I’ve seen a survival tip involving crayons. I’ve seen it many times on Pinterest and Facebook. It says a crayon can be used as a candle. But I’ve also seen where people say it doesn’t work. It seemed, at least to me, that it could work. I didn’t know what to think, so I remained mildly skeptical about it. And I didn’t do anything about it (meaning research) until tonight, when the same survival tip showed up in the latest issue of Boy’s Life (a magazine for Cub Scouts), April 2015 issue. Seeing this tip in there bugged me. If that tip wasn’t true, as some say, then they were lying to these Cub Scouts, my oldest included. So, I decided to test it out myself.
I took a broken crayon from my kids’ crayon drawer. Why a broken one? I didn’t want to ruin a perfectly good crayon if it didn’t work. And, in case you’re asking, no, I don’t know what brand crayon. In the drawer we have a mix of CraZArt, Rose Art, and Crayola crayons that have accumulated over the years. I was focused on looking for a sacrificial piece of crayon that still had a point/tip and its paper wrapping. I didn’t even notice the brand.
I lit a match and briefly ran it over the broken part of the crayon and stuck it on a votive holder, tip pointing up. We all crowded around the table. I told my boys to hold their breath and brought the lit match to the tip of the crayon.
It didn’t work! All it did was melt the tip of the crayon. I was like, “Ah-ha! Liars!” Of course, I didn’t say that out loud and, with my boys still watching, I lit another match and tried it again. It still didn’t work, just melted the tip of the crayon. My youngest suggested the crayon we were trying was the wrong color* and he brought me a fiery red-orange colored one. Aww, how sweet! I politely told him we wouldn’t try another one. That I didn’t want to ruin another crayon.
Then I thought, “Maybe the paper is supposed to act as a wick.”<–I did say that out loud, which prompted my boys to start asking questions about wicks. While answering those questions I broke the melted tip off the crayon so the crayon top was flush with the paper. And I scraped the melted tip-of-the-crayon-wax off the paper, using the unburned part of a match.
I lit a third match and held it at the top on the outside of the crayon so the paper would light. VOILA! It worked! We had a candle!
The little broken crayon candle burned for several minutes putting off some nice, bright light. I was surprised at how bright it was. I guess it was because the flame was higher than the flame from an actual candle. (I just looked up the reason for the high flame. It seems the paper wrapped around the crayon acts like a wide wick. A wider wick produces a bigger, higher flame. I didn’t know that before, did you?) My youngest was afraid of the high flame and kept trying to blow it out. I wish I had timed how long it burned. The crayon piece was only about an inch long. It makes me wonder how long a full crayon will burn. (I sense an experiment coming soon…comparing the burn time of a full crayon and a birthday candle.:))
When it was done burning it left a hollow tube of the charred remains of the crayon’s paper. It was pretty cool looking. That is, until one of my kids (can you guess who?) decided to blow on it. The tube collapsed and the ashes scattered across the table. Luckily, I got some pictures taken before he did that.
The only negative to burning a crayon as candle is the smell. It really didn’t smell good as it was burning. It even made my husband start coughing. I wouldn’t want to burn this in a small enclosed space.
But having said that, I actually want to do this again. Only, next time, I’ll pay attention to the brand of crayon to see if there are any differences of burn time, light output, and smell between brands. (And then use the best brand to test against a birthday candle.) Oooh, how about lighting a whole box of crayons on fire at once? Mwahhahaha! (Ok, so I’m not so good at the evil scientist laugh. And I wouldn’t really try doing that… inside the house.)
So, there you go, it really does work. I wouldn’t do this everyday. The smell is off putting. But I’d definitely use this if it were an emergency and we ran out of actual candles.
Just remember to take the tip off the crayon first!…And don’t burn it in a small enclosed area!…And practice your evil laugh if you’re going to do this in front of (your) kids!:)
*As you can see in the pictures of the crayon candle ash tube the color of the crayon we used was blue. Thus the suggestion we were using the wrong color.