‘Tis the season for hibernation. No matter what’s driving you indoors—the recent snow flurries, dipping temperatures, early night falls, or disheartening headlines—few things will help you dodge the winter blues like the warm glow of a candle. But whether you crave the inviting fragrance of a fireplace, or the soft, sleep-inducing notes of fresh violets, there’s more to burning a candle than lighting a match. Expert candle burning requires etiquette—a precise art of what, when, and how. According to Alia Raza, cofounder of the conceptual fragrance house Régime des Fleurs (which debuted its first collection of candles just over a year ago), sloppy candle maintenance can lead to a lopsided wick that burns more glass than wax, while bad scent judgment could ruin a dinner party. From the importance of lids to picking the best fragrance for every room in your house, here, Raza shares the four simple precepts on how to burn a candle like a grown-up.
Before You Burn, Always Trim
Wick length is a kind of goldilocks variable that can swiftly cut the life of your candle short. Especially with larger candles, which provide more surface area for drifting, a curt wick length will ensure a straighter burn. Trim it right before you burn it every time you use it, says Raza. As far as length is concerned, “I’ve heard that wicks should be a quarter of an inch, but in my experience, that’s too short,” she says, describing how a diminutive wick can drown and extinguish in molten wax. “Eyeball it for a third of an inch. You can use a special wick trimmer, but I just use small scissors that I keep in a drawer.”
Consider the Setting
The urge to light a beautiful candle is hard to ignore, but restraint is occasionally necessary. For example, scented candles should never be lit at the table. “Unless you’ve designed your entire meal to be enjoyed around that scent, it’s not appropriate during a meal,” says Raza. A candlelit dinner should only occur with the help of fragrance-free pillars or tea lights. Dens become more welcoming with masculine notes like wood, leather, and cashmere. “It’s more of a cozy, old-world smell,” says Raza, who developed her first collection of candles, Artefacts, with specific rooms in mind. Bathrooms and offices share olfactory requirements for cool, bright scents that smell clean and keep you alert. “A mint candle is not going to put you to sleep,” says Raza. Meanwhile, bedrooms call for softer notes like iris and iris root, while, “violet is nice for a more feminine side.” And white florals will send an inviting message in entranceways, “but really, they’re beautiful anywhere.”
Keep It Lit
“In general, when you burn a candle, and especially the first time you burn it, you want to burn it for about two hours or more, depending on the size of the candle,” says Raza. The idea here is that the entire top layer becomes molten before you extinguish it. “That means the whole surface will burn evenly so it won’t create those dips,” which can deepen, creating a cavernous hole for the wick to become permanently lost.
Splashes of wax and tilts of wicks are often the result of blowing out a candle with too much force. Snuffers will cut this possibility out of the equation entirely, but Raza recommends gently blowing on the wick and immediately covering the extinguished candle with a lid. “All candles should come with a lid,” says Raza. “There’s nothing worse than blowing out your candle before you go to sleep to find that your entire room suddenly smells like smoke.” A lid will also keep dust and dirt from settling on your candle wax—just further insurance that you and your candle enjoy a long, beautiful life together.