Fragrance Home / Interiors

Candle Care Tips

January 20, 2015

I’ve received a number of questions on candle care so today I’m sharing some simple tips on how I burn and care for your candles. Once you own a luxury candle you will want to burn it and care for it properly in order to get the most out of it’s life. I’ve burned quite a few candles in the past few years and didn’t realize until recently that I was burning some of my candles incorrectly.
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Question 1: Some of my candles don’t burn evenly and tunnel. How do you prevent this?

I just recently discovered the phrase “candle tunneling” which refers to an uneven burn where the wax of the candle near the center/wick melts but the edges do not. Some of my candles haven’ burned all the way to the edge for a smooth flat burn while others have – I did not know what caused this. I just found out at a recent trip to a Diptyque store that the first burn is extremely important to prevent tunneling. The reps at the store said that you want to make sure the first time you burn the candle you want to let it burn long enough to melt the entire surface of the candle which can take several hours. Depending on the size of the candle, they recommended about 1 hour per inch in diameter. I thought 30 minutes of burn time would be sufficient to melt the surface of my standard Diptyque candles so I timed it at a few intervals. At 45 minutes the surface was nowhere near being completely melted.

It took a full three hours for the surface of my standard size Diptyque candle to melt and liquify completely and evenly on the surface for the first burn. Jo Malone 7.0 oz candles and Diptyque 6.5 oz candles are very similar in size, after testing the timing for the initial burn, I found they both took about the same time for the surface to melt. Below is a Jo Malone Candle where the diameter is about 3 inches. So the 1 hour burn time per inch of diameter proved to be pretty accurate.

So what do you do if you burned the candle incorrectly the first couple of times? There are a lot of other resources online on how to fix it, but this depends on how deep the tunnel is. If the tunneling is minor I’ve been able to fix some of mine by burning for a few hours and scooping out the hard unmelted wax around the edges to even out the surface. Other recommendations on Scent Snob and Nouvelle Daily.

In addition to the first burn, to make sure you candle burns evenly, you also need to make sure the wick stays centered. It can migrate sometimes or burn at an angle. Use a sturdy object to re-center or straighten the wick – I’ve done this while the candle is burning with a small butter knife although I recommend you do this with caution to avoid burning yourself or anything else. It’s better to re-center the wick after you’ve blown out or snuffed the flame. Sometimes I’ll push the wick with the tip of scissors. Whatever you use, if you dip it in melted liquified wax, you’ll have to clean the item.
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Question 2: Why invest in a wick trimmer? Can I just use my regular scissors?

Trimming the candle wick after they burn is important to prevent them from smoking on the next burn or from burning the sides of the glass. It’s commonly recommended that you trim them as short as possible without cutting them too short. I trim mine after they’ve cooled just in case I don’t catch the end of the trimmed wick. Sometimes I accidentally drop it into the candle and it ends up getting the melted wax very messy or sinks to the bottom of the liquified portion.

On wick trimmers vs scissors, I find they both work, but it is nice to have a dedicated tool just for trimming wicks. It took me a long time before I splurged on a Diptyque wick trimmer but I’ve found it well worth the investment and I use it all the time. Now I no longer have to worry about getting my scissors dirty. They also double as a decorative accessory. Wick trimmers are more aesthetically pleasing than basic scissors and I can leave them laying on the coffee table or desk.

Most wick trimmers have a beveled tip which makes it easy to catch the trimmed wick. This is perfect for people like me who find it difficult to balance tiny things on small surfaces.

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Question 3: Are accessories like lids or photophores really useful? Or worth it in general? What about candle snuffers?

Some candles come with their own lids. Henri Bendel Travel Candles and full-sized Jo Malone Candles come with lids. Diptyque carries candle lids you can purchase separately. I’ve received a couple Diptyque lids as gift with purchases before and also purchased several. I find that they work to keep out dust and debris and really help to keep the surfaces clean. Some have asked if it keeps the scent in the candle from fading – if you have input on this I’d be really happy to hear your thoughts. I have had several candles that I left open or in a box over 6 months and found they retained their scent and strength without a lid. With the lids that come from Diptyque, Jo Malone or Henri Bendel, they sit on top of the candle but it won’t seal them shut completely so air can still get in and out. I like my lids mainly to keep them clean and dust-free.

Photophores are decorative accents for me. They can be on the pricey side but I do think if you are willing to splurge on something to decorate your home these are very beautiful. I received one from Diptyque as a gift from my husband and really love it. Below is the Large Full Twist option.

One of the candle accessories I don’t own yet is a candle snuffer. I’ve looked at them numerous times at the stores but haven’t splurged yet.
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Question 4: How do you clean out the wax from the interior to recycle your candles?

If you google how to recycle or clean out candles, you will find a number of different methods. I’ve shared my personal candle recycling tips before. I don’t always get a completely clean burn and there is often remnants of wax on the sides so the freezer method doesn’t work for me. I don’t like using really hot water because it can impact the stickers on the sides of the jars. I like to use the warm water + dish soap with paper towels or a sponge to soften the wax and clean the interior.

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Question 5: What are your all time favorite candles?
I’ve purchased quite a few different candles, each time I go to a Diptyque store or visit Henri Bendel I discover something new. Personal favorites change depending on time of year. My most frequently repurchased candles include:
Diptyque Figuier, Baies and Aubepine

I also really like Frederic Malle, Byredo and Lumira candles as well, but for me they are harder to find so I don’t purchase them as frequently as I would like to.


I hope you found this candle care post helpful! If you have any tips you’d like to share please do so in the comments! What are your favorite candles or scents?

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  • Wow I've just got my own house so just started using candes and didn't know of this

    Danielle Mac

  • Anonymous

    I'm definitely going to purchase a photophore…so pretty!! I was wondering what type lighter in the pictures? Thank You for your lovely blog!

    • Thank you! It's a Zippo lighter, I found mine in store at Henri Bendel, you can also find other colors on Zippo's website. HTH!

  • Hey Sabrina, what a great post! I read the instructions that come with Diptyque candles and have been largely following them, so I haven't had any tunneling happen to my precious candles (phew). That first burn takes much longer than most people would expect, so it's great that you actually timed it and shared your findings! I store my Diptyque and Cire Trudon in the boxes they come in, and that works well so far. My all-time favorite candles would be Diptyque Geranium Rosa, Mousses, and Cire Trudon Abd El Kader. Just bought a few more last week, so that list could change soon!

    • Reading the instructions lol (bangs head on desk). Yes I should have read them but of course I didn't know why they recommended burning 2-3 hours at a time. I keep hearing good things about Cire Trudon, I ordered a rose one sight unseen and sent it back – it did not smell good out of the box and I couldn't imagine burning it.

  • Kelly

    Great, post! I really like Voluspa candles – they fit my budget πŸ™‚ the Makassar Ebony & Peach and Santiago Huckleberry scents are great, and the small jar size are only about $15.

  • thank you for the very informative post Sabrina!! πŸ™‚ sj

    • Glad you found this helpful!

  • Anonymous

    Anonymous – that's a Zippo lighter

    Sabrina – I have a Diptyque candle snuffer and although it looks nice you have to constantly clean the wax off the edges, making it a pain. I have found that putting a lid on the candle while burning is a better way to snuff out. You might want to use a cheapy metal lid (like from Bath and Body Works) instead of the nice ones.

    • Anonymous, thanks for chiming in! Also thanks for the input on the Diptyque snuffer – sounds like it's a bit high maintenance. I'll try the lid method πŸ™‚

    • Anonymous

      You're welcome! Your blog is my all-time favorite, thanks for all your work.

  • I always try to commit to 2 hours of burning time. It makes sure it burns evenly.

    • Smart! I always try to "save" my candles by burning as little as possible to make them last longer. Little did I know that this was a big no-no!

  • Hi Sabrina,

    You have such a lovely Diptyque collection, it certainly seems worth it to invest in candle care! I definitely think wick trimming makes a difference — and the trimmers seem to be so handily designed for that. (I've used mainly scissors in the past, which work fine, but I can see how a dedicated device would be worth it for ease of angling!

  • Anonymous

    Lovely article and beautiful photos as always, Sabrina! Just thought I'd add that a Diptyque rep told me the photophores also extend the life of your candle by limiting the amount of oxygen that reaches the flame. Not sure how true that is as I haven't put it to the test, but it might be worth a try! πŸ™‚

    • Thanks for the input! I don't know if the photophores extend the life either and I don't really know that I am diligent enough to time the burns with vs without the photophores, but they are really pretty!

  • Right now my favourite is Dyptique Amber. I love the smell!

    This is the first time that I read about the proper way to burn a candle, so I came up with my own method to solve the tunneling problem: I would use a knife to cut the portion that was left and break that blob of wax into bits that I would place surrounding the wick. On the next burn it would all melt equaly

    • I did the knife method too sometimes to do a quick fix. Know that I know how to properly burn them I've been burning them at longer intervals.

  • Wonderful post! Visually beautiful and rich with information–like all of your posts. πŸ™‚

  • I have yet to try a Diptyque candle since there are so many to chose from. I've suffered from 'candle tunnelling' and I've found that the best way to avoid it is to allow the wax to have a completely melted layer, this normally takes hours, so that is a tad bit annoying. x

    FARFROMPERFECTIONXO

  • didn't know that trimming is important. thank you dear for the information.

    • Glad to have helped πŸ™‚ Yes wick trimming is very important and makes a huge difference in the burn. Properly trimmed wicks = less smoking.

  • Wow thanks for the information! When I saw the first picture I was like woah is this candle surgery or what.

    Jenn
    A Petite Treat

  • Such great tips thanks!!!!

    • Glad you found this helpful Zoe!

  • Here's two candle tips for you (or everyone):

    1. If you find wick trimmer a bit expensive, better than scissors for wick trimmer is a nail clipper. I have one "devoted" just for candles, the cheapo $1.99 Revlon brand.

    2. Better than snuffer is to dip the wick into the melted candle to extinguish it. You can "dip" the wick using a a piece of 12 gauge floral wire, bend the end in a U shape so you can fish the wick back up once you dip it. You will coat the burned wick with a film of melted wax which helps it burn the next time you light the candle and you will find that if you extinguish candle this way, it hardly smokes.

    I'm into Mariage Freres candles lately. I will try to write reviews on them. Hope these helps!

  • Great tips! Now I know what to do with my candles to prevent tunneling. These tips will be noted in taking care of candles for they are precious too.

    • Thank you Jess, I feel a bit less silly knowing that I'm not the only one who was burning them incorrectly. I'm really glad that this post has helped several other candle lovers πŸ™‚

  • Anonymous

    My only addition would be that a regular pair of nail clippers can substitute an expensive wax trimmer or inconvenient scissor. I tend to trim the wick after the candle wax has solidified. To avoid the migrating wick issue, I usually allow enough time to pass for a 1 cm thick layer of wax to melt. By that time, enough scent is dispensed and lingers after the candle is blown out.

    • Thanks for the tips!

    • Traditional wax trimmers are actually best since they serve two purposes; to trim the wick and to catch and hold the burmed wick so it doesn't get all over the place.

  • Very interesting idea.. I most try this at home too!
    xo
    Alexa
    life cell cream reviews

  • Never thought about it, so interesting.

    Candice | Beauty Candy Loves
    β™₯β™₯β™₯

  • Nicole

    Do you ever have residual "soot" issues from prolonged candle burning? I love burning Jo Malone candles, but the air filters in my house are constantly black when I replace them after short periods of time. I'm becoming a little worried about it!

    • See my comment + comment from anonymous above: never let the wick burn too far down (soot comes from burned wick), trim your wick close after each use, and once the surface of the candle is melted (anonymous said to about 1 cm, I personally just let it all melt and then extinguish to save some), you can extinguish the candle and the aroma will still linger. Also, dip your candle wick into the melted wax to extinguish (as I shared above). These all will prevent soot from building up (I know because I live in a small home and I burn lots of candles).

    • Hi Nicole, I haven't had soot issues, but I don't usually burn them for more than 2 hours at a time. I would recommend maybe burning them at shorter intervals or making sure the wicks are trimmed.

  • I never bought those expensive candles before but when I move in my new house in a few months I'll buy some and will keep these tips in mind.

  • You should try the Seda candle in Malaysian Bamboo! My holy grail candle along with Bailes.

  • Anonymous

    Wickman brand has good candle accessories. I have a similar wick trimmer that is less expensive. A tip I have to avoid smoke and soot buildup after extinguishing a candle flame is to use a wick dipper, which I also have from Wickman. There is a video of how to use it on the product page for this product on the Candles Off Main site on the product page. All you have to do is push the wick into the melted wax and that extinguishes the flame and then pull the wick up straight with the hook part, and no smoke to deal with or smell. You can also center the wick with this tool. It is very simple and an inexpensive tool.

  • I never knew there was so much to learn about candles. Its kind of interesting and awesome. πŸ™‚

    • Thanks Alexandra, I didn't know either. I always learn something new everytime I go into a Diptyque store πŸ™‚

  • Ahhh I so needed to read this. Massively helpful, explains where I have been going wrong all these years.

    I've never actually burnt all the way through a candle before. After a while I usually have to chuck them because they go all dodgy. Never again!

    Petite Pomme

    • Hi Petite Pomme, you're not alone – I was burning mine incorrectly too!

  • Thank you so much for posting this Sabrina. It is timely for me, as I have just bought my first Jo Malone candle (which is Green Tomato Leaf). I didn't know about the importance of the first burn to prevent tunnelling, and am trying it out now. Like the look of the wick trimmer too…

    • Hi Carin – If you're a Jo Malone fan they have a wick trimmer as well, it looks like it's exclusive to Jo Malone online but I haven't checked the boutiques.

  • JSL

    I find I'm more likely to get tunneling in the winter simply because the ambient temperature is cooler, making the wax more resistant to melting evenly. Keeping the candle warm (as silly as that sounds) helps a lot, and I have to imagine that that beautiful photophore helps with even burning by creating a pocket of warm air around the candle. Yankee makes little glass lampshades for their jar candles that serve pretty much the same purpose – the candle stays warmer so the wax melts faster and more evenly, giving off more scent more quickly.

    Thank you for the lovely post.

    • Interesting on the winter vs warmer weather observation and about the photophore keeping in the warmth! I never thought of that!

  • This is a great post, right on time for me when I returned one of my Diptique Candles because of irregular tunneling (is there a word like this?). The candlewick was not in the middle so one side of the candle was burned and the other stayed up. Unfortunately this happened very often the last months and I was wondering if it is a quality problem. After reading your post, I will first try to burn the candle for a few hours for the first time and see if it is better.

    • Hi Sara, sometimes the wicks can migrate or lean to one side. I've been told you have to push them to the middle if they move – sometimes you have to let the candle sit after you blow out the flame and let the wax solidify just slightly otherwise pushing the wick doesn't do much. If it's slightly more solid, the wick will stay where you push it. Complicated, I know!

  • This is super helpful! I think candle lids are definitely necessary to keep dust out.

    Erin | Erin and Katherine Talk Beauty

    • Absolutely! They are perfect for keeping them clean πŸ˜‰

  • Awesome post and great tips!

  • Love this post! I am somewhat obsessive about trimming my candles and burning them until the wax is even. That said, I have found that certain darker or colored waxes used for several of diptyque's scents like Mousses, Foin CoupΓ©, and Pommander always tunnel, regardless of how long I burn them or how well I trim and straighten the wicks.

    Super excited for the arrival of your first Cire Trudon Odalisque candle! You must let me know what you think.

  • I reached a point where recycling my empty candles was no longer an option! I started to look and feel like a candle jar hoarder, so they had to go! lol

    https://instagram.com/p/liAnT1KfaQ/

  • Candice

    Great tips, Sabrina! After reading your post, I realized I've been burning my candles wrong. =(

  • Anonymous

    1 hour per 1 inch diameter burn time would work for smaller candles but not the larger ones. Candle surface is a circle which has a formula of 3.14 x radius x radius. Larger the radius becomes the surface area and hence burn time increases exponentially.

    1 inch radius candle( typical votive) would melt in say X minutes then 1.5 inch radius candle would melt in 2.25 * X minutes but probably longer since the outsides would stay cooler. This seems to be how it works out in reality as well but if the radius is 4 inches ( diameter 8 inches) then the burn would not be 8 hours but square of 4 or 16 hours. Now if there are more than 1 wicks then you would divide the burn time by that number to get the accurate approximation.

  • I don't have much to add, but wanted to acknowledge your post. I found it well written, informational and useful. I never really cared how my candles burned, but it was interesting to see why they tunnel. I'm thinking of splurging on a few more expensive candles, and I always like the empty diptyque candle pics I see, so thanks for steering me in the right direction as I move up.

  • Great post! Very helpful for new diptyque lovers (like me) . I still remember the first time creating a tunnel with the figuier and got totally anxious, but after taking your advice (let it burn long enough) and using a foil cover the candle usually gets a clean burn, but the self-made foil cover makes it look like a meth factory and that's definitely what I don't want. I wonder if anyone has tried yankee's illuma-lid on diptyque candles and does work. Often curious why diptyque never released anything like that to help the candle burn evenly. I would definitely invest on one.