Candle Burn Times: How Long Do Candles Last?

Picture this: you've just unwrapped a beautiful new scented candle. Its fragrance fills the air, promising hours of soothing ambiance. But how long do candles last? How can you make sure your candle burns as long as possible?

Candle burn times might seem like a mundane detail, but they hold the secret to maximizing your candle's lifespan and enjoying every flicker of its warm glow. From the type of wax to the size and shape, many factors influence how long a candle burns. In this comprehensive guide, we'll illuminate the intricacies of candle burn times, helping you turn every lighting into a lasting sensory delight.

How Long Do Candles Last?

The journey into the heart of a candle begins with understanding its burn time. Just like a captivating book or a great movie, a candle has a beginning, middle, and end. The burn time is the total duration for which a candle can provide light and aroma before it burns out completely. This time not only determines how long your candle lasts, but also influences the value for your money.

What Influences Candle Burn Times?

Numerous variables play a part in determining the burn time of your candles. Some are inherent in the candle itself, like its size, shape, and the materials used in its construction. Others involve how you use and care for your candle. Let's delve into these factors to understand how they affect the lifespan of your candles.

various candle types burning

The Role of Wax Type in Burn Time

The type of wax used in a candle has a significant impact on its burn time. Paraffin wax, one of the most common types, tends to burn quickly, offering bright light but a shorter lifespan. Soy wax, on the other hand, burns slower and cooler, extending the candle's life. Beeswax burns even slower than soy, making it a premium choice for long-lasting candles. Each wax type offers unique characteristics in terms of scent throw and aesthetic appeal, adding to their influence on burn time.

The Impact of Candle Size and Shape on Burn Time

Size and shape also play crucial roles in a candle's burn time. Larger candles typically have longer burn times due to the greater amount of wax available to burn. However, the shape of the candle can alter this rule. For instance, a tall, thin taper candle may not last as long as a short, wide pillar candle, even if they weigh the same. The wider candle has a larger surface area for the wax to pool, leading to a slower, more even burn.

How Wick Material Affects Burn Time

The wick is the lifeline of your candle. Its material and thickness can dramatically influence how long your candle lasts. Cotton wicks are common and provide a clean, steady flame. Wooden wicks, while offering a unique aesthetic and a comforting crackling sound, tend to burn faster and hotter, offering a slightly superior hot throw in the process. Meanwhile, a thicker wick will draw up more wax, causing the candle to burn quicker than one with a thinner wick.

Average Burn Times for Different Types of Candles

Each type of candle offers a unique ambiance, and their burn times vary just as widely. From the petite tealight to the robust container candle, understanding the average burn times can help you choose the right candle for your needs.

Let’s take a look at what you can expect, while understanding these are just average numbers, that can vary a great deal depending on the components used in the candle.

Tealight Candles Burn Time

Tealight candles, small and encased in thin metal containers, are perfect for creating a warm, flickering glow at dinners or parties. Despite their size, they pack a punch in terms of burn time. On average, a tealight candle can burn for 3 to 6 hours. Their compact size and short burn time make them ideal for occasions where you want the ambiance of candlelight without a long-term commitment.

tealights burning

Votive Candles Burn Time

Votive candles are slightly larger than tealights and usually come without a container, meaning they need to be placed in a votive holder. These candles offer a longer burn time, typically ranging from 8 to 10 hours. With their longer lifespan and variety of colors and fragrances, votive candles are a versatile choice for both events and everyday use.

burning red votives

Pillar Candles Burn Time

Pillar candles are a favorite for their long-lasting burn times, typically related to their size (both height and diameter) and wax type. It's generally recommended to burn these candles for 3-4 hours at a time. This practice creates an even wax pool, helping prevent the candle from tunneling, which can shorten its lifespan.

However, avoid burning pillar candles for over 4 hours in one go. Doing so can lead to carbon buildup on the wick, causing a "mushrooming" effect that might hinder optimal performance.

As a very broad rule, candles can usually burn for 4-6 hours per ounce of wax. So, a pillar candle's specific burn time can vary. 


purple pillar candles lit

Container Candles Burn Time

Container candles, which include jar candles and tins, are among the most popular types of candles. They come in a wide range of sizes, scents, and styles, making them a favorite for home décor and gifts. A smaller container candle can burn for 15 to 40 hours, while larger ones can last up to 60 hours or more. The enclosed nature of these candles allows the wax to burn evenly and slowly, providing many hours of fragrance and light.

jar candle lit

How to Calculate Your Candle's Burn Time

Knowing how to calculate your candle's burn time can be a useful skill, especially if you're planning an event or trying to create a specific ambiance in your home. It's relatively easy to figure out, and it ensures you get the most out of your candles.

Step-by-Step Guide to Calculating Burn Rate

  1. Light Your Candle: Start by lighting your candle. Make sure it's in a safe location away from flammable materials.

  2. Start a Timer: As soon as you light the candle, start a timer. You'll need to keep track of how long the candle burns.

  3. Wait for One Hour: Let the candle burn for exactly one hour. After the hour has passed, extinguish the flame.

  4. Measure the Wax: Use a ruler to measure how much wax has melted in that hour. This is your burn rate.

  5. Calculate Burn Time: Measure the depth of your candle wax, and subtract 1/2”. Divide the total height or depth of your candle (in the same unit you used to measure the burnt wax) by the burn rate. This will give you an estimate of your candle's total burn time.

Remember, this is an estimate. Many factors can affect the actual burn time of your candle.

Using Burn Time to Time Events

Burn time isn't just about maximizing your candle's lifespan. It's also a handy tool for timing events. For example, if you're hosting a dinner party and want to ensure your candles last the entire evening, knowing their burn time can help you choose the right ones. Or, if you're creating a relaxing bath routine, a candle with a shorter burn time can signal when it's time to wrap up. By understanding burn times, you can use candles to add a sense of rhythm and timing to your activities.

Maximizing Your Candle's Lifespan

Candles are not just sources of light and aroma; they are investments in ambiance and mood. Therefore, making them last as long as possible is vital. Let's explore some strategies to maximize your candle's lifespan.

How to Make Your Candle Last Longer

There's an art to getting the most out of your candles. From the first burn to proper storage, every step can influence how long your candle lasts. By following a few simple guidelines, you can extend your candle's life and enjoy its light and fragrance for many more hours.

The Importance of the Candle’s First Burn

The first burn sets the stage for the rest of the candle's life. It's during this initial burn that a memory ring is established. This ring determines how the wax will melt in future burns. Ideally, you should allow the candle to burn long enough for the wax to melt across the entire diameter of the candle. This prevents tunneling, where the candle burns straight down the middle, wasting much of the wax.

Trimming the Wick for Optimal Burn Time

Before each burn, ensure the wick is trimmed to about 1/4 inch. This prevents the wick from mushrooming, which can lead to soot and smoke. A shorter wick also provides a smaller, more controlled flame, which helps slow the rate at which the wax melts, thereby extending the burn time.

Proper Candle Storage for Longevity

Where and how you store your candles can significantly affect their lifespan. Keep your candles in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight or harsh indoor lighting to prevent the wax from softening or melting. Also, consider storing them in airtight containers to protect the wax from dust and to preserve the fragrance. With these steps, your candles will be ready to perform at their best, any time you choose to light them.


Conclusion: Making the Most of Your Candles

Candles are more than just decorative objects. They bring warmth, fragrance, and ambiance to our spaces, serving as silent companions that light up our lives. But to truly make the most of your candles, understanding their features and how they work can be incredibly beneficial.

Recap of Key Points

  • Pick The Right Candle Type: The first things to concider is the use of the candle. What is it’s purpose, and how long do you need it to burn. Once you have that figured out, you can decide what type of wax, wick, and candle type best serve your needs. If you're unsure, you can check out our guide to scented candles.

  • Calculating Burn Time: Calculating your candle's burn time can help you plan events or create a specific atmosphere in your home. By measuring the amount of wax that melts in an hour, you can estimate how long your candle will last.

  • Maximizing Candle Lifespan: The first burn is crucial in setting the stage for the rest of the candle's life. Regular wick trimming and proper storage can also significantly extend your candle's lifespan.


By understanding these aspects, you can enhance your candle-burning experience and make your candles last longer, allowing you to enjoy their light and fragrance for as long as possible.