Do candles ever go bad? This is a question that is asked more often than you might think. Candles aren’t something you eat, so it seems like you wouldn’t need to worry about it.
But some candles are made from waxes and other materials that are organic in nature, and that implies there could be a risk or problems should they get too old.
What’s the real answer? Can candles spoil or expire?
Yes, some candles can spoil or go bad. Candles made with soy – or palm-based waxes can eventually rot and even paraffin wax blends will start to break down after several years. Bees-waxes have an indefinite shelf life, though, if properly wrapped.
Not all candles expire, but most do eventually go bad and rot, become brittle or otherwise break down.
Throughout the rest of this post we will discuss the different types of candle waxes and what may happen if they are kept too long or improperly stored.
We will also provide some tips on how to keep your candles fresh for as long as possible. Let’s take a look.
What Are the Different Types of Candle Waxes and Their Characteristics?
There are several different types of candle waxes, each with unique properties and characteristics.
The most common type is paraffin wax, which is made from refined petroleum products and comes in both liquid and solid forms.
This hard, brittle wax is generally the least expensive option, and burns at a relatively high temperature, making it an ideal choice for pillar candles.
Paraffin wax candles will generally last around 5 years if kept properly and in good conditions. Though non-organic, oxidation can still cause it to eventually breakdown.
Another popular option is palm wax, which is made from the fruit of the palm plant. Its soft texture makes palm wax a great choice for container candles that feature intricate decorative details or additions.
Palm wax is organic in nature, meaning it is vulnerable to “spoilage” or rotting. Expect palm wax candles to only keep about a year once you take them out of their airtight package (if sold that way).
Another popular option is soy wax. Soy wax, as the name suggests, is another organic wax made from soybeans and typically has a much lower melting point than other types of waxes.
This makes it an excellent choice for all-natural candles that have a smooth finish and slow burn time, but it is also vulnerable to spoiling.
You’ll only get a year to 18 months of shelf-life from a soy candle kept properly.
Lastly, beeswax candles. Beeswax is a traditional candle-making wax that not only produces a bright, clean flame and pleasant aroma, but also contains natural enzymes that help to purify the air.
Interestingly, even though beeswax is organic in nature, it has an indefinite shelf life if kept in a sealed container or tightly wrapped.
Ancient beeswax found in containers at various archeological sites has proven to maintain its essential characteristics, even over centuries.
For this reason, beeswax might be the last word in long shelf-life candles.
These are the most commonly seen types of candle waxes that are available today, and each has its own benefits and drawbacks.
Each of them is also vulnerable, one way or another, to spoilage or expiration. The next section will tell you about the effects of spoilage.
What Happens If a Candle Is Kept Too Long?
When a candle is kept for too long or stored improperly, you’ll usually see a few things start to happen.
The wax can become hard and brittle in the case of paraffin or beeswax candles, or discolored and crumbly in the case of palm or soil candles.
These irregularities in the wax make it difficult for the wick to absorb the wax when it melts, or even results in the candle losing its shape entirely.
As a result, the candle might be ruined or, if you are able to use it, the flame may flicker and produce less light or more smoke than usual.
In addition, if you have scented candles the fragrance of the candle may be reduced or even absent entirely; the essential oils and other ingredients that provide the scent can evaporate or lose potency over time even when it isn’t burned.
Burning a candle that is obviously going bad may not be safe: A lit candle that collapses or slumps over unexpectedly is a severe fire hazard.
Always keep an eye on any suspect candles with altered appearance or texture!
UV Exposure Greatly Accelerates Spoilage of Candles
Studies have shown that exposure to UV light greatly increases the rate of spoilage in candles.
This is because UV radiation can alter the chemical composition of waxes and fragrances, resulting in increased decay of waxes (organic or inorganic), unpleasant odors and the degradation of other additives such as dyes or preservatives.
Given this, it is important to safeguard candles from any strong sunlight and for some “all natural” candles even from indoor fluorescent lighting.
Either can be damaging due to their high levels of UV radiation.
Ultimately, keeping your candlesticks out of the sun and other intense light sources is keeping them out of harm’s way, and will help preserve them much longer than they otherwise would.
How Do You Store Candles to Make Them Last Longer?
Proper storage is essential for making candles last as long as possible.
First and foremost, candles should be stored in a cool, dark place to maximize shelf life. Take care to store your candles in the proper orientation so they do not sag.
This is usually a problem for thin, tapered candles when left upright or not laid down flat on a solid surface, but not so much for thicker pillar candles or candles in a jar or tin.
For any candles purchased and stored as-new, keep them in their factory wrap or container.
If you have already opened the candle or purchased multiples in bulk, consider wrapping them in wax paper or plastic.
Any scented candle can be kept in a zipper freezer bag to help preserve its fragrance.
Additionally, if possible, they should also be stored in an airtight container to minimize the impact of oxidation and evaporation of any oils in the wax.
This also helps to keep out dust and other airborne contaminants.
Lastly, keep in mind that we learned different waxes have a more or less definite shelf life. Palm and soy waxes simply will not last that long compared to paraffin and especially beeswax.
If you know you will be storing candles for a long time, invest in ones with wax that can go the distance.
By following these simple guidelines, you can help your candles stay in good condition for many years to come.
Candles Can Spoil, But Yours Don’t Have To
Candles can spoil over time, with palm and soy waxes going bad much faster than beeswax or paraffin waxes.
No matter what kind of candle you have, with proper storage techniques, you can help yours last much longer.
Keeping your candles sealed in a cool, dark place and away from direct sunlight or other intense light sources can greatly extend their shelf life.
Tom has built and remodeled homes, generated his own electricity, grown his own food and more, all in quest of remaining as independent of society as possible. Now he shares his experiences and hard-earned lessons with readers around the country.