Candle Safety Tips
Candles are a safe product and only become a hazard when used improperly. The majority of fires involving candles are not caused by the candles, but by people using them in an unsafe manner. The National Candle Association recommends the following safety tips when burning candles:
- NEVER leave a burning candle unattended. Extinguish all candles when leaving a room or before going to sleep.
- Always burn candles on protected, heat-resistant surfaces specifically designed for candle use. The holder should be big enough to collect dripping wax.
- Keep burning candles away from anything flammable, such as furniture, drapes, bedding, carpets, books, flammable decorations, etc.
- Avoid putting candles in drafts to prevent rapid, uneven burning and excessive dripping. Drafts can also blow lightweight curtains or papers into the flame where they could catch fire. Summer fans can cause drafts.
- Clean and trim candlewicks to 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch before lighting. Long or crooked wicks cause uneven burning and dripping. Keep candles free of wick trimmings, matches or any flammable material that might ignite.
- Keep candles out of the reach of children and pets. Do not place lighted candles where they can be knocked over by children, pets or anyone else.
- Discontinue use of a container or votive candle when 1/2-inch of un-melted wax remains. This will prevent possible heat damage to the counter/surface and prevent glass containers from cracking or breaking. Extinguish taper and pillar candles when they get down to within two inches of their holders or decorations.
- Candles should be placed at least three inches apart so they don’t melt one another.
- The best way to extinguish a candle is to use a special candle snuffer or candle quencher or, if not available, hold your finger in front of the flame and blow at your finger. The air will flow around the finger and extinguish the candle from both sides preventing hot wax from spattering.
- Do not extinguish candles with water. The water can cause the hot wax to spatter and some candle containers to break.
- Flashlights and other battery-powered lights are much safer light sources than candles during a power failure.
- Don’t use a candle as light when you go into a closet to look for things.
- Never use a candle for light when fueling equipment such as a lantern or kerosene heater.
Sooting and Wick Safety
All candles produce minute amounts of soot that is similar to the soot given off by toasters and cooking oils in the kitchen. None of these everyday sources of soot present a health concern. To minimize soot, consumers should keep wicks trimmed to 1/4 to 1/8 of an inch and keep candles away from drafts and vents.
Easing and Lead Concerns
Safety is a top priority at the National Candle Association. For more than 25 years, NCA members have voluntarily agreed to stop using lead-core wicks. Today, the NCA supports the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's (CPSC) recent decision to ban lead-core wicks in candles and the removal of any lead-core wick candles from the market. A small percentage of imported candles may contain lead-core wicks.
There has been a steady decline in the average number of gasoline fires in homes each year since 1980 when there were 15,000 fires.
FACTS & FIGURES
(From NFPA's U.S. Home Product Report: Forms and Types of Materials First Ignited in Fires, December 2001)
- In 1998, there were 4,700 gasoline fires in U.S. homes, resulting in 86 deaths, 463 injuries, and $92 million in direct property damage
- 53% of home gasoline fires each year between 1994 and 1998 were categorized as incendiary or suspicious.
- Three-quarters of civilian injuries resulted from unintentional causes such as: fuel spills or releases; using gasoline to wash parts, clean or refinish; gasoline too close to a heat source; children playing; improper storage; using gasoline to kindle a fire; and improper fueling technique
- Matches were the most common ignition source in home gasoline fires
- Keep gasoline out of children's sight and reach. Children should never handle gasoline
- If a fire does start while handling gasoline, do not attempt to extinguish the fire or stop the flow of gasoline. Leave the area immediately, and call for help
- Do not use or store gasoline near possible ignition sources (i.e., electrical devices, oil- or gas-fired appliances, or any other device that contains a pilot flame or a spark)
- Store gasoline outside the home (i.e., in a garage or lawn shed) in a tightly closed metal or plastic container approved by an independent testing laboratory or the local or state fire authorities. Never store gasoline in glass containers or non-reusable plastic containers (i.e., milk jugs)
- Store only enough gasoline necessary to power equipment and let machinery cool before refueling it
- Never use gasoline inside the home or as a cleaning agent
- Clean up spills promptly and discard clean-up materials properly
- Do not smoke when handling gasoline
- Never use gasoline in place of kerosene
- Use caution when fueling automobiles. Do not get in and out of the automobile when fueling. Although rare, an electrical charge on your body could spark a fire, especially during the dry winter months
- Only fill portable gasoline containers outdoors. Place the container on the ground before filling and never fill containers inside a vehicle or in the bed of a pick-up truck
- Follow all manufacturers instructions when using electronic devices (those with batteries or connected to an electrical outlet) near gasoline
- For more information on gasoline safety, visit the American Petroleum Institute and the Petroleum Equipment Institute websites