Is your home scattered with discarded candles that have seen better days? Follow these tips and you'll never go half-burnt again.
Like a great glass of Malbec or a pair of cashmere trackies, candles are one of life’s most delicious indulgences. The simple ritual of lighting one can change the feel of a room immediately. Luckily for us, we live in an age where there’s never been more choice or diversity in scents and styles available but caring for your candles isn't as simple as striking a match and just letting them do their thing.
“Choosing scents for each room should be about changing the space to make it feel welcoming, warm and inviting,” Nick Smith, director of Agence de Parfum, says. Agency de Parfum distributes some of the most iconic candles in the world (including Cire Trudon). We asked Nick to share his expert tips on how to get the most out of your candles.
1. Choose a scent that suits the room
If you’ve ever been to a dinner party and had the main course hijacked by an overpowering candle, you’ll know exactly how off-putting the wrong scent can be. Approach candle shopping the same way you would approach buying a new fragrance for yourself. Consider the occasion (is this a candle you’ll light when you’re entertaining or a candle just for you), the location (where are you intending to burn it? Will it be around food?) and the mood you’re trying to create (do you need a pep up or help chilling out?).
“If it’s being used around food or entertaining you should avoid burning florals, particularly rose and lavender, as this can affect your palette and the food you’re eating,” says Nick. “I would recommend a citrus or woody scented candle for a dining setting.” Opt for citrus based candles to lift the mood and look for florals and woody scents to wind down.
2. Avoid synthetic ingredients
Just like make-up, the ingredients a candle is made from will affect the outcome, most significantly the strength of the scent the candle “throws”. The scent of a candle unlit is called the “cold throw” whilst the scent it produces after lighting is called the “hot throw”. “On average a candle with essential oils will smell better and fill a room longer with the fragrance,” says Nick. “The candle should smell a little stronger when you burn it, but this depends on if the candle has been made from essential oils or synthetic ingredients.”
3. Don’t rush the first burn
There’s a reason why your candles burn unevenly — you didn't get the first burn right! “The first burn is the most important — you need to ensure the top of the candle has completely melted before you extinguish,” says Nick. “This is because the wax has a memory, if you leave the candle with a small rim of wax, the candle will remember to only burn to this rim.” Burn the candle for a minimum of two hours on the first burn and then no more than three hours each burn thereafter. “After three hours the candle won’t throw any more scent, so you are just wasting wax,” says Nick. If you haven’t lit a candle in a while don’t panic if it doesn’t smell strongly straight away. “The perfume in the top of the wax may have evaporated so it takes a longer time for the candle to throw a scent,” says Nick.
4. Keep your wick short
Once you’ve got an even first burn under your belt, keeping a close eye on your wick is key. “Trimming the wick is extremely important for the life of the candle,” says Nick. “The wick should be kept at approximately 5mm and should be cut 2-5 times depending on the size of the candle. If your candle has black smoke when it’s lit, then you need to trim the wick.” Leaving the wick long will produce dark smoke which could stain your walls or furnishings if left to burn in confined spaces like bathrooms.
5. Invest in wick trimmers
Scissors work fine for trimming initially, but as it burns down, it really does pay to have wick trimmers which are designed to reach deep into the candle. “Wick trimmers have a flatter base which catches the wick when cutting, avoiding any of the wick falling into the candle. If you are using scissors, I recommend holding the candle upside down, so the cut wick falls out.”