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Whether your home decor taste veers toward minimalist chic or maximalist color explosion, candles can be the perfect accent to enhance the personality of any room. But once you find a candle you love, you face the all-important question: to burn or not to burn?

When you spend hard-earned money on a beautiful candle, the last thing you want is to ruin its appearance with sooty glass and dirty, lopsided wax. If you’re hesitant to burn your favorite new candle, we’ve got some tips to keep it looking and smelling wonderful each time you light the flame.

Here’s our guide to the best way to burn a candle.

Scissors trimming a candle wick

First, trim your candle wick.

Before you light your candle, you’ll probably need to trim the wick—it should be 1/8 to 1/4 inches long. A shorter wick means a smaller flame, which will help your candle last longer and give you a cleaner burn. Long wicks tend to develop mushroom-shaped carbon buildup, which dulls the flame and leads to pops and crackles, extra smoke, and soot buildup around the rim of the candle’s container.

Scissors and nail trimmers can cut a wick in a pinch, but specialized wick trimmers are easier to use. They’re angled, so you can still reach the wick when the candle burns down, and most automatically catch the debris before it falls into the wax.

Three lit votive candles

Stop candle tunneling and ensure an even burn.

There’s a simple trick to preventing the ring of unmelted wax that plagues many candle owners: always burn your candle until the top layer of wax has melted all the way to the edge of the container. This can take up to 2 to 4 hours, depending on the size of your candle, so make sure you only light it up when you have time to let it burn.

Candle being extinguished by candle snuffer

Resist the urge to blow out your candle.

When you’re ready to extinguish the candle, use a candle snuffer. When the top layer of your candle is completely melted, blowing on it could spray the liquid wax. Aside from the burn risk of sending hot wax through the air, it could also get on the sides of the candle’s container and mess up the perfect burn you achieved over the last few hours.

Collection of yellow beeswax pillar candles

Lightning round: Quick candle tips

Once you’ve got the basics down, use the following tips to get the most out of your candle:

  • Choose candles made from beeswax or other natural materials, as they burn longer and are better for indoor air quality than petroleum-based candles made from paraffin wax.
  • Clean soot off the candle container after each use. Wait until the candle cools down, then wipe the inside of the container with a wet cloth to keep your candle looking like new.
  • Keep your candle away from fans or open windows. Moving air can disturb the flame and cause uneven burning, extra soot stains, and decreased burn time.
  • Rotate your candle 180 degrees every 30 minutes or so. Most surfaces aren’t completely level, so one side of your candle may start accumulating liquid wax faster than the other. Rotating your candle can help even things out.
  • Use a microfiber cloth to wipe the dust off your candle before burning to keep your wax from discoloring.
  • Stop burning your candle before you reach the bottom. We’re all for getting the most out of your candle, but burning a wick in a near-empty container could overheat (and potentially shatter) the glass.
  • Never leave a burning candle unattended.

Life’s short. Light your fancy candle. (Just make sure you trim the wick first!)

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