Discover why trimming the wick helps increase burn time.
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candles on table in living room
Credit: Tammy Hanratty / GETTY IMAGES

Thanks to their warm glow, candles add ambience to any space. Place them in a dimly lit room, and the flickering light creates a soft, welcoming atmosphere—and their fragrance gives your home a signature scent.

Whether you have a favorite option that you buy over and again or an impressive collection, you likely want to enjoy your candles' light and fragrance for as long possible. Luckily, extending their burn time is absolutely possible, say candlemakers, if you choose and care for your candles correctly.

1. Choose the Right-Sized Candle for Your Room

We don't typically consider how a candle's size measures up in a specific room, but it's ultimately important that the piece is neither too big nor too small. "If you have cathedral ceilings, a 4-ounce candle will not throw the scent," says Megan Piorek, owner and candlemaker at Candle Threads. The same holds true for a small space: You don't want to overpower a bathroom with a large candle when tea lights would be perfect.

2. Limit Burn Time

Upon first use, always burn your candle for a few hours. Betsy Bullock, head of product development at Aromatique, recommends burning yours for at least four hours the first time around. This allows the top layer of wax to fully melt, ensuring an even burn come the next use.

After that, Piorek advises that you should only burn your candles for three to four hours at a time. "This allows the candles to burn properly and avoids tunneling," she says, which refers to the uneven melting of the wax (it makes your candles look less appealing). Tunneling also wastes wax and can even reduce the candle's ability to light.

3. Care for the Wick

A candle is only as good its wick. This braided cotton piece that holds the flame should measure about 1/4 to 1/8 inch high in order to produce an ideal burn, which is why "trimming the wick is important," says Piorek; she advises snipping the tip ahead of every lighting to ensure a cleaner burn.

Trimming a Wick After Burning

You can trim the wick after you burn a candle, too, so it's ready for future use. Simply extinguish the flame, let the candle come to room temperature, and use a candle wick trimmer tool to cut down the wick before relighting. Do this after every four hours of burn time.

Keep in mind that a candle in a glass container takes about two hours to completely cool down—and it's much safer to trim the wick when the wax pool has hardened. A hot pool of melted wax can burn your fingers if you reach for the wick before it's cooled and solidified.

Reposition the Wick

Another suggestion? While the wax is cooled but still malleable, reposition the wick to its wax center—this prevents soot stains from forming on the glass.

4. Clean After Each Use

After each use—and when the candle has cooled to a temperature that makes it comfortable to manipulate—make sure to clean the candle of debris, says Bullock. Do so by ridding the wick's centered wax pool of any soot or charred flakes using a wet cotton pad soaked with warm soapy water. After you clean up the wax, enclose the candle with a lid, if possible, to prevent dust from settling on the surface.

5. Store Candles Appropriately

Ultimately, the best place to store your candles is indoors and away from direct sunlight.

Avoid Drafty Areas

Your candle might look pretty sitting near an open window, but this scenic spot can ultimately reduce its lifespan. According to Piorek, currents of air cause an uneven burn, so place your candles away from areas of the house that tend to be drafty—or if you're outdoors, keep your citronella candles or sand candles guarded against the breeze, since wind can blow out the flame or knock it over entirely.

Keep Away from Heat Sources

Whether or not your candles are in use, know that the wax can—and does—melt in extreme heat. "In the heat, candles will start to sweat," says Piorek. "Keep candles dry and at normal room temperature." Don't store your candles near other heat sources, such as kitchen stoves, the fireplace mantel, or in the attic (where your home's heat rises).

6. Don't Leave a Candle Unattended

"Most importantly, never leave a candle unattended," Piorek says. Not only is there a risk of fire when candles are forgotten in a room, but you also run the risk of burning the candle for too long. You can alternate your candles to prolong their burn time—just don't set it and forget it.

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