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The to-the-point answer is, it depends. I know this isn’t the answer you were looking for, but it really does depend on a number of different factors. However, one thing that is consistent, you should never let a candle burn longer than 4 hours at one time.
Candle wax has something we call a memory. It’s almost the same as a rechargeable battery in a sense that the first time it is “charged,” it needs to be “charged” to 100%, or else it will never “charge” to 100% from there on out. When using a candle for the first time, it is incredibly important to make sure your candle has a full melt pool before extinguishing the flame. A full melt pool is where the wax on the top of the candle is completely melted, about ¼” deep, from edge to edge of the container. If a candle is properly wicked and made, this should take no longer than an hour or two for smaller candles, to up to 4 hours for some of your wider mouthed candles.
Keep in mind, you should NEVER leave a candle unattended, let alone leave your home with a candle still lit. This is why it is important, especially on the first burn, to make sure you will be present for up to four hours after lighting. If a full melt pool is not able to be formed on the candle, the candle will never form a full melt pool. The memory of the wax will only allow the melt pool to form out as wide as the first burn was allowed. This causes tunneling, as the candle begins to burn straight down, not melting all the wax around the outer rim, which just wastes wax and looks unsightly.
But what if I let my candle burn for 4 hours and it still hasn’t formed a full melt pool? Well this could be caused by a couple of reasons. If the candle was not properly wicked, this can cause a subpar wax pool to be formed, and this is the fault of the manufacturer of the candle. At The Plaid Stallion Candle Co., we spend countless hours testing different vessels, wicks, and wax to make sure that a proper burn is achieved. The lack of a full melt pool can also be caused by having the candle burning in a space that is too dynamic. Drafty areas, such as under a heating or cooling vent, near an opened window etc can cause the candle to not burn properly. This is why it is always important to make sure you keep your lit candle in a place that is not in the line of harsh air movement. This will also keep your candle from throwing a lot of soot and will allow the most fragrance to be dispersed throughout your area.