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Burn Varied Color Candles to Test How Color Affects the Burn-rate

Does Color Make a Difference to How Long a Candle Burns?
It has been a long-held belief that natural white candles tend to burn faster than colored ones due to the lack of dye additives. However, does this theory have any basis in truth? Let's find out.
ScienceStruck Staff
Last Updated: Mar 8, 2018
Caution!
It is important to look after the safety of people and the surroundings while working with burning candles, because they are a fire hazard which require due precautions. The National Candle Association recommends that children under 12 years of age should not be allowed to handle lit candles even under adult supervision.

Candles have a slow burn rate because the wax has to completely melt before the wick is consumed by the flame. However, candles with different colors, shapes, sizes, and types of wax can cause them to burn faster or slower. There is a myth that naturally white candles burn faster than colored candles. In the following paragraphs, we will see whether there is any truth to this. We will also look at the other factors that affect a candle's burning speed.
Does the Color of a Candle Affect its Burn Rate?
The shape, size, and ingredients all affect the burn rate of a candle. So, it is quite natural for one to wonder whether white candles burn faster than colored ones, and if they do, why? The thought behind this query is that, plain wax is pure, and that colored candles with dye additives slow down the rate of burning.
However, many science enthusiasts have experimented on this theory, and have found that the color of a candle has little or no effect on how fast a candle will burn. In a few rare cases, the addition of dyes has been found to slightly increase the speed of a candle's burn, and this has been found to be true in only in those candles with a rich color due to the excessive addition of dyes. The amount of dye used in most commercially made candles is too small to significantly affect the burn time.
Science Fair Project
The debate between the burn time of colored candles against that of plain candles has become a very popular topic for school children to present as their science fair project. This experiment is always presented with the theory that a white candle will burn the fastest, but the end result will prove otherwise.
Requirements
For this experiment, you can use dinner candles that are easily available in stores. It is important that the candles you choose have wicks of the right thickness. Thick candles with thin wicks will cause the flame to get extinguished by the gathering melted wax. To ensure that you get accurate results without any outside influence, buy candles of the same size that are unscented and made by the same manufacturer. They should only vary in color.
Process
  1. Mark each candle around exactly ½ an inch below the wick, and another marking 1½ inch below that.
  2. Burn the first candle and record the time it takes for the flame to cross the two markings.
  3. Perform the same process with the other candles, one by one.
  4. Compare the timings of the burn rate of different candles, and organize your results.
  5. For more accurate results, perform the experiment again with a second set of candles, and find the average times. You can also weigh the candles to account for how much wax is consumed in a fixed amount of time.
Factors Affecting a Candle's Speed of Burning
Now that we have seen that the color of a candle does not affect its burning speed, let us look at the factors that might affect its burn rate.
Wick
This is the primary reason for a candle to burn faster or slower. Candles with thicker wicks will burn faster than those with thin ones. Also, the material of the wick, whether it is paper, hemp, or cotton, will affect the burn rate by a significant amount of time.
Wax
Generally, harder wax burns for a longer period of time. Therefore, you will find that beeswax candles burn faster than paraffin candles.
Additives
Additives such as hardeners for the wax influence the burn time of a candle. Also, excess amounts of added scents tend to make the candles burn faster.
Environment
The environment is also an important factor in a candle's burn speed. Factors such as wind, humidity, ambient temperature, etc., can affect the rate of burning, which have to be considered while conducting any experiment.
Age
Older candles tend to be more dryer, which leads them to burn faster. As such, age can also be considered a significant factor in the speed of a burning candle.
You can put the above theory to test by performing this experiment by yourself. Also, by creating your own candles, you will have more control over the material, with the only difference being their color. With proper supervision, this experiment can be used as a fun project for you and your kids.
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