Quarantine 2020 brought out some crazy things in all of us. Some people turned to baking bread from scratch. Some turned to Tik Tok. Some turned to online shopping. Some turned to at-home fitness. Me? I turned to stress cleaning and candle burning.

I always kept a stash of candles on a designated shelf in the linen closet. They usually came from places like TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and Bath and Body Works, and I'd usually light one in the living room each evening. It was a simple way to help unwind from the day, and it was the only time I really had to burn them since I knew I'd be home long enough to enjoy the atmosphere. But then we started staying home all the time, and in an attempt to make sure I was always enjoying the atmosphere (and as a way to make sure the house smelled good), I was lighting them as soon as I woke up, and I was lighting them everywhere! Upstairs, downstairs, bathrooms, bedroom, office desk, entry way... you name it! This means I burned through my stash quite quickly, and since outside was closed, I had to turn to the internet to re-up on my supply.

I've said this time and time again, but I am not a fan of online shopping. Part of the joy of shopping is the instant gratification of having your item, in hand, as soon as you pay for it. That joy does not exist within the online shopping experience. I also prefer to try things on for size, get a feel for fabric and build quality, sit on the sofa before purchasing the thing... and I like to smell my candles before committing with my dollars. When I'm shopping online, I'm solely relying on my sense of sight, which is no fun for me as a multi-sense consumer. But since we were in the middle of a pandemic, I had no other choice. And since I couldn't sniff the candles before buying them, I only bought a few here and there instead of doing one, big haul like I'd normally do in person.

While I was virtually candle shopping, I learned some things. These are my findings.

1. Wax Matters

My beloved Bath and Body Works and DW Home Candles from TJ Maxx are all made with paraffin wax. This kind of wax is made from fossil fuels like coal and petroleum, which can pose a handful of health risks when burned. It's the most common wax used for candles because it's the cheapest, and the flames throw a heavy black soot after being lit for a while.

One of the reasons I had to repaint the wall for my home office makeover was because it was stained from soot from all my candle burning in that corner. No matter how hard I scrubbed, it would not come clean, so I had to give it a fresh coat of paint instead. The jury's still out on whether burning candles made of paraffin wax is actually harmful, but if it did that to my walls, I'd hate to think what it might do to my body when inhaled every day.

As far as "clean" waxes go, palm, coconut and soy are the most common clean alternatives, and I've been very happy with the way those have burned since I've started buying them. The flames don't throw any soot, and they burn at more moderate temperatures than paraffin candles, which means they last longer. For reference, the 3-wick Bath and Body Works paraffin candles are 14.5-ounces, and they have a burn time of 30 to 45-hours; they burn hot and fast. Le Labo soy candles (pictured above) are 8.6-ounces, and they have a burn time of roughly 60 hours.

2. Let Them Pool

I used to hate spending money on a candle, just to have them "tunnel" right down the middle and leave a chuck of wax all around the sides. Sometimes it comes down to a poorly made candle, but most often it was because I didn't burn them right.

The first burn is the most important; it sets the precedent for every subsequent burn. If you don't let all the wax at the top liquify into an even pool of liquid, it creates a memory ring that is difficult to fix. Every other time you light the candle, it will only liquify to the edges of the memory ring, and then it will start to burn in a tunnel down the middle.

Memory rings can still form after the first burn, so it's also important to leave the candle lit for at least 2-3 hours each time you light one (depending on the size).

3. Wick Maintenance

I used to buy Yankee Candles quite often, and whenever I'd go to checkout, the sales person would ask if I needed a wick trimmer, snuffer, or any other candle care items. I'd politely say no then think to myself they're just candles, it's not that serious. And while that may be the case for those half-price Yankee Candles I used to buy, that's not the case anymore. Since I've become more intentional about the kinds of candles I buy, I want to take care of them and get the most out of every burn, because I'm literally burning money. It's a luxury above anything else, and if I'm going to have some luxurious moments here and there, I want to do it right.

So now, I trim my wicks before every burn. This makes sure there's no carbon buildup on the tip, and keeps the flame from flickering and burning the glass or leaving scorch marks. I also make sure not to just blow out the candle. I use a snuffer or wick dipper instead, again, to avoid scorch marks on the glass. This makes the containers easier to clean and repurpose once all the wax is burned up.


This is way more than I ever thought I'd ever write about candles, but I genuinely love burning them! And I've already declared that candle-making will likely be my retirement gig, so I'm mentally preparing myself.

Like I said before, they're a special kind of indulgence. Buying luxury candles isn't necessarily a flex like... buying a Chanel handbag or a Cartier cuff. They're something you enjoy in the privacy of your own home, where hardly any one will see. It's a luxury that is for you and yours alone, and I quite like that idea.

Some of my current favorite candle brands:

  • Voluspa (coconut wax)
  • Rituals (listed as a 70% natural wax blend)
  • Byredo (soy wax)
  • Le Labo (soy wax)

*Honorable mention to The Koop New York. I'm still waiting on an order to arrive, so I can't say this will be a favorite, but I have very high hopes. The company is black-owned(!) and always has a limited launch since they're a small team. Stalk their instagram for launch date info like I did.