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Candle safety

Candles and tealights remain popular in our homes. We associate them with happy times and celebrations, often being used to decorate or as a religious symbol. They are also one product designed for us to introduce a naked flame which brings an element of risk.

We would like you to continue enjoying candles by highlighting the dangers and offering some helpful guidance to help keep you and your home safe from accidental fire.

Candle related fires result in around 350 casualties each year and 40% of candle fires result in injury or death. Over 1,000 home insurance claims for house fires are caused by candles each year and the time between Christmas and New Year accounts for nearly half of all candle related fire claims during December. Figures suggest that up to five house fires each day are caused by unattended candles with most breaking out between 9pm and midnight, often in the living room or bedroom but increasingly in the bathroom where it is believed they are being used around the bath-top. It may be useful to know that some insurance companies may not pay out on claims if a fire is found to be a result of negligence, if a candle was left unattended or poorly placed for example.

Curtains are the most likely material to be set alight by candles being placed too near, followed by bedding and clothing.

Think about the following guidance when using candles at home:

  • Never leave a candle unattended and remember to extinguish before you go to sleep or leave the house at any time
  • Ensure the candle is standing upright and firmly fixed in a suitable container or holder, glass or heat-resistant metal designed to withstand the heat of the burning candle and hold the melting wax safely
  • Always place candles on a heat-resistant surface. Tealights can melt plastic surfaces such as a bathtub or television, especially if placed without suitable container
  • Be aware that scented candles liquify to release the aroma and only melt the recommended product, such as wax melts, in their correct container – do not transfer into an alternative or combine with another
  • Keep candles away from curtains, blinds, other combustible furniture, fabrics and clothing
  • Do not place underneath shelving or furniture units 
  • Keep candles out of draughts, open windows, other heat sources or direct sunlight
  • Keep lit candles away from the reach of children and pets
  • Keep space between candles if you are using more than one, 10cm (four inches) is best
  • Never lean across a lit candle, it’s too easy to catch hair or loose clothing
  • Do not move a candle whilst lit
  • Always extinguish the flame with the correct product lid (if using a jar type candle with included lid), a spoon or ‘snuffer’. These remove the oxygen from the flame and ensure it safely extinguishes. Blowing does not always completely kill the flame/smouldering wick
  • Never use outdoor candles indoors
  • Never play with candles and don’t leave them accessible to children

Candle alternatives – flameless/LED candles

Often known as LED, battery operated or electric candles, these flameless candles offer a safe alternative while providing the glow of the real thing.

  • You can leave them unattended
  • If you forget to switch off before sleeping, they are safer and less likely to cause an accidental fire
  • If they are accidentally knocked over by anyone, children or pets they are not going to cause a fire or injury
  • If noted by the manufacturer, some may be used outdoors
  • You can purchase a range of LED candles that flicker like the real thing, offer coloured light, can be rechargeable and waterproof

Seasonal, festive and religious holidays such as Diwali, Christmas and birthdays attract the use and enjoyment of candles, tealights and divas. These are also times when we can be busy and more distracted than usual, please think about our advice and keep yourself, your family, your friends and homes safe when choosing to light candles.

The most important thing you can do to keep your home safe is ensure that you have fitted, working smoke alarms on every floor and test them regularly. Smoke alarms save lives but only when they are working. Make sure everyone in your home knows what to do if a fire should occur – practise your escape route.

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