Do Candles Expire? (What You Should Know)

You wouldn’t think candles could expire.

Many of us have had candles tucked away in a cabinet for years.

But for certain types of candles, an expiration date can be a real thing to look out for.

Below we’ll cover what you should know about candles that may be past their prime.

Do Candles Expire?

Candles can expire, but what does that mean?

For candles, wax, dye, and fragrance quality degrade over time and exposure to outside elements.

The quality and type of ingredients in the candle and how the candle is stored will determine how well the candle will age.

Does Candle Wax Expire?

Everyone loves natural waxes, but they do come with some tradeoffs.

Plant-based waxes like soy wax won’t last as long as paraffin wax which can remain stable virtually indefinitely.

Waxes like soy can go through various aesthetic issues like frosting, which is nothing to worry about but may run into performance problems after a couple of years.

I recommend enjoying natural candles within a year for best results and paraffin candles for long-term storage.

The exception to this rule is beeswax. Beeswax has a much longer shelf life than other natural waxes like soy or palm and can be kept indefinitely if correctly stored.

How long Do Scented Candles Last?

Over time scented candles will lose their potency as the fragrance oils dissipate.

How long scented candles last depends on the fragrance or essential oil used and how the candle is stored. Natural fragrances won’t last as long as synthetic ones.

Luckily fragrance degradation happens very slowly and usually is not noticeable until after a year.

Will a Candle’s Color Fade?


Over time dyes will fade and lose the original pop they once had.

Even candles without dye will begin to change color and can appear yellow or discolored.

The leading cause of this is exposure to UV rays.

What’s the Average Shelf Life of a Candle?

The average life span of a candle will depend on many variables, like how they were made and stored.

Natural candles that are correctly stored won’t see any significant degradation until after a year. These candles can still be safe to light after a year but don’t expect the same quality of fragrance or appearance. Once you get beyond two years, natural candles like soy may start running into performance issues.

Paraffin wax can remain stable indefinitely. You may still run into color and fragrance degradation, but the candle will not run into performance issues if stored properly.

How to Know When a Candle is Old

Just because a candle is old doesn’t mean it’s unsafe.

Remember, a candle that is discolored or doesn’t smell strong doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad candle, but these signs below can give you an idea to pay more attention to how the candle burns to verify it’s still safe to use.

The easiest way to determine if a candle may be old is its appearance.

Look for faded colors and abnormal textures. If the candle has no dye, look for yellow or brownish discoloration.

If it’s a scented candle, note how it smells cold or unlit. Old candles will have a more subtle scent or no scent at all.

Again, this doesn’t mean the candle should be thrown away, but they can be signs of an old candle that won’t burn as well as you expect.

When Should You Not Use an Old Candle?

Although an “expired” candle may have faded colors or weakened fragrance, it will be safe to light in most cases.

Pay attention to the candle’s flame when you light an old candle. Over an extended period, the candle’s composition can change enough to impair the wick’s performance.

Keep an eye out for an irregular flame that may be flickering, sputtering, or unstable, in which case it’s best not to burn the candle further.

How to Extend the Shelf Life of Your Candles

Proper Storage

When storing candles, keep them away from UV exposure.

Everyone knows sunlight is the primary source of UV exposure, but fluorescent lighting will also degrade a candle’s quality in color and fragrance over time.

The bottom line, keep your candles stored in a cool, dry, and dark place.

UV Protection

When displaying candles on store shelves, UV exposure can be a difficult problem for candle makers.

That’s where a UV inhibitor can save the day.

A UV inhibitor is an additive you can add to the wax that will act as a “sunscreen” for your candle, protecting the wax, dye, and fragrance and preserving the quality against damaging UV rays.