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What are Trick Candles?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Trick candles are candles which will reignite after they are blown out. They come in a range of shapes, sizes, and colors, although most of them are designed to be installed on birthday cakes. These candles can be used in essentially any situation where someone must blow candles out, but they should be used with caution so that a fire is not started.

When you blow out a regular candle, a small ember continues to burn in the wick for a moment. You may have noticed that a plume of smoke rises from a candle which is blown or snuffed out. The smoke is caused by the ignition of paraffin vapors rising from the candle as the ember dies out. The heat of the ember, however, is not enough to actually relight the wick, as paraffin requires a higher temperature to burn.

In trick candles, the wick is impregnated with something which will burn at a lower temperature, causing the candle to reignite. Magnesium is a popular choice for this application. When the candle is blown out, the magnesium ignites, causing the wick to start burning again. Often, a few sparks are thrown off in the process. These sparks are also what make the candles potentially hazardous, especially if they land on lightweight fabrics and paper. Make sure that the area around the trick candles is clear before lighting them, to reduce the risk of accidents.

Trick candles can be allowed to burn until they run out of fuel, but they also can be put out in an emergency situation. To put the candles out, they can be snuffed, totally cutting off the oxygen supply so that a fire cannot start, but you will need to keep the snuffer on for a moment to ensure that the ember is out. A more effective technique is dunking the candles in water, which will also cut off the oxygen. You may want to keep water handy when working with trick candles, just in case.

You may also want to consider your audience when purchasing trick candles. Some people appreciate the joke, while others, especially young children, do not. These candles be be frightening and upsetting, which puts a damper on the experience for everyone. If you do not know your intended victim well, you may want to check with a friend to ensure that the trick candles will be received with good humor.

About Mechanics is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a About Mechanics researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By AnswerMan — On Apr 01, 2014

To me, the sparks coming off a trick candle are a dead giveaway. I'll usually go along with the joke, anyway. I've had people fill the entire cake with trick candles, or else they'll use one so I can't blow them all out and get my birthday wish. I don't know which prank is funnier.

I've also seen trick candles that have those electronic chips buried inside them, like the kind you find in greeting cards. When the ordinary candle burns down far enough, the chip gets activated and plays "Happy Birthday".

By Phaedrus — On Apr 01, 2014

I believe there is a wire inside the wick that stays hot enough to reignite the magnesium after the candle has been "blown out" the first time. If I remember correctly, it takes about 30 seconds for the wire to heat up, which is why you're supposed to sing "Happy Birthday" before blowing out the trick candles. Dipping them in water helps to cool down the wire, so it won't reignite in a trash can or other dangerous area.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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