Candle Safety

— Written By Kim Reid and last updated by Cindy Nance

Candles may be pretty to look at but they are a cause of many home fires — and home fire deaths. Remember, a candle is an open flame, and it can easily ignite anything that can burn. The winter season is the peak time of the year for home candle fires. While candles cast a beautiful glow in our homes, there are guidelines for using them safely. Follow these safety tips when using candles, especially this time of the year.

  • Read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for candle use. Most candles should be burned for only a couple of hours at a time.
  • Blow out all candles when you leave the room or go to bed. Avoid the use of candles in the bedroom. Keep candles at least 12 inches away from anything that can burn or be blown into the flame.
  • If you do burn candles in your home, make sure that you use candle holders that are sturdy, and cannot be tipped over easily.
  • The National Candle Association recommends that candlewicks be trimmed to ¼ inch each time before burning. Long wicks can cause uneven burning and dripping.
  • Keep the pool of wax in the candle clear of debris such as wick trimmings.
  • Extinguish candles with a candle snuffer rather than blowing them out. Hot wax can splatter on furniture, clothing and skin. Take care!
  • Put candle holders on a sturdy, uncluttered surface, at least 12 inches from any flammable objects or fabrics.
  • Light candles carefully. Keep your hair and any loose clothing away from the flame.
  • Don’t burn a candle all the way down — put it out before it gets too close to the holder or container.
  • Never use a candle if oxygen is being used in the home for medical purposes.
  • Have flashlights and battery-powered lighting ready to use during a power outage. Never use candles during power failures.
  • Candles are often used in places of worship. Whether you are using one candle, or more than one on a candelabra, kinara, or menorah, make sure you take a few moments to learn about using candles in religious settings safely.
  • Handheld candles should not be passed from one person to another at any time. When lighting candles at a candle lighting service, have the person with the unlit candle dip their candle into the flame of the lit candle.
  • Lit candles should not be placed in windows where a blind or curtain could catch fire.
  • Candles placed on, or near tables, altars, or shrines, must be watched by an adult until extinguished.
  • If a candle must burn continuously, be sure it is enclosed in a glass container and placed in a sink, on a metal tray, or in a deep basin filled with water.
  • Consider using flameless candles in your home. They look and smell like real wax candles. These modern candles use LED lights to emit natural looking candlelight. Some even come with remote control technology to make candle lighting even safer and more convenient.

Finally, any talk of candle safety is incomplete without a reminder to check all smoke alarms in your home. Working smoke alarms greatly increase your chances of surviving a home fire, so check them every month to ensure they are working properly.

Source: National Fire Protection Association

For more information, contact Kim Reid, Extension Agent with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service at (910) 592-7161.