Candles are a fantastic and inexpensive way to change the mood of any space while adding personality.
Despite being a classed as an accessory, candles can be fairly tricky to buy. There’s multiple sizes, scents, and many arrive ready to use in a glass vessel.
Don’t fear. In our candle buying guide, we’ll cover sizes, scents and presentation and enable you to make an informed choice.
Let’s start our candle buying guide with a look at the most common types. There are 5 main options available. Each type offers a unique way to accessorise an interior.
Taper candles are long and slim. Usually, the base is of a standard size and so fit into almost all candle holders.
Pillar candles come in a range of sizes and as the name suggests are sizeable. They can be short or tall and square or round.
Some pillar candles are massive and contain multiple wicks. Usually, these candles are referred to by their diameter and height, for example, a 3- by 5-inch pillar candle.
Container candles are exactly as they sound. The wax is poured straight into the container, which also acts as a mould. Typically, the container is a glass vessel or a tin can.
Tealight candles are typically small and round. As a small light source, they work best when arranged in multiples. However, they are equally as effective under as a pot of simmering pot-pourri or scented oil.
Votive candles are short, small candles. Typically, they are listed according to how long they burn. So expect to see a range of both 10-hour and 15-hour votives candles.
There are many types of wax you can use to make candles, each has its own properties. Paraffin and Soy wax are the most popular for candle making. The later is preferred by artisans candle makers such as Owen Drew who use 100% vegan Soy wax.
As the most common and widely used wax, Paraffin wax is an extremely versatile, synthetic product. It’s made from a by-product of the oil refining industry.
While affordable and widely available, Paraffin wax isn’t the most eco-friendly product. It burns slightly quicker than other wax types and has a translucent appearance.
Soy wax is made from hydrogenated soy bean oil. As it’s 100% all-natural wax, many artisans candle makers use it as it’s more eco-friendly than paraffin.
Fairly soft and pliable, Soy isn’t as versatile as paraffin. It has a lower melting temperature than paraffin.
Soy wax is ideal for container candles. It’s easy to fragrant, burns slower and is cleaner than other waxes. It’s easy to create amazing smelling scented candles using Soy wax.
Another difference Soy has when compared to paraffin or beeswax, is that colourings appear in more subtle, pastel tones.
Palm wax is another 100% all-natural wax and is produced by hydrogenating palm oils.
It has a natural yellow colour and sets with unique textures as there is a crystallizing pattern on the candle’s surface. It’s ideal for making container candles.
As it has a fairly high melting temperature between 82 to 86 °C, Palm wax burns relatively slowly.
As one of the best candle waxes on the market, Beeswax is 100% all-natural. Beeswax has been used for hundreds of years and is the most luxurious candle wax available.
Beeswax is a by-product of the honey-making process and so is very expensive. As it’s made from animals, it’s not vegan-friendly.
While most often a shade of yellow, it can varies massively in colour. Beeswax can range in colour from nearly white to brownish.
Used in a range of candle types as it has a fairly low melting point of 62 to 64 °C and a luxurious feel.
While not technically wax at all, Gel wax is made from mineral oil and a polymer resin.
Many candle makers enjoy creating using Gel wax as it’s transparent. So you’re able to fashion see-through candles or embed objects within the candles.
It reacts to colours and fragrances as well as standard paraffin wax. Typically Gel wax is used in container candles.
Rapeseed wax (or sometimes known as canola wax) is a great alternative to soy wax for making container candles.
It provides great fragrance retention, scent throw and extended burn time.
Also, as it’s able to be sourced locally, it’s very eco-friendly.
Everyone’s nose works slightly differently. So, we perceive scent in our own unique way. Some enjoy light scents such as citrus and herbs, while others prefer heavier fragrances such as sandalwood.
Choosing the right fragrance can be a challenge as it’s down to personal preference and use. For example, you might want a lighter scent for living areas where you want a halo effect, whereas a heavier scent would work better in a dining room as it will have to compete with food smells.
How fragrances are added
How candles are fragranced has a big impact on how they hold and disperse scent. Many major candle manufacturers only fragrance the wicks and/or the top layer of the candle. While they appear heavily fragranced, to begin with, the scent soon dissipates.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that each type of wax has its own saturation point. So there is a limit to how much fragrance oil the wax can hold.
It’s fairly easy to spot an oversaturated candle as you will see a layer of oil on top. Of course, this is unsightly but also creates other problems. The candle will burn unevenly and may even produce smoke. Fragrance oil is very flammable, so too much can be hazardous.
Some candles have two layers of wax. Once the first layer has set, it can shrink, creating the need for a second pour. Some companies choose to use scented wax only for this second pour.
This means after you’ve burnt the top layer of wax, you’ll stop smelling the fragrance. So you’ll want to look for candles that produce a pleasing smell throughout.
Finally, you’ll want to consider the scent throw. This means how a candle spreads its fragrance within a space. It can be as simple as a large room, bigger candle or small candles for tiny space!
At it’s most basic, a candle will have a single wick. This simple yet elegant look can tie an interior scheme together.
You will want to ensure that the wick is from quality material such as cotton or linen. A high-quality wick will emit a strong fragrance and provide a good scent throw.
Larger candles tend to have multiple wicks and so have visual and fragrant benefits. Multiple wicks increase the number of flames, which means a more intense fragrance is being spread.
Each candle has it’s own burn time. This depends on its size and quality. For example, tea lights will have a relatively short burn time. A pillar candle as it’s taller and thicker will have a much longer burn time.
Typically, the longer the burn time, the higher quality the candle. However, with the right care, you can increase the burn time.
There are some smaller candles which burn for around 60 hours, while luxury home fragrance brand Baobab sits at the other end with its “Maxi Max” candles which burn for up to an impressive 800 hours.
Candle Buying Guide: Top tips
Finally in our candle buying guide, here are our top tips to remember!
- Never leave candles unattended
- Always keep them away from flammable materials, children and animals
- If smoking occurs, blow out the candle, trim wick(s) and relight
- Trim wicks regularly (to 6mm) to achieve the longest, cleanest burn possible
- Remove any debris (such as match ends and wick trimmings) from pools of molten wax
- Prevent dripping by keeping candles away from excessive drafts
- Don’t burn candles for more than four hours as wicks can begin to form a ‘mushroom’
- Candle snuffer ensure wicks stay centred and should be used to extinguish candles
- Do not place candles directly on to furniture. Instead, always use a heat-resistant plate to protect surfaces
- Increases burn time and prevent tunnelling by allowing candles to burn until the entire surface becomes molten
- Never burn the last centimetre of wax, especially contain candles
- Always handle candle containers with care as they can become very hot