Candle Making Problems, Tips and Safety
PROBLEMS IN CANDLE MAKING
Candles will smoke if the wax, scents, or wicks were made incorrectly. Too much scent or poor quality scents will cause smoking. The wrong size wick will do the same. Wax has to be good or the product won’t burn at all. The combination of all three creates good or bad candles.
Ever get that black cauliflower knob on top of you wick? The wick is too big. It can’t absorb the wax fast enough for the burning candle. It will cause excessive smoke. Can you see how good candle supplies make all the difference in the world?
The Candle Burns Down Through Center
If the wax is too hard or the wick too small, a crater will form burning down the center. The diameter of wick determines how large the circle will burn, but the hardness or softness of the wax is also a factor.
Small, medium or large wicks refer to the diameter of the circle the wicks burns, not how tall the wick is.
Wax expands when it is heated and shrinks when cooled. This shrinkage usually causes a void down the core of the candle. This is normal. Just fill the hole in with more wax. This is called topping off. Shrinkage also allows the candle to be removed more easily from the mold.
When the wax cools sometimes the wick will “snake” up from the bottom and be pulled down from the top if you added the wick while pouring of the candle. To avoid this you can hot-glue the wick to the bottom of the container and tie it tightly to a stick or pencil across the top of the container while the wax cools. Or you can drill a hole for the wick through the candle after it is finished cooling. You need to have a straight wick to get a straight burn.
CANDLE MAKING SAFETY TIPS
- Never leave melting wax unattended. Not even in a double boiler.
- Don't ever try and brush hot wax off of your hand. It only smears the wax over a wider area and may burn you. If you splash wax on to yourself put your hand or body part in cold water. The wax will cool very rapidly and stop the burning.
- Don't wear rubber gloves. They melt.
- Don't let a glass jar burn on a bare wooden table. The wood can burn. Put a plate or something under the jar.
- Do not use a microwave oven to melt wax. Microwave heats in such a way that certain areas get extremely hot while others are still cold. This can be very dangerous and create a fire hazard. Hot wax also splatters. This can create a mess and also create a fire hazard. Always use a double boiler to melt your wax.
- Give yourself plenty of room to work in and keep your work space clean and tidy.
- When using wax, treat it as you would cooking oil. Wax below 212 degrees is fairly safe. Higher than this it is likely to catch fire as the wax is turning to vapor. Remember wax will not boil, it just continues to get hotter and hotter.
- If wax is overheating, it begins to smoke and gives off an acrid smell. If this happens turn off the heat source immediately and allow the wax to cool.
- If the worst happens and a fire starts, switch off the heat. Do not move the pan. Smother the flames with a lid or a damp towel. Or you can use baking soda which smothers a small fire. Never, never douse with water. This will only spread the fire. The best thing to do is to always keep a fire extinguisher nearby.
- Never pour wax down the drain unless you would like an expensive plumbing repair bill.
TIPS AND TRICKS FOR CANDLE MAKING
- Never wash your molds. Instead, heat your oven to 175-200 degrees, put at lease two layers of paper towels on a cookie sheet. Place the molds upside down on the sheet. Leave in the oven for 10 minutes then wipe them out with paper towels.
- Buy tight fitting votive candle holders. Many of what you see in the stores are just too big for the candle to burn properly.
- Place votive candle holders in the freezer after burning. The wax will pop right out, making them a snap to clean.
- Get a heat-resistant plastic dough scraper. It's great for scraping wax.
- Use chopsticks or wooden skewers for stirring wax and holding wicks.
- Fragrance oils will destroy furniture and eat through plastic cups. Don't place the bottles on a bare table and don't pour the oils too soon.
- Place stuck molds in the refrigerator to help get the candle out – no more than an hour. Leaving them longer can cause cracking. Sometimes candles stick to the mold because the wax was too hot when it was poured and you may have damaged the mold. Check the maximum temperature for your particular mold. Certain plastic style molds are not suitable for temperatures over 180°F. The candle surface may be marred. And if the inside of the mold was damaged, subsequent candles will have the same surface marks. You can prevent this by using a mold release or spraying a small amount of vegetable oil on the inside of the mold before pouring.
- If the candle wick is drowning in wax and won’t stay lit, either the wick is getting clogged from additives or too much dye, or your wick is too small. Try a larger wick and cut back on dye.
- Keep a jar of coffee grounds on your table at craft shows. After sniffing several scents, everything starts to smell the same or not smell at all. So when your customers get fragrance overload, have them sniff the coffee and it will clear their palette so they can better smell your candles’ scents.
- For wax on carpets and items of clothing, first scrape off the excess wax and remove the rest by placing a paper towel over the stained area and pressing with a hot iron. This will transfer the wax to the towel.
Remember, candlemaking is a skill that you will develop over time. Don't get frustrated if your first few projects are not what you expected. Variations in pouring temperature, additives, scent, color, and type of wax will produce different results every time. Experiment, discover what you like. Remember, you can always melt the candle down and start over.