“Gel” Candles Can Explode–Fiction!
This is a warning from a person who says his former secretary’s house burned down after a gel candle exploded. It says the fire marshal told the lady this was not the first time it has happened and that the gel candle emits a gas that can then explode and set the room on fire. The story says the fire was so hot it melted the smoke alarm and that nobody noticed anything wrong until her toilet blew up. The email then has a message, apparently from a different person who forwarded it, saying that a friend of her actually saw the explosion from a gel candle and suffered burns when she grabbed it, but saved her home from burning.
We have not found a source or validation for this particular story and there are no official reports of gel candles “exploding.” There were some gel candles pulled off the market in 1998 (see below) because of excessive flame that could be dangerous, but no reports of explosion and, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, no reports of damage or injuries.
Some of the description in this email does not seem credible. Whether a fire melted a smoke alarm or not is not relevant because any hot room fire can melt the typical home smoke alarm. The alarm is not intended to survive a fire, but to warn of one ahead of time. Also, it is possible to blow up a toilet by putting something explosive into it, but whether a gas escaping from a candle would accomplish that is questionable. Even if the gas was heavier than air, what would ignite it in the toilet?
Gel candles have been in the news, however. There was a voluntary recall in 1998 of hardened gel candles from GLADE by the S.C. Johnson & Son company, of Racine, Wisconsin. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, some of the candles could burn with a flame higher than normal, as much as 3 inches above the container. At the time the recall was announced, the CPSC said there had not been any reports of damage or injuries.
There is at least one recall by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission involving candles with breaking or “exploding” glass, but not in connection with gel candles. That was with regard to a more conventional wax candle.
There are numerous warnings around the country from various consumer protection organizations and fire departments about the dangers of using ordinary candles around the house. The National Fire Protection Association says that during 1997, there were more than 11,000 candle-related fires in the United States, including several fatalities.