Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service

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Candles - Advice

To a younger generation now using candles, there will be little experience and knowledge of those who used to use candles as a functional product.

Looking at accident and fire brigade data, the main causes of fires started by candles are due to them being left unattended. Not only do people leave candles burning in rooms they have vacated, they also fall asleep with candles still burning, sometimes leading to contact with bedding.

The British Candlemakers Federation labelling scheme has other specific advice, including for particular types of candles such as roomscenters and tealights. This includes:

For all candles

  • Always read and follow the manufacturer's instructions on your candles.
  • Always leave at least 100 mm between candles when burning.
  • Never burn a candle right down. Extinguish it before it burns into the holder or container. This creates less risk of the candle overheating.

If the candle smokes:

  • extinguish the flame;
  • allow to cool;
  • trim the wick before relighting.
  • Never touch or move a burning candle.
  • If a candle will not go out easily using a 'snuffer', cover it with a damp cloth.

Never use water to extinguish a candle.

Votive candles, scented candles

These are designed to liquefy when burning to release their fragrance. They must therefore always be burned in a glass or metal holder.

The container will become hot, so make sure it stands on a non-inflammable surface.

  • Make sure that the candleholder is not cracked before lighting a candle.
  • Keep the candle free of matches, etc, as they can create a flare.
  • Clean the candleholder (by washing with hot water) to remove any wax or wicks before putting in a new candle.

Novelty candles

Many decorated candles are designed to be decorative rather than to be burned - read the maker's instructions. Painted candles, for example, can be dangerous if burned.

Outdoor candles

Never burn candles designed for outdoor use (eg citronella candles designed to repel insects in the garden) indoors.

Lanterns or enclosed holders

  • Always make sure the lantern is large enough for a flow of air to the candle.
  • The lantern will become hot - be careful.
  • Always keep burning lanterns out of the reach of children or pets.

Dinner, tapered or straight domestic candles

  • Make sure that candles are upright before lighting.
  • Remove floral rings (and any other flammable table decorations) before lighting.

Nightlights and tea lights

When using an aromatherapy burner:

  • Do not use perfumed candles (eg votive candles) in an aromatherapy burner, only plain unscented tea lights.

Remember that the risk of accidents happening is greater when alcohol has been consumed.

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