The earliest materials used to make candles were gotten from animals; boiled down animal fat from sheep, cattle and whales to be precise. And even smaller animals and insects such as ants and bees have been used to make candles in the past. There are many reasons for the depth of creativity which mankind has displayed over the course of the evolution of candle-making, but the need for indoor illumination is perhaps the most important of them. This need has evolved in the decades since the invention of the light-bulb however, candles are still in use today.
GUIDELINES FOR THE USAGE OF CANDLES
Candles are very easy to use after all, all we have to do is light them up and bask in their soft and warm glow. However, things might be a little more complicated than that. Candle burning is an art that requires so much more than simply lighting the candles and letting them burn. There are certain rules that have to be followed when it comes to burning candles properly. However, many people are not aware of these rules and some of them employ candles – especially scented candles – for many different purposes, including; illumination/ for the purpose of providing light particularly for aesthetic or romantic settings, warmth and aromatherapy. Some of these rules include:
- Trimming the candle’s wick
The wick of a candle should always be trimmed to about one-fourth or one-eighth of an inch before use. This should be done every single time the candle is to be lit after purchase, as it makes the flame burn better and cleaner. When the wicks of candles are left untrimmed, the candle may burn with more soot than usual and the wick may come to assume a dome-like or mushroom-like shape which leads to sootier flame which may darken the container or the candle holder. If trimming is neglected, it may also result in tunneling, which is a phenomenon whereby the candle does not burn properly and only the centre part burns or melts off, thus resulting in a hole forming in only the middle of the candle, while candle-wax remains on the sides. Tunneling is not desired in candle burning and it should be avoided because it affects the quality of the flame and the deposition of wax inside the container or candle-holder, but most importantly, because it leads to wastage of candle-wax; as only the wax at the centre of the candle will burn (mostly) while those on the sides will remain. This results in lesser burning time for the candle. To prevent this, candle wicks should also be trimmed after use, particularly if the candle has been left burning for hours, prior to being put out.
Ventilation is a very important matter which must be taken into account during candle burning. A burning candle produces flames which feed off oxygen, the same way that humans need oxygen to breathe. Basically, it could be said that a flame also respires, as it cannot burn in the absence of oxygen, and while burning, a candle emits vapors or droplets and other gases which can accumulate on surfaces. These emissions are usually given off in very small amounts however, they should not be inhaled as they may cause allergic reactions or worsen existing respiratory problems such as asthma. In very large and frequent quantities, these vapors and droplets can even lead to lung cancer and because of these risks, ventilation is essential as open windows provide a means through which these emissions can escape. Proper ventilation also helps in dispersing the buildup of candle emissions which may use up available amounts of oxygen in a closed area (when there is a buildup of candle emissions in a closed or stuffy area without adequate airflow, a person can pass out from suffocation).
Although, some people would argue that ventilation can affect the way a candle burns – by making it emit more soot and take a mushroom-like structure – proper ventilation is still very important in candle burning and its importance cannot be overstated.
- Not burning a candle for more than four hours at a time
Burning a candle for more than four hours can affect the way the candle burns. What happens is that, the longer a candle burns the higher the tendency of the wick to shift from the middle. There is also a high possibility that the melted wax will not burn well as it accumulates and solidifies. Also, the wick may become affected when a candles burns for too long. After about four hours, the wick of a burning candle can begin to assume a mushroom-like shape which allows it to emit more soot than normal. This soot can now accumulate in the candle-holder and darken it. Burning candles for too long can not only affect the quality of the candle and its ability to burn. Candles should not be left burning for more than four hours at a time – or overnight – because they need close supervision.
THE DANGERS OF BURNING CANDLES OVERNIGHT
Most people who burn candles only use a candle holder as a safety apparatus, and so most of the time, a burning candle is an open flame which can get onto things like curtains and other items indoors; when the candle is left unsupervised. Basically, burning a candle overnight can constitute a fire hazard, and that is not all. Wax from candle which is left burning overnight may flow out of the candleholder undetected or the soot emitted from the candle can accumulate on surfaces or worsen respiratory illnesses like asthma when a person continually breathes it in while they are asleep.
What makes a candle so dangerous when it is left burning overnight is the lack of supervision which follows from the idea that whoever has lit it may have fallen asleep. This is not such a far-fetched idea since “overnight” pretty much means all through the night – which is when people usually sleep – and candles, particularly scented candles, are usually employed in aromatherapy to induce sleep in insomniac. Regardless, whatever the case may be, an unguarded flame is not just an act of negligence, it could be a fatal oversight.