Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Candle Season Means Candle Safety

Dear Tazi:

My wife loves those scented jar candles that are so popular, and i have to admit they do make the house smell nice. My problem is that "Edna" isn't mindful of where and when she lights them. I work second shift, and will frequently come home to find that Edna has fallen asleep on the couch, candles still lit. She claims that the warn glow of the candle and the sweet scent makes her sleepy, and that she does not mean to fall asleep, and that the candles must be safe to leave unattended, otherwise they wouldn't be a multi-million dollar industry!

I am of the mind that there is no such thing as a "safe" unguarded candle once it has been lit and would like Edna to stop lighting the candles when she is home alone. So far, we have been lucky and nothing has caught aflame other than the candle wicks, but I don't want to press my luck. Can you offer a convincing argument or some easy tips to follow for candle safety? Edna loves you and she loves your column!

Burning Up

Dear Burning Up:

I am in agreement with you that there is no such thing as a "safe" lit but unattended candle. Firefighters hate these things because they witness the damage and destruction that can be caused by them. A curious pet can knock one off a shelf or table, breaking the tempered glass; the candle can burn too low and get too hot and set fire to the place where it is placed; a breeze can blow the flame onto curtains or curtains onto the flame and the entire house can go up in minutes! Then again, you could also be trampled to death by a crazy mob of Walmart shoppers while out Christmas shopping, the odds of which seem to increase every year.

Since a person needs to balance safety with personal enjoyment of life's little pleasures, I think that you and your wife need to strike a bargain about when she strikes a match! To follow are some candle safety tips that come courtesy of the National Candle Association (presumably of America, judging by their contact information). If Edna can agree to follow all of them, all of the time, I see no issue with lighting a relaxing light.

(click link for printable version)

Always keep a burning candle within sight.  Extinguish all candles when leaving a room or before going to sleep.   

Never burn a candle on or near anything that can catch fire.  Place candles away from drapes, bedding, carpets, books, paper, flammable decorations, etc.   Drafts can also blow lightweight curtains or papers into the flame where they could catch fire.   

Keep candles out of the reach of children and pets.  Don’t place lighted candles where they might be knocked over by children or pets.   

Trim candlewicks to ¼ inch each time before burning.  Long or crooked wicks cause uneven burning and dripping.   

Always use a candleholder specifically designed for candle use.   The holder should be heat resistant, sturdy and large enough to contain drips or melted wax.  

Be sure the candleholder is placed on a stable, heat-resistant surface.  This will also help prevent possible heat damage to underlying surfaces and prevent glass containers from cracking or breaking.   

Keep the wax pool free of wick trimmings, matches and debris at all times.  Always read and follow the manufacturer's use and safety instructions carefully.  Don't burn a candle longer than the manufacturer recommends.   

Always burn candles in a well-ventilated room.   Don't burn too many candles in a small room or in a "tight" home where air exchange is limited.  

Don't burn a candle all the way down.  Extinguish the flame if it comes too close to the holder or container. For a margin of safety, discontinue burning a candle when 2 inches of wax remains or ½ inch if in a container.   
Never touch or move a burning candle when the wax is liquid.  

Never use a knife or sharp object to remove wax drippings from a glass holder. It might scratch, weaken, or cause the glass to break upon subsequent use.   

Place burning candles at least three inches apart.  This ensures they won't melt one another, or create drafts that can cause the candles to flare.   

Use a snuffer to extinguish a candle.  It's the safest way to prevent hot wax splatters.  

Never extinguish candles with water.  The water can cause the hot wax to splatter and might cause a glass container to break.   

Be very careful if using candles during a power outage.  Flashlights and other battery- powered lights are safer sources of light during a power failure.   

Make sure a candle is completely extinguished and the wick is no longer glowing before leaving the room.  

Extinguish a candle if it flickers repeatedly, smokes, or the flame becomes too high. The candle isn't burning properly. Let it cool, trim the wick, check for drafts and then re-light.  

Never use a candle as a night light.         

©  2008 National Candle Association    Visit www.candles.org for more information.

I don't know about you, dear readers, but I have learned a lot of new things about candle safety form reading this list! If you are a candle lover, be sure to click the link to download the printable version of this list and hang it in a conspicuous location!


Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with Bachelors degrees in Communications and in Gender and Women's Studies. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

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