To determine if color factors into how quickly a candle will burn
Candles have some rather interesting chemistry (as you'll find about in this experiment). Have some fun and find out what color candle burns the fastest by conducting your very own candle race!
- 5 candles of varying colors, preferably white, pink, yellow, green, and blue (must be same brand and size)
- Marker or Sharpie
- Matches or lighter
- Clay, Putty, or Play dough
- Ceramic plate
- Stop Watch
- Notebook (to record results)
Estimated Experiment Time
About 1 to 2 hours
- 1. Using your scissors, cut the wicks of each candle so that they are identical in length. Use your ruler to verify that every candle wick is of equal length.
- 2. Use your ruler to measure one inch down from the top of the candle. Next use your marker or Sharpie and draw a line or tick mark. You should now have 5 candles with equal wicks and all with lines one inch from the top.
- 3. Place some clay (or putty or play dough) on the plate. Flatten it so it covers the plate surface area. You'll be using this surface to hold your candles still, so make sure it's about 1/2 inch thick.
- 4. Gently push each candle into the clay, about 3 inches apart. The candles should all be upright (no leaning candles as it could affect the experiment outcome).
- 5. Get your stop watch ready and light one of the candles. As soon as it's lit, start the stop watch!
- 6. When the candle burns down to the black line or tick mark, stop the stopwatch.
- 7. In your notebook record the candle color and the time it took to burn.
- 8. Repeat steps 5 through 8 for each candle.
- 9. Compare your results. Which candle burned the fastest?
Small thin candles work the best for this experiment. It's recommended to use birthday candles as they are readily available in grocery stores. Also, make sure to get help from an adult when it comes time to light those candles!
Was the rate at which the candles burned noticeable? What if you were to use candles that were thicker? How about ones that were thinner? Would it affect the burn rate? What would happen if you were to enclosed the fastest burning candle in a jar? Do you think it would burn at the same rate? What if you tried with a large jar or a small jar?
Candles burn as a result of two components working together, the wick and the wax. Wax is a chemical compound that is composed of hydrogen and carbon atoms and are plastic at room temperature. When a wick is lit the temperature eventually rises above 113 degrees, causing the wax to vaporize. For best results it's recommended to run this experiment several times and compare the data. Which candle burned fastest for you?
Take a moment to visit our table of Periodic Elements page where you can get an in-depth view of all the elements,
complete with the industry first side-by-side element comparisons!