Learn everything you need to know about candles so you can lend your patio party that perfect glow.
Candlelight is the ideal complement to a relaxing night outside – until you have a wax spill, that is. The good news is there’s no reason to rush to clean it; wiping wet wax will only make it spread. Wait for it to fully dry (or speed up the process by holding a bagged ice cube against it). If the spilled-on surface is hard, such as metal or glass, scrape off the wax using the edge of a credit card. If it’s fabric, isolate it from the insert or any stuffing and use a dull butter knife to remove the wax. If any residue remains, place a few sheets of paper towel over it and heat with an iron set to low (the warmed wax will transfer onto the paper). Repeat, swapping in fresh paper towels as needed.
The three most popular kinds of candle wax
1 Paraffin: Most common and inexpensive; a by-product of crude oil, so it’s non-renewable and may release toxins as it burns.
2 Soy: Natural and long-burning; typically less fragrant than alternatives.
3 Beeswax: The original candle wax, it’s all-natural and has a pleasing honey scent; pricey.
When not in use, candles should be wrapped in tissue paper and stored in a dark, cool spot (for extra protection, place tapers in paper towel rolls). To revive dusty or nicked candles, don old pantyhose like a glove and buff the surface.
Candles come in all shapes and sizes. Though choosing one is mostly based on aesthetics, bear in mind that larger, wider options have significantly longer burn times. For instance, a pillar is a great low-maintenance choice for outdoors – place it in a glass hurricane to protect it from the wind, and it can go for hours.
Typically made of cotton, wicks absorb the warmed wax and pull it upward for the flame to burn. Look for intricately braided or knitted constructions, which burn slower and keep the flame going longer.
Kings of candles
Our top picks for outdoor-friendly candles.
Classic battery-operated pillar that boasts a life-like flame flicker and won’t melt in the sun. Plastic-injection-moulded flameless outdoor Pillar candle, 3" x 6", Pottery Barn, $30,
A small poured votive that emits a long-lasting floral scent to enhance the aroma of your own plantings. Candle in shimmer with glass holder, Unstopables, $7.
A robust lidded poured option that will keep bugs at bay for up to 50 hours.
Illume chroma citronella outdoor candle in Fresh Rain with iron tin, Indigo, $25.
Test the water
Contain drips by using a tray or candle holder. To keep the holder clean, pour a little water in before inserting the candle; dripped wax will sit and harden on the water’s surface.