Why do candlewicks sometimes “pop?”

Discussion in 'General Science & Technology' started by wegs, May 3, 2022.

  1. wegs Matter and Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

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    I’ve read two different reasons why this happens. One, there may be moisture around the candle when it’s lit and two, it’s a build up of carbon, and the candle has built up too much wax. I’m not sure what that means though - how can a candle build up more wax than what it started with?

    I ask because lately, my candles are “popping,” spewing soot around the sides of the candleholder. This happens after the first use, when the wick takes a different shape after being lit a few times.

    I put the lid of these candles back on after use so not sure how moisture could be getting in?
     
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  3. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    I must admit I had always assumed it was due to moisture absorbed by the wick. But I would expect just a few pops shortly after lighting and then nothing further, once any moisture has been driven off. Is that what happens, or are you finding they go on popping, for say half an hour or more after lighting? If so then I suspect it may be some defect in the manufacture of the candles. Are they perfumed or just for light?
     
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  5. wegs Matter and Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

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    Where might the moisture be coming from if I’ve had the lid on between uses?

    I have a few different brands that I light early in the morning or at night, and there is one that sporadically pops for the entire hour or so that it’s lit, but mostly, it’s just a few seconds after the other two are initially lit.

    Hmm, maybe this is partially to blame? They are infused with “essential oils.” And they are soy based, if that makes a difference.
     
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  7. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

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    Lid? Are you therefore trapping warm air (the candle heats up slightly, the air around the candle as well) in a closed area? If so, you'll likely get condensation as the warm air cools. Whether enough to cause what you're experiencing, or whether the moisture will be in the wick rather than the surface of the container/lid, I don't know.
    Have a look at this: https://brooklyncandlestudio.com/en...335751-4-ways-youre-burning-candles-all-wrong
    Number 3: "What happens when you light a candle for too long is you've let your wick "mushroom" or develop carbon buildup. This is the result of the candle consuming more wax than it can burn. Lighting a "mushroom" can lead a wick to crackle and pop and release soot into the air and onto your candle container. "

    Not sure if it explains your phenomenon or not.
     
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  8. wegs Matter and Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

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    Now, that could be it! I tend to put the lid on candles while they’re lit to put them out. So perhaps if I blew the candle out and kept the lid off until the candle cools down, that would be better. (These are candles built into a holder not loose and set into a separate holder.)
    It may! I have a candle lit now on my work desk at home and peered in and the wick is in the shape of a mushroom!
     
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  9. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

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    Yay for Google!

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  10. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    When you burn wax it creates water vapour as a product of combustion. If you put it out by putting the lid on and waiting for the trapped oxygen to be consumed, you will trap water vapour, which will then condense and may be absorbed into the wick, especially if it is too long. I suggest blowing the candle out and pinching briefly it between finger and thumb to stop it smoking. When you pinch the wick, you will most likely break off any excess length or carbon deposits that have built up.

    By the way I see that indeed soy wax, which I see is made by hydrogenating soya bean oil (to saturate the double bonds) is considered prone to this problem.
     
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  11. geordief Valued Senior Member

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    I always lick my fingers(and thumb) before extinguishing the flame .

    We sometimes get power cuts and I may light up to half a dozen candles or more when the lights go.

    Extinguishing them with wettish fingers means they don't get burnt and also makes for a satisfying crackle/sizzle (as well perhaps as ensuring that the wick doesn't burn too low to the paraffin ,making it harder to relight next time)
     
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  12. wegs Matter and Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

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    The things we learn. Thank you explaining this. I will see if it stops by not putting the lid on to put the flame out.

    It’s not the end of the world but there have been times when the flame gets high right after I light the wick, and the popping spews the soot, hitting my hand as I’m setting the candle down after lighting it. Just a slight sting, but I’d rather it didn’t do that. lol
     
    Last edited: May 3, 2022
  13. wegs Matter and Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

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    Thanks for the tip.

    What kind of candles are you using?
    Unscented “emergency” type candles?
     
  14. geordief Valued Senior Member

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    I now remember ,when I was an altar boy it was part of our job to put out the candles at the end of the ceremony


    We had little metal upside down cones (or cylinders,perhaps? So long ago now) at the end of a stick and covered the flames with them so as snuff them out

    There was always a ritualistic candle smell .
     
  15. wegs Matter and Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

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    Warding off evil spirits, perhaps. lol


    PS: I’m now seeing candle advertisements at the top of the page since posting this thread, which I’m not upset about such “eavesdropping,” this time. You can never have too many candles.

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  16. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    A candle snuffer. I remember those too. Ours had a taper on it as well, for lighting candles that were too high to reach. This sort of thing:-

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  17. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    You can if they are scented. I remember a particularly horrible variety we bought by mistake when we lived for a while in Houston, the scent of which was described as "freshly baked" - a sort of sickly cinnamon.

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  18. wegs Matter and Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

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    True! lol I have a gingerbread one from the holidays someone gave me as a gift, and it smells like a gingerbread house. On fire.

    I try to steer away from these types of candles as they're not healthy to breathe in.
     
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  19. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    I avoid scented ones because the only time I use them is when eating, (usually outside in summer). The last thing you need with food or wine is an extraneous smell.
     
  20. wegs Matter and Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

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    Many of the manufactured scents smell nothing like an “apple crisp pie” or “snickerdoodle cookie.” There is a company I’ve found that makes organic herbal scented candles such as “basil mint” or “orange lavender.” These smells are subtle and very pleasant, not at all overpowering.
     
  21. geordief Valued Senior Member

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    Reminds me of a story of a farmer's neighbours who complained about the smells coming from his direction


    So the farmer contrived to add a perfumed fragrance to the current of air that was transporting the foul smell from his property to theirs.

    Of course,rather than mitigating the effect it made it worse.
     
  22. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    You still don't want them when you are eating and drinking though, in my view. I want the stuff I cook to smell as I intended it. Though it's true I don't mind the odd waft of jasmine, when it's in flower on the patio.
     
  23. wegs Matter and Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

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    Agreed, I’m not into scented candles (or any candles) on the table with meals. I like a random candle lit when reading or working. And for the occasional seance.

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