For me, candles are wonderful because the flickering light creates a mythical atmosphere. Somehow different. Everyone feels different moods with candlelight. Some feel warmth and security, others feel romance and coziness. Candlelight can evoke a wide range of moods and feelings. But why does candlelight flicker? Do you know?
The simplest answer to why candlelight flickers would be the wind. However, in most cases, we have candles indoors, for example, during the winter and Christmas seasons. There is no open window to make the flame dance.
And it definitely has nothing to do with the afterlife or ghosts. Even though I wrote at the beginning that there is something mythical about candlelight. The reason is quite simple.
The Air Makes the Candle Flame Flicker
Have you ever watched the flame of a candle for a long time? If not, do so. You will see that sometimes the candlelight even makes neat movements. The reason for the flickering is the air.
This is because the air right around the flame is getting hot. As we know, warm air rises, so cold and fresher air is brought to the candle flame. The result: the candle flame flickers.
Balance Required in Wax Supply
If it is not the wind, flickering is usually caused by an imbalance between combustion and fuel supply to the flame. This is often caused by a wick that is too long.
A candle works by heating the wax in the wick, which then evaporates in the flame and, most importantly, burns. The wax particles are what make the flame yellow. Wax flowing in from below replaces the wax that is burning.
The wick brings the liquid wax to the top against the force of gravity. This is due to a so-called capillary effect; this kind of attraction occurs when tube and liquid meet. Because the wick is so small and thin, liquid and heated wax are driven to its tip, where they evaporate and cause the wick to burn.
In the ideal case, with a calm candle, there is then a balance: the flame always burns just as much wax as flows in. Flickering occurs when this balance is disturbed.
Wax Deficit Triggers Flickering
Let’s say the wick is too long: Then a situation can arise where the flame has a relatively large amount of fuel available, namely all the wax in the long wick. If it has a lot of fuel, it will burn more.
But because a lot of wax is burned in a short period of time, there is a deficit in the long wick because the liquid wax cannot flow through the long wick as quickly from the bottom – and suddenly the flame is undersupplied, collapses for a short time, and thus becomes visibly weaker.
In the meantime, however, liquid wax continues to flow into the wick, so the deficit of wax in the wick soon becomes a surplus. The flame will flare up again, going back and forth – similar to the sputtering of a car engine that has not been properly adjusted.
How to Stop Flickering
Shortening the wick only helps in the short term.
You can remedy the situation by shortening the wick a bit. But this often only helps in the short term because the wick becomes too long with candles where this happens once. It usually happens repeatedly because the wick’s thickness is not optimally selected.
Candle in the freezer
It may help to put the candle in the freezer. When the candle is cold, the wax requires more energy to melt. This also means that not as much wax will flow into the wick; the candle will burn more slowly. In the best case, the ratio of burning and wax flowing into the wick is balanced so that the candle no longer flickers. However, this is not guaranteed.
In summary, understanding why your candle flickers excessively and knowing how to mitigate it is crucial for candle lovers and candle makers alike. A candle’s dance should be a serene spectacle, not a frantic display. Factors like an overly long wick, improper wick size, and exposure to drafts can lead to excessive flickering, which can detract from the candle’s aesthetic appeal and potentially even create a safety hazard.
By taking the time to trim the wick before each burn, ensuring the correct wick size is used for the particular wax and candle diameter, and keeping your candle in a draft-free environment, you can significantly reduce flickering. Each of these practices contributes to creating a safer, cleaner, and more enjoyable candle-burning experience.
What causes a candle to flicker excessively?
Excessive candle flickering can be caused by several factors, including an overly long wick, drafts or breezes, or an incorrect wick size for the candle diameter or type of wax.
Is it normal for a candle to flicker?
While some degree of flickering is normal for a candle as the flame reacts to the air around it, excessive or constant flickering is often a sign that something is not right, such as a wick that’s too long, a draft, or an incorrect wick size.
Can flickering candles be dangerous?
Excessive flickering can lead to a larger than normal flame, which could potentially become a fire hazard, especially if left unattended. Additionally, a flickering candle can produce more soot, leading to blackened jars or walls.
How can I stop my candle from flickering?
To prevent your candle from flickering excessively, make sure to trim the wick to about 1/4 inch before each burn. Also, try to keep your candle away from drafts, fans, or vents to avoid air disturbances that could cause flickering.
What is the correct length to trim a candle wick?
A candle wick should typically be trimmed to about 1/4 inch before each use. This length helps ensure a stable flame for a clean, even burn.
Does the type of wax impact candle flickering?
The type of wax can influence how a candle burns, but it’s usually the wick size and length, and the presence of drafts that directly impact flickering. However, the type of wax can influence the choice of the correct wick, which then affects the burn and potential flicker.
Does the container size impact candle flickering?
The size of the container doesn’t directly impact candle flickering, but it does influence the choice of wick size. A wick that’s too small for a large container may not create a large enough melt pool, causing the wick to flicker and possibly drown out in the wax. Conversely, a wick that’s too large can create a big flame and excessive flickering.
Carole Brooks has been making candles for many years. She loves to create candles of all different types and for all different purposes. Here she shares her experience and knowledge. Carole is a graduate of Texas A&M University.