Why Do Candles Flicker?

Written by Jewel Within


Posted on September 28 2021

Have you ever noticed when your candles start flickering? The flame will waver and the light diminishes then quickly brightens, almost as if somebody is playing with a switch. Flickering is caused either by impurities in the wax interrupting the flow in the wick, or that there is a draft in the room. If you’re just trying to enjoy the ambiance and aroma of the candle, it can be quite annoying!

What Makes Candles Flicker?

When a candle burns, it creates a teardrop-shaped flame that is fed by the circulation of oxygen and wax. As the wax melts into a liquid, it gets pulled up into the wick through capillary action to feed the flame. (Think of how water moves through a paper towel). But if the flame gets either too much or too little air or wax, it can flicker or flare-up. This can also happen if the wick is too long, as the wax has to travel a length that affects the stability of the flame.

Flickering can also be caused by impurities in the wax. When there is dust, soot, or old wicks floating in the wax, how it is pulled up through the capillary action of the wick is changed. This alters how the flame burns, and it will often begin to flicker. The wisp of smoke you sometimes see when a candle flickers, it is caused by unburned particles that have escaped from the flame due to incomplete combustion.

How To Avoid Flickering

Candle flickers aren’t always unwanted and are seen in some religious traditions as a good sign. Some customs see them as indicating a spiritual presence or that the invocation of an angel was successful. If the light brightens after a flicker, some interpret that as a prayer being answered. 

The primary use of Jewel Within candles is relaxation and mood-setting, and with this in mind, flickering does indicate that something is amiss. It could mean that the candle was not cleaned of dust or old wicks (our candles don’t give off soot!) or that the room is too drafty. The ideal teardrop shape of the flame will flicker when disturbed, so always keep your candles on a stable surface in a well-ventilated room. If you notice any drafts, vents, or air currents, position the candle so that it is not directly in front of them.

Flickering from drafts isn’t just an annoyance; it can be a sign that the candle is getting too much air. The candle can get too high, burn too hot, and use up the wax much more quickly, and this can also be dangerous if there are fabrics nearby. If you notice flickering, try and reposition the candle, keep a cover on it, trim the wick, and dust before using it!