National Candle Association Questions &
Is candle soot harmful?
No. The minuscule amount of soot
produced by a candle is the natural
byproduct of incomplete combustion. Candle
soot is composed primarily of elemental
carbon particles, and is similar to the soot
given off by kitchen toasters and cooking
oils. These everyday household sources of
soot are not considered a health concern,
and are chemically different from the soot
formed by the burning of diesel fuel, coal,
Are certain candle waxes better than
No. All types of quality candle waxes
have been shown to burn cleanly, safely and
in the same manner. U.S. candle
manufacturers select waxes or blends of
waxes based on their suitability for
specific types of candles or formulation
profiles, as well as their own candle-making
What sort of chemical reaction occurs
when a candle burns?
When you light a candle, the heat of the
flame melts the wax near the wick. This
melted or liquid wax is then drawn up into
the wick by capillary action. The flame's
heat vaporizes the liquid wax to produce
water vapor and carbon dioxide (the same
byproducts that humans produce when
What causes a candle to smoke, and what
can I do to correct it?
A well-made candle will create virtually
no smoke when burning properly. However, if
the wick becomes too long, or an air current
disturbs the flame's teardrop shape, small
amounts of unburned carbon particles (soot)
will escape from the flame as a visible wisp
of smoke. Any candle will soot if the flame
To avoid this, always trim the wick to ¼
inch before every use and be sure to place
candles away from drafts, vents or air
currents. If a candle continually flickers
or smokes, it is not burning properly and
should be extinguished. Allow the candle to
cool, trim the wick, make sure the area is
draft free, and then re-light.
Are scented candles safe?
Yes. When a candle burns, the wax is
drawn into the wick, where it is "consumed"
by the candle flame to produce water vapor
and carbon dioxide. The only difference with
a scented candle is that a small amount of
fragrance is released as well.
Reputable candle manufacturers use only
fragrances that are approved for burning in
candles. They also carefully monitor the
addition of fragrance to ensure that the
candle will burn cleanly and properly.
Are candles made with "natural"
ingredients or essential oils safer?
A natural ingredient, as opposed to a
manufactured or synthesized ingredient, is
not necessarily any safer. In fact, scores
of natural ingredients are known to be
extremely toxic to humans in very small
amounts. NCA members are committed to
manufacturing candles that use ingredients
known to be safe and approved for use in
candles, whether "natural" or synthesized.
Is my candle biodegradable?
Probably. Studies have shown that
beeswax, paraffin and vegetable-based waxes
are biodegradable. The vast majority of
candles today are made primarily from these
Why do some candles have metal-core
Metal-core wicks are sometimes used in
container candles and votives to keep the
wick upright when the surrounding wax
liquefies during burning. Today's metal-core
wicks are made with either zinc or tin.
Scientific studies have repeatedly shown
both zinc- and tin-core wicks to be safe and
Is paraffin wax toxic?
No. Paraffin wax – like all candle waxes
- is non-toxic. In fact, paraffin is
approved by the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration for use in food, cosmetics,
and medical applications. Food-grade
paraffin is commonly used for manufacturing
What should I know about using candles
Candles are safe when burned properly,
responsibly and according to manufacturer
directions. Nevertheless, it’s important to
remember that a burning candle is an open
flame, and thus a potential fire hazard if
not monitored carefully.
When burning candles, consumers should
follow these basic safety rules:
Keep lighted candles within your sight.
Never leave a burning candle unattended.
Never burn a candle on or near anything
that can catch fire.
Keep candles out of the reach of
children and pets.
Trim wicks to ¼ inch prior to each use.
Keep candles away from drafts and vents.
Always use an appropriate candleholder
placed on a stable, heat-resistant
Read and follow all manufacturer