Even though it might not seem like it, candles are very important items in the evolution of indoor illumination. They were first made thousands of years ago by an inventor or a group of inventors whose name (or names) no one seems to recall. And many of their earliest versions were first created from fat or tallow from the carcasses of slaughtered cattle and other livestock which were used for food. During the process of candle-making, this fat was boiled down in order to make candle wax, while the wicks were usually gotten from plant fibers and other plant materials.
HOW DO CANDLES WORK?
Candles work based on a very simple principle which all forms of fires and flames live by, which is: no fire can burn in the absence of fuel, not even a simple candle flame. And so, in order to burn and burn well, candles have to provide two things which are – by order of importance – a source of fuel and something to burn; which is where the wick and candle-wax come in.
Candle wax is usually made from materials which can support burning and feed a flame with convenient; and such materials usually include boiled down fat – or tallow – from animal source, beeswax, the bodies of insects, and paraffin wax, among several others. Some types of candle wax are even usually formed from the combination of different types of materials; so as to compensate the flaws or disadvantages of one with another.
The wick, on the other hand, not only serves as something to burn, but it also serves as a conduit or medium through which the fuel gleaned from the melted candle wax finds its way to the flame, in other to feed and sustain it.
This simple mechanism works not just by the principle that no fire can burn in the absence of fire, but also by the brilliant phenomenon that is capillary action. Through capillary action, the wick is able to soak up melted candle wax during candle burning, after the candle is lit and the wax begins to melt; thus making the fuel available. Asides soaking it up, the wick must also be able to provide this fuel and feed the flame, which happens as a result of capillary action. Capillary action allows the wick to soak all the way through to the top where the candle flame is, so as to sustain it.
DO CANDLES MELT IN THE SUN?
Candles have the ability to melt under the action of high amount of heat, which is usually generated by the flame on the wick during candle burning. This is because the kinds of materials used in making candle wax are usually those that have three major properties, which are: the ability to remain solid and stable at room temperature (and even under slightly high temperature conditions), the ability to melt well under the influence of the heat of a candle’s flame, and the ability to support and sustain a flame. These properties are the main things that are usually considered during the selection of wax for use during the candle-making process. However, due to the ability of candle wax to melt under the influence of the high heat of candle flames (and just high heat in general), many people tend to wonder if candle wax can melt in the sun.
The short answer is simply this: yes, it is possible for a candle to melt in the sun. Apart from the fact that the sun is several million degrees hot – which is definitely more than enough to reduce a candle to complete nothingness – the amount of sunlight we get here on Earth can also do considerable damage to the structural integrity of the candle among other things.
When you leave a candle out in the sun for too long, it tends to have negative effects on the composition of that candle; particularly the components of the candle wax. This is because of the general properties of a good candle – which include the ability to melt properly under the influence of fire or high quantities of heat – as well as the fact since the actual process of making and molding candles required high quantities of heat; so also, such high quantities of heat can also unmake or, more precisely, melt them.
HOW TO PREVENT A CANDLE FROM MELTING IN THE SUN
Well, the first step to preventing a candle from melting in the sun is to keep the candle away from the sun or, more precisely, away from direct sunlight. This is because prolonged exposure to direct sunlight in very hot conditions can melt candles, however this is not the only possible negative effect of leaving candles out in the sun for too long (or in places with elevated levels of temperature and heat such as the interior of a car parked in the sun with all its windows rolled up on a bright and sunny day); under the prolonged influence of heat and high temperature, candle wax tends to become softer before it begins to melt, and during these processes (i.e. the softening and the melting), oils present in the wax begin to be expressed out of it. Asides this, high levels of heat can also have a detrimental effect on the perfumes and fragrances present in scented candles, thus producing negative impacts on the effectiveness of the candles’ scent during burning.
Another way to prevent a candle from melting in the sun is to limit the exposure time of candles to direct sunlight. This is the reason why candle buyers or purchasers are usually advised to store their candles in cool and dry places, located away from the path of direct sunlight. Using this precautionary method helps to preserve the shape, as well as the integrity of the candle wax. It also makes for more effective burning as the candle would be less inclined to burn out faster, or produce lower quantity of scents in the case of scented candles.