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Already in the Middle Ages, churches and aristocratic houses had beeswax candles. For simpler households, there were only candles made of tallow or oil at that time, which smelled bad and sooty. Fortunately, thanks to the ingredients used today, this is no longer the case. More than 600,000 tonnes of candles are sold in the EU every year, and about a third of them in Germany.
Who doesn’t like the warm light of a burning candle? Plus the dancing flame, which gives the light that unique character. But candles are not only suitable for a romantic, festive or cosy mood. They are also a valuable symbol as a sign that you are thinking of someone. Not every candle is suitable for every situation. In the following article, we want to shed some light on the right choice of candle.
The most important facts in brief
- High-quality candles and wicks offer more safety and are harmless to health.
- Depending on which shape and which candle wax is used, the candles burn longer or less long.
- Candles against mosquitoes should be positioned correctly. It is also important to use genuine oils and additives.
The Best Candles: Our Selection
Buying and evaluation criteria for candles
Candles are a dime a dozen. When buying a candle, you should consider a few points so that you can really enjoy the candle. We have thought about which are the most important and have looked at them here for you.
- Material (candle wax)
- Burning behaviour
- Burning time
- Intended use
In the following FAQ’s we will answer your most frequently asked questions. If you have any further questions, please feel free to ask them in the comments.
Material (candle wax)
Which candle wax is used for the candle is not only reflected in the price, but also in the burning behaviour and the burning time. We take a closer look at the raw materials used here.
In Germany, about three quarters of all candles sold are still made of this material, which is mostly derived from petroleum, more rarely from lignite. For this reason, it is not without controversy from an environmental point of view. However, paraffin is cheaper to buy and basically harmless to health. But candles made of this material can deform already at 40 degrees and soot more than the others.
Is made from animal or vegetable fats, often from palm oil. Therefore, you should pay attention to the origin of the raw materials when buying. Candles made from stearin are more expensive, but they also retain their shape better and are made from renewable raw materials. In the USA, candles made of soy wax are already very widespread.
Honey bees need wax to build honeycombs. Therefore, it is important to make sure that the wax comes from sustainable production. Beeswax candles burn significantly slower and somewhat brighter than other candles. You can recognise high-quality wax by its smell, which should be slightly honey-like and not artificial.
Nowadays, there are alsoharmless alternatives. Among others, tea lights made from biomass (don’t worry, it doesn’t smell like compost), or pillar candles made from regional vegetable fats like rapeseed oil. These alternatives are often soot-free and burn beautifully. If you want to do something good for the environment and burn candles in a healthier way, you should definitely take a closer look.
The only seal of quality for candles at the moment is the RAL Quality Mark. You can also use this as a guide when buying candles.
In order for the candle to burn evenly, the candle wick should be precisely centred (over the whole candle). If the wick is too thick, it will be too long and if it is too long, more soot will be produced and the candle will flicker.
Tips for a long-lasting candle:
- Choose a place with little or no draught.
- Do not blow out the candles, as this will cause the wick to glow and shorten. It is better to use an extinguishing bell or to dip the wick (e.g. with a toothpick) into the liquid wax.
- Always keep the wick and the edge of the candle (for pillar candles) short. Both should not be higher than 10 – 15 mm.
You usually want candles that don’t drip. Especially in flammable environments, e.g. on a Christmas tree or Advent wreath, dripping candles can even be a fire hazard. However, as a decorative element, dripping candles can also be intentional.
Another safety measure is the so-called burning stop. This means that the candle stops burning by itself at the end. However, you should still use a fireproof candlestick or candleholder.
Many of you are concerned with the question of which candles burn the longest. Good candles burn down slowly and evenly. The burning time is given by the manufacturer, but this does not always correspond to reality.
Paraffin candles burn down the fastest, followed by stearin. By far the slowest burning are beeswax candles. They burn almost twice as long as candles made of paraffin. As a general rule, the thicker a candle, the longer it burns.
|Diameter||burning time per cm height|
|4 cm||approx. 70 minutes|
|6 cm||135 minutes|
|10 cm||305 minutes|
These times are only approximate values for paraffin candles and change depending on the processing and quality of the candle. But also the external conditions like draught and room temperature have an influence on the burning time.
Homo sapiens were already using candle-like light sources about 40,000 years ago. At that time, it was still a matter of braving the darkness. Today, this is often of secondary importance.
Pillar candles are usually used for decoration or just for fun. They are also ideal for christening or communion candles. If you want to cast candles yourself, this shape is the best choice. They offer a lot of space for decorating or painting. You don’t necessarily need a candlestick. Important: These candles should burn until the wax has liquefied almost to the edge. Otherwise the edge will be too high.
Candlesticks are long and thin. They usually need a candlestick. Mostly this form is used in candlesticks and in gastronomy, but among other things they are also used on the Christmas tree. These candles are suitable for being extinguished and relit more often.
Scented candles can drown out unpleasant odours in the room, but not eliminate them. Here, you should take special care to use high-quality products. In the worst case, cheap scented candles can contain harmful substances that are released into the air when they burn.
Special types of scented candles are candles against mosquitoes or wasps. Citronella aroma, which is extracted from lemongrass, is usually used for this. Here, too, you should definitely buy high-quality products. It is important that the candles are placed correctly. More on the correct positioning below in the FAQ’s.
Tea lights or rechaud cand les are usually used in candle holders. This type of candle is also usually used for aroma lamps and raclette. For decades, they were only available individually in aluminium cups. Today, there are also some without aluminium or without cups. The latter can be burnt in reusable holders, e.g. made of glass.
Guide: Frequently asked questions about candles answered in detail
There are always many questions and uncertainties about candles. We have looked for the most common ones and answered them here.
What types of candles are there?
- Stick candle / candlestick candle: The shape is narrow and long. The diameter is constant from top to bottom.
- Tapered candles: The shape is the same as for stick candles, only the diameter becomes smaller towards the tip. Even drawn candles often have such a shape, but in addition they are usually artistically deformed.
- Pillar candle: The diameter is usually constant. The candles are thicker in relation to the height than stick candles or taper candles. They can be used without a special candle holder.
- Tealights: Smaller candles where the diameter is larger than the height. They are also called rechaud candles.
- Grave candle / grave light: Either poured directly into a red or transparent plastic container, or a pillar candle is placed inside. This plastic cover with lid serves as weather protection.
- Sacrificial candle: Usually rather small candles, which are lit in church as a symbol of prayer, or of the thought of something or someone.
- Baptism candles / communion candles: Usually in the form of pillar candles, they are elaborately decorated and sometimes personalised for the occasion.
Some of these candles are increasingly being replaced by LED lights. These last longer and are much less of a fire hazard.
Can you make candles yourself?
For the wick you only need a cotton thread or cord. Or you can simply buy a ready-made wick set. You can either buy the wax or collect the remains of candles. Instead of throwing them away, you can easily make your own candles. You can find detailed instructions on the different methods at https://utopia.de/ratgeber/kerzen-selber-machen/
How much do candles cost?
|Low-priced||Paraffin, Simple, No decoration, Burning time low|
|Medium-priced||Better material (stearin), possibly simple decorations, burning time average|
|High-priced||Elaborate decorations, high-quality materials (beeswax), long burning time, candles with jewellery|
Special candles or professionally personalised candles are usually also in the high-priced segment.
Which candles help against mosquitoes?
The correct positioning is very important. Simply placing them under the table or on the table can be more annoying than helpful. You should place the candles or torches around the table so that a “curtain” of candle smoke is created. The same applies to candles against wasps.
The citronella aroma and other essential oils have a deterrent effect on mosquitoes and wasps. But these insects also find the resulting soot unpleasant.
Where to dispose of candles?
It ismuch better to collect candlesthan to simply throw them away. Once you have collected a certain amount, you can make new candles yourself with little effort. Alternatively, there are candle manufacturers or companies that gladly take wax scraps from private households. These are then used to make beautiful new candles.
As you can see, candles are not rocket science. But you should still keep a few things in mind. It is especially important to buy high-quality candles. Not only will you enjoy them more and longer, they are also better for the air in the room and therefore healthier for you.
Furthermore, nowadays you should also think about the raw material used and choose sustainable products. Maybe next time you’ll try tea lights made from rapeseed oil, or candles against mosquitoes made from soybean oil. We have searched for the best products and put them together for you above.
Picture: 123rf / 111027133