Do Candles Expire? What You Should Know

This is a guide covering candles and how long they last.

While organizing our shelves, we all are guilty of finding unused candles that we bought a while ago, (for some of us, years ago!).

Maybe, you bought them to use as a cute date night prop or for a self-care session with ambient music, a bubble bath and a couple of scented candles. We are only humans.

We tend to forget that unused candles are lying around in the cupboard.

When we find them, the first question that comes to our mind is: ‘How long do candles last?’

Usually, candles do not come with an expiration date. Are there times when you wondered if you should throw those candles away because they are old?

Or worse, did you throw them for the fear of risking using expired products?

We got all your questions about the expiration date and the shelf life of the candles covered here.

Let’s dive in.

How Long Do Candles Last Unused?

The durability of a candle depends on various factors such as the type of wax, fragrances and colours used in the candle-making process, the storage conditions etc.,

If the candles are left exposed without a seal, in the sunlight, the colours and the fragrances fade away faster.

They must be stored in a cool, dark and dry place to make them last longer. Sealed candles or candles with lids last longer than the candles that are unsealed.

jars with lids
seal the candles

The general rule of thumb is to use the candles within a year of purchase ideally.

The shelf life of a varies depending upon what type of wax is used. Usually, candles made of natural waxes such as soy wax, palm wax, etc., last shorter than those made of paraffin wax. As they are made of natural substances, they degrade faster.

Paraffin wax lasts longer as it is made of petroleum. The shelf life of an average soy wax candle is two years, while that of paraffin wax is five years.

The shelf life of beeswax candles is the highest, as beeswax doesn’t have any expiration date.

Beeswax is so durable and long-standing that it was used for the mummification process by Egyptians. Provided they are stored properly, they last for a lifetime.

How Long Do Candles Last Once Burning?

This depends upon the size of the candle, the length of the wick, the quality of the ingredients used in the manufacturing process etc.,

Tall and wide candles burn longer than smaller or shorter ones. Candles in the glass jars burn longer than the tea-light candles.

The bigger the candle is, the longer it lasts. Candles with thicker wicks last longer than those with thinner ones. Wood wicks burn longer than traditional wicks.

Paraffin wax candles have the shortest burning time as paraffin wax burns at low temperatures and produce brighter and larger flames. Beeswax candles require high temperatures to melt.

They burn for longer times. So, they last for a while. Beeswax candles have been used for centuries. As a matter of fact, they were even found in sunken ships by historians.

Soy wax candles are vegan, comparatively cheaper and environmentally friendly. They have better burning time than paraffin wax ones but do not last for longer durations like the beeswax candles.

They burn at lower temperatures than those required for beeswax.

For an average 4 oz candle, the burn times for different waxes are:

Type of WaxBurn time (hours)

How Long Do Scented Candles Last Unopened?

Although candles technically do not expire, candles usually lose their fragrance and colour over time.

If you have bought them for their scent and aesthetics, you should use them within a year to enjoy them to the fullest.

Candles retain their original fragrance completely for one to four months after they are cured. If you store them in a cool and dry environment, they will last longer.

Candles with artificial fragrances last longer than natural ones. As all the natural ingredients degrade over time, the fragrances also degrade or rot, to be precise.

If your candles contain essential oils, it’s advisable to use them sooner than later. As the essential oils are made of plant products, the fragrance of these candles can go from pleasant to stale over time.

Since each essential oil has a different expiration date, refer to the manufacturer’s expiry date to know how long the candles last.

Does Candle Wax Expire?

Yes and no, depends on what kind of wax is used in the candle.

candle wax
depends on type of candle wax

As we have mentioned above, beeswax has no expiration date. Paraffin wax is made of petroleum or crude oil. So, the candles made of beeswax and paraffin last almost indefinitely.

Soy wax is made of hydrogenated soybean oil. Like all oils, soy wax also has a shelf life. Soy wax candles last for a maximum of two years.

They do not go stale or bad like food products. But over time, the wax becomes oily and the flame will be dull.

Do Candles Lose Their Fragrance?

Yes. All candles lose their fragrance over time. Some lose faster than others.

Candles lose their scent when they are burned. This is how scented candles diffuse their aroma. So, undoubtedly, candles lose their fragrance once we start burning them.

Lidded candles last longer than those with no lids. This is because, the longer the candles are exposed to harsh sun and other environmental factors, the faster they lose their fragrance.

You must be extra cautious and conscious if you are using organic scented candles as they lose their fragrances faster.

Use them within 10 to 12 months after the date of manufacture.

Even when the candles lose their scent, you can still use them if you are not concerned about the scent.

They will still light up provided the wax hasn’t degraded.

How to Know if Your Candle Has Gone ‘Bad’?

Look for signs of the loss of fragrance, colour and wax texture.

Bad candles have a stale scent or no scent as they lose all their fragrance. If they are made of essential oils, they might have a rotten smell coming out of them.

Some candles, when left in the sun or under fluorescent lighting lose their colour.

Brighter colours such as reds, yellows might turn into dull browns. They do not look aesthetically pleasing any more. You can still use them for lighting purposes.

The wax might look oily and feel sticky to touch if the wax has degraded. Once you light this kind of candles, the flame will look dull and dim.

This is the final sign that the candle has gone ‘bad’.

How Many Times Can You Use a Candle?

Do not burn the candle too often. The maximum time that you can burn any candle per day is four hours.

As it burns, the candle diffuses a robust aroma until four hours. If you burn a candle for more than four hours, carbon gets deposited on the wick and the wick forms a black ‘mushroom’ shaped carbon deposit.

The mushroom wick will consume more wax than that is needed for the flame.

As long as you use them judiciously for a maximum of four hours per day, you can use them almost for a year for as many uses as they deliver.

How Long Do Soy Candles Last?

If you are looking for a vegan-friendly, cost-friendly, environmental-friendly option for purchasing candles, soy candles are great options.

The unscented soy candles last for almost two years.

Since they are produced from natural ingredients, their fumes are relatively harmless when compared to artificial ones.

Final Remarks

To make the candles last longer, store them away from all the harsh environmental conditions such as harsh light, sunlight, debris or dust, high temperatures.

Don’t store your candles near any hot substances or electronic devices.