Fragrance expert reveals 6 mistakes we all make when burning scented candles – and how to avoid them

Feeling like you're not getting your money's worth from your scented candles? These common candle mistakes may be the reason why

Listing image of a collection of candles on a side table with furniture around it to support easy mistakes when burning scented candles
(Image credit: Getty Images)

You may be questioning the possibility of candle mistakes, after all, how difficult is lighting a candle? Well, you might be surprised just how many pitfalls there are when it comes to getting the most out of your candles. 

Many of us will be beginning to purchase our best scented candles for the season ahead to scent-scape our homes, and with many of our favourite candles having a rather luxurious price tag there's no denying we want their full potential when burning to make our houses smell good

So what are these potential candle mistakes and how can we avoid making them? Speaking to Robin Fisher, the product development manager at aromatics brand Arran, he explains that there are six common mistakes made that can affect the efficiency of our candles. 

6 scented candle burning mistakes you might be making 

Candle mistakes - candle in brown jar lit on a wooden plate

(Image credit: Getty Images)

1. Tunnelling

You may have already heard of this term, but tunnelling describes the result of not letting your candle burn long enough. This can cause an issue for your candle's ability to produce a strong scent and should only the wax near the wick be melting then the overall scent will diminish. 

"To achieve the most potent aroma, burn your candle until the melt pool (the circle of melted wax surrounding the wick) extends to the edges of the jar," explains Robin. He recommends allowing your candles to burn for two to three hours to avoid tunnelling, a perfect excuse for making your bedroom cosy in the evening. 

Robin Fisher

Robin has worked at the fragrance brand Arran for over 7 years as a product development manager and quality manager. His work at the company consists of choosing scents that are carefully curated to enhance moods and transform spaces as well as ensuring all products are as safe as they can be. 

2. Short burn times

Similar to the issue of tunnelling, not burning your candle for long enough can not only waste the wax but it can also mean that minimal scent is produced. Not ideal when you've just treated yourself to one of the best autumn candles.

To avoid this and ensure your home is filled with your desired scent for as long as possible, Robin recommends allowing your candles to burn for around a minimum of two hours and a maximum of four. 

3. Not allowing the candle to solidify after burning

As much as we may love burning our newest Diptyque candles on repeat, it's important to let them completely cool down and solidify between uses. That means no re-lighting every few hours, unfortunately for us. 

"To keep the scent strong over time, allow the candle to solidify completely between burns," explains Robin. "This allows the oils to stabilise and offers a more potent scent during the next burn." Once the candle has hardened and cooled then you can strike that match! 

Candle mistakes - close up shot of a burning candle

(Image credit: Getty Images)

4. Forgetting to trim your wick

This might just be one of the most common candle mistakes, and that's mostly because so many of us haven't been aware of the need to trim our candle's wicks. However, it turns out that this small step can make a massive difference when it comes to getting the best of your scented candles. 

Not only does trimming your wick a quarter inch before each burn minimise soot and smoke, but it also increases the life of your candle – a way to maximise costs when buying best-selling White Company scents or beloved Neom candles. 

Although scissors will certainly do the job in most cases, getting a wick trimmer will make things a lot easier, especially with tall jar candles! We've found this stainless steel one on offer at Amazon for £5.99

5. Burning your candles in the wrong places

Of course, there are the usual places where you shouldn't be putting candles, near plants, in bookcases, or close to electricals but there are a few more locations to avoid. One of those places is anywhere with a draft, including windows, air vents or even fans. Robin explains that drafts can cause uneven burning and excessive smoke which is always best to avoid especially for those with more sensitive lungs. 

Another area of your home to avoid is the bathroom. The reason for this is that the moisture often found in bathrooms can affect how the candle burns and might even dampen the scent. If, however, you are after a candle-lit soak then investing in one of the best humidifiers will keep the moisture to a minimum and the relaxing vibes to a max.

Should you want a bit more freedom with your candles then we've put together a list of the best flameless candles that can be placed anywhere safely!

6. Blowing out your candles

Now don't panic, birthday candles are an exception here! You're household candles on the other hand will benefit from a wick snuffer compared to all that blowing. 

"Snuffing out the flame will reduce smoke and soot, preserving the integrity of your candle's fragrance," explains Robin. We recommend this contemporarily designed Keruto Candle Snuffer from Amazon. When it comes to your best Jo Malone candles it's worth the investment of £5 to avoid jeopardising the integrity of your expense scent.

Alternatively, if you don't have a wick snuffer then he recommends gently dipping the wick into the melted wax to extinguish the flame. However, it is much safer to pick up a wick snuffer, your candles and fingertips will thank you for it! 

Emily Smith
Digital lifestyle writer

Emily joined woman&home as a staff writer after finishing her MA in Magazine Journalism from City University in 2023. After writing various health and news content, she now specialises in lifestyle and home writing where she covers all things cleaning, interiors and homeowning.