Updated: Sep 19
Strategies to make your free-standing candles burn longer and better.
Decorative free-standing candles are gaining in popularity but I sometimes hear friends and people around me complaining about how their candles do not burn that well. The truth is, not all pillars are made equally, and not all of them burn equally.
There is a lot of skill, technique, and expertise that goes into making a candle, free-standing pillar candles included. A lot depends on the candle maker. It is their responsibility to make sure that they choose the right techniques to make their candle burn safely (first and foremost) and the best possible. But you, as a consumer, can also influence how your candles burn. The next time you’re buying free-standing candles, keep the following principles in mind.
Pay attention to the wax your candle is made of
Different waxes have different characteristics. Even though consumers nowadays pay attention primarily to the wax purity and origin (oil-based paraffin versus vegetable waxes, or natural beeswax), the inherent qualities of different waxes mean they will burn differently.
Free-standing candles should be made of harder waxes specifically intended for pillar candle creation (as opposed to container candle waxes). You will not necessarily know that your candle has been made of such wax, but if you are not happy with how your candle burns, try a different style next time. And even different pillar waxes still burn differently. When deciding, keep in mind that some waxes are harder and hold their shape longer (and therefore burn longer), for example, beeswax. Other waxes are softer and are not as capable of holding their shape. They leak more often, and therefore your candle’s life may be shorter. This applies to soy or rapeseed wax. In other words, beeswax pillar candles will burn longer and better than soy or rapeseed.
The candle maker should always strive to make a candle that leaks as little as possible. They can influence this by using the right wick – different types and sizes of wicks will determine how well the melted wax is drawn towards the flames and how large (or small) the melt pool is.
Wax-burning qualities can also be modified by additives, like stearin. Heart of Europe Candles opts for as much purity as possible and we make candles from pure waxes.
Choose a different candle shape
If you have been following my work at Heart of Europe Candles, you know that I regularly try to remind my customers that candles of unusual shape are much more likely to leak. If you hate that, make sure you always choose cylindrical candles for your home decor. Cylindrical candles are much better suited to hold the wax melt pool at bay, which means not only that the candle will not leak and will last longer, but also that once you put your candle out, all of the melted wax will solidify and will be there waiting ready to burn again next time, taking its time to fully melt again. Thus, you can enjoy the flickering flame much longer with much less leakage and waste.
Choose the right candle holder
But what if you find cylindrical candles boring and love candles of intricate shapes? There is still hope! Even though it is much harder for intricate candles to keep the wax melt pool collected on the top without leaking, you can all least mitigate the damage by placing the candle on such a holder that will collect the melted wax at the bottom of the candle. The collected wax will then form a “mini container candle” and you will be able to enjoy your candle for hours longer. What does that mean exactly?
Do not use candle holders that are too big for a candle. If the holder is too big, the melted wax will run away and will not collect around the candle. (On the other hand, if you use a holder that is too small, there will be too much melted wax collected at the bottom, and sooner or later the wax will spill over onto your furniture.)
Larger candles contain larger amounts of wax, and therefore require larger holders. Smaller candles do better in smaller holders (or when placed in bigger quantities on a large one). Softer waxes (like soy or rapeseed) will leak more, which means you will need “more” candle holder to collect all the leaking wax. Harder waxes (like beeswax) leak much less, so a smaller holder will suffice.
Choosing a holder that is deeper (or with higher walls) will help create space for the melted wax to collect, leading to the desired effect of prolonged life for your candle. Deeper holders are also suitable for softer waxes.
These are my favourite holders that I like to use at home:
The round stainless-steel holder for larger beeswax candles and small rapeseed ones.
And the deep square glass holder for larger rapeseed candles.
I also have a couple of larger holders that I use for larger candles.
You can even use an empty candle jar that you’ve cleaned and repurposed from your older candles!
For tealights, you can use the simple zero-waste glass tealight holder.
To learn more about candle holders, read my blog post Candle Holders, My Favourite Finds. To learn more about cleaning old candle jars, read How to Clean a Candle Jar, and Turn Old Candle Jars into Beautiful Candle Holders. The same principles apply to cleaning your candle holder so that your candle decor always looks top-notch.
Hug your candles
Cylindrical candles are made so that they leave a thin (or sometimes not so thin) wall around the wick. That is a good thing because this prevents the melted wax from escaping. But what if you don't like that the flame is hidden and actually want to see it? (By the way, if you like it that way, that is not a problem.)
Learn to hug your candles! You can read my blog post Hug your candles for more information. Candle hugging simply means gently pushing the tall wax wall towards the wick when the wax is malleable. You can do it:
Right after you’ve put out your candle – This has the disadvantage of the wax being too hot (don’t burn yourself!) and the wax melt pool being too runny (the candle can leak if not done skilfully).
Wait a few minutes after the candle is turned off - You must be attentive to do it before the wax becomes cold and too hard.
Try to do it when the candle is cold completely - This can be difficult and depends mostly on the thickness of the wall and the type of wax.
Do it a couple of minutes after you next light the candle - You must remember to do it at the right time, but otherwise, it is my favourite method – the advantage is that the wax is not too hot yet, and a full melt pool has not been created so there is no risk of the wax leaking out.
Just try and experiment, find a method that suits you best! By doing this every time, you’ll make sure all of your candle wax gets consumed.
Avoid unfavourable burning conditions
Proper candle care is important for safety reasons. That is why I send out my candle care cards with every order. But it can also help prolong the life of your candles! Avoid burning your candle in drafts or near open windows. The breeze will make the flame go to one side, melting the wax wall that would otherwise stay intact and keep the melt pool inside. Your candle will leak because there is no wall of wax holding the liquid wax in. (By the way, this can also happen as the wick curls to one side. What you can do is carefully strengthen it with a match or a wick dipper. Make a habit of doing so when you hug your candle!)
You can return leftover wax!
Try as I may to make the perfect product, is it not always possible. Because Heart of Europe Candles offers many decorative and intricate shapes, our candles do sometimes leak. That is a fact of life. But we are an eco-conscious brand and keeping waste to the minimum matters to us! That is why you can return leftover wax from our candles in return for a discount on your next order. If you follow our social media, you know that I will filter the old wax and remake it into candle freebies that go out with new orders. That is a win for our customers, and for the planet! Read more about our zero-waste approach here.
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Enjoy your candles, and until next time!