Understanding the Risks: Burning Candles Overnight

If you’re fond of candles, you might have left one burning overnight at some point. But have you ever stopped to consider the risks involved in doing so? This article delves into the dangers of leaving candles burning overnight and the precautions one should take to ensure safety.

Leaving candles burning overnight is a hazardous practice. It’s advisable to adhere to a four-hour burning limit or follow the guidelines provided by the manufacturer on the candle label to prevent potential fire hazards.

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There is nothing quite like the warm ambiance of candles, which tempts you to let them burn all night. Of course, no one is blaming you. Something is calming about watching the flames glow as the wax slowly melts. However, you need to know the risks of leaving your candle burning during the night.

The Dangers of Unattended Candles

Legal authorities and candle experts unanimously advise against leaving your candle burning overnight. Doing so could expose you to significant health risks and potential hazards, such as fires, which can cause irreparable damage.

Is It Bad To Leave Candles Burning Overnight?

There is a good reason why manufacturers and authorities advise not to leave your candles burning throughout the night, mainly because it’s hazardous. Numerous things could end up going wrong. As a result, you may encounter dangerous flames, soot, and smoke.

Research on Candle-Induced Fires

A study by the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) reveals that between 2014 and 2018, fire departments in the US responded to an average of 21 home fires caused by candles daily. Such incidents have led to loss of life, property damage, and other devastating consequences, emphasizing the importance of caution when burning candles.

How Long Should You Leave a Candle Burning?

Adhering to the manufacturer’s guidelines on burning duration is essential for safety. Before lighting your candle, ensure the wick is trimmed to about 1/4 inch to prevent burns, using a long match or lighter. Extending the burn time beyond the recommended period can lead to the wick collecting carbon, making it unstable and potentially dangerous.

As a result, you may be exposed to dangerous flame, soot, and smoke. So, be sure to abide by the instructions provided by the candlemaker.

However, if you’ve made your candles, do not burn them for more than four hours at a time. Furthermore, do not relight them right away. Wait at least two to three hours before doing so. 

The Perils of Unattended Candles

Under no circumstances should a burning candle be left unattended. The risk of fires increases significantly when flammable materials, like curtains or papers, are left near an uncontrolled flame. While it’s not necessary to watch the candles constantly, placing them in secure locations can mitigate the risks.

What Happens If You Burn A Candle For More Than 4 Hours?

Burning a candle for a time longer than what is allotted by the manufacturer can have drastic effects. Similarly, leaving a candle aflame for over 4 hours can have severe consequences. 

First, you will see a significant amount of carbon accumulating on the candlewick, which eventually starts to mushroom. As a result, the flame becomes unstable and bounces around, causing your candle to release soot and blow out smoke. Before you know it, there will be black spots in the area and your container.

What Happens If I Leave A Candle Burning?

By now, you already know that leaving a candle aflame can have some repercussions. However, below is a detailed list of potential hazards and risks. 

  1. The candle could get hit by something or someone.

You must be wondering exactly how your candle will get hit if you live alone. Well, it is entirely possible. For example, your pet may playfully hit the table on which the candle is placed, causing it to fall. On the other hand, even a large insect could cause problems for you.

In addition, a curtain blowing due to the wind outside could end up knocking your candle over if you have placed it somewhere near the window. If your candle falls onto or collides with something explosive, you will have accidentally caused a fire. 

  1. Your glass items could crack.

As candles burn for a prolonged period, especially overnight, the glass container can weaken and crack due to sustained heat, potentially leading to an explosion. Well, if you let your candle burn for an extended time, the air around you could get heated enough to cause the glass to snap.

Moreover, if your candle is placed in a glass container or jar, you will hear something breaking once the flame reaches the bottom. Consequently, the jar or the container will burst, providing a way out of the fire. By now, you already know what kind of health risks fires pose. 

  1. You could cause the wax to leak.

Your glass could crack or break, and your home could suffer additional damage. For example, the jar or the container’s collapse could cause the melted wax to leak out. Once this happens, the hot wax will spill onto whatever surface you had placed the candle container on, leaving behind burn marks or stains. 

  1. You could be responsible for secondary ignition.

A secondary ignition occurs when material other than the candle wick, like carbon deposits or trimmed wicks falling inside the candle, catches fire. This can rapidly increase the temperature inside the candle, potentially leading to a candle flashover, where the wax itself catches fire and burns uncontrollably. As a result, the material could set something else on fire, especially if a flammable item, such as a curtain or a plant, has been placed nearby. 

  1. A candle flashover could occur.

In such a case that the candle’s melting wax is somehow set on fire by the flame, you will witness a small fire blaze and a quick flutter. These will only last for a handful of seconds. But if you are not there to monitor this blaze and ensure it dies out, it could spread a dangerous fire. At some point, the fire could even become massive because there is no one around to put an end to it. 

  1. Your candles could be toxic.

It is not candles themselves that are toxic; rather, the materials often used to make them can cause the expulsion of harmful chemicals and substances into your surroundings when a fire is lit. Consequently, this gives rise to air pollution indoors, accumulating in a closed area. After a while, you will suddenly be exposed to these harmful toxins when you set foot in this area. 

Moreover, if you light a candle in some closed space, you breathe in many toxic chemicals and substances. This could even cause carbon monoxide poisoning. While the probability of this occurring is small, it has occurred before, which several reports can evidence. 

Can Candles Burn Themselves Out?

Yes, candles can burn themselves out. Heck, you even have candles that won’t stay lit. 

If you leave your candle burning for long enough, the flame will eventually burn through the whole candle. But what will happen if you leave a candle burning until it flames out?

The first thing you must know is that candles placed in containers or jars are the only ones that can extinguish themselves, given that the candlewick has a metal bottom. But if your candle is in a container made of glass, you will be opening yourself up to many safety concerns. 

For example, if the flame and glass stay in contact for too long, the latter could crack. As a result, the wax or the fire could spill into the area, leaving stains or starting a fire. On the other hand, other types of candles, such as taper or pillar, should not be left to burn themselves out. This is primarily because such candles can then become a potential fire hazard.  

Therefore, you should always use an extinguisher or a candle snuffer to blow out the flame. In addition, even if your candle is self-extinguished, do not take that bet. Be sure to burn your candle on heat-resistant surfaces to prevent yourself from starting a fire. These surfaces can be granite, treated wooden floors, and kitchen countertops, to name a few. 

Can You Leave A Candle Burning In A Closed Room?

Carbon monoxide is a dangerous chemical, and unfortunately, your senses cannot detect it. The primary risk associated with burning a candle in a closed space is that of this potentially harmful substance.

Sleeping with a candle on or leaving it burning in a closed room not only poses a fire hazard but can also lead to a build-up of carbon monoxide, which is a dangerous, odorless gas. This chemical will make its way slowly through your body, and its progress is too slow even to notice it. Moreover, numerous objects in and around your home, such as a fireplace or grill, can also produce carbon dioxide.

Thus, it is up to you to reduce the time you spend being exposed to a burning candle and save yourself from being poisoned by carbon monoxide. 

Can Leaving A Candle Lit Cause A Fire?

Letting a candle burn for longer than the stipulated time is always a gamble, and leaving the open flame unsupervised could lead to some serious consequences. Several things can go wrong. For example, your candle could burn out or get knocked over. At the very least, it could leave stains on the surface it has been placed on. 

Furthermore, if you have placed your candle on a cupboard ledge or a wooden shelf, the wax could leak during the burning and cause a fire. Simply put, you should never leave a candlelit, nor should it be lit for too long and unsupervised. 

What To Do If You Realize You Left A Candle Burning?

Of course, you are human and could forget to extinguish a candle before going somewhere. In such a case, if possible,  the first thing you should do is make your way back home to blow it out. However, if you have left not being able to turn back or are too far from home, try calling your friends or neighbors and have them check up on your home. 

Since they have a spare key to your home, allow them to enter and blow the candle out. But if they cannot get into the house, instruct them to peek in through a window to ensure the safety of the candle and your house.

If this is not possible, ask them to look for any signs of smoke. If there are, the fire department should be contacted immediately to prevent a fire. You can also permit them to enter your home and extinguish the candle. However, the police could be alerted. Given that there are no imminent signs of danger, they can also talk to a locksmith and have a key made to their home. 

Do not hesitate to call on your neighbors, friends, or loved ones. If no one is available, then be sure to get in touch with the fire department in your area and let them know the entire situation. 

In addition, remember never to leave the house before you have double-checked that every single candle has been blown out. 

Steps To Ensure Candle Safety

Whether you just occasionally light up a candle, use it as decoration for events, or burn one every single day, there are various steps you can take to ensure that you always handle them with care. 

  1. Trim the candlewick

It is suggested that you make sure that your candlewick is no longer than ¼ inch before you light it up. This size is recommended to prevent the flame from bouncing around or becoming too big, which ultimately helps prevent a fire. 

  1. Use a lighter or a long match.

You may get burned if you play with fire, literally and figuratively. To protect your hands from burning or keep them away from the flame, feel free to use a lighter or a long match to get the fire started. 

  1. Properly dispose of the match.

You may have extinguished the match, but it will still give off heat. If you throw the match out, it could still start up a fire, especially if it is exposed to flammable materials, such as paper and tissues. Therefore, you should always cool down used matches by running water on them. Then, you can throw them out. 

If you do not want to use water, place them in a flame and heat-resistant bowl or container until they cool down. 

  1. Do not leave the candle unsupervised and unattended.

Whenever you light up your candle, be sure to stick around. One of the many ways to prevent your candle from becoming a fire hazard is to keep it in your sight as much as possible. If you leave your candle burning in the kitchen and walk away, you may return to something having caught fire. Thus, it is better to stay near your candle so that you can attend to any mishaps that may occur. 

  1. Pick the right spot. 

It would be best if you found an adequate and appropriate place to burn your candle. It should always be placed on a heat-resistant and stable surface. Along with not letting your candle out of sight, you should also find a location away from a window and drafts. Consequently, your candle catastrophes will be brought to a minimum!

  1. Do not let your candle burn for over four hours.

Leaving a candle burning for too long can not only cause harm to the glass container or jar it has been placed in and expel soot and smoke. Therefore, you should not burn your candle long enough to allow carbon to settle on the candlewick. This can make the flame bounce around, become too big, and even start a fire. 

  1. Extinguish the candle properly.

Before leaving the house or going to sleep, extinguish your candle correctly. The flame should be suffocated properly so that no hot melted wax splatters onto the surface. You can put a lid on your candle or use a snuffer to put the flame out. These two things will ensure that the flames die down safely. 

  1. Keep pets and kids away.

It is safe to say that this is one of the most important steps in ensuring candle safety. It is natural for children and pets to become fascinated with a candle, especially since it is bright and glows. Ensure your children and pets cannot reach the candle to poke at it to satisfy their curiosity. In addition, when your child or pet is in the vicinity, try not to let the candle out of your sight, even for a second.

Candles are especially helpful in setting the mood, calming your nerves, and even providing light. However, you must be wary of them and follow candle care instructions down to a tee to prevent fire hazards and potential risks. 

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