Do Candles Expire? How to Tell When Yours Are Past Their Prime

Plus, find out how to properly store them to increase their longevity.

Lavender, classic soy, or an array of spices are just a few go-to candle scents that can often be found inside a home. While you likely have a few you like to burn regularly, there's also a good chance you keep a couple of extras on hand as backups or in the event of a power outage. But those candles might not get used for a while—if at all. That begs the question: Do candles ever expire?

several candles on white wooden table in front of bed
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The Lifespan of a Candle

"The composition of a candle, inclusive of the wax type or blend, and the ingredients used to scent the candle (essential oils, fragrance oils, et cetera), can all impact how a candle ages," says Shavaun Christian, founder and maker of Spoken Flames. She explains that even though you won't notice candles aging like you would food or beauty products, eventually you will start to notice subtle changes in its typical 12- to 18-month lifespan (specific expiration dates can be found on some candle brands, too). Jessica Hill, the CEO and founder of Sicily Hill, adds that if a candle is exposed to direct sunlight and dust particles on a consistent basis, then it will likely stay at its best for about two to three months.

Signs That Your Candle Has Expired

Petra Palomera, the marketing coordinator at Wakeheart, notes that you can spot if your candle is going bad by visual cues—like if the top half of the candle is yellowing and it looks dry overall. Other than the loss of color and change in texture, the candle smell can also ease off. "The telltale sign of an expired candle is the loss of scent," says Hill. "If your candle begins to smell more like wax than the intended fragrance, it is probably time to discard it." The change in fragrance can also happen because of dust particles (in which case, simply use a cloth when the wax is hard to remove any excess from the candle, adds Hill).

How to Properly Store Your Candle

Intense sunlight or debris can easily make your candle more susceptible to going bad, but that's not all you need to worry about. Christian suggests keeping your candle out of harsh conditions, including direct sunlight, extreme heat (which includes on or near a stove), or frigid temperatures. "Extreme temperature changes may modify the molecular composition of your candle's ingredients," she says. "And in the case of extreme heat or direct sunlight, your fragrance oil may burn off, all of which may negatively impact the scent throw and overall performance of your candle."

Hill likes to compare storing your candles (which do best in the original packaging) to storing an age-old drink. "Think of how fine wines are stored in a dark, dry cellar to perfectly preserve the wine for years," she explains. "The same basic concepts can be applied to storing your candles for an increased lifespan." Palomera adds that temperature-controlled rooms between 65 to 75 degrees best suit candles.

How to Keep Your Candle in the Best Condition

Before you start using your product, you'll want to make sure the wick measures about 1/4 inch in height. "This will help prevent soot from collecting in your votive and keep the wick upright rather than toppling over into the wax," says Hill. When you do get around to lighting this home essential for the first time, make sure that this is your best burn, meaning that the candle should have a full melt pool. While this should happen each time you use your candle, Christian explains that it's most important the first time to prevent tunneling.

Palomera says that the amount of time you burn a candle depending on the brand and make is important, too. "We recommend that you burn your Wakeheart candle for no more than four hours at a time because it will cause carbon to collect on the wick, leading it to 'mushroom,'" she explains. "The wick will then become unstable and produce a dangerously large flame." Another expert tip? Palomera says once your wax is nearing its end (about half an inch left), go ahead and start using a new candle to avoid the bottom of the vessel from getting too hot or damaging the surface it's sitting on.

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