Why is Candle Flickering So Much?

  • By: Carole Brooks
  • Date: 25.11.2022
  • Time to read: 3 min.

Why is Candle Flickering?

For me, candles are so wonderful because the flickering light creates a mythical atmosphere. Somehow different. Everyone feels different moods with candlelight. Some feel warmth and security, while others feel romance and coziness. Candlelight can evoke a wide variety 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, either. Even if I wrote at the beginning that candlelight has something mythical. The reason is explained pretty simply.

The Air Makes the Candle Flame Flicker

Have you ever watched the flame of the candle for a long time? If not, do it. You will see that, at times, the candlelight even makes neat movements. The reason for the flickering is the air.

This is because the air that is directly around the flame becomes hot. As we know, warm air rises, so cold and fresher air is carried to the candle flame. The result: the flame of the candle flickers.

Balance Required in Wax Supply

If it is not the wind, then the flickering usually comes from the fact that there is an imbalance between combustion and fuel supply at the flame. The trigger is often a wick that is too long.

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A candle operates by heating the wax in the wick, which subsequently evaporates in the flame and, most importantly, burns. The wax particles are what are causing the flame to turn yellow. Wax that flows in from below replaces the wax that burns.

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 assume that the wick is too long: Then, a situation can arise in which the flame has a relatively large amount of fuel available, namely all the wax that is in the long wick. If it has a lot of fuel, it flames up more.

But because a lot of wax is burned in a short time, a deficit occurs in the long wick because the liquid wax cannot flow from below through the long wick so quickly – 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 wax’s deficit in the wick becomes a surplus shortly afterward. The flame flares up again, so it goes back and forth – this is comparable to the stuttering of a car engine that is not properly adjusted.

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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

Under certain circumstances, it can help to put the candle in the freezer. When the candle is cold, the wax needs more energy to melt. This also means that not as much wax flows into the wick; the candle burns more slowly. In the best case, the ratio of combustion and wax flowing into the wick is balanced so that the candle no longer flickers. But this is not a guarantee.


Pretty logical explanation, isn’t it? So don’t worry. When the candlelight flickers, you won’t have leaky windows or even visitors from beyond your four walls. It is a simple cycle constantly repeated when different substances or air meet.

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