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The One Step You’re Skipping With Your Candles That Diminishes Indoor Air Quality

Photo: Stocksy / KATIE + JOE
As I sit in my bedroom with a candle on one side and an air purifier on the other, I know that the situation doesn't really add up. I want to have good indoor air quality, but I also want to burn candles. Simply put, candles aren't good for your indoor air quality. I'll never give up my love affair with candles, but in order to make myself feel better about my choices, there's one thing I can do to keep my candles burning as clean as possible—regularly trimming the wicks.

Trimming candle wicks to a quarter of an inch always feels like an optional step. But, it's advised to keep them that short because when they get any longer, they produce soot. So when you light a candle with a wick that is super long and doubled over, the wick length is why the inside of the candle container (and sometimes the wall behind it) starts to turn black.

Boy Smells Wick Trimmer

If you've ever tried trimming your wick with regular scissors, you know it's a bit of a hassle. You either have to cut the wick with the candle upside down so it falls out, or cut it upright and then go fishing for the wick while likely spreading soot all over the top of your candle. This wick trimmer from Boy Smells makes a somewhat annoying task so much easier, as the circular blades catch your fallen wick. If you're feeling fancy, you may consider going for the Diptyque wick trimmer.

Diptyque Wick Trimmer

To be clear—no matter how long your wick is, candles aren't ever going to be good for your air quality, says John McKeon, MD, CEO of Allergy Standards.

"If somebody is concerned about indoor air quality, generally you're not recommended to have any types of candles indoors regardless of the wick length," he says. "They are one of what we call the cozy culprits." Cozy culprits are indoor air pollutants that rise in the cooler months when you're spending more time indoors with closed windows and are trying to keep your space warm and comfortable. These include things like cooking grease and smoke from burning fires and, you guessed it, candles.

Sadly, the best part about candles, the smell, is not exactly the best for your airways. Especially if you're sensitive to fragrance.

"The other issue with candles rather than just the actual burning is, often they're scented or fragranced," says Dr. McKeon. "If you can smell it, there's clearly some kind of volatile molecule in the air. And that may cause irritations to people with hypersensitive airways."

If you're a candle devotee like me and nothing is gonna stand between you and your firey beloved, rest assured that trimming your candle wicks can make the experience a bit less bad for you.

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