You Better Watch Out, You Better Not Light

It’s the holiday season, which means smells are going to be on the rise.  A favorite during this time of year are scented candles; pine trees, cinnamon, cookies, and many more smells are going to be making an appearance in homes across the country.  Incense, potpourri and oil lamps are also a source of the ever-so-desired smells.  This presents a unique set of problems, not including the obvious fire hazards.  It’s quite a sight to look up at the walls and ceiling one day and see how much black soot shows up after a few candles have burned through.  Soot is the result of incomplete combustion of carbon-containing fuels, usually petroleum-based.  It can turn your walls black, and can contaminate the home’s ventilation.  Diesel exhaust and factory emissions have been shown to have health risks, so it’s very likely that candle soot poses similar problems, though there hasn’t been much scientific research done on the subject.  Here are some tips to minimize indoor air pollution from candles:

1. Burn only beeswax or soy candles, which burn cleaner than those made with paraffin wax, which is a petroleum product.
2. Ensure the wick is the correct size for the thickness of the candle. Avoid too thick wicks and those with a wire core that keeps the wick upright. Burn candles with thin, braided wicks that curl over when burned. The wick should burn down evenly with the wax.
3. Avoid multiple wick candles.
4. Trim the wick to ¼ inch before lighting.
5. Keep your candle in a draft-free area. The goal is a low, even flame.
6. Don’t burn your candle in a narrow mouth container, which will cause unsteady airflow or increase flicker. Candles poured into glass jars or ceramic containers can often be problematic.
7. Only burn candles made of hard wax.
8. Avoid highly aromatic candles. Ensure the scent used in the candle is specifically formulated for candles and avoid wax that contains volatile aromatic hydrocarbons.
9. Cease burning any candles that leave sooty residues on candleholders or surrounding surfaces.
10. Increase ventilation in rooms where candles are burning, while avoiding direct drafts on the candles.
11. Extinguish candles after one hour of continuous burning and allow them to cool before relighting.

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