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The Truth About Gel Candles

There are rumors and e-mails going around about exploding gel candles. It is not the gel that is unsafe, it is the way the candles are made. Here is the truth according to several sources.

Gel wax is made of 95% mineral oil and 5% polymer resin, neither of which is an explosive. It would take an extreme condition to make the candle explode. Gel wax heats up when burning and thus heats the container it is in. If this hot candle is moved to a very cold surface, then yes, it might explode, as would any container candle that has been burning a long time

  • All waxes are primarily hydrocarbons, whether of animal, vegetable, or petroleum origin. The chemical composition of all candlemaking waxes is similar, and all candle waxes burn in the same manner.
  • No specific type of wax or wax blend is considered "best" for candlemaking. All waxes - when provided in high-quality format - have been shown to burn cleanly, safely and in the same manner.
  • No candle wax has ever been shown to be toxic or harmful to human health. (the harm seems to come from some dyes and chemical fragrance oils, which are often used in soy candles)
  • There is no such thing as a soot-free wax. All organic compounds when burned will emit some carbon (soot) due to incomplete combustion. Sooting is primarily a factor of wick length and flame disturbance.
  • Reputable candle manufacturers use only high-quality waxes in their formulations. (I use Calumet/Penreco Gel in our candles, they make 99% of all gel wax available)
  • Source of list: National Candle Association

I use Calumet/Penreco Gel in all the candles.

The gel wax container can crack or break from the heat. Gel candles must be in a container made for candles. Those pretty "drink" gel candles in champagne flutes or regular glassware are an accident waiting to happen. As stated above, because the entire gel candle gets warm while burning, the container heats up. If the container is not made of heatproof glass, it will crack, break, or in extreme conditions, shatter.

I only use Anchor-Hocking heatproof glassware made for containing candles.

Too much fragrance oil, be it synthetic or natural, or improper blending of fragrance and wax will cause the flame to flare up. This is true of any candle, be it gel, paraffin, soy, or beeswax. Proper measuring is a must, any book on candle making gives the ratio of fragrance to wax and also warns of using too much. When the fragrance is added to the melted wax, it must be stirred well to incorporate thoroughly. When you stir gel wax before pouring then the resulting candle has a lot of bubbles. To avoid this, some do not stir well enough, leaving pockets of fragrance trapped in the wax or causing the fragrance to separate from the wax in the container.

I carefully measure the exact amount of essential oils added to every batch of candles and stir thoroughly before pouring. I make an extra candle out of every batch that I burn as a means of testing the batch. If the candle has too many bubbles then I place them in a sunny location for a few hours as this gently heats the wax and lets the bubbles escape.

Gel candles are supposed to have a smaller flame than traditional candles. Trim wicks to 1/4 inch before lighting. Do not burn gel candles for more than 2 hours at a time. Let cool completely before moving a gel candle, do not move while gel is liquified. Do not use if the container is cracked.

Always follow general candle burning guidelines:

  • NEVER leave a burning candle unattended
  • Keep away from pets and children
  • Trim wick every time before burning (for gel candles trim to 1/4 inch above the wax)
  • Do not leave a candle burning "for atmosphere" in your bedroom before sleeping
  • Keep candles away from curtains and other flammable materials
  • Place candles where you will not have to reach over them
  • Keep candles away from drafts
  • Keep candle free of debris from matches or wick trimming
  • Extinguish candle if flame is too close to container (creates a black mark on container)
  • Extinguish if the flame becomes too high or smokes extensively
  • If glitter collects around the wick, it will create a large smoky flame. When the candle is cool, gently remove the glitter from around the wick.

    For more gel candle information visit

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