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User safety - Safety labels

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Safety labels

One might think that the rules that govern the safe usage of a lit candle are well known and followed by everyone. But sadly, this belief is refuted by worldwide statistics. And this is exactly why it is essential to remind the consumer of these rules each and every time he or she buys a candle.

If most of the advice that follows may sound like pure extracts of common sense, never forget that the latter is not always evenly distributed among all newborn babies ... but, to be perfectly honest, not all of the safety guidelines are intuitive, so it is not unnecessary to communicate them clearly to the end user.

A few examples of safety labels for candles (image © avery.com)

It is probably with that thought in mind that the European Union decided, back in 2007, to create and publish 3 standards that apply to the entire territory and are intended for candle manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers.
As it goes, it is the EN 15494 standard that requires our attention here because it is entirely dedicated to the safety labels that should be found on every candle sold in European Union countries and are meant to display the safe use advice we were talking about in text and/or pictogram form. This standard is voluntary rather than mandatory but by not following it, you expose yourself to severe legal trouble in case of an incident involving your candles.

In the United States, the ASTM F2058 standard (last updated in 2014) defines what the safety labels for candles must look like and what information they must contain. It is very similar to its European sibling; for that reason, I won't bother duplicating the information but rather add a note where the US standard differs form the EU one.
The US standard is voluntary as well and not (yet) mandatory but you're headed for even bigger trouble than in Europe if you don't comply and get into some sort of legal dispute.

The EN 15494 European Standard under the microscope

The EN 15494 standard was created in 2007 and called EN 15494-07. Revised and updated in 2019, its full name is currently EN 15494-19. This standard, subtitled "Candles. Product safety labels", specifies the size, shape and content of safety labels for candles destined to be used inside the home. It does not apply to candles made to be burnt outside, or to candle holders sold without candle. This standard commands that all the information provided with a candle should be easily visible and legible, and placed on the packaging or on the candle itself. If placing a label on the product itself is not possible or practical (candle too small), the standard allows the use of a peel off label, a sort of sticker where information is printed on both the main sticker and the removable film, or a fold-out label. In both cases, the mandatory information should be repeated on the removable or fold-out part of the label. In the case of a very small candle, it is allowed to place only the mandatory pictograms on the candle itself and feature more extensive information on the packaging. The original (2007) version of the standard allowed for the display of a safety information folder in the point of sale if labeling the candle itself was not practical or not possible, but this option is nowhere to be found in the 2019 version. Better be safe and assume the latest version does not consider that a sufficient option anymore and does not allow it any longer.

The standard EN 15494 has been updated in 2019. If you already put safety labels on your candles, you may have to adjust your template to reflect the amendments.

What information should appear on the safety label?

The General Warning sign (an exclamation mark inside a triangle) must be displayed on the label. To draw the customer's attention to the label and its contents, it is recommended to use a the yellow color as the background for the triangle. However, a one-color print (white on black or black on white) is allowed.

In addition, the standard imposes the presence of 3 mandatory messages (or pictograms) on the safety label:

  • Never leave a burning candle unattended
  • Keep away from children and pets
  • Keep away from things that can catch fire

The original 2007 version required a fourth mention, Keep candles at least xx cm apart, but this mention is now optional in the latest version.

However, a "new" fourth mandatory message has been introduced but whether its presence is required or not depends on the type of candle as it only applies to floating candles and candles that are meant to be burnt in a specific container, like votive candles.

Pictogram or text?

The warning messages can be displayed in text form, as pictograms or a combination of both, like on the example label above. If you choose the text form, remember it is mandatory for it to be written in the official language(s) of the country where the candles will be sold (for Belgium with its three official languages, this could lead to one big fat label ).

This also means that if you intend to sell your candles in several different countries of the European Union, you will have to include warning messages in several different languages! In such a case, it is probably more efficient to use pictograms as they are supposed to be comprehensible in all countries, independently of the language(s) in use.

The mandatory mentions

Depending on the type of candle, four or five mandatory warning mentions must be present.

The General Warning Sign must be present to draw the attention of the customer to the safety label. It is recommended to use the colored version with a yellow background, but a single-color pictogram (black on white or white on black) is allowed.
Never leave a burning candle unattended
Always put out candles when leaving a room or before going to sleep. You should also put out a candle if the candle smokes, repeatedly flickers or the flame isn't controlled.
Keep away from children and pets
Never place lit candles where they can be easily knocked over by anyone, especially children and pets.
Keep away from things that can catch fire
Place candles on a heat resistant and non-flammable surface, at least 30cm away from anything that can catch fire, including but not limited to curtains, decorations, etc.

If the candle is a floating candle, a fifth mention should be added:
Use in a suitable bowl filled with water
Floating candles must only be used floating in water. Put them in a suitable water-filled bowl.

If, on the other hand, the candle is a votive type of candle, the following mandatory fifth mention should be present:
Use a suitable container as these candles liquify when burning
Always use a candle holder of suitable size and shape, as this candle becomes liquid while burning.
The two previous exceptions do not apply (yet) to the ASTM F2058 standard for candles sold on the United States market.

Optional (but recommended) mentions

Always leave at least 10cm between burning candles
Follow recommended minimum distance stated on package or, if not available, leave at least 10cm between burning candles. Candles placed too close together can drip or soot, and tealights can flare up.
Do not place candles in a draught
keep candles out of draughts to prevent rapid, uneven burning, sooting and excessive dripping. Also, lightweight curtains can waft into the flame if in a draught.
Don't place candles near a source of heat
The higher the temperature around a candle, the greater the risks. For example, tealights on a TV can flare up and melt through the plastic, and other types of candles might drip wax.
Always use a candleholder
Candle holders should be heat resistant and non-flammable. They should also be stable and big enough to collect dripping wax.
Place candles in an upright position
Stand candles straight to avoid dripping and minimize the risk of flaring. Glass cups can crack if the flame touches the side.
Trim wick to about 1cm before lighting
Trim the wick with scissors or a wick trimmer before lighting the candle. If the wick is too long, a lump of carbon might form on it as it burns (known as clubbing or mushrooming) or the flame might become too high and start to soot.
Trim edges to a height of 1cm
If your candle wasn't produced in a holder and a rim forms (the edges become higher than the wick), it will affect the air supply needed for the flame to burn properly and cause the candle to soot. Trim the edges with a knife to a height of 1cm before burning.
Keep the wax pool clear of matches and other debris to avoid flaring
Flammable objects in the wax pool, such as matches, insects, flammable decorations or lumps from the wick, can ignite and cause the candle to overheat and flare up.
Do not move a burning candle
Moving a candle can have the same effect as placing it in a draught (i.e. sooting and dripping). If a tealight is moving when all the wax is molten, the wick might change position and cause the candle to flare up.
Always snuff out the flame, do not blow it out
For safety's sake, use a candle snuffer when putting out a candle. It's especially important not to blow down a candle in a container, such as a tealight, as this increases the risk of flaring and hot wax could spatter up in your face.
Never use liquid to extinguish a flame
If the candle can't be extinguished easily, cover it with a damp cloth. Never use water to extinguish candles. The water can cause the hot wax to spatter and the candle container to break.
Do not allow the candle to burn out completely
Put out candles when they have burnt down to about 2cm from their holders. if a candle burns down completely it can cause burn marks or even start a fire, as a glass holder can crack and metal holders can become extremely hot.
Maximum height of a candle
Using a higher candle than recommended in a lantern may cause the candle to melt down due to overheating. This also means the lantern will become very hot and burning accidents may occur.
Only use tealights in holders, oil burners and warming stoves with sufficient ventilation
Insufficient ventilation can cause the tealight to flare up.

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