Most of us know what a candle is.  It is a piece of wax with a string, called a wick, running down the center.  The wick is lit with a flame and a burning candle is what is created.

This information is great, but there is actually quite a bit more to using a candle than simply lighting it.  Sourcing Nova has a bit more information for you on how to use a candle properly.

Lighting and burning

A burning candle is what most people are looking for when using candles.  While there are plenty of people who use candles as a home decoration with no intention of lighting them, most people light candles for a variety of reasons.

Most people think to light the candle and let it burn, but this is actually a poor way to use a candle.  For the best use of the candle from initial lighting until the candle is no longer safe to burn, use the following steps:

Trim the wick

Do not trim the wick before the first time you light your candle, but each time you plan on burning the candle.  Always trim your wick down to less than ¼ of an inch (5 mm).  This will ensure your candle has a better, neater burn with less smoke and a clearer, more attractive flame.


Burn across the entire top each time

Now that you have a burning candle, leave it to melt the entire top layer of wax across the top of the whole candle. This needs to happen even if it takes considerable time to do so. What you are doing is something called candle memory and preventing something called tunneling (more on this in later.)


Four hours, and stop

The black sooty looking material on wicks is carbon. If you burn a candle for too long, four hours is the maximum time, carbon build up on the wick creates an effect called mushrooming. The wick is no longer stable, the flame is too large and smoke comes out – three things you do not want to have with your candle.


The more wicks the better

Taper candles, the original long, thin candle, had a single wick. Today’s modern candles can have several wicks, and these are actually preferable for candles. More wicks mean more heat, and this heat translates into a faster melt for additional scent.


Candles with a wide diameter and single wick are not ideal, since the candle will not burn evenly.  This will not produce the heat necessary within the four hour window you want when burning a candle.


Watch the air flow

This should be a no-brainer because too much air will snuff the candle. This is only part of the reason to be careful, however. Moving air can stain, cause tunneling and disturb the flame.  None of which you want.


Pay attention how you put the flame out

Dip; don’t blow. Dipping a wick is simple. Push the wick into the melted wax, depriving the flame of oxygen, known as snuffing in the candle industry.  Pull the wick back up vertically, and the candle is ready for next time.


If you are wanting to put a candle out with your fingers, the best advice is do not do it.  However, if you must, do the following: wet your fingers with saliva, pinch the flame from both sides quickly and release.  Expect burnt finger tips the first few times you try this.


Followingthese steps means you will get your candle to burn evenly the first time and every time.


Light candle without a lighter


The butane lighter is a standard way to light a candle.  Most people like the long stemmed type since it can reach into a candle that has burned down significantly.  However, not everyone has a lighter on hand to light candles.  Fortunately, there are three great alternatives you can choose:


Heating element

Any electric appliance in the home that uses electricity to generate heat will work – toaster ovens, toasters, stovetop, oven or a room heater.  A taper candle works best for this as well.  Simply touch the wick to the hot element, and a flame should start.


Magnifying glass

– These are handy if you happen to have one. If you do not have one around the house, you can try with a clear light bulb and water. Focus the sun’s light on a piece of tissue paper, and use the paper to light the wick.  Put the paper out completely.


Battery and foil

This is a common trick used in prisons when they need a flame. Take a standard AA battery, or any battery on hand, and two small strips of foil. Hold the foil to the positive and negative ends of the battery.  Touch the other two ends together on the wick.  The wick should light quickly.


Of course, there are other ways, like striking flint and of course, a standard match to light a candle.  No matter which way you choose, be careful, and take your time lighting the candle.


Other uses


The candle has other uses outside of burning for the scent or ambiance created with a burning candle.  Here are a few other uses people have for candles.


Candling eggs

Candling eggs is a very important part of the egg industry.  Here is how to candle eggs – hold the egg up to a candle.  There should be no red (blood vessels) or anything but the yolk in the egg.  If something is found, the egg is discarded.  Chicken eggs are the most common eggs people candle.  If you want to learn how to candle duck eggs or other eggs, the procedure is the same.


Ear candling

Ear candling pulls ear wax out of the ear. This is a very common alternative medicine that has been practiced for centuries. Those who use ear candling stand firmly by its efficacy in helping with various ear ailments like swimmer’s ear.  Science, however, has not found much success with ear candling, and some say it can do more harm than good.


The ear candle itself is hollow cotton, soaked in wax, about 10 inches long and could be infused with a variety of herbs like rosemary, honey and essential oils.


This is how to use ear candles:

  • Insert the candle through a tin or paper plate to catch the hot wax.
  • Lying on their side with an ear up, the person has the tapered end of the candle inserted into the ear.
  • The opposite end is lit.
  • As the candle burns, it is trimmed and kept open.
  • After about 15 minutes, the candle is extinguished.


The result is the wax inside the ear is pulled up and out by a vacuum created by the burning candle.  There are mixed results according to many on how well this actually works.  Some report candle wax dripping into their ears rather than the ear wax pulling out.  Either effective or not, use caution and have someone familiar with the technique perform the ear candling.


Candle magick

Candles have had a place in magical arts, wicca and other religions for centuries. Colors of the candle represent various different things, and the arrangement of the candle can as well. The most common technique is candle anointing, when the candle is coated with essential oils or other materials on the candle depending on the purpose.


Use a candle to make heat

It may not seem possible, but a small candle can make a lot of heat in a room. It is not as difficult as some may think. Here is how to make a heater with a candle – the clay pot heater or diy tent heater.


  • Get a standard terracotta clay pot from the outside or a garden center.
  • Set the clay pot upside down where air can pass underneath it, putting a lit candle in the center.
  • Over time, the candle will heat the terracotta clay nicely, making the room warm.


Candle tunneling


Chances are this has happened to you.  Candle tunneling is when only the center of the candle burns down, leaving edges of hard wax on the sides.  This makes the candle burn inefficiently and harder to light the wick safely when you wish to light the candle.  Here is how to fix candle tunneling and how to prevent it.


Fixing candle tunneling starts by burning the candle properly.  Candle wax has “memory.”  This means wax continues to melt in same way.  In other words, if your candle started tunneling, it will keep tunneling.  Burning the candle evenly across the surface as Sourcing Nova explained earlier in the piece will prevent candle tunneling.


If your candle has already started tunneling, then it cannot be prevented.  You will have to fix the wax in the candle.  Do this in one of two ways: using a hair dryer on high heat, melt the wax down until it is even with the wick; heat the oven to 175 degrees, and place the candle in the oven.  The heat will melt the wax down evenly and repair the candle tunneling.


Melt candle wax


If your candle has tunneled and melted down past where it is safe to burn the candle any longer, you will have leftover candle wax.  You may be wondering what you can do with the leftover candle wax.  The best thing to do is reuse the candle wax.  Melting candles is quite simple, although be sure to be careful as hot wax can burn.  Above are mentioned two ways how to melt candle wax for you to reuse.  Here are two more:

  • Microwave

Here is how to melt candle wax in the microwave. Be absolutely certain the wax is in a microwave safe container.  The best thing to use is the jar the candle came in.  Place the container into the microwave.  Heat on high in one minute increments until the wax is completely melted.  Be very careful, and do not let the wax get very hot.  You want it hot enough to pour and nothing else.  When ready, remove the wick with tongs, and pour your wax into a candle warmer (more about these coming later).

  • Glass jar

You can also melt your wax in a glass jar. Heat about an inch of water over medium heat.  Place the glass jar into the water.  The double boiler effect will melt the wax until ready to pour.


Melting your candle wax will also fix a broken candle.  However, now you have quite a bit of candle wax you can reuse.


Leftover candle wax – uses


If you have used the techniques above and have a good bit of wax, you may wonder what to do with the leftover candle wax.  If you are a candle maker, you can certainly reuse the wax in various other candles.  If you are not a candle maker, the best thing to do is use a candle warmer.


The question you likely have in your head now: What is a candle warmer?  Basically, a candle warmer does not need a flame to produce the fragrance.  Candle warmers have a good number of advantages over a standard candle: the candle warmer is safer, creates more fragrance and do not produce soot.  Lastly, of course, a candle warmer is a fantastic way to reuse candle wax and fix broken candles.


Today’s candle warmers are often electric and they are easy to use.  The manufacturer of the candle warmer will provide explicit instructions on how to use the candle warmer.  Basically, there is a vessel or bowl that the wax sits in and is melted with a heating element underneath.


You may want to exercise some caution in using your candle warmer with leftover candle wax.  Mixing fragrances from different candle wax together may not produce the scents you would like.


Old candle jars


Sourcing Nova has given you plenty of suggestions on how to reuse leftover candle wax.  You may now be left with a few old candle jars.  What to do with these?  There are plenty of things you an do with old candle jars.  Here are just a few:


  • Remake candles

The jars are still good. Candle making is a great hobby and may even make you a few dollars selling them.

  • Store food

Clean the jars well, and use them to store various dry goods: baking soda, nuts, sugar and the like. You can also freeze sauces, stocks and broths.

  • Store a variety of things

Use the leftover candle jars in the bathroom for cotton balls and swabs. Put pet treats in them.  Whatever you need to store, use the candle jar.

  • Drinkware

Why not? The jars are clean.

  • Jams, jellies and preserves

Putting up your own jam, jelly and preserves is a great hobby. There is some satisfaction in eating your own as well.

  • Do some of the above

Or add a few more different things. You can then give the old candle jars as gifts.


Wrap a candle


Most candles sold commercially are going to be jar candles and hard to wrap as a gift.  It is not impossible, but it does take some practice to become proficient if you are learning how to wrap a candle.  Think of the jar as a cylinder, and you are halfway there on how to wrap candles.


Here are the steps:

  • Do not use too much paper

Wrap the paper around the candle to determine the right amount.

  • Top and bottom

Leave about two inches of space. Watch how wide the candle is as you do this.

  • First folds

Fold, and tape the ends into triangular sections.

  • Bottom first

Do this if the candle jar does not have a lid. Once you have the bottom done, take the candle out, flip it and slide the open portion into the taped end.

  • Repeat #4

You will have a smooth cylinder with a top for a nice bow.


Final thoughts


Sourcing Nova hopes you have learned a great deal about how to light a candle as well as how you can reuse everything from your candle but the leftover wicks.  We certainly have not covered everything, but we bet you have had a candle tunnel on more than one occasion.  We want to know: Have you had a candle tunnel?  What did you do about it?  Are there any other ideas you have for leftover wax or candle jars?  Let us know in a comment below.  Thanks for reading.