They're pretty and set the mood, but unfortunately, candle use is the cause of many preventable home fires. There are more than 7,600 home candle fires every year, many resulting in injury or even death.1 More than half of these fires start because the candles are too close to combustible materials, which is easily preventable.
Fire Safety Tips for Candles in the Home
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Candle safety tips
Here are a few candle safety tips to review before you light your next candle.
1. Don't leave burning candles unattended, even if you're going for a short walk with Fido.
2. Keep candles away from anything flammable, including bedding, curtains, and papers.
3. If your candle is in a candle holder, the holder should be sturdy enough to avoid being easily knocked over. Skip the wobbly pedestal holders.
4. Candles should be placed where children and pets can’t reach them. Also, never underestimate their climbing abilities.
5. Use a candle wick trimmer to cut the wick to ¼ inch each time before burning.2 Long wicks can cause uneven burning and dripping.
6. Keep the pool of wax in the candle clear of debris such as wick trimmings.
7. Read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for candle use. Most candles should be burned for only a couple of hours at a time.
8. Extinguish candles with a candle snuffer or wick dipper rather than blowing them out. Hot wax can splatter with just a puff of breath.
9. Keep a fire extinguisher on hand in case something goes horribly wrong.
When choosing a candle alternative, stay away from other fire hazards like wax melts and incense sticks. Although neither produces an open flame like a candle, they can still cause nearby combustibles to catch fire. They can also burn children and pets.
Instead, check out fragrance beads, fake LED candles, and lanterns.
Swap out scented candles with a jar of fragrance spheres like those from Yankee Candle.
They'll diffuse a pleasant aroma throughout your home until the spheres shrink, which takes about a month.
While there's no risk of fragrance spheres burning your house down, you do need to keep them up high where children and pets can't reach so there's no risk of accidental ingestion.
Here are some other scented candle alternatives that don't post a fire risk:
Battery-powered LED candles
Whether you're setting up a romantic evening for your beau or decking the halls, sometimes you just want the timeless flickering effect of a candle flame.
Plastic battery-powered candles manage to mimic the look of a melted, flickering candle with uncanny precision. Some of them are even remote-controlled, like this set of fake pillar candles from Vinkor.
You can find battery-powered LED candles in all shapes, sizes, and colors for any occasion.
Battery-powered light bulbs
If candles have been your go-to light source for power outages, consider stocking your emergency kit with some battery-powered alternatives.
Our favorite is the battery-powered light bulb, which screws into any light fixture for normal light diffusion.
Tried-and-true standbys include lanterns and hand-crank flashlights.
Get smoke smart
Finally, our warnings about candle safety aren't complete without a reminder to check all smoke alarms in your home. Working smoke alarms greatly increase your chances of surviving a home fire. Remember to check them every month to ensure they are working properly.
Related articles on SafeWise
- Marty Ahrens, National Fire Protection Association, "Home Candle Fires," May 2020. Accessed October 5, 2022.
- National Candle Association, "Fire Safety and Candles." Accessed October 5, 2022.
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