Where Does a Candle Go When It Burns?
When you light a candle, it turns a house into a home. Your favorite scent can instantly help you relax, bring back fond memories, or fill your house with a delightful holiday scent. You know your candle has memory, and needs to burn long enough to use as much wax as possible. But what happens to all of that melted wax? How does it disappear right before your eyes?
A candle’s structure is very basic: it’s just wick and wax. Yet, at the end of a candle, you’re left with almost nothing.
Let’s Talk About Candles and Combustion.
Even though there are candles waxes that are much higher quality than others, all wax is basically made up of hydrogen and carbon atoms (hydrocarbons). When you light the wick of a candle, the heat from the flame melts nearby wax. The liquid wax is absorbed by the candlewick, and it works its way up the wick to the flame. Here, the hydrogen and carbon atoms mix with oxygen, split, and cause combustion. This process goes on until you run out of wax, or blow out the flame.
A Quick Breakdown of the Candle Flame.
A candle flame has three parts, or zones: outermost, middle, innermost. The innermost part of a candle flame burns blue, and is where the hydrocarbons of candle wax first encounter oxygen. Some carbon doesn’t reach oxygen and ends up in the middle and outermost zones of the flame. Here, any leftover wax on the wick is vaporized before it escapes.
How a Candle Flame Gets Its Signature Shape.
As a candle flame burns, it not only heats the wax, but heats the air around it. The hot air rises up the flame, and cool air rushes to replace it. This constant cycle of heat moving to the top, and cool air rushing to the bottom is called convection current, and gives the candle flame it’s shape.
Gravity is also the reason a flame gets its shape. “Up” and “down” are relative to Earth’s gravity. This caused NASA to wonder what a flame would look like in outer space. So, in 1990, they ran experiments in space to see how fire acted in microgravity. Flames ended up being spherical, because there was no “up” direction for warm air to rise.
So, Where Does a Candles Scent Come From?
The fragrance in your candle works a lot like candle wax. The wax carries the candle up the wick, and both the fragrance and the wax combust. While the wax simply evaporates, the fragrance emits a scent as it is vaporized by the candle flame.
Why It’s Important to Choose Quality Candles.
Combustion is the only way you can get a candle to work. So, if you choose a candle full of chemicals and artificial fragrances, you risk burning more than just wax, and could be filling your home with dangerous carcinogens. That’s why it’s always best to choose a natural wax like soy wax or beeswax, and candles that only use pure essential oils.