Saturday, 23 June 2007

Children, don't try this at home!

Well, that was exciting!

I had been charged with the job of getting old, melted candles out of a glass holder. The sort of holder where you take a coloured tea-light candle out of its aluminium cup and put the candle on its own in the glass container so you can see the coloured wax as it burns. The time had come to clean the glasses in preparation for some new candles.

My thought was if I sat the container in some hot water the candle may release from the glass and make cleaning easy. But the quality of the glass is unknown; what if the water was too hot and it cracked the glass? Yes, I know the candles make the glass hot but it is a gradual process.

OK, thinks me, I will stand the candle in a bowl of water and microwave it. That way the water will warm slowly and all will be fine.

Did you know that the wicks of tea-candles will ignite in a microwave?

I didn't.

I do now. Very pretty it was.

On reflection I should have guessed. Many moons ago, at work, we were testing candle wicks for their lead content. Apparently some manufactures would put a thin filament of lead in the candle wick and there was concern at the time about airborne lead from burning candles. Other manufacturers used zinc. The idea was that the metal gave the wick some rigidity so it would remain upright when all the wax in the container melted.

So, there you go. Children! Don't microwave your candles!



  1. Pretty it was, I'm sure. Rather like the gold-rimmed tea service pieces I put in mine. I was only whizzing up a couple of cold coffee. I got indoor fireworks with sound effects and two radically altered ceramic designs.

  2. Holy Moly, Lee. I am dim & challenged, but I would never have imagined a microware & a candle of any type would be a good idea.
    But then, I am the ugly child who almost burnt down her Uncle's wonderful bach, with a candle making experiment on the wooden bench! A vivid & hideous memory!

  3. Candle wax eh. The absolute bain of my life. If you spill the bloody holders when you are clearing a table you are left scraping and cleaning for 20 minutes!

    My advice is to scrape as much out as you can with a butter knife and then get it into a glass washer.

  4. OH no!! That must have been pretty scary stuff! Did it make a mess?

  5. No, it just lit the candle. Quite impressive really.

  6. Reminded me of the time I decided to gently heat up (over a gas flame)a tin of broken up boot polish, to melt and homogenise it again. I never realised what a low flash point boot polish has!

  7. I just use the old hot water trick!

  8. The way I was taught to melt shoe polish WAS to set fire to it. Put a lighted match to the broken up bits, they ignite and the heat melts the polish. Put it out by putting the lid back on.

  9. A friend of ours has a set of re-igniting birthday candles which she makes sure get on to every birthday cake going. Blow them out they light back up again. We all roll our eyes now and say 'oh not the re-igniting candles', but she gets a laugh every time.
    I wonder if they still use lead, sounds a hazard in itself.

  10. life at the kennedy household must be very interesting with all your experiments. your mind is so agile, creative and humorous. margaret and the boys must enjoy your boisterousness. glad the house is still standing. cheers!

  11. very useful info.
    so, how do we clean the glass tea light holder exactly ?


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