If you are a candle enthusiast (like us!) who enjoys watching the dim candlelight flicker in the night or smelling the scent emanating from a candle, at some point you might have asked yourself: what is a candle? How does it work? Why do some candles smell good while others do not? How do wax candles work?
Although these questions sound super simple, there's so much that goes into the answers! These questions may have crossed your mind, but perhaps you were never bothered to find the answers to them. So, in this blog post, we took it upon ourselves to put on our candle nerd glasses as we explore the science of candles. We'll explain the different types of candles and share some tips to maximize and enrich your candle experience. Buckle up as you join us in a deep dive into the nitty-gritty of candles!
The Anatomy of Candles and How They Work
The first step in understanding candles is to know the components of a scented candle... What comprises a scented candle? How does each part work? A scented candle is more than the sum of its parts because each component plays a vital role in the overall functionality of a candle, so we think it is important to understand how each of them work.
A scented candle is generally made up of three main components: wax, candle wick, and essential oil. All of these components have different types, but regardless of the type, they typically function the same way and play an important role in a candle.
What is Candle Wax?
Candle wax is, simply put, the life source of the candle. It is solid at room temperature but gets melted by the heat of the flame of the candle. There are multiple types of wax used, but all of them generally serve the same purpose: to keep the flame from extinguishing through the use of the melted wax which acts as a fuel for the flame. So, how do wax candles work? A candle produces its light through a chemical reaction called combustion where the hydrogen and carbon atoms of the wax interact with oxygen from the air and heat to produce the flame. The gradual melting of the wax helps maintain the flame as it continuously “feeds” the flame to help it keep on burning. This is made possible by the next part that we are going to discuss: candle wicks.
Types of Candle Wicks
There are different types of wicks which include knitted wicks, wooden wicks, and cored wicks, among many others. The type of wick that most people typically see is cotton wicks, which is also the material we use at Hidden Candle. Wicks act as a means to “deliver” the melted wax into the flame to help it keep on going. It does so through a series of capillary actions and absorbing the melted wax. Therefore, the wick serves as a bridge that allows the melted wax to reach the flame, which will then proceed to react with air to maintain its light through combustion.
What Are Essential Oils?
Finally, essential oils are blended into the wax of the candle. Essential oils are typically derived from plants in a process called distillation. The essential oils play a vital role in providing the unique scents you smell from the candle. They do so through a process called evaporation where they reach a certain temperature and get dispersed into the air. They are able to reach that temperature with the aid of the flame that is maintained by the two aforementioned parts of the candle. Different essential oils confer different scents, and there is no standard formulation of scents. In fact, the way companies blend and formulate their candles are trade secrets that they use to compete with other brands. What we can assure you, however, is that Hidden Candle uses high-quality essential oils that are derived naturally and carefully formulated to make our unique hidden message candles.
Types of Candles
There are so many different types of candles, typically differentiated by the way they look. Broadly speaking, you can categorize candles into two main groups: flameless candles and traditional candles. Traditional candles can be further divided into different types based on how they are formed and packaged. Some examples include:
- Taper candles. They are candles with long and slender construction that come in many different colors. They are sometimes called window candles as well. These candles are usually used to add elegance to any room you put this candle in. Furthermore, it is called such because of its thin and fragile construction, which is why this candle usually needs support in order to stay standing.
- Pillar candles. These candles are thicker candles generally used as centerpieces because of their eye-catching structure. Furthermore, these candles come in different sizes, ranging from 3 to 16 inches in height and two to five inches in diameter. They can also come in different colors to suit your specific needs. The defining character of pillar candles is that they are usually able to stand on their own without the need of support or a candle holder precisely because of their diameter and structure.
- Floating candles. These candles are small and lightweight. This composition allows them to float on water in large bowls or vases. The candles are also molded with large tops which get smaller as you reach the bottom to prevent the candle from tipping over.
- Votive candles. Votives are small candles that are about 2.5 inches high with a diameter of approximately 2 inches. They usually have holders or glasses and are typically used in churches when people pray. They can also be used for decorative purposes as well.
- Tea lights. Historically, tea lights have been used to warm teapots which is how they got their name. However, people have also opted to put them around their houses as a decor to give an inviting effect. They provide a wonderful accent with the gentle light that they emanate. Tea lights are usually smaller than votive candles and burn for approximately 2 hours.
- Container candles. These candles are usually made up of non-flammable containers that are filled with wax and a wick. Different styles of containers are used, typically chosen to add to the aesthetic of the candle itself. Furthermore, the wax used to fill the container may also have varying colors depending on the type of look you are going for.
There are other types of candles out there, but the six types that have been discussed are some of the most common types of candles!
Types of Candle Wax
Like we mentioned earlier, there are tons of different types of candle wax. Aside from differentiating candles from the way they look, you can also distinguish them from one another by the type of wax used to make the candle. These include paraffin, soy, palm, bayberry, and beeswax which are all determined through how the wax themselves are sourced. Here at Hidden Candle, we use soy wax which is 100% natural... It does not have pollutants and provides a much cleaner burn. Furthermore, it burns cooler which makes soy candles last longer than other candle types. This means that you get the best bang for your buck because you get more out of your candle!
There are multiple types of candles and we encourage you to choose carefully by understanding how each type functions and what they are made of. Some candles are better than others, and there is a reason why some candles are more expensive than others. The way the materials are sourced and the quality of the ingredients all play an important role in ensuring that your candle has great quality.
Tricks of the Trade: Tips to Make Your Candles Perform Better
As you've gathered, there is so much more than what meets the eye when it comes to candles. Therefore, there are certain tricks you can do to maximize your candle’s potential. Here are some small tips to follow so you can get more out of your candle!
- Freeze your candles. Yes, you read that right. Putting your candle in a freezer before putting it into use is one way to extend the longevity of the candle because it solidifies the wax of the candle, which makes it harder to melt. The harder wax burns slower as a result and you end up having more time with the candle.
- Use a candle topper to create a better wax pool. A candle topper, as the name suggests, is put on top of your container candles to guard against drafts as well as increase the candle’s heat retention. The increased heat leads to a larger wax pool which is the wax that is melted as your candle gets burnt. Why is a larger wax pool important? A larger wax pool will lead to a better scent throw because more essential oil gets dispersed into the air this way. Therefore, you will end up having a better candle experience this way.
- Trim your candle wicks. As previously explained, wicks deliver fuel in the form of melted wax into the flame to maintain combustion and prevent the flame from getting extinguished. However, having a longer wick will mean that more wax will get delivered to the flame which subsequently leads to a larger flame. A larger flame will then need more wax as a consequence, so the candle gets used up more quickly. Therefore, make sure that you keep the wick trimmed to ensure that you do not run out of your candle prematurely.
Conclusion of the How Do Candles Work│The Science of Scented Candles
That was some information about the science of scented candles! Hopefully, we were able to answer your question of "how do candles work?" Candles are something we see every day - sometimes we fail to understand their intricacies and their functionality. Candles are so beautifully complex because every single component of a candle serves a purpose. Understanding these things will help us appreciate candles even more and aid us in better using them.
We hope that you enjoyed geeking out with us as we explored how candles operate, the different types of candles, and some small things we can do to maximize our candles. Be sure to check out our beautifully scented candles from our shop here! Our candles have hidden messages inside of them, too, so they're candles with experiences!