Have you ever wondered what flash points really mean when it comes to fragrance oils? Flash points are often misunderstood, even by experienced candle makers. In simple terms, a fragrance oil’s flash point refers to the temperature at which vapor from the oil can ignite when exposed to an open flame. While this might sound scary, it’s not as alarming as it seems. Let’s delve deeper into the world of flash points and clear up any confusion.
What exactly is a flash point?
Oddly enough, the definition of a flash point varies depending on who you ask. One reason for this confusion is that some authorities on the topic themselves don’t fully understand flash points. They unintentionally spread misinformation to ensure safety. While caution is important, it often leads to more confusion.
In essence, a flash point is the temperature at which a fragrance oil can combust or ignite when exposed to an open flame or spark. Most fragrance oils have a flash point between 141° and 200° F (or even higher). You may wonder why a fragrance oil with a flash point below the temperature of a lit candle doesn’t burst into flames when you light it.
The reason is that for a flammable liquid, like fragrance oil, to actually combust at its flash point, there needs to be a large volume of the oil and it must be in an enclosed container. The vapor emitted from the heated oil must come into contact with a flame, spark, or other ignition source. A candle with a typical fragrance load doesn’t meet these conditions.
This doesn’t mean fragrance oils aren’t flammable—they are. However, the normal process of making candles does not put you at risk of igniting the fragrance oil at home.
For instance, if you were to heat a pot of pure fragrance oil to its flash point and then light a match at the surface of the oil where it has vaporized due to the heat, the vapor could ignite and put you in danger. However, this is not a situation you would encounter when making candles safely.
Will my fragrance burn off if I heat it beyond its flash point?
No, heating your fragrance oil beyond its flash point does not mean it will burn off or dissipate. Flash point is a legal term that has nothing to do with the performance of your candle’s fragrance. The misconception arises from the use of the word “vapor” in the flash point definition. Many people mistakenly believe that fragrance oils added to hot wax will vaporize and, therefore, not smell as strong.
In reality, heating fragrance oil beyond its flash point doesn’t affect the scent strength of your candle. However, other mistakes, such as repeatedly heating and cooling fragranced wax, can impact the fragrance’s strength. For the best results, it’s recommended to heat small batches of fragranced wax and pour your candles immediately.
So why do flash points matter?
Understanding the significance of flash points is crucial. Flash points are legally defined as the minimum temperature at which a liquid gives off vapor within a test vessel in sufficient concentration to form an ignitable mixture with air near the surface of the liquid. This definition emphasizes the potential for the vapor to catch fire, but it also requires a source of ignition, like a spark or flame.
Flash points matter when it comes to transporting substances safely, such as on airplanes. Liquids with flash points at or below 141° F are not allowed to be delivered by air due to the potential ignition risk. As a candle maker ordering fragrance oils online, this information is crucial to ensure compliance with transportation regulations.
What about gel candles?
While we don’t sell supplies for making gel candles, it’s important to note that gel wax has different properties compared to other candle waxes. If you use gel wax to make candles, you need to be aware of additional safety precautions. Manufacturers of gel wax recommend using fragrance oils with a flash point of 170° F or higher when making scented gel candles. Make sure to review the manufacturer’s safety recommendations thoroughly.
In conclusion, understanding flash points is essential for candle makers. It ensures safety and compliance with transportation regulations. Remember, the flash point is not related to the performance of your candle’s fragrance. So, light your candles with confidence and continue creating beautiful scents for your customers to enjoy.