Humans have been using candles for centuries. While there is debate about where and when this practice originated, we know that humans have used candles for at least five thousand years. Some people credit this to the Roman Empire, others to Ancient Egypt. Regardless of where they were first developed, since then humans have been using candles all around the world. Different cultures have created candles out of so many different materials from animal fat, to beeswax, to rice and cinnamon plants.

But at their core, they all work the same way.

To understand candles, we must first understand a bit about the science of fire. Fire is caused by a chemical reaction, where a fuel is heated to a point (ignition temperature) where it reacts with the oxygen in the air. The visible flame is simply heat being released in a different energy form: light. 


Candles are just a tool we use to slow down the reactions between the fuel (wax) and the oxygen in the air. We may use a match to light the wick, but once lit, the flame provides the heat necessary to melt the wax, which then travels up the wick in liquid form as fuel for the fire. That’s why trimming the wick is necessary, because if the flame is too far away from the wax, it will not melt the wax and won’t be able to fuel itself.

Wicks are important because they control the size of the flame, and therefore how hot both the wax and the jar get. If the wick creates a flame that is too large, it will get a lot hotter than it should be and be even closer to the glass than it should be. When glass is gets too hot it can shatter. For this reason, its super important to use the right wick for every candle. We conduct several tests when we’re developing new products, with wicks of different materials, size, and structure, to ensure the safety of our customers, and to maximize the ambient effects of our candles. Ambience is one of many reasons why we also love wooden wicks.

Smell good, feel good. 

Candles have always been useful. They provided light before we discovered other sources. But you can probably imagine that a candle made from animal fat wouldn’t smell very good. Of course, maybe the candles made from cinnamon smelled a lot better, but the primary use was still light. We no longer primarily use candles as a source of light, but as a source of good vibes. Ambient lighting plays a role in this, but the introduction of fragrance oils to candle making changed the game. 

Oils are blended with wax at a specific temperature, perfect for combining them into one smooth solution. Our fragrance oils are chosen carefully to ensure safe levels of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and to reflect the many beautiful and unique scents of nature. Our goal is to bring the calming and balancing elements of nature into your home, through the power of fragrance. Find out more about this power by checking out our blog post on the Psychology of Scent.

Waxing and waning

As scented candles became popular, the industry grew exponentially in the late 1900s and has continued to become a larger part of the economy. As a result, there are SO many different options, made from different materials, and of varying quality. Wax is one component of a candle that can really affect the behavior of the candle, the air quality in your home, and the overall impact on the environment. As we’ve talked about other blog posts, man-made Paraffin wax is cheap and easy to use, but made with fossil fuels and terrible for air quality. 

There are so many other waxes that have since been introduced to the candle scene, all with their benefits and drawbacks. Beeswax, coconut wax, and soy are the most popular alternatives to paraffin currently, and are much better for both us and the environment. At Noted, we use 100% soy wax for our candles for precisely that reason. We believe lighting a candle in your home shouldn’t make you sick. 

Candles have a rich history. Creating them takes craftsmanship, and burning them is a rich multi-sensory experience. We appreciate both the tradition and chemistry behind creating candles, and we love to share that with this community. We've missed engaging with you all and sharing our studio since COVID-19 forced us to stop holding our candle making classes back in March. We recently landed on a way to bring that engagement back and if this article piqued your interest, we invite you to come dig deeper by hosting your very own Private Candle Making Session. In the meantime, leave us a comment and let us know what else you would like to learn!