You don't have to be a candle expert to buy a candle, but knowing what to look for when candle shopping will ensure you won't be disappointed by a badly made candle, a disagreeable scent or a bad burning experience. As an expert candle maker, I've created a handy guide to help you get the best candle for your budget.
What makes a good candle?
A Burning Flame
A good quality candle will have a longer burn time than a mass-produced candle. Getting more time out of your candle will provide a much more pleasant burning experience.
When you use a candle for longer, not only are you reducing waste by not buying more candles more often, you actually get more bang for your buck. While a premium candle may be more expensive, paying for luxury ensures you get a quality candle that lasts longer, has a cleaner burn and contributes to a pleasing aesthetic in your home.
The longer your candle burns, the more fragrance will be released. A large candle will have a longer burn time and will be able to fill a larger space. A large candle with a short burn time is an indicator of a poor quality candle.
In the professional candle groups I am a member of, I sometimes see broken or exploded candles, which should not happen. Candles should be made from glass specifically made for candles which won't break while heating.
Sometimes, to reduce costs, some smaller candle companies will use glassware available at various retail chains that is not approved for candle making. If the flame is held too long in the wrong kind of glass, it will break.
That said, a broken candle can sometimes be user error. You should always leave 10mm of wax at the bottom of the glass. Burning your candle all the way down to the metal wick may increase the chance of it breaking. Check out my candle care page to ensure you're taking care of your candle in the safest way possible.
Discussions around soy wax vs paraffin vs beeswax vs coconut soy can go on forever. Here at Clare Makes we use a soy wax blend, which is a natural soy bean and coconut wax, with a plant based, vegan petroleum jelly additive which helps the candle to set smoothly. This wax type ensures that not only does the candle look great brand new, but keeps its aesthetic quality as it burns down.
Wax can be solid or flaky depending on the time of year, but as a general rule, coconut soy wax is one of the most expensive candle making materials available. There is some debate as to whether or not it is safer than a 100% paraffin wax, but the science on that is unclear. Soy wax does generally burn cleaner and slower than paraffin.
If you find a 500g for sale that is is $5 though, that candle is likely made from very cheap, fast burning wax.
Here at Clare Makes, our labels are printed on synlite which is a synthetic, heat resistant material that is also acid, oil and solvent resistant with high adhesion. A high quality heat resistant label will ensure that as your candle burns, the label won't discolour and won't be easily removed as the glass heats the label glue.
Sometimes candle labels are printed on paper labels, or labels that are waterproof and not heat proof. As the candle burns, the labels on these candles will disintegrate over time.
Have you ever heard of a triple scented candle? As a candle maker, let me tell you that triple scented doesn't actually mean anything. It's purely a marketing term. Candles have a maximum scent load but using a lower scent load often results in a cleaner burn that doesn't clog the wick. A candle that contains too much fragrance oil may start to sweat or develop crystals. The percentage of fragrance oil in a candle has no bearing on its quality.
If your candle doesn't smell nice when you burn it though, that is usually the result of a poor quality fragrance oil, or that the candle contains a bad component (such as - yikes - gasoline or other fuel).
Olfactory perception is obviously subjective, however it goes without saying that a better perfume, manufactured in Australia to the highest quality standards, makes a candle more expensive. A better perfume and correctly loaded percentage of fragrance makes for a higher quality candle.
Here's a quick checklist to use when evaluating a candle.
- The Wick Area: Is it smooth and clean? A heavy feel in your hand combined with a clean wick shows that you candle has been hand poured, and therefore good quality.
- Flame: As your candle burns, the flame should be bright and vivid, but not hugely flickering. A mass produced candle will have a very high or very low flame which is an indicator of poor quality.
- Wax Blend: Review the wax type which should be specified on the label. A label that doesn't scream "soy wax" has likely been made with cheap materials but always ask if it's important to you and you're unsure. Candle makers who use soy wax use it as a selling point and will be keen for you to know.
- Imperfect Perfection: A hand poured candle will occasionally have imperfections and is an indicator that it has been made by a small local artisan. By purchasing a hand made candle, you're supporting a local business and contributing to a circular economy.
If you have any questions, please leave them below.