The popularity of candles has soared in recent years. According to the National Candle Association, Americans spend nearly $2 billion in annual U.S. sales. Candles are available in an infinite variety of fragrances, prices, sizes, and shapes—from jar candles to tapers, to pillars and tea lights, to religious votives. When handled improperly, candles can cause millions of dollars in damages to homes.
The U.S. Fire Administration reports that an average of 42 home fires daily result from candle accidents. Most of those fires are due to inattention or to candle misuse. To help avoid the risk of a fire in your home, follow these candle safety tips:
- Carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions before lighting a new candle. Pay attention to the recommendation for the maximum amount of time the candle should be allowed to burn.
- Remove all packaging before lighting.
- Use a candleholder that is designed specifically for the type of candle you are using. It should be large enough to catch any wax drippings and placed on a flat, uncluttered, heat-resistant surface.
- Trim wicks to one-quarter inch to help ensure even burning and prevent wax from dripping. Check that the wick is positioned in the center of the candle, and make sure the wax pool is free of all trimmings, matches, or other combustible material.
- Light candles carefully, being watchful that loose clothing and hair are not in danger of igniting.
- Keep candles away from air currents caused by open windows, drafts, vents, and ceiling fans to help avoid flare-ups.
- Keep burning candles at least 12 inches away from flammable material, such as furniture, curtains, bedding, carpets, decorations, etc. In addition, place lit candles at least three inches apart to help keep them from melting one another or creating their own drafts.
- Do not place a candle in an area where it can be knocked over, especially by children or pets, both of whom should be closely supervised near open flames. Keep matches and lighters out of the reach of children.
- Avoid burning a candle all the way down to its end. Stop using a candle when only two inches of wax is left or, for a jar candle, if there is only ½ inch of wax remaining.
- Never leave a burning candle unattended.
- Use a candle snuffer to extinguish the flame. Never use water, which can splatter hot wax.
- Extinguish candles before leaving the room or going to sleep. Snuff out a candle immediately if it smokes, flickers continuously, or if the flame becomes too high.
- Keep candle alternatives, such as battery-powered candles or flashlights on hand as light sources during emergencies such as power outages.
Few items add warmth and coziness to home décor as candles do. Whether you use them to enhance the elegance of a dinner party, embellish a fireplace, or add a tantalizing scent to the air, candles should be used carefully to avoid a fire that can cause property damage, injury, and even loss of life. Following the safety tips listed here can help you maximize your enjoyment of candlelight while minimizing the risk of fire.