What Happens If You Burn A Candle Too Long?

burn a candle too long

We all love candles but sometimes we let them burn too long. Have you ever looked over at your candle and the wick is an inch long, leaning to the side, distorted and spewing soot? This is not good for the candle, its container, your house, or your health.

What happens if you burn a candle for too long? Burning a candle too long builds up carbon on the wick and it becomes distorted and causes the flame to burn irregularly. This can cause wax tunneling, produce soot, and even damage the candle container. Most manufacturers suggest burning candles for a minimum of one hour and a maximum of four hours at a time.

When a candle burns long enough to melt all the wax, the wick can float off-center. When the wax hardens it will be stuck off-center. No one wants that to happen.

If the wick is stuck off-center you will be left with two options. One, light the candle and let it all melt again and try to adjust it. Two, put the candle in a shallow pan of water on your stove and slowly warm it until you can adjust the wick.

What happens if you let a candle burn all the way down? If you let a candle burn all the way down then the candle container and the surface under the candle container will be absorbing too much heat from the candle flame. This can lead to the container or the surface the candle is sitting on becoming damaged.

Ideal Candle Burn Time

How long is too long for a candle to burn? Four hours or more is too long for a candle to burn. You should never let a candle burn longer than four hours. When a candle burns for that long the wick can become too long, begin to mushroom, the wax can overheat and it may become too hot for the surface it is sitting on.

People have been using candles for 5,000 years and they were once our only option for light in the dark. However, times change and those candles used until the invention of the gas lamp were far different than the candles we use today.

The candles we use today are designed to be aesthetically pleasing and to produce a nice smell. They are no longer the staple of every home that wants light around the world.

The good news is that we now have some ways to avoid candle problems.

How To Avoid Candle Burn Time Hazards

There are a few things you can do that allow you to burn your candle and still maintain its integrity and longevity. These things will help you get the most bang for your buck from those expensive candles.

How To Make Your Candle Last Longer

  • Trim your wick after every use
  • Put the lid back on your candle when it cools
  • Burn it for at least 1 hour every time you light it
  • Burn it no longer than 4 hours at a time
  • Use on a heat resistant surface
  • Keep it away from drafty areas

Following these tips will help you maximize your candle burning experience and get the most out of your candles.

Trim the wick after every use

Trim the wick so that it extends no further than 1/4 of an inch from the surface of the wax. Also, try and make sure the flame on your candle is no taller than 1 inch.

This will ensure that your candle never gets an irregular flame that can produce soot. When wicks get too large or “mushroomed” as they are sometimes called, it allows your flame to become too large and too hot which can actually hurt the scent throw of your candle later on.

Put the lid back on

Put the lid back on your candle or else it can collect dust, dirt, and grime. This is all stuff that will burn or get in your wax whenever you light your candle.

This stuff can smoke, smell bad, look bad, and ruin your candle burning experience. Candles can also sort of dry out over time and keeping the lid on your candle can help prevent it.

Burn it for at least 1 hour every time

Burning your candle for at least 1 hour every time you light it will prevent wax tunneling.

If you light your candle for 20 min every day, you will see it starts to form a hole in the middle of the candle around the wick.

If you burn your candle for at least 1 hour it gives it a chance to melt the wax across the entire surface of the candle, this makes sure that it will always burn evenly.

Burn it no longer than 4 hours

Burning a candle longer than four hours can cause all of the wax in the candle to melt. This can make your wick go off-center, distort the wick, cover your wall or ceiling in soot and even bust the jar the candle is in.

When the wick is off-center, it can make the candle burn uneven so that not even 1 hour is enough to melt the top of the candle. It also makes one side of the jar incredibly hot.

I fell asleep with a Yankee buttercream candle burning one day and the wick went off-center and I blew it out when I got up. The next time I light it I decided I was going to let it burn until all the wax melted and I could fix the wick.

Instead of me fixing the wick, the side of the candle exploded glass and molten wax all over my desk. So real danger is included when not properly maintaining your candles.

I learned the hard way, and so did my desk.

Use on a heat resistant surface

You can see different types of burning surfaces people use if you take a look on Pinterest. It is usually a dish, mirror or a piece of glass.

If you have a mishap with your candle one of these heat resistant surfaces could save you a mess and even an accidental fire.

If I would have had one for my candle the cleanup would have been a lot easier to scrape the wax off of a piece of glass than it was my desk.

Keep away from drafts

A flickering flame can also cause problems. If you have your candle in a drafty area, near a window, walkway or doorway the constant flow of air can cause the candle to burn irregularly and let it smoke and soot.

This can also cause other problems such as getting a wick that’s too short and wax tunneling and getting black soot on the sides of the container.

The ideal spot to keep your candle is somewhere it will not be bothered by a ceiling fan, air conditioner, furnace or anything else of that sort.

I love to keep a fan going but I will always turn it off when my candle is lit.

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens if you burn a candle for more than 4 hours?

Burning a candle for more than four hours will cause the wax to become overheated evaporating most of your fragrance oil, causing the wick to become too long making the flame too large, and when the wick becomes too large it can become mushroomed and begin producing soot and smoke.

What happens if you burn a candle all the way down?

Burning a candle all the way down can create a hazard when the glass in the bottom of the container becomes so heated it can bust. When the bottom of the container is disproportionately heated in comparison to the sides of the container this can create stress within the container breaking it.

Can a candle burn for 6 hours?

Only a candle specifically designed for long burns should be used for 6 hours. These types of candles are generally candlesticks or pillar candles. The design and shape of these candles help prevent them from overheating the way a container candle would.

Is it safe to let a candle burn out?

It is not safe to let a candle burn itself out. Never leave a candle unattended, even if it is in another room. A candle that is burning out on its own has the potential to damage the surface it is sitting on or to start a fire.


While candles are fun and beautiful they do not come without their risks if you let them burn too long.

The good news is that a little candle maintenance goes a long way. Always trim the wick, always put the lid back on when it cools, always blow it out before you go to bed, never let it burn for less than 1 hour, and never let it burn longer than 4 hours.

If you are like me, you like to light a candle for a while before bed so that you can relax. Just remember to light it at least 1 hour before bedtime.

How long do you let your candles burn? Feel free to share down below.

Carl Adamson

Hi, I'm Carl Adamson, one of the founders here at Candleers. A few years ago I got really into the art and craft of candle making, initially with soy wax container candles. My friends started asking me to make candles for them and pretty soon it turned into a nice side-business. I started this website as a way to document what I've learned over the past few years and hopefully help others in the process. I still love candle making but I'm learning that what I enjoy even more is the business side of things - and for this reason I've started consulting others on how to start and grow their own candle-making businesses and side-hustles.

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