|Green Candles, Pt. 2: Rating Candles and Extending Burn Time|
|Monday, 11 February 2013 00:00 | Written by Tonya Kay | Blog Entry|
I'm a thorough investigator. I understand that although animal ethics, environmental awareness and health consciousness influence my consumer decisions, so do quality and price. Many people will still see that paraffin candle at the 99-cent store and think it's a deal too good to pass up. After performing a side-by-side votive-candle burn test myself, however, I'm not convinced that paraffin's low price tag makes it the best value after all.
Burn, Baby, Burn
Strega Moon's palm-wax votive candle burned an outstanding 20 hours! At $1.50 each, that means each burn hour costs less than seven cents. The hand-poured, local farmers market beeswax candle burned an impressive 15 hours (10 cents per hour). Whole Foods’ beeswax votive burned 13.5 hours (22 cents per hour). The farmers market soy votive burned a mere 11 hours (14 cents per hour). Walgreen's paraffin candle burned a disappointing five hours (12 cents per hour).
The best values according to this burn test are the palm and beeswax candles. Of course, candle making is an art and high-quality manufacturers will indeed produce a longer-lived flame. The burn duration affected the final cost per hour of the votive, but of course so did the initial price. To keep the cost of your non-petroleum candles low, purchase beeswax or palm wax in bulk from a high-quality manufacturer and cut out as many middlemen as possible by buying direct from the candle pourer or local farmers market.
Learn, Baby, Learn
The wax of a well-made and properly burned candle should uniformly melt all the way to the perimeter of the candle until the flame goes out, with very little residual or no wax to save—no drips, no leftovers. Here's how:
Trim candle wick to 1/4." Not 1/2", not 1/8"—1/4."
On the first and every lighting, allow the candle to burn long enough to melt the wax all the way to the perimeter of the candle. If, after three hours, the wax does not melt to the perimeter, it was a poorly made candle—purchase future candles from a different maker.
Don’t blow out your candles; use a candle extinguisher to put them out. This will instantly suffocate the candle, keeping the wax drawn up through the wick, rather than allowing it to smolder and burn. It is the wick's wax that is burning off; we want that for the next light. If the wick is waxless, it has to draw up wax from the candle first and saturate the wick once again—that's a lot of wasted wax. Requiring wax in the wick means less to burn on the candle, resulting in a smaller melt diameter and therefore a candle that is burning wax from inside its circumference. This leaves oodles of unmelted wax at the end of the burn and greatly reduces your candle’s potential burn time.
For safety, extinguish your candle its final time (when it's about to be spent) when there is 1/8" of wax left. This is for the sake of safety, ritual and taste. Final extinguishing with just a bit of wax left keeps the candle container heat from charring whatever table, shelf, scarf or doily upon which it is placed. Early final extinguishing also keeps the metal wick tab from getting too hot and catching the paper sticker on the bottom of store-purchased candles from igniting. We've all seen it. Tacky and a little dangerous. Solution: early final extinguishing.
A deep respect for my health led me on this quest for the cleanest candle. But cleanliness does not stop at my personal air quality. I've learned that farming and manufacture methods affect my candle karma, as do the efficiency and quality of the candle itself. Next week I'll share some other vital ways you can keep the non-electric lighting of your home eco-conscious and healthy.
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