A guide to buying and burning scented candles



Learning how to make candles has also taught me what to look for when buying a candle, and I want to share that knowledge with you.

Before I set out on my quest to make the perfect candle, my experience was limited to buying and burning them. And I enjoyed it very much, mostly. Apart from when I bought a candle that didn’t release any fragrance when I lit it, or started to tunnel down one side, i.e. left a collar of wax on one side of the glass.


Let’s start with fragrance. One of the most important characteristics of a candle I think you’ll agree. Many candles lose fragrance quickly, and are expensive to boot. I have learnt that many major candle manufacturers only scent the wicks or the top layer of candles. Some use poor quality wax. Some state that their candles are heavily scented. Here’s the knowledge – all candle waxes have a saturation point, so that there is a limit to the amount of fragrance oil you can add. An over saturated candle will present all kinds of problems. For instance, a layer of oil on the top of the candle. Not only is this unsightly, but also will cause your candle to smoke or burn unevenly when lit. The oil is also very flammable so can be a hazard.

Many of the candles that you buy have had a top up pour. This means that the candle has had a second layer of wax poured once the first layer has set. Many candles waxes shrink or create holes when the set, requiring a second pour to create a smooth finish to the top of the candle. Some companies choose to only use scented wax for this second pour, which might explain why you stop smelling the fragrance of the candle after you have burnt that wax away. A candle that smells all the way to the bottom is a good candle.


Scents are a very personal thing. They evoke different memories for different people, and everyone’s noses work in different ways. Some people prefer light scents such as citrus and herbs, whereas others prefer more heavy fragrances such as sandalwood. It’s a personal preference.


Another characteristic people look for in a candle is a good scent throw. This is the term used for whether a candle can fill a room with its fragrance. The simple truth is that a large room needs a large candle and a small room needs a small candle! It’s as scientific as that!


Going back to tunneling; when the wax sticks to the side of the glass and doesn’t have a full melt pool. This can affect the quality and life of your candle. When lighting a candle for the first time, it is very important that you leave it to burn long enough that the entire top of the candle is molten wax. Wax has a memory and if you extinguish it before it has reached the edge, the next time you light it, it will only burn to the same diameter, hence creating a tunnel down the candle. This results in a shorter lifespan for your candle, and can also affect the performance of the wick, causing it to smoke. Likewise a candle in a draft can cause the candle to burn unevenly resulting in the same problems.

It is very important that you trim your wick each time before lighting. This goes for all candles, not just wooden wick candles. The sooting, or the sides of your glass becoming black and smoky, is due to the wick being too long when lighting your candle. Trimming your wick will also lengthen the life of your candle. So all good things!


I would advise doing a bit of shopping around and trialing a few different candles. When you find one that you like, go and be a repeat customer. They will really appreciate it and you will know you are not wasting your time and money on sub standard products.

When you find a product that you like, don’t be afraid to use it! The whole point of a scented candle is to bring a bit of comfort and luxury into the home, and this doesn’t have to be limited to just the evenings or when you have guests over. Light that candle when you are making a cup of coffee in the morning, or when you are cooking - they are a great odour eliminator. Enjoy them!

Polly OswaldComment