a lit candle

How do Candles Work: The Chemistry of Candles

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Candles are a classic source of light that have been used for thousands of years. Though they are simple compared to other sources of light, such as electricity, few people actually know how these devices work. Understanding how candles work can help you choose the best type of wax and wick for your needs, and also optimize your burn time!

How do candles work?

Candles are powered by combustion reactions. When you light a candle wick, the wax around the base of the wick melts. Through capillary action, this liquid hot wax is drawn up the wick. The heat of the flame turns the wax into a hot gas (a.k.a. vaporizes it) and starts to break down the wax into molecules of hydrogen and oxygen. These vaporized molecules react with oxygen from the air to create heat, light, water vapor (H2O) and carbon dioxide (CO2).

Of the energy generated through combustion, about 25% is released as heat. In this process wax melts and fuels our candle until it burns down or you blow it out!

Almost every person has seen a candle flame that flickers when you first light it. This is because as the wick burns, there are combustion reactions happening and they take time to stabilize so your beautiful steady teardrop shape doesn’t happen right away! But don’t worry- after about five or six minutes of waiting around for this process to continue on its own without interference from us humans (who always trim our candles too short) then all will be well!

Do wax types matter?

The answer is yes! Not all candles are created equal. Different types of candle waxes contain different additives and formulations, which affects the candle’s performance. For example, heating paraffin wax releases soot and 11 known toxins into the air, while all-natural waxes such as soy and coconut have a cleaner burn. So, if you’re looking for a candle that burns cleaner and is healthier for you and your family, soy and coconut wax candles are the way to go!

Different types of candle wax
Different types of wax (Bee, Paraffin, and Soy)

The different types of waxes that are available for candles can make a big difference in how long your flame will last. For example, soy-based wicks provide an excellent balance between clean low soot burns and longer burn times because they’re made from pure ingredients like oil or water mixed with plant matter rather than petroleum distillates which produce more noxious fumes when burning.

In order to get the most from your candles, it’s important that you take care of them. Learning how to trim your wick, preventing drafts, and keeping a lit candle away from anything that might catch on fire are just a few great ways in which you can make all sorts-of difference when caring for these beautiful pieces!

Why are candle flames multicolored?

Candle flames are made up of several different zones that vary in color. The base, or lowest level has a bluish tinge due to how quickly they vaporize and break apart into hydrogen gas—which is what causes water molecules from dissolved oxygen at the top levels above it to come out as vapor too! There’s also some conversion happening here between carbon atoms here which can burn off entirely leaving behind dark brown residue–this produces CO2 instead .

candle flame close up
Different color zones within a candle

The middle zone may have red- orange tones depending on if any reactions happen during burning that can create soot. If not, then this area will be mostly yellow. Finally the veil is the faint blue edge that surrounds each flame and it’s created when hydrogen meets carbon in air to create heat and release energy from the combustion reaction.

Thanks for reading! I hope this gives you a better understanding of how candles work and why they produce light. Next time you see a candle, take a moment to appreciate the chemistry that’s happening inside it. And be sure to check out my other blog posts for more interesting reads!

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