Candles are a non-edible item that we typically keep in storage for long periods. Your emergency candles for power outages might not be used for months or years after purchasing them, but you need them to work when you do need them. Likewise, scented candles might only be brought out for special celebrations. Even if you light them frequently, they may last a long time.
So, if you keep candles on hand and they last for years in your home, are they still safe? Do candles ever expire? The answer is a bit more complicated than a simple yes or no. Your candle is unique, and you'll need to look at it individually to decide if it is time to throw it away, or if it is still good. It also matters what you expect from your candle.
Candles don't technically expire, but they do degrade over time. UV rays from the sun can cause the color and scent of your candles to degrade, but this process takes years to occur. Even then, your candle will still burn. Some vegetable waxes are prone to rotting, but again, this takes years to occur. If you burn your candle within one-to-two years of purchase, you do not need to worry.
When Candles Degrade
From the moment you open the packaging on your candle, it becomes vulnerable to degrading. Degraded candles will still function—you'll always be able to light it and it will burn—but it may lose its scent and color.
Once the candle is out of the box and put out on display in your home, it becomes vulnerable to UV light. UV light is the ultraviolet rays produced by the sun, and they're as damaging for candles as they are for us. Unlike your candle, however, you can slather on a little sunscreen before going out.
While you could get a sunburn from UV ray exposure, your candle will suffer from scent and color loss.
This is the case with many products. If you ever forgot a jacket outside and found it a week later, you have probably seen the effects of light damage for yourself. Candles are the same way.
UV radiation may also weaken the materials used to make the candle itself, and keeping it away from windows won't necessarily make your candle immune. Fluorescent lighting and even indirect sunlight can also be culprits.
Some candle makers are aware of this problem and have taken steps to make their candles more resistant to the effects of UV rays. Chemical additives can give the candle UV protection, a sort of sunscreen for the candle itself.
Although these will help your candle last longer and make it more resistant to discoloration and scent loss, it can never fully protect your candle. Just as your own sunscreen eventually needs to be reapplied, your candles UV protection will subsequently give out too, and fading will still happen.
Our candles are made of coconut-soy wax, phthalate- and paraben-free fragrances, and a wooden wick. They'll last you quite some time!
Other Causes for Candle Expiration
Although sunlight is the number one cause of an expired candle, there are other causes as well. Candles made from vegetable sources, or made with essential oils, can rot. They are made out of organic materials such as plants and flowers, and like all organic materials, it will start to decompose over the years.
While this can happen with your candle, it isn't very likely. A candle that is adequately kept can still be used for many years.
How Long Your Candle Can Last
How long you can expect your candle to last depends on a variety of factors, including what type of wax has been used, the essential oils or fragrance oils in the candle, and how it is stored. The longest-lasting candle wax is beeswax, which has no expiration date.
Beeswax was once used by ancient Egyptians to preserve their mummies, and there is still beeswax from that period in existence today.
Although beeswax candles certainly have the greatest longevity, they're not always the best candle for your needs. They can be prohibitively expensive due to how limited beeswax is compared to other kinds of waxes.
Paraffin wax also lasts a long time, having a shelf life of about five years. Waxes made out of organic material tend to have a shorter lifespan—two years or less.
Regardless of the wax, how long your candle will last significantly depends on how it is stored. An improperly stored candle will not last nearly as long as a candle that is kept in proper storage when not being used.
Although certain types of wax last longer than others, how long a candle lasts before it expires isn't usually our top consideration. We buy candles for a lot of reasons. How good it smells, the relaxing ambiance, and the safety of our family are all prime considerations.
Luckily, there is a lot you can do to keep your candles in good condition for many years. Here are our recommended methods for storage.
Keep Them Sealed
Many candles that come in a jar or vase also come with a sealing lid. The tightly fitting lid seals out oxygen, which can destroy the candle through the oxidative process. You should use these lids whenever your candle is not in use.
If your candle is a pillar or taper candle, you should still do what you can to seal the candle. This could mean putting it in a sealing bag or wrapping it. The more you can protect the candle from the air, the better luck you will have in preserving the color and scent of the candle.
Keep Them Out of the Light
As we talked about earlier, UV damage is a significant cause of candles losing their scent and color. The most practical way to maintain the color of your candles is to protect them from UV light when not in use.
This means choosing a dark location to store your candles when not in use, such as a closet or in a box, that will protect them from the damage caused by the sun. If you want to keep them out on display, keep them out of direct sunlight to limit damage.
Keep Them Cool
This might seem obvious, but candles can melt if stored in a location that is too hot. Even if the candle doesn't outright melt before you plan to use it, constant fluctuations in temperature can degrade the candle. Make sure the location you store your candles is protected from these fluctuations.
Keep Them Dry
Candles that are made from natural materials are more prone to rotting. You can avoid this by making sure the candle isn't stored in a damp location. Dampness makes it easier for bacteria to begin the decomposition process and isn't suitable for candles in general.
The bottom line is that candles do best sealed and in a cold, dark, and dry location when not in use. If you plan to use the candle within a year or two of purchasing it, you don't need to be too concerned about its location.
Although there isn't a specific time your candle will go bad, it is possible that it can—which means good care is necessary.
Your candle mostly just needs sensible steps to stay in good working order, and still have a fresh and long lasting scent years after you purchase it.