Do Candles Expire, Go Bad or Have a Shelf Life?

Have some old candles which have been sitting around for a long time? Or want to store lots of candles for emergency prep?  Here’s what you need to know about candle shelf life.

Do Candles Expire?

Candles made from paraffin wax or beeswax never expire.  The wax and wick will be fine to burn for centuries, even if they’ve already been lit.

However, candles made from soy wax do deteriorate over time.  They will usually still be fine after a decade but the burn quality might not be as good.  Thus, soy and coconut candles are usually given a shelf life of 1-2 years.

Scented Candles and Shelf Life

While the wax and wick in a candle never go bad, the fragrance oils in a candle do expire.

Over time, the oils will dissipate so the candles won’t have as much of a scent when burned.  But, because most of the fragrance oils are trapped in the wax, even candles that are 10+ years old can still have a scent when burned.

In some cases, the candle might undergo some changes as the fragrance oils dissipate. For example, the candle wax might pull away from the sides of the jar or get pits in it.  Even in these cases though, the candle is still usable – it just won’t look as attractive anymore.

Decorative Candles and Shelf Life

Decorative candles contain dyes.  When exposed to sunlight, the UV light can break down the pigments and cause the candle to change color.  To keep decorative candles looking good for years, you need to store them away from sunlight.

Soy Candles and Shelf Life

Soy wax candles are usually given a shelf life of 1-2 years.  If you store them away from heat, light, and humidity though, soy candles should last at least a decade and still burn well.

There is a lot of debate about whether soy candles actually go bad or not.  It mostly has to do with how you define “go bad.”  When exposed to the elements, soy wax can start to go through some physical changes.  It might frost, “cauliflower” or even expand to swallow the wick.

These changes don’t necessarily affect the burn quality of the soy candle. However, there are plenty of candlemakers who swear that their candles made from old soy wax didn’t burn well.   Thus, it’s better to play it safe and avoid soy wax for candles that you won’t use right away.

How to Store Candles Long-Term

The most important thing when storing candles is to keep them cool.

Heat causes candles to bend and warp and will also make fragrance oils go rancid.  Taper and pillar candles can even stick together if they soften.  To prevent this, you can wrap each candle in plastic wrap or wax paper before storing.

You’ll also want to keep the candles away from direct sunlight. Not only does it cause the candles to warp, but it can also cause colored candles to fade.

Moisture usually doesn’t affect candle wax but can get into the wick, so you’ll want to store candles somewhere dry.

Taper candles can be stored flat. If you are worried about appearance, wrap each candle to prevent them from getting scratched or dinged.

Pillar and jar candles can be stored upwards.

There’s no reason to store candles upside down: even if the wick gets stuck in the wax, you’ll be able to easily dig it out.

Want to stockpile candles for blackouts? Read this article about how to choose emergency candles and how to make DIY emergency candles

Remember that candles aren’t always smart to use during some natural disasters.  See this article about the best emergency light options.

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