Lighting a candle in your home can be a great way to make your home smell nice and add a little bit of ambiance to your room. Candles are very pleasant and enjoyable, but there are a few fire safety rules that you must know to stay safe and avoid any unnecessary risks while burning a candle.
Below is a list of 23 of the most critical candle fire safety rules that you must know and follow when burning a candle to keep yourself, your home, and others safe.
1. Never Leave a Burning Candle Unattended
If you could only know one candle fire safety rule, it would be this one: never leave a burning candle unattended.
When burning a candle, there are innumerable things that could go wrong and lead to catastrophe. The chances of an accident happening are very slim if you take the necessary safety precautions, but being present and attentive when you’re burning a candle is essential. In the case of an emergency or problem with your candle, you’ll be nearby and able to act quickly.
2. Don’t Burn a Candle Near Anything That May Catch Fire
It may seem surface level, but ensuring your candle is not near any flammable materials or things is essential before lighting it.
Take special care to look for things directly near your candle that could catch fire, such as a vase of low-hanging flowers or a stack of papers nearby. You should also consider things that could move into the danger zone of your candle, such as light drapes being blow by the wind.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, an average of 21 candle-related house fires are reported every day. It only takes a few extra seconds to assess the area around your candle and move things that could potentially catch fire, and the consequences of not doing this simple check could be catastrophic.
3. Trim Your Candle’s Wick Before Burning
Trimming your candle’s wick is essential for the longevity of your candle, but it can also help prevent your flame from flaring up or producing excessive soot. According to the National Candle Association, you should trim your candle wick to about ¼ inches.
In addition to trimming your candle’s wick before every use, you can also trim it every few hours while burning your candle to increase your candle’s expected burn time by up to 25%.
4. Use a Sturdy Candle Holder
No matter what type of candle you have, you must ensure that your candle is sturdy and not able to fall over or move before lighting it. Some candles are inherently extremely sturdy, but other types need a candle holder to stay upright.
Tea lights, votive candles, pillar candles, and other types of large-based candles often don’t need a holder. However, cartridge candles, taper candles, and other tall candles often require a solid base or candle holder. When choosing a candle holder, make sure it has a relatively broad base for stability and is extremely sturdy so that your candle doesn’t unexpectedly fall over and cause a fire.
5. Don’t Burn a Candle All the Way Down
While it may seem like you’re “wasting” a part of your candle by not burning it to the bottom, it can be a serious fire safety issue if you burn your candle all the way down. You should stop burning freestanding candles when there are 2 inches of wax left and contained candles when there is ½ inch of wax left.
It may seem like you’re being wasteful or not getting your money’s worth, but letting a candle burn down can be a severe safety issue, so it’s best to take the safe option and don’t burn a candle until there is no wax left.
6. Use a Candle Snuffer to Extinguish a Candle
There are many methods for putting out a candle, but most of them are actually quite dangerous and could cause serious problems if done incorrectly. One way that is super effective, safe, and simple is to use a candle snuffer.
Candle snuffers come in many shapes and sizes, but generally, they are constructed of metal and look like a small upside-down cone with a handle. To extinguish a candle using a candle snuffer, simply hold the end of the handle and place the cone over the flame for a few seconds.
7. Keep Multiple Burning Candles Away From Each Other
Candles are rather complex systems that require a bunch of elements to work together and in harmony to burn and melt properly. If you’re burning more than one candle, make sure you keep them at least three inches apart from one another.
If you burn candles too close to each other, they can interact and mess up the delicate balance required for a candle to burn correctly and safely. Candles that are too close may melt each other or create small air drafts that can cause them to burn unevenly.
Many things could go wrong if you burn candles too close to each other, so for your safety and your candle’s well being it’s just best to make sure they’re 3 inches apart at least.
8. Don’t Use a Candle As a Night Light
Harkening back to Tip #1 in this article, “Never Leave a Burning Candle Unattended,” you should never go to bed while a candle is still lit or use a candle as a night light. It’s just a really unsafe and bad idea that could cause a fire without you even realizing it until it’s too late.
Falling asleep was a factor in 10% of candle-related house fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Even using a candle as a night light when you’re going to the bathroom during the night can be dangerous because you could trip or set it down and forget about it. It’s best to avoid lighting candles anywhere near your bedtime because you’re sleepy, not paying as much attention, and could forget about your lit candle.
9. Don’t Touch a Candle After Extinguishing It Until It Has Cooled
With temperatures reaching up to 2552° F (1400° C) in some parts of a candle flame, it is pretty apparent that you don’t want to touch your candle while it’s burning or for a little while after you’ve extinguished it.
Depending on various factors, it can take several minutes for a candle to return to room temperature or a toleratable temperature that you can touch after you have extinguished the flame. The longer you wait before touching a newly extinguished candle, the better. Before even attempting to touch or move a candle, make sure to wait at least 15 minutes for it to cool completely down, so you don’t burn yourself.
10. Place Your Burning Candle on a Stable and Heat-Resistant Surface
In addition to making sure your candle won’t catch any drapes or nearby items on fire, it is equally essential to ensure it won’t set fire to the surface that it’s sitting on. Before lighting a candle, make sure it is on a stable and heat-resistant surface.
Make sure, if you’re placing a candle on a bench or table, that all the legs are stable and won’t wobble. It’s also preferable if the surface you place your candle on is metal, rock, or some other non-flammable material.
11. Keep Your Candle’s Wax Pool Clear of Debris
Another potential fire safety hazard is if your candle’s wax pool gets debris or pieces of wick stuck in it and you don’t remove them. It is important to remove all debris from your candle’s wax pool because the pieces of debris can catch fire and get out of control or make your candle burn unevenly.
You can use a pair of tweezers, a popsicle stick, or the end of an old spoon to fish out any debris from your candle’s wax pool. Some people try to do this while the candle is still burning, but personally, I prefer to extinguish the candle and remove the debris after the candle has cooled but before the wax has hardened all the way.
12. Never Remove Old Wax From a Candle Holder with a Sharp Object
Old, hardened wax on a candle holder can be super annoying and unpleasant to look at, but you should never try to remove it using a knife or other sharp object. There are many viable and safe options for removing old wax from a candle holder, but make sure to use something that does not have a sharp edge.
Candleholders, especially glass ones, are very slick, and you can easily slip and harm yourself if you use a sharp object to remove old wax. Soaking your candle holder in hot water and then using a spoon to scarp off any remaining wax is a personal favorite method.
13. Keep Hair and Clothing Out of the Way When Lighting a Candle
When lighting a candle, you must be super careful around your candle and the fire source you’re using to light your candle. It isn’t difficult to catch loose hair or clothing on fire when lighting a candle, so make sure to pay special attention and take the proper precautionary measures to ensure this doesn’t happen to you.
Whether you’re using a wooden match, a long-armed lighter, or a regular lighter, you should pay special attention to anything that could get in the way of the fire source when you go to light your candle.
14. Make Sure Children or Pets Can’t Knock Over a Lit Candle
Having a lit candle around children and pets can definitely be a safety risk if you don’t take the necessary safety measures. Make sure to keep your candle on a flat, stable surface out of reach of any children or pets.
If your children are old enough, make sure to educate them on the dangers of candles and fire. Make sure to constantly supervise and take preventative measures when children or pets are around your candles. Even better, simply put out your candles while pets and children are around to prevent any mishaps.
15. Always Burn Candles in Rooms With Good Ventilation
Most candles have many fragrance oils and materials in them that you should try your best not to inhale. Before lighting a candle, make sure it is in a well-ventilated room that won’t trap any unwanted burned-off chemicals or gasses in with you or someone else.
Even better, simply buy a candle with fewer potentially toxic ingredients. You should avoid fragrance oils, paraffin wax, and other petroleum-based waxes if at all possible for a cleaner candle burn. No matter which type of candle you have, just make sure the room has good ventilation and has a little bit of fresh air coming in or at least some air circulation.
16. Extinguish a Candle If the Flame Gets Too High or Flickers Too Much
If your candle is flickering excessively or the flame is too big, it likely isn’t burning properly and could be a potential fire hazard. If this happens to you, immediately extinguish your candle and take the necessary steps to stop your candle from acting up.
Usually, candles flicker excessively or have an overly large flame when the wick isn’t appropriately trimmed. Let your candle cool, and then cut your candle’s wick according to the instructions laid out in Tip #3 in this article.
17. Don’t Extinguish a Candle With Water
When extinguishing a candle, NEVER use water.
As this TV anchorwoman found out the hard way, pouring water on a candle will cause it to flare up and splash hot wax everywhere. Some demonstrations of pouring water on a candle have shown the flame to shoot up to six feet in the air!
All that to say, never use water to put out a candle. Using a candle snuffer is the safest and best way to extinguish a candle flame.
18. Make Sure Your Candle Is Complete Out Before Leaving the Room
Before leaving a room, it is essential to make sure your candle is entirely out and there aren’t any remaining embers. After extinguishing a candle, sometimes the tip of the wick will still be glowing, and in rare instances, it can ignite again or catch another object on fire if knocked over.
No matter the likelihood of it happening, it’s best practice to make sure your candle is completely out before leaving the room. Just taking the extra second to verify it’s completely extinguished could save the hassle and potential catastrophe of a fire.
19. Keep Burning Candles Away from Drafts and Moving Air
Earlier I mentioned that you should light candles only in rooms with adequate ventilation, but there is a flip side to that. Too many drafts or too much moving air can make candles burn unevenly and could potentially be dangerous.
While you don’t want to light a candle in a stagnant, sealed-off room, you also don’t want to light a candle in an area with a lot of air movement. Drafts can contribute to excessive flame size or flickering, which can quickly get out of control if not addressed appropriately.
20. Don’t Burn Too Many Candles At Once
Burning a candle requires a lot of attention and awareness, so burning too many can get overwhelming and cause you not to pay enough attention to any individual candle. It’s best to keep it tame and only burn a few candles at a time.
Not only will you be able to enjoy your fewer candles more than if you have a bunch burning at once, but it will be much safer, and you’ll be able to act quickly if anything gets dangerous or out of control.
21. Be Careful Using a Candle During an Emergency or Power Outage
During an emergency or power outage, it is best to avoid using candles as heat or light sources if at all possible. Many things could go wrong with an open flame during a stressful situation like a power outage, so it’s best to avoid the risk if you don’t absolutely need the light or heat from a candle.
Battery-powered candles and flashlights are perfect for an emergency because they won’t cause a fire if you accidentally trip and fall, tip them over, or forget about them. Candles are good sources of light and heat, but they aren’t the safest option out there.
22. Don’t Burn a Candle for Too Long
Always read the packaging and manufacturer’s instructions before lighting a candle. There will usually be some critical information and instructions on how long you should burn your particular candle for the safest and best candle experience.
While it will depend on your particular candle, the National Candle Association recommends that you burn a candle for a maximum of four hours at a time with at least a two-hour cool-down period in between burns. Letting your candle burn for too long can mess up future burns and cause the wick to “mushroom.”
23. Make Sure Candle Wax Doesn’t Drip On Furniture
Wax dripping on furniture is especially a problem with stand-alone candles such as taper or cartridge candles, but you should pay attention to it no matter the type of candle you have. Hot wax can ruin surfaces and furniture, so it’s best to take preventative and proactive steps to stop it.
A few good options for making sure your furniture doesn’t get ruined by dripping wax is to place a non-flammable material underneath your candle. A dedicated ceramic or metal tray works best and makes cleaning up any wax drips super quick and easy.