Why do candles flicker?


Candles have been a part of many people’s lives for as long as they can remember. However, we use it so often that we don’t think about the simplest things, such as why sometimes candles flicker. Is there something dangerous about them or what you should do if this happens? 

A candle flickers if there’s too much airflow in the room. Or has Impurities within its components such as wax or wick, which can lead to a flame going out from lack of oxygen. It may also be due to an oversized wick size that causes excess flame from time to time.

Discover the ‘secrets’ Professional candle-makers use to create luscious homemade candles with this step-by-step guide. You’ll find out what supplies you need and where to buy them, as well as have the instructions written in an easy-to-follow format with lots of pictures for beginners.

There is nothing more frustrating than a flickering candle. There are several reasons for which candles flicker. Some of these causes may seem very obvious, while others will surprise you. But the good news is that there are some things you can do about it. 

Why is my candle flame so high and flickering?

Candles flicker for a variety of reasons, and higher flames may result from it – although both phenomena are not always related. Here we explain the reasons why both situations happen and how each one correlates to the other. 

High candle flames

Sometimes, candles burn too high due to the melted wax that surrounds the wick. Braided cotton is the most prominent material for candle wick, which happens to be a sub-category of absorbent twine. Absorbent twine utilizes capillary action to attract the melted was upwards the wick. This way, we can say that the candle “creates its own fuel” thanks to the flame.

Flickering candles

There can be many reasons why candles flicker. All of them may cause a higher flame, resulting in quicker consumption. Still, determining the cause will help you solve the problem and make your candles last longer.

1. Too much air

When you see that candle flickering, it could be because there’s too much airflow in the room. The wicks burn unevenly and this makes them appear as if they’re ‘dancing.’ Plus all of these combustion processes create a buildup around our candlewick which causes the flame to become smaller over time.

2. Impurities within the candle’s components

Candles may flicker even when there’s no wind around. This can be due to impurities found within the candle’s elements (wax and wick). For instance, the wax may contain air bubbles which can give us an irregular flame as a result of it. On the other hand, the wick creates carbon as the flame burns it, which causes it to burn unevenly as well.

3. Large wicks

Large wicks are not a big problem, and you can solve them quickly. It mostly happens to those that have begun in the art of making candles.

A candle and its wick must be balanced; otherwise, it may not burn as expected. Hence, a large candle needs a large wick. Contrary to this, when you have a small candle with a large wick, the flame will flicker more than usual. 

However, leaving the candle with a small wick can be counterproductive as the heat won’t reach the candle’s edges and will end up causing candle tunneling. 

To sum up, a candle flickers if it receives too little airflow. But, contrary to this, if it receives too much air, it flares – and as a result of it, many visible carbon particles will leak from the flame before they complete the combustion process. As for the wicked problem, it can be solved with a quick trim.

What happens when candles flicker? 

Once you determine why your candle flickers so much, you will be able to find the best solution to the problem and avoid potential accidents. Some may not consider flickering candles a big problem, but it can escalate quickly into other situations.

1. Interrupts your relaxation

Many people use candles as a relaxation method. However, if it is persistently flickering, it can definitely worsen the atmosphere of the room. The problem becomes even worse when you have multiple candles lit, and they start flickering, as it may add more stress to your mind.

2. High flames

Candles that flicker repeatedly will produce a higher flame. Hence, it may be the cause of a potential accident if you have placed it in an incorrect place, such as near curtains or another type of fabric. Placing a flickering candle near a wall may result in a fire hazard as well!

It is essential to keep candles in safe places and never neglect them as long as they’re burning them. It’s crucial for you to prioritize your health and everyone else’s well-being.

3. The candle will burn too rapidly. 

As mentioned in the previous point, when a candle flickers constantly, it will create higher flames. As a result, the candle will burn fast due to the high levels of heat and will end up being consumed in little time. 

Is it bad if a candle flickers?

Objectively speaking, a flickering candle may be the cause of a potential accident, as we’ve described in previous paragraphs.

On the other hand, a flickering candle will burn rapidly. Hence, it will be consumed in less time. It’s highly recommended for you to find the source of the problem and solve it so you can enjoy your candles without them vanishing quickly.

Also, flickering candles are known to cause more stress instead of relieving it, especially if you light up multiple ones in the same room.

Is a flickering candle dangerous?

A flickering candle may seem harmless at first, but it can escalate into a bigger problem if you leave them unattended in the wrong place. If this happens, we recommend blowing it out and determining the cause of the problem before it causes a much bigger one. 

How to use candles safely

If you light up candles often, you need to make sure that you’re doing it safely. Otherwise, you may be putting those that live with you and yourself in danger. This way, everyone can enjoy a good while as the candle continues to be lit up. 

  • Always keep an eye on the candle. If it’s impossible for you to pay attention to it, please snuff it before you move on to the next activity.
  • Please place them in a safe area, away from flammables. According to studies, igniting combustible material is the leading cause of home candle fires. Therefore, you should always place candles 12 inches away from vulnerable material, like a curtain or cabinet.
  • Don’t use candles as a lighting alternative during power outages. Instead, it’s safer to opt for battery-powered flashlights. Hence, try to keep your home stocked with these devices in case of an emergency.
  • If the candle can’t be snuffed, be especially careful. Shabbat or vigil candles, to mention a few, are supposed to burn to the wick. So, for instance, if you’re going to bed, please leave the candle on a metal tray – or in the sink. You can also leave candles inside a glass container to prevent the airflow or movement from causing an accident.
  • Make sure your fire detectors are functional. Provide maintenance regularly and confirm that everything is optimally working. 

The origins of a flickering candle may be diverse. But, regardless of what causes it, they can be potentially dangerous. So, if you’d like to use candles safely while enjoying the tranquil atmosphere they create, please follow the advice written above. This way, flickering candles won’t be a problem for you at any moment.

How do you stop a candle from flickering?

There are four methods to stop a candle from flickering. It may also prevent plenty of other problems, such as dancing flames, sooting, and even smoking.

1. Trim the wick or opt for a smaller one.

One of the leading causes of flickering candles is large wicks. It often happens to beginners in candle manufacturing, but there’s a solution for every problem.

You can get better results if you trim the wick to ¼ inch. This will cause it to diminish the soot release. If you’d like a clearer burn, please light up your candle carefully to make sure it starts burning slow and uniformly. 

Next up, burn the container candle until it creates a wax pool at the candle’s top. It shouldn’t take more than four hours.

If making candles is your new hobby, we recommend using smaller wicks next time. However, if you don’t seem to find the perfect size, trial and error are your best friends. 

2. Place the candle in a different area.

We often overlook how much air is present in an area, but a candle doesn’t. If the candle is flickering persistently, blow it out and try placing it in another room or in a different place. Then, light it up again and see if it continues flickering.

If the candle doesn’t stop flickering, it is not due to the air. Impurities or small wicks are amongst the most common causes of flickering candles. 

3. Clean the candle before lighting it up.

Impurities can cause a candle to flicker. However, the wax may not be the cause; it may also be due to dust or soot. There are plenty of reasons why a candle may reunite these elements across the upper layer of wax. For example, if the candle doesn’t have a lid, it is more prone to accumulate dust if you store them too long. 

We recommend cleaning the candle before burning but don’t clean around the candle as you may end up adding more dirt to the upper area. Instead, try to make it a uniform process. All you need is a washcloth. Then, you can proceed to wipe it until you consider it is 100% clean.

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