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Holiday Home Safety: Candle Safety

November 28, 2012

Nothing is more alluring than the captivating warm glow and fragrant scent of burning candles. Decorating the home and holiday table with candles is traditional and still very chic. Scientists have been fascinated by the physics of burning candles for hundreds of years. Creating a beautiful and welcome holiday ambience in your home can be as simple as an evergreen foliage-and-candle arrangement on a table or fireplace mantle. But remember, a lighted candle it is an open flame.

According to the National Candle Association, accidental candle fires increase four-fold during the holiday season. Eighty-five percent of these fires could be prevented if consumers follow some simple rules. Do not spoil the tranquility with an accidental fire. The NCA urges all consumers to take special care with candles especially during the holidays.

  • Always burn candles in a well-ventilated room.
  • Always keep a burning candle within your sight and never leave a burning candle unattended.
  • Never burn a candle on or near anything that can catch fire. Be especially careful with flammable decorations, and curtains, or placing candles too close to Christmas greenery or Christmas trees. Replace dry brittle greenery or do not light the candles.
  • Always use a candleholder specifically designed for candle use. The holder should be heat resistant, sturdy and big enough to collect dripping wax. Glass that is not heat resistant can shatter from the heat of the candle.
  • Never burn pillar candles, novelty candles, or any candles directly on furniture, whether glass or wood, or directly on greenery. Pillar candles are free-standing candles, usually having a diameter of 3 inches or more, and one or more wicks. Despite the name, pillars or column candles can be round, square, hexagonal, etc. Although they stand on their own, they must be burned on a heat-resistant candle holder.
  • Trim candlewicks to ΒΌ inch before lighting or re-lighting, and keep the wax-pool free of wick trimmings, dust, matches and debris at all times. Wicks that are too long can cause uneven burning, smoking, and dripping.
  • Read the label and follow the manufacturer's recommendations on burn time and proper use. As a general rule for pillars, burn 1 minute per inch across the diameter of the candle. For example: a three-inch candle should burn for no more the 30 minutes before cooling, trimming the wick, and relighting.
  • Avoid placing candles in drafts, near vents or air currents. This will help prevent rapid or uneven burning, sooting, and excessive dripping. Keep candles out of the reach of children and away from pets.

Fact or Fiction: Placing candles in the refrigerator or freezer until they are very cold will make the candle burn slower or longer. Does this really work? According to the National Candle Association: Yes and No. While it is true that a cold candle will burn more slowly, it only takes a few minutes for the heat from the flame to warm the candle to room temperature. The extra burning time you may get is not much and probably not worth the effort or refrigerator space.

For more information on Candle Safety, visit the National Candle Association website athttp://www.candles.org/index.html.

University of Illinois Extension provides equal opportunities in programs and employment. If you need reasonable accommodation to participate in this program, please contact the Extension office at least two weeks prior to the event. University of Illinois Extension offers practical, research based programs that help people improve their lives and address critical community issues involving youth, families, economics, and natural resources.

Source: Drusilla Banks, Extension Educator, Nutrition and Wellness, dbanks@uiuc.edu