Do candles expire? Here’s what you need to know

Ever wondered, 'do candles expire?' We clear the fog around using up your favorite jars and votives

woman with candles, do candles expire
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you’re a candle hoarder who loves to save yours for a special occasion you’ve probably wondered: do candles expire?

Sometimes we buy candles and love them so much as decorative items that we don't burn them very often. Or, if we've bought the best scented candles, we might be saving them for just the right occasion.

Either way, it's easy to end up with older candles at home. If this happens to you, then you too might be wondering, "do candles expire?" Here’s what you need to know. 

Do candles expire?

Candles are generally made from wax, dye, and fragrance, and all of these can break down as time passes. Paraffin wax and beeswax, both of which are used to make candles, have very long shelf lives. but natural waxes, like soy or palm wax, do expire more quickly, according to WarmCandle. Very rarely, these natural waxes can even rot!

Regardless of the type of wax, all fragrances, whether natural or synthetic, do dissipate over time. Very strong scents tend to last longer than light ones. The type of wax in the candle can also affect how long the scent sticks around. Natural fragrances break down more easily, so these scents might lighten or could start to smell different. Dyes used to color candles also change over time; they can fade or shift into a different color entirely.

A paraffin candle with a synthetic fragrance scent will last much longer than a natural wax candle with an essential oil-based fragrance. The natural option is at its peak for only a few months, while other candles won't begin to show changes for as long as 12 to 18 months. Exposure can speed the loss of fragrance from a candle, so the scent will last longer in candles with lids versus pillar or taper candles. Some candle brands do provide more specific expiration dates on the packaging.

candles next to bed

(Image credit: Getty Images)

How to tell if a candle has expired

Candles can expire, but not in the same way as food or medicine. Even a very old candle is unlikely to make you sick—an expired candle will most likely look or smell different. You can tell if your candle is expired by seeing if it looks dried out. It may also be yellow, green, or brown where it wasn't before.

In addition, a scented candle might have less scent or might have lost its original scent and now smell more like plain wax. Your candle's smell could also change if it's dusty. Wiping this from a cold candle can improve the scent in that instance. 

Can you burn an expired candle?

You may still be able to burn an expired candle if you don't mind its look or scent. Some expired candles no longer burn well though. To test it out, light the wick. If the flame is small or keeps going out, then the candle is too expired to burn. If it lights successfully, then it's fine to keep burning it.

How to store candles so they last longer

If you’re wondering how to make candles last longer, there are a few steps you can take to prolong their lives. Leaving a candle in direct sunlight or a dusty space can shorten its lifespan down to two or three months. Extreme temperatures, like keeping your candle near a heat source such as a stove, can also affect the composition of the candle. High temperatures can diminish your candle’s scent, so avoid all of these things.

To prolong the life of a candle that you're about to use, first make sure the wick is trimmed to about a quarter-inch long. The first time you burn the candle, leave it alight until there is a full layer of melted wax on top. Doing this each time the candle is lit can help prevent tunneling (when only the center of the wax around the wick melts). Also, check the packaging for the recommended maximum burning time of each use.

When the candle is nearing its end and has about a half-inch remaining, toss it and switch to a new candle. This will prevent the tiny candle from overheating the candleholder or the table it rests on. When you’re not using them, it’s best to store candles in a cool, dark, dry space. 

Candles do expire in the sense of being past their prime, but not in a way that is likely to be a hazard to your health. Even if the candle looks or smells a little different, it's still fine to keep burning it as long as the wick will stay lit.

The My Imperfect Life team is all about helping you navigate your world. We bring you the latest on fashion, beauty, travel and wellness so you can live life on your terms.