. Tyler Candle Company products are even stronger in their scent. For higher end products try Colonial, Aspen, Trapp, Pacifica and Votivo candles.

Depending on where you shop merchants will have a preference for what they consider high end. Many believe that A.I. Root, which was, founded in 1869 make the finest candles of all time.

6. All wicks are created differently.

Traditional leaded wicks are still very popular in the lower end, inexpensive candle market. However, lead-free wicks made from a variety of materials have been utilized by custom and high-end candle manufacturers for many years. Not only do the unleaded wicks burn cleaner, they are designed to help disperse fragrance and offer a better candle burning experience.

To maximize the life of your candles be sure to trim all wicks to inches from the wax for a longer burn cycle. When you blow out your candles, gently push the wick to center so the candle burns more evenly.

7. Private candle use offers unlimited options.

When burning candles for a bath or an intimate evening with a sweetie, select scented candles based on the properties of the aroma. Even better, match the aromas of your candles to your bath fragrances. For an energizing bath or show, burn lemon, rosemary, peppermint or eucalyptus scented candles to complement a citrus bath oil (orange, grapefruit, etc.,) or energizing shower soap blend.

Burn lavender, ylang-ylang or rose scented candles to relax and reduce stress or to compliment a shower or bath gel.

8. Follow standard safety precautions.

When in doubt, don’t. When it comes to candles it is always better to be extra safe than really sorry. Always burn candles in fireproof containers like glass, metal or other holder. Place any candles in their holders before lighting. Use a lighter designed for candles rather than matches. When using matches, always make sure that they are fully extinguished.

Never leave candles unattended, even for a short period of time. Avoid drafty areas or situations where the flame will be unstable. Remember that drafts create larger flames, which actually shorten the burn life of the candle. Never pour melted wax down the drain of a bathtub or sink.

Many experts believe that you should use a snuffer when extinguishing flames. If you don’t have a snuffer then use the finger method of holding two fingers in front of the flame while blowing. This will extinguish the flame without spraying wax.

9. Experiment with different types, aromas and shapes.

Play with different scents to find your own personal preferences. Some candle shops will be only too happy to mix custom blends for you. Learn what you like and keep a notebook handy to jot down your preferred aromas. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the candles you are considering for purchase. Inquire about the type of materials used, the type of care that is recommended to extend the life of the candles and what return options you may have.

10. Enjoy The Experience

Once you have purchased the candles in the style and scents that you love, enjoy them. Don't lock them away in your cabinets for special events but burn them for your own personal enjoyment. Like everything else in life, candles are meant to be used and to bring joy.


For some manufacturers and merchants, the design and development of candles is a passion and pleasure. If you enjoy the warmth, beauty and fragrance that candles can bring to any setting, consider taking some time to learn more about these wonderful little objects.

Net Candle Purchasing Locations

The Candle Lady

The Candlemaker

Sample House & Candle Shop

Yankee Candle

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