Burn Testing: What is it - and Why Should I Care?
If you hang around Parks HQ, you'd think we're obsessed with 'burn testing' prototypes. But it's easy for us to forget not everyone knows how or why it's so important.
What is it?
Simply put, if you're passionate about creating beautifully fragranced homes - and ultimately that's what we do - burn testing is all about perfecting the way a fragrance fills the room - from first burn to the end of the wick, without getting weaker, producing soot or tunnelling. And with 100% Natural Wax (paraffin or mineral wax is much easier to work with) there's a lot of things that affect it.
For example, some fragrance ingredients burn faster than others so you may choose a thinner wick. But too thin won't melt wax at the edge of the glass, too large will give a short burn time, changing any one thing affects everything else. So it's a balancing act. For perfection, a minimum of two weeks, but can take months - especially if you're working with something like a large, 8.5kg 7 wick candle.
Pete Broome came straight from completing a Masters degree in chemistry to work at Parks, and now oversees the dedicated burn test lab. We asked him explain "what's a burn test?"
"Every fragrance burns differently, for example, citrusy fragrances tend to burn fiercer than woody. So we measure things like how much heat is produced, how quickly the wax melts, flame height, burn rate (example how many grams are used per hour). We also measure for any soot."
Once those things are measured, we can make adjustments," says Pete: "before starting, we make sure the colour and finish are good. Then it's weighed so we can measure how long and at what rate it burns. Because we're aiming for zero soot, we wait till the end of the test to take a measurement with a specially adapted light meter capable of reading a single speck of soot."
Why is it so important?
The process follows EU regulations for safety. But, Pete says, "we have to go beyond that to meet Coreless Cleanburn® standards. The truth is, I don't think we burn test for certificates or regulations, that's something we'd do anyway. For me, there are two things that make burn testing important...
Firstly, there's why we come to work every day. We're passionate about making beautifully fragranced homes. Everything we do is driven by that. Without burn testing, you can develop the most fabulous fragrance, it will smell great on a shelf but won't fill your room, or gets weaker as it burns. What's the point? We don't love making candles for shops to sell, we make them for people to use.
Second is the learning curve. We've been burn testing for decades now, but every single day we learn something new about how to improve what we love making. That's a mindset unique to manufacturing. Brands who don't make things lean towards finding better ways of selling and marketing. What I love about our mindset is trying to find a better way of making things.
Enzo Ferrari was asked what's the best car he's ever build, his answer was 'the next one'. That's a philosophy I can really relate to - striving for perfection. Today, whilst testing a new ten wick candle with Parks Original, I discovered something worth trying on another fragrance we've had for years - Lime, Basil & mandarin. I thought there was no way we could improve the burn on that fragrance. But tomorrow I'm going to find out :-). For me, that's why burn testing's so important."