Fire can bring us together. Think of candles or a campfire. They are symbols of romance and good times, but fire can also tear us apart. When I was a teenager, the house next door burned down to the foundation. At one point, there was a serious possibility that the flames might spread to our house as well. It was terrifying and heart retching to watch, as our friends slowly lost everything they owned.
There was such a sense of powerlessness. I will never forget it. Something like that will give you a serious respect for fire and the importance of using it safely. Candles are a big part of my life. They are one of the small ways I treat myself, but I never let myself forget that they can be dangerous when used carelessly.
KEEP CANDLES WHERE YOU CAN SEE THEM
This is something I am particularly aware of now that I am a mother. I never leave my candles unattended, out of sight, or in a high traffic area of the house where a child or a pet could easily knock them over.
For me, candles can bring such a sense of relaxation. They are like a little piece of a holiday that can just drain the stress of a busy day away, but it is important to never fall asleep when a candle is burning. I can understand the temptation — believe me, but it just isn’t worth the risk. If you are having trouble falling asleep, use a lava lamp. It’s a lot safer!
KEEP THEM AWAY FROM CHILDREN AND PETS
Our children love to imitate us. If we love something, they are automatically attracted to it. That means keeping your candles, matches or lighters in a safe place when they are not in use and teaching kids that real candles are not toys.
I know how much my son likes them, so I have given him battery operated ones of his own. They aren’t as nice as real candles, obviously, but he can use them whenever he wants. The little, electric tea-lights that you can find in dollar and discount stores make great stocking stuffers, and they actually teach children not to leave candles lit when they aren’t around to enjoy them because the batteries will go dead.
It’s actually the cutest thing. My son is very empathetic, and he likes to surprise me with a candle lit snack or an offer to cuddle up together with popcorn and a movie with a pair of his electric candles. It’s his way of keeping Mommy happy and creating the perfect atmosphere for a happy home. Is that training for the future or what! Candle purists might think I’m crazy, but they’ve actually become something that is an important part of our family life.
CHOOSE A SAFE LOCATION
Curtains are also something to keep in mind when choosing a location to burn your candles and any other flowing or portable textiles, like blankets, bedding, flammable party decorations or towels. I love to have a candle-lit bath, sweet milk bubbles up to my chin, the works, but candles and towels do not mix!
Curtains can blow around in the breeze of an open window, so you can’t forget about any objects or other factors that might move into the danger zone. Be aware of any drafts or air currents, vents or fans.
Candles can also mark some areas, just because their container can get hot, especially as the candle burns down. In fact, it’s suggested that you never burn a candle right down to the end, for just that reason. Getting some cheap, nonflammable coasters are a good idea, and if they get wax on them, you can always throw them out. It’s always possible that the heat can cause what they’re sitting on to burst into flame as well, so don’t use a book instead, and make sure they are somewhere stable that won’t get knocked down.
USE A GOOD CONTAINER OR HOLDER & TRIM YOUR WICK
Maybe it isn’t always a safety issue, but wax is something else to consider. It can easily stain fabric or other surfaces. That’s more of a worry with candlesticks, obviously, than votives. That’s one of the reasons why I prefer candles that burn into a container. There is less mess and everything is more controllable. They aren’t perfectly safe, but there is a bit of a shield there when it comes to pets and kids. Don’t use candles with wooden or plastic holders that can catch fire or that have flammable decorations like ribbons or tree-bark.
Remembering to trim your wick to 5-7 mm or 1/4 inch before you light it can also make a big difference, and do it after that every 2-3 hours to prevent the flame getting too big. Extinguishing it with a snuffer cuts down on wax splatters too and don’t even think about putting it out with water if it’s in a glass container. That can be really dangerous and cause the glass to shatter.
THINK SAFETY FIRST
Every day is special enough to deserve candles in my house. I don’t know about you, but they always put a smile on my face. If you always keep in mind that they can also be dangerous, and you follow common sense and safe practices, then they will always put a smile on your face too.
Credit to feature image at top of post goes to Tim Via Flickr