Candlelit dinners. Candlelit baths. Candles of every size, shape, colour and scent for every possible occasion. Yes, movies, TV, books and life itself would have the world believe that candles are the only way to go as far as mood lighting is concerned.
Well, they’re all wrong.
While candles are great on occasion, they also present problems and, in some cases, downright hazardous conditions for people and their pets. Following are three reasons why it’s time to put the matchbook away (and alternatives for what can be used instead):
Every year, over a hundred people are killed, and another 900 injured, due to candle fires. The majority of candle fires occur around the Christmas and New Year holidays, what with all the pretty — but combustible — decorations that tend to abound around that time of year.
Alternative: Bring the outside in. Untangle that wad of light strands you keep meaning to put up every year and decorate the living room with it instead. Or, go to just about any store, and you’ll find an incredible array of options. From the standard light strand, to icicles, to rope lights, the possibilities are as endless as the imagination. Just make sure they are fire rated for indoor as well as outdoor use and fitted correctly by a local lighting expert or electrician in your area.
Ever wonder where all that wax from the candle goes? Well, it goes up in smoke and into the air you breathe. Don’t believe it? Next time you light a candle, have a lit match or lighter at the ready. Blow out the candle and wait two seconds for the smoke to start rising.
Place the match or lighter flame inside the smoke trail about 1/2″ above the wick and… Voila! The candle relights itself! Particles of wax and other chemicals allow the flame to follow the smoke trail back down to the wick. Eventually, said particles either end up all over the house, or inside the lungs.
Indoor air pollution accounts for more health problems than even the smoggiest day in Los Angeles, and candles are a contributing factor to that pollution. Aside from the smoke, some wicks have lead fibres in them that are also released into the air, causing major health problems.
Alternative: Fake candles. Also known as “flameless” candles, they look just like the real thing, only they have small LED bulbs embedded in them instead of wicks. The bulbs are set to flicker just like the real thing. The best part about the flameless wonders is they can be placed anywhere, even near Christmas trees and works of art. No more worrying about getting soot all over that treasured painting or melted wax on the table that’s been in the family for generations.
Desperate for the warm and inviting aroma of regular candles? Use potpourri instead or have a diffuser or dish out with some favourite essential oils in it. Same effect, no lead poisoning.
If variety is the spice of life, then candles are mere salt and pepper. Everyone’s got them, but there’s a world of flavours out there for the tasting. Sure, candles come in different sizes, shapes, colours and patterns, but unless you add the chemicals used in fireworks, you’re still going to get the same old, boring, yellow flame that every lit candle displays.
Alternative: Go with eco-friendlier decorative indoor lighting and lamps. LED bulbs, for example, are becoming more and more popular, for good reason. Despite their higher up-front cost, they last far longer than incandescent or fluorescent light bulbs, burn much cooler, and are more versatile. You can get them in just about any colour imaginable for creating that perfect mood.
Light has been a crucial part of human existence. Next time you’re looking for the perfect light to set the perfect mood, step out of the Dark Ages and look at all the options available. You won’t be disappointed.