Candle Smoke Solutions: Enjoying Candles Safely

Published April 20, 2021
Young woman blowing scented candles on table against window

Candle smoke can leave black sooty trails that often end up on ceilings or walls. Knowing what causes candles to produce smoke and how to lessen the effect will allow you to enjoy using candles safely.

Wicks Can Cause Candle Smoke

The most common cause of candle smoke is a wick that is too long. The purpose of the wick is to draw the melted wax up its length to fuel the flame burning at the tip of the wick. If the wick on your candle is too long, that process is prolonged, and the flame receives more fuel than it can burn.

Carbon will build up on the wick, and the effect is known as mushrooming. In an effort to catch up with all the melted wax being absorbed in the wick, the flame becomes bigger with the influx of too much fuel. This creates a chemical reaction as the heat and combustion of the flame become imbalanced. The result can be that too much soot is released, creating dark smoke.

Solution: Trim Your Wicks

The obvious solution for a long candle wick is to trim the wick. You can do this with special wick trimming tools for ease, although you can use a pair of scissors. The rule of thumb is to maintain your candle wick at ¼" in length. Trim the wick anytime it grows too long.

Paraffin Wax Candles Produce More Smoke

Since not all candle waxes are the same, some candles will create more smoke than others. Paraffin candles are the worst for giving off smoke. Cheaper candles are often made with paraffin. Paraffin wax has the best throw for fragrances and is also the cheapest wax for candles. Some manufacturers rely on paraffin in a wax blend to help boost their fragrances in their scented candles. If your candle contains paraffin, you've most likely found the culprit for the unwanted smoke.

When you blow it out, the smell of a paraffin candle is similar to the smell of diesel exhaust. It's no wonder, since paraffin is made from petroleum, just like diesel fuel. More importantly, when paraffin melts in the burn process, the wax gives off VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) that are carcinogenic chemicals. However, there's no reliable data that says this is enough to be harmful, according to the National Candle Association.

Solution: Change the Type of Candle You Burn

The easy solution is to use a different wax candle. Some of your choices include beeswax, soy, or other natural waxes. Each has its positives and negatives, so you may want to try one of each to see which type of candle wax you like best.

Beautiful handmade beeswax candles

The next time you shop for candles, especially scented ones, choose one that isn't blended. If it is a blended wax candle, then make sure it doesn't contain paraffin.

Scented Candles May Produce More Smoke

If your candle wick isn't too long and you aren't burning paraffin candles, then the next thing to investigate is the scent. Depending on whether the scent in your candle is natural or synthetic, your candle may smoke. The various compounds found in scented candles will cause the candle to produce more soot. If you've burned the same type of candle in the past without incident, then it may be just a one-time occurrence.

Solution: Change Type of of Scented Candle

The easiest solution is to change the type of scented candle you're burning. The smoke may be caused by a particular scent. You may want to try another scent or choose a different candle company.

Drafts Can Cause Candles to Smoke

A draft in the room can cause a candle to smoke since the amount of oxygen the flame is burning is fluctuating from just enough, too much, or too little. This is especially true if the candle is in a candle holder or other type of candle container. The amount of oxygen reaching the candle before the air flow meets the heat the candle is producing can create an uneven burning that is making your candle smoke.

Burning red candle in a draft

Solution: Move Candle Away From Draft or Change Holder

You should check your room for drafts. If you find any, then move your candle away from the drafts. If there are no drafts in your home, then you can change the candle holder or container so the candle can burn evenly.

How to Avoid Smoke Inhalation From Candles

Candle smoke inhalation is a concern for many people, especially those who may suffer from a respiratory disease. Inhaled candle smoke can irritate your lungs and bronchial tubes. If you suffer from asthma, you should avoid the tiny particles candle emit into the air. Likewise, avoid paraffin candles sdue to the toxins they produce. Most candles will release a certain amount of smoke and soot, even clean burning candles.

Snuff Out the Candle, Don't Blow It Out

You can use a candle snuffer to extinguish your candles. You can leave the snuffer over the candle wick if it begins to smoke. You can always extinguish the candle in another room. You may wish to extinguish the candle outside. Once the smoke clears, you can bring it back inside your home.

Candle about to be extinguished by a candle snuffer

Preventing Candle Smoke

There are many possible causes for the smoke your candle is producing. Once you investigate the reasons, your candle may be producing smoke, you can use the solution recommended.

Candle Smoke Solutions: Enjoying Candles Safely