Candles have a wide range of uses. This makes them a common household item and something that you may find yourself buying on a regular basis. And when you go anywhere to purchase an item, there is a chance that it could be mistakenly left in the car.
During the hotter months of the year, this can be disastrous for many different items. If you go to the grocery store and leave something cold in the car for even 10 minutes, it may not resemble that food item any more.
With candles, it seems as though it should only make sense that they would melt inside a hot car. But there is more to the topic than you may have imagined. So can candles melt inside of a hot car?
Can Candles Melt in a Hot Car?
The short answer is “yes.” But there is far more to it than that. “How long does it take for a candle to melt in a hot car?” is a more appropriate question. This all depends on two things: the temperature of the inside of the car and what kind of candle wax is involved.
To put it simply, wax has a melting point of anywhere between 99° and 145°F. The temperature inside of most vehicles can get to be anywhere from 130° to 170°F in some of the most extreme scenarios.
Depending on the exact temperature of the car and the melting point of the wax, this means that a candle can melt in 25 minutes or up to two hours.
Believe it or not, the wax type and the internal temperature of the car are just two of the factors involved in this equation.
Internal Vehicle Temperature
As mentioned previously, the temperature inside of a given vehicle can get anywhere from 130° to 170°F. This is based on an outside air temperature that ranges from 80°to 100°F.
There are also a number of factors to take into consideration when it comes to how quickly the car will heat up and the candle will melt.
The primary factor is that internal temperature. That naturally depends on what the temperature outside is but it can also depend on where the car is parked.
Exposure to direct sunlight will result in the car heating up far more quickly. The rays from the sun cause increased heat, which gets trapped because of the windows.
If the car is parked in the shade, it will take substantially longer for it to heat up. This is not to say that it won’t heat up; the outside temperature will dictate that no matter what. But without that direct exposure to the sun, it won’t get to be blisteringly hot inside the car, at least not for a long time.
Window tint is another important factor. Tinted windows are specifically designed to either absorb or reflect the UV light from the sun.
This can help to keep temperatures from getting terribly high if left in direct sunlight. It won’t keep the car from heating up but it will keep the temperature from climbing towards that 170°F mark.
The color of the interior can play a role as well. This can be the color of the dashboard, the upholstery, the seats, and the flooring. Lighter colors, particularly white, will reflect light instead of absorbing it. That will help keep the car from heating up quickly.
Darker colors, meanwhile, absorb all light with black being the worst. Having a darker interior will not only cause a rise in temperature, it will make those things hotter as well. In particular, a black dashboard can even get as hot as 180° to 200°F.
Lastly, refractory shades are important too. You may have seen these things before: they resemble tin foil placed between the dash and the windshield.
This is meant to reflect heat away from the windshield and slow down the rate of warmth on the inside of the vehicle. It also prevents sun damage to the dash and upholstery.
Melting Temperatures of Wax
On the other side of the equation is the melting temperature of different types of waxes. Yes, how hot it gets in the car is important but so too are the properties of the wax itself.
The lowest melting point temperature belongs to paraffin wax. The melting point of paraffin wax is in the 99° to 130°F range.
The highest melting point, meanwhile, belongs to beeswax with a 145°F melting point. Soy wax is right in the middle with a melting point at around 120°F.
So if you have a paraffin wax candle that is sitting in your car on a hot summer day, it likely won’t take all that long for it to melt. Leaving a beeswax candle in your car, however, could help you avoid that melty, gooey mess.
Those ranges are just that, however. So if you have a paraffin candle and your car hits 100°F, don’t be surprised if your candle winds up melting.
Preventing this is as simple as removing any items from your car before you leave it out in the sun. But if you do, be aware that these are the facts involved in determining when the candle will melt.
Defeating a Myth
One of the prevailing myths is that leaving your windows cracked open on a hot summer day will be enough to keep the temperature down. And it makes sense too: air flow into the car should naturally keep the temperature down.
But this is actually a falsehood. Studies have shown that keeping the windows of the vehicle cracked or rolled down about an inch will result in temperatures that are nearly identical to those where the windows were closed.
So unless you can keep the windows rolled all the way down, having them open just a little won’t matter. Keep this in mind the next time that you keep something in your car and decide to crack a window before leaving it in the sun.
So How Long Before a Candle Starts Melting?
While it doesn’t often happen that we just leave items in our cars, it can happen in very common situations. Maybe you’re visiting a shopping center and purchased your candles but want to keep shopping at other stores. Most of us don’t bring the bag with us; we put it in the car.
Believe it or not, there are even more factors involved besides the melting point of the wax and internal temperature of the car. The type and size of the candle is important too. A small candle, for instance, will likely melt far more quickly than something bigger and heavier in size.
The type matters too. Knowing the difference between candles, such as a pillar candle versus a tealight candle, can make a difference in the melting time involved. It might only take 25 or 30 minutes for a paraffin wax candle to begin melting, for instance.
This can even be if the temperature outside seems comfortable; remember, it is about the temperature inside the car.
The packaging can play an important role in the melting point of the candle too. Buying a candle with little to no packaging means leaving it directly exposed to the heat and potentially to the sunlight.
But candles come in a variety of packaging. Wax paper, plastic, boxes, and several other things can come into play.
Even the specific type of material used becomes important. Just because something is wrapped in plastic does not mean it has a universal melting point. The plastic could be thinner, which would result in an easier melt, or it could be thicker, which can stand up to higher temperatures.
There are some plastic wraps that can stand up to temperatures up to 212°F, for instance. Just for reference, that is the boiling point of water. There are also some kinds of plastic wraps, generally those used in cooking, that won’t melt until temperatures hit the 220° to 250°F range.
So if you have a candle that is wrapped in plastic, you likely won’t have to worry about it melting in the car unless it is there for a seriously long time.
Wax paper, meanwhile, is definitely not heat-resistant. The wax coating on the paper will likely just melt as the candle would. This means that you will end up with an additional layer of melted wax on top of your already melted candle.
As you can see, determining when a candle will melt in a car is no easy task. There are so many factors in play that it can be hard to really know when and if the candle will melt.
A good rule of thumb is to not leave candles in the car for any longer than you have to. Sometimes, as in the aforementioned shopping scenario, you can’t help it. But if you can, try to not let them sit in the heat for long.
In a pinch, though, you can feel pretty comfortable that your candle will likely hold up in the short term and stay in one piece.
I have two Associate’s degrees, one in Medical Assisting and the other in Computer Technician, and I am roughly five classes from a bachelor’s degree. Though I never ended up working in the medical field, I have five and a half years of experience in IT. I recently became a stay-at-home mom to my two young boys, and I’m so excited to start this adventure with them! In my spare time, I love to bake and read pretty much anything I can get my hands on.