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Clementine Orange Candle Test

March 21, 2013

Mandarin orange scented candleMy wife found something on Pinterest and told me I would want to know about it.

I’ve already had my wedding, I don’t need any new shoes, and I’ve settled on my own work-out routine.  There’s not much Pinterest has that I need.

However, my wife did find one that captured my interest.  Seems some ladies found a way to make an aromatic votive candle from a mandarin orange.  Now to a firefighter that translates as, “Cool, flaming oranges!”  Naturally we here at Fire Prevention Laboratories had to see if that works.

Clementines are a variety of mandarin orange that are usually grown in Mediterranean or Asian locales.  They’re often used as gifts or center pieces around the holidays.

In the Pinterest world you take a clementine mandarin orange and:

  1.  Make a cut in the peel all the way around the equator (leaving the poles intact).
  2. Then you peel the southern hemisphere off in one piece.
  3. Next you peel off the northern hemisphere carefully leaving some of the orange flesh attached to the center (belly button) of the northern hemispheric peel.
  4. Turn both peel halves upside down
  5. Eat the orange.
  6. You should have two orange peel cups.  Cut a star shape in the center of the southern hemisphere, that’s the lid.
  7. Now pour olive oil in the northern hemisphere just enough to make contact with the flesh in the center.  That flesh is to be the wick that pulls oil up and burns.

Sounds good, right?

We made seven samples using different cooking oils.  Thirty-four wooden kitchen matches later we got six to light.  Putting the decorative ‘lid’ on helped the tiny flame persist.  Of the six we got ignited only four persisted.  Of those four, only one made it across the parking lot to show the staff in the admin office.  We spent a lot of time re-igniting them.

Clementine 1-1

 Picture of our ignited clementine orange test candles taken with a GoPro Hero 2. This was taken after we performed the spill test.  Cooking oil (a combustible liquid) was the fuel here.  DO NOT try this with flammable liquids like lighter fluid.  That will result in a fire and probably injuries.



We performed the spill test.  After one had been burning for a while, we tipped it sideways on a paper plate.  Oil ran across the plate but nothing ignited.  The wick actually seemed to burn a little better with less oil in the orange peel.  But the flame remained a bit anemic.  The problem was keeping the flame lit, not spreading the fire.

Next we ran the ambiance test by closing the doors to witness the light effect.  It kind of looked like miniature jack-o-lanterns at Halloween.  It did, however, exude a rather sophisticated mood (for the inside of a fire department burn tower).


The ‘ambiance test’

Next we tested the aroma.  Never ask a firefighter if something smells nice.  They think barbecue smoke would make good perfume.  So we ran one of these by the staff in the admin office searching for an impartial panel of judges.  Now remember, these people smell a lot of smoky individuals coming through the front door.  Their assessment was that burning oranges stink.  There was no argument with that and they wanted the flaming orange votive candle out of their office space.  We considered that test concluded.

Bottom line is that you can fulfill the DIY gene by making your own mandarin orange votive candles and with persistence you might make it work.  However, centuries of have been spent researching candle materials that burn well, burn cleanly, do not smoke and smell nice.  We’re probably wise to take advantage of those years of technological advance.  Our recommendation is to get something from your local candle store that smells like an orange.  As with any open flame device, use great caution with your burning oranges (or any other burning members of the citrus family).  Got questions?  Call me at 466-4602, or e-mail me at, or post your comment here.


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