Why Is My Candle Flame So High/Tall/Big/Small? Answered

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Who doesn’t love a nice romantic candle-lit dinner or a bath surrounded by soothing candles? The trouble is that these things are only soothing if the flame on the candle is under control. If the flame runs too high it can become a fire hazard and if it runs too small, then it can keep going out and forcing you to relight your candle. 

Candle flames that are very tall/high are usually because it’s burning too much fuel and is running hot. Candle flames that are small are usually because it’s not burning enough fuel and this causes a lower flame height. These issues can be fixed by adjusting the wick and/or clearing excess wax.

Let’s take a look at candles and how their flames operate in more detail. I also go into more detail about how to make adjustments to fix the flame height. Keep reading.

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Also read: Is Wax Flammable? You May Be Surprised…

Why Is My Candle Flame So High/Tall/Big?

candle flame height

If we take a look at how a candle works, you’ll notice that the flame you use ignites the wax which is on, in, and around the candlewick. 

That wick will be made from an absorbent material that draws the molten wax up from the surface of the candle and uses it to feed the flame. 

If that flame is too high then the odds are good that the wick is drawing too much fuel to the flame, so it’s burning too hot. 

If you feel that the flame is unnaturally tall/big or high then it’s time to extinguish the flame as it might represent a fire hazard.

(And even if it’s not hazardous, you’ll find that a candle that burns too hotly will burn out much faster than it should as it’s using much more fuel than it should to stay lit). 

Give the candle a couple of minutes to cool after you extinguish the flame as we don’t want you to burn yourself while you investigate the possible cause of the problem. 

Also read: How Hot Is A Lighter Flame?

2 Causes Of A Candle Flame Being Too Tall

  1. Firstly, check the width of the wick, is it too wide? If so, this can be a real pain because you’re going to need to replace it and that means digging the wick out of the candle and then putting a new one in. 

You should find that with more expensive candles this isn’t the issue, but with cheaper (often Chinese factory-made) candles that can be a real problem. 

2. However, you’re going to find that the problem is simpler than this and that the reason your candle is burning too brightly is that you’ve got too much wick showing. 

This is easy to solve as you just trim some of the lengths from the wick (leave enough to be able to light it again, obviously).

We’d recommend that you use a candle wick trimmer for this job and that you aim to leave about a quarter of an inch of wick exposed before you relight the candle.

You will probably find that each time you return to the candle, you’ll need to repeat this process. However, it’s worth it as your candles will last a lot longer than they would if burning too much fuel. 

Why Is My Candle Flame So Small? 

There are two possible reasons that your candle flame is so small and they both relate to the length or width of the wick. 

Just like with a candle that’s burning too much fuel, when a candle’s burning too little fuel, it’s down to the wick.

So, extinguish your candle and take a look. 

If the wick is too thin to draw up enough fuel, then it will need replacing and that’s actually a fairly skilled job to do. 

However, if it’s too short, which is the most likely explanation, then you can try one of two things:

  1. Light the candle and every 20 minutes or so, pour away any wax on the surface. This should clear the space above the wick and lengthen it. If this doesn’t work at all, then try moving some wax away from the base of the wick using a tooth pick or something else that will keep your hands away from molten wax and the flame.
  2. If it won’t light at all, then if you have a heat gun handy, you can melt the wax around the base of the wick and then pour it out to lengthen the wick. If the wick is completely covered in wax, you can use this technique too. 

Why Is My Candle Flame Moving So Much?

There are three potential reasons that a candle flame starts jumping around or moving a lot and they are as follows:

  1. Your candle is in a draft. Candle flames are very sensitive to the movement of air within a room and if there’s a draft of any kind, it will blow the flame around. The best way to deal with this is either to seal up the draft or to move the candle to a place with no draft.
  2. Your candle has too much fuel. In this case, use the solution above for a candle with too tall a flame. A candle with too much fuel doesn’t burn oxygen efficiently and this can lead the flame to sort of “stutter” and then flicker and flare. It may also result in a very sooty flame as the carbon in the wax won’t be fully consumed in the flame. 
  3. Your candle has too little fuel. In this case, you can use the solution in the section below. If the candle doesn’t draw enough fuel, it will perform in a similar way to when it has too much. Though you are less likely to get a sooty flame. 

Also read: Burning vs. Melting: What’s The Difference?

Why Is My Candle Flame Smoking So Much?

If your candle is providing a thick, acrid smoke that’s because of the presence of soot. The good news is that soot is simply carbon from the wax and it’s not harmful to your health.

The bad news is that it’s quite unpleasant to breathe in and soot tends to coat things around it over time. 

The most likely reason for a sooty flame is that your candle is in a draft and the faster airflow is making the wick draw too much fuel, which won’t fully burn, creating soot. 

The easiest way to solve this problem is to move your candle out of any draft and away from windows, doors, etc. 

Also read: Is Smoke Flammable? You May Be Surprised…

How High Should A Candle Flame Be?

It really depends on the candle, but a properly functioning candle wick should leave a melt pool (that is the area around the wick) that grows by ¼” in depth for every hour that the candle is burning. 

To get to this, you need a wick that delivers a flame that is between ½” and 2” in height. If the candle is fairly small, it should be closer to ½” and if it’s huge then 2” is the best bet. 

It’s also worth noting that the material that a candle is made from will influence the height of a flame and beeswax as well as soy waxes and vegetable waxes need more wick than a standard paraffin wax candle does.

You can easily experiment with wick lengths to find the right length for your candle, and it’s best to leave it slightly too long than to trim it way too short. 

Also read: What Is The Temperature Of Fire? How Hot Does it Get?

Where Does The Wax Go When You Burn A Candle?

The wax is burned in the candle flame, as we’ve already said, it’s the fuel of a candle.

If your candle were perfectly efficient (that is all the wax was burned) then the wax would become water and carbon dioxide gases (both of which are harmless in the quantities generated by a candle).

However, as a candle won’t burn the wax perfectly, there will also be a little or a lot of soot which is simply carbon powder that isn’t burned fully in the flame. 

This is harmless, but you don’t want to generate too much of it as it can be unpleasant to breathe and build up on surfaces or the ceiling. 

Can I Let A Candle Burn Overnight?

No. You should never let a candle burn overnight. In fact, you should never let a candle burn for longer than 4 hours without checking on it. 

Most candles don’t burn perfectly evenly and over time, this becomes an issue as it can lead to a huge outpouring of molten wax which might land on something and catch fire. 

It’s best to only use a candle when you’re awake and in the room with it and to check on it regularly to ensure it’s burning safely.

Also read: Can Static Electricity Start A Fire? 

Sources: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

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