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Candle Damage to Wall Paint

Katherine Harder

Candles improve your home’s ambiance by emitting pleasing scents and providing warm candlelight. Sometimes candles do more harm than good. Not only does burning candles increase your risk of a house fire, but your candles can also create other hassles inside the home, especially to painted walls.

Black Soot Deposits From Candles

Soot from burning candles can settle on painted surfaces.

Petroleum-based candles, such as gel or paraffin wax types, produce soot as they burn. Some candles, due to an excessively long wick, imprecise wax mixture, high levels of perfumed oils or other problems, give off significantly larger amounts of soot than other candles. The black soot particles stick to every open surface in the room, but the soot is probably most apparent in large scorched-looking deposits near where you burn your candles. Remove these soot stains with a melamine foam cleaning sponge. These dry cleaning sponges allow you to rub material away from your painted walls without removing paint or damaging the drywall.

Extreme Soot Damage to Painted Walls: Ghosting

Ghosting, which is also associated with cigarette smoke and improperly vented fireplaces, can occur when you regularly burn excessively soot-emitting candles. Over time, light grey-black outlines appear on your walls. These lines show up along areas where the circulating soot can easily settle, such as around picture frames or just above baseboards. Soot ghosting can occur along your wall studs, creating a clear outline of the room’s frame. Cleaning an entire room of ghosted walls is probably not a practical solution to extreme soot residue problems and may not result in a consistent finished appearance. Your only other option is to repaint the room, first using at least one coat of stain-killing primer.

Candle Wax Splatters and Drips on Painted Walls

Candles burning in uncovered sconces or wall-mounted candelabras sometimes drip or splatter wax onto the wall. You can splatter wax on your walls if you pull out still-hot candles or use too much force when blowing out melted, puddling candles. To repair existing wax runs or sprays, use heat to re-melt the wax. Protect the painted wall and flooring below the damaged area by taping off the area with painter’s tape and cloth, and then apply hot air or steam to the wax damage. Use a steam iron or hair dryer on a low setting, and blot the melting wax with a clean cloth as you heat area. If you used a colored candle, the dye may remain attached to the painted surface even after you’ve removed all the wax. Prime and paint if you can’t remove the dye residue with a melamine sponge.

How to Avoid Candle Damage to Your Walls

To find out if your preferred candles are sootier than others, place a single candle in a small room. Surround the candle with stacks of white plastic plates, and light the candle. Monitor the lit candle for about an hour before extinguishing it. If soot from your candles is causing the damage to your painted walls, you’ll see the proof on top of each stack of plates -- an obvious coat of black, smoky film. Whenever you purchase candles for your home, seek out soy or beeswax varieties, which produce far less soot than petroleum-based waxes. Minimize soot problems by trimming candle wicks to 1/4-inch before burning or by using your candles with candle warmers to melt them slowly, which releases their scent without risk of fire, smoke or drippings. Avoid wax drip and splatter damage on your walls by using dripless candles when possible, and extinguish burning wicks with a candle snuffer.