What Is A Candle That Drips Called?

Introducing Dripping Candles

A dripping candle is a candle that melts and drips wax while burning. This happens when the wax becomes hot enough to liquefy and runs down the side of the candle. The wax then drips and collects in the candle holder or onto whatever surface the candle sits on.

There are a few reasons why some candles are more prone to dripping than others:

  • High burn temperature – Some waxes like paraffin burn hotter, making them more likely to drip.
  • Large flame – Candles with wicks that allow for a larger flame can heat up the top layer of wax quickly causing drips.
  • Wind/drafts – Just a small breeze or draft can cause the flame to flicker and melt one side of the candle faster.
  • Wick issues – Candles with wicks that are too thick or are not centered properly will have uneven burning that leads to dripping.
  • High ambient heat – If a candle is burning in a very warm environment, it can melt faster.

The types of candles most known for dripping issues are container candles, pillars, tapers, and votives made from paraffin or soy wax. Unscented candles also tend to drip more than scented.

Causes of Dripping Candles

There are several common causes of dripping candles:

Wicks too large – The wick is the cord that runs through the center of the candle. If the wick is too wide for the melted wax pool, it will overload and drip down the side. Large wicks create larger flames which in turn melt more wax. Trimming the wick can help reduce dripping from oversized wicks.

Wax too soft – Softer waxes like soy, vegetable, or paraffin have lower melting points and can become liquid at room temperature. Soft wax that is too warm will not hold its shape and can drip down candle sides. Beeswax and palm wax are harder alternatives. Cooler room temperatures can also help firm up softer waxes.

Candle too hot – If a candle flame burns too hot, it will rapidly melt the wax beyond its capacity to hold its form. Glass and metal containers conduct and retain heat, warming the wax and making it more prone to dripping. Allowing for adequate airflow around the candle can cool things down. Trimmed wicks also reduce excess heat.

Improper candle care – Candles should be burned on level, heat-safe surfaces out of drafts and airflow. Moving or blowing on candles while lit can cause wax to spill over the side. Always extinguish candles if left unattended. Allowing wax pools to become too deep before extinguishing can also lead to wax overflow.

Problems with Dripping Candles

Dripping candles can create a number of issues that candle users should be aware of. The most concerning problem is the potential fire hazard created by hot melted wax. If wax drips onto surfaces like wood, fabric, or paper, it can easily ignite. The flame from the dripping wax can quickly spread and turn into a dangerous fire. Always keep a close eye on dripping candles and put them out immediately if you notice wax pooling anywhere other than the candle holder.

Ruined surfaces are another common problem caused by dripping candle wax. Wax can permanently stain or damage surfaces it drips onto. Wood finishes, tables, rugs, and fabrics are all susceptible to wax damage. The wax can leave unsightly stains, discolorations or hardened drips that are difficult to remove. The heat of liquid wax can also scorch and blister surfaces. Be cautious of dripping hazards around valuable items or furnishings.

Lastly, dripping candles waste wax. As wax melts and drips down the sides, that wax is wasted rather than being used to fuel the flame. This shortens the burn time of the candle. Frequent dripping means you have to replace candles more often. Using a candle holder that catches drips or trimming the wick can help minimize wasted wax.

How to Prevent Dripping

Dripping candles can create messes and waste, but there are several methods to prevent excess dripping. The most important step is properly trimming the wick before lighting. Using sharp scissors, trim the wick to 1/4″ length. This will prevent large flames that rapidly melt wax and lead to major drips.

Wax choice also plays a role. Harder waxes like soy and beeswax have higher melt points, making them less prone to dripping. Avoid soft waxes like paraffin, which melts quickly. Vessel selection is another factor. Containers that are too small for the candle volume can lead to wax overflow as it melts. Allow at least 1/2″ of clearance at the top.

Finally, avoid drafts which can accelerate melting on one side. Shield candles from fans, vents, and open windows. With the right wick length, hard wax, properly sized vessel, and protected location, it’s possible to burn drip-free candles. Proper care will minimize mess and maximize enjoyment.

Dealing with Drips

Once wax has already dripped onto furniture, floors, or other surfaces, it can be tricky to remove. However, with some effort most drips can be cleaned up. Here are some tips for dealing with candle wax drips:

Cleaning Drips

If wax drips onto a hard surface like wood or tile, let it fully harden and then gently scrape away as much as you can with a plastic scraper or an old credit card. Avoid using a sharp metal scraper, as this could scratch the surface. Once you’ve removed any solid chunks, lay a paper towel over the remaining wax stain and press a warm iron on top. The heat will melt the wax into the towel. Change towels and repeat until no more wax transfers.

For absorbent fabrics, wait for the wax to harden and then gently brush or scrape off any excess before applying an absorbent material like paper towels or brown paper. Press with a warm iron to soak up the wax. You may need to flip the fabric over and repeat on the backside.

On carpet, let the wax fully cool and harden before scraping away any chunks. Then make a solution of dish soap, water, and vinegar in a spray bottle. Lightly spritz the carpet in the affected area and blot with clean rags until the stain lifts. Avoid over-wetting the carpet.

Repairing Surfaces

If wax removal results in damage or discoloration to the surface, additional steps may be needed. For wood furniture, apply a little wood stain in the affected area and buff to blend it after it dries. On carpets, try spraying a little fabric or upholstery cleaner to help even out any noticeable light spots after wax removal.

If the drip has left a depression or hole in the surface, you may need to use filler or patch material. For small holes in wood, fill with a product like wood filler, let dry completely, and sand smooth. For damaged drywall or plaster, use a setting-type drywall joint compound, let dry, and sand. Repaint repaired walls when done.

Reusing Dripped Wax

While cleaning up drips can be a headache, that solidified wax doesn’t have to go to waste. Collect all the scraped bits and melt them together in a makeshift double boiler to form a new candle or wax melts. You can also add old candle nubs and ends to incorporate more colors.

Just place the wax pieces in a heat-safe glass or metal container set over a saucepan of simmering water. Once melted, you can carefully pour the wax into a new container or silicone mold to create new candles or wax melts to enjoy.

Alternative Non-Dripping Candles

While traditional wax candles often drip, there are several alternatives that provide a flameless experience without the mess of drips. Three popular options are battery-operated candles, wax melts, and LED candles.

Battery-operated candles provide flicker and ambiance without an open flame or wax. Tiny lights inside the “candle” mimic a realistic flickering effect when turned on. These flameless candles are safe around children and pets since there is no danger of burns or fire. They come in various styles from tapers to pillars and are powered by batteries that last for many hours of use.

Wax melts are another drip-free, flameless option. These are concentrated wax cubes or tarts infused with fragrance. To use them, place a wax melt in a melt warmer, which gently heats the wax to release aroma. Popular warmers plug in or are battery-powered. As the wax melts down, it absorbs into a removable tray instead of dripping. With no wick needed, wax melts provide fragrance without any mess.

LED candles take the battery-powered concept one step further by mimicking the look of a real flame with LED lights. Advanced LED bulbs flicker and move like a natural flame when lit. LED candles look incredibly realistic and cast a flickering glow without generating any heat, smoke, or drips.

For those seeking to avoid the nuisance of drips, battery, wax melt, and LED options allow you to enjoy the ambiance of candles without the need to catch drips.

Most Common Dripping Candles

There are a few common types of candles that are known for often dripping wax when lit:

Container Candles

Container candles can commonly drip because the wax pool creates higher heat which makes the wax melt quicker. As the wax pool reaches the container’s rim, the wax can drip down the sides. Wide container candles are especially prone to dripping.


Taper candles are long, thin candles that taper at one end. These are designed for candle holders but are still prone to dripping due to their slim shape and being top heavy while lit. The melted wax can drip down the taper’s sides.


Pillar candles are thick, cylindrical candles. They can drip for the same reasons as container candles – the deep wax pool creates a lot of heat to melt the wax, which then drips down the sides once reaching the edge of the candle.


Votive candles are small container candles meant to sit in glass votive holders. But the glass votive holders don’t always perfectly contain melted wax, which can still drip down the sides if too much wax pools.

History of Dripping Candles

The history of dripping candles goes back thousands of years to when early humans first began using fire for light. In ancient times, candles were made by dipping dried plant materials like reeds or rolled papyrus in melted animal fat or beeswax. These early “candles” often had crude wicks that were not properly centered, causing the melted wax to drip down the sides as they burned.

As candle-making techniques advanced, wicks became more tightly braided to help control dripping. Wax also evolved from animal fats to purer forms of beeswax and then later paraffin wax, which burns cleaner and with less dripping. Despite improvements, most handmade candles still dripped to some degree, with excess melted wax pooling at the base of the candle as it burned.

Today, while artisanal candles may retain some of that old-world dripping charm, most modern mass-produced candles are engineered not to drip. Centered wicks, double wicks, and wick trimming help control excess wax. Wax additives make the melted pool more viscous. And molds with perfect dimensions account for the melt pool when the candle burns. While a certain amount of dripping may still occur with lower quality or improperly burned candles, for the most part, dripping has been largely engineered out of candles in the modern era.

Dripping Candles in Culture

Dripping candles have had an important symbolic and cultural role throughout history. The visual imagery of wax dripping down the sides of a candle often evokes deeper meaning and symbolism.

In many cultures and spiritual traditions, the dripping and melting of a candle is seen as representing the passage of time. As the hot wax slowly drips down, it signifies the steady flow of time and the impermanence of life. The dripping candle reminds us that nothing lasts forever.

The flame itself is often symbolic of enlightenment or knowledge. As the flame burns down the candle, the dripping wax below it can represent the dissemination of knowledge or spiritual wisdom over time. The flame shares its light, just as the dripping wax shares the candle’s impermanence.

Dripping candles are often used in spiritual rituals, ceremonies, and meditation. The visceral imagery of the melting wax can help deepen reflection and concentrate the mind. The flickering flame combined with dripping wax creates a mesmerizing focal point for consciousness.

In Christianity, the Paschal candle used during Easter may have wax drippings on it to represent Christ’s passion and suffering on the cross. The drops of wax symbolize his wounds and bloodshed for salvation.

Dripping candles also feature heavily in imagery related to magic, spells, and witchcraft. Their symbolism evokes power, transformation, manifestation, and intention. The wax represents the ability to form one’s desires just as it forms droplets.

Overall, the visual metaphor of dripping candles makes them a powerful symbolic and cultural element across faiths, practices, art, and literature. Their impermanence contains deeper meaning about time, enlightenment, and the human condition.


In summary, dripping candles are those that leak melted wax while lit. This is generally caused by using the wrong wax or wick for the candle, or burning the candle for too long. Dripping can be prevented by using the proper materials, trimming wicks, and avoiding burning candles right down. While frustrating, drips can be dealt with by catching them on a plate or scraping them off surfaces. There are also non-dripping candle options like tea lights and LED candles. Overall, dripping candles have a long history but with care and the right materials their mess can be minimized. This covers the main points on these common but sometimes troublesome candles. With the right precautions, dripping candles can be safely enjoyed for their warm ambiance.

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