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Fall candles raise burning issues

The sights and scents of fall are unmistakable. Bringing that autumn ambiance into your home is easy by adding seasonal scented candles. That dancing light and autumn aroma will make any room cozy and inviting. With just a flick of a matchstick, autumn is in the air.

Less inviting, however, are some candle prices. The most shocking I’ve seen, the Baobab Collection, 14-inch Women candle in magnolia and rose at $760 — is ridiculous, even for a candle junkie like me. But still, the average medium-sized Yankee Candle will cost over $25. Talk about burning money.

In addition to cost, another candle conundrum is content. What exactly are you burning? Are there heavy metals in the wick? Is the wax made of paraffin, a petroleum byproduct that releases carcinogens when burned? You know the black soot ring you see around some candle jars after use? That’s a result of burning paraffin — petro-carbon soot — and exactly what you want to stay away from.

A report by the EPA states, “Burning candles and incense can be sources of particulate matter. Burning candles with lead core wicks may result in indoor air concentrations of lead above EPA-recommended thresholds.”

It’s reasonable to question something we’re burning in the home, if not solely for health reasons. Soot from candles can darken and stain walls.

The best cleaner I’ve used on soot is the Smoke/Soot Eraser Sponge by Absorene. It’s a nonchemical, rubber sponge that’s used dry, so no dripping.

Healthier and cleaner-burning waxes to consider are soy, coconut, rice, uncontaminated vegetable oils and beeswax. Natural scents should come from essential oils and botanicals. Better wicks to consider are braided cotton, wood or cellulose core.

Using fall’s familiar fruits, here are two DIY candle projects that are easy to make and produce beautiful results with a price tag of under a few bucks. How do you like them apples? Turning apples and pumpkins into aromatic candleholders is easy as “pie.” They can stand alone, in a grouping, or part of an arrangement.

DIY Apple Candles

n Get some colorful apples, as flat-bottomed as you can find.

n Pull out the stem.

n On the top of the apple, use a marker to trace the diameter of the candle you want to use (tealight, votive or stick).

n Use a paring knife to cut out what you’ve traced, then scoop out the flesh to the depth you need. (Photographed here, I went the depth of the tealight so it sits flush.) Note: Err on the smaller side of your cut; you can always go bigger if needed. If you use a taller candle, make sure to go deep enough to secure it from falling out.

n Stick your candle in the opening and finesse the cut if necessary for the right fit.

In my arrangement I used pressed leaves and yard clippings of pine cones and baby pomegranates. I added cinnamon sticks and sprinkled cinnamon in the apple hole so when the tea light heats up it smells like apple pie baking in the oven.

DIY Mini Pumpkin Candles

n Choose mini pumpkins about the height of a votive candle holder (2-3 inches).

n Remove the stem.

n On the top of the pumpkin, use a marker to trace the diameter of your candleholder.

n Cut out what you’ve traced then scoop out the insides.

n Sprinkle pumpkin spice inside the pumpkin so when the candle warms, it will release the scent.

n Place your votive candle inside the hole, and finesse the opening if necessary.

These apple and pumpkin candles last from several days to over a week, depending on ambient temperatures and fruit freshness.

As with any candle, don’t leave it unattended or burning on a susceptible surface.

Norma Vally is a seasoned veteran of home improvement; her career includes four seasons as host of Discovery Home Channel’s Emmy-nominated series “Toolbelt Diva.” A columnist and author, Vally splits her time in Southern Nevada, Los Angeles and New York City. Follow her on Facebook at Norma Vally “Toolbelt Diva” and visit her at www.NormaVally.com. Email Norma@NormaVally.com.

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