Emergency Candles for Preppers

Emergency lighting is important to consider if you want to be well prepared. You have more choices than ever when it comes to inexpensive and easy to use lighting. Candles have their disadvantages and advantages. Here are few tips for using candles during an emergency.

Make the best use of candles and space

During an emergency, it may be a good time to learn to spend more time in a single room. Hanging out in a central space will conserve the candles you have and make it easier to keep track of those that are burning and thus eliminate the potential for a catastrophic fire.


Make sure you have the ability to keep it safe.

Candles are nice but they can be very dangerous if some care is not taken. Small children, disabled persons, pets, ect can make having candles a bit more hazardous. I don’t mean to pick on the disabled or elderly but a small stumble can cause a candle to be knocked over and it may be hard for them to react in time.

Burn candles on fireproof surfaces at all times

Using a simple clay tile that from any home improvement store can help eliminate some fire risk. If a wood stove is not in use then it can be a good place to burn candles as well.

Use candles made for function not ambiance.


Scented fancy candles are great if you can get then on sale but it is a good idea to get some candles that have a very long burn time and can be burned for many hours at a time safely. Check the label of candles and it will often tell you just how long you can burn them safely.

Soy Versus Paraffin

Some people are fans of soy candles because they burn cleaner and are not made of petroleum products. If you don’t want to smell anything major then go with the soy or choose a sealed paraffin liquid wax candle. Soy is very long burning and inexpensive to use when making your own candles

Watch out for sales and buy in bulk

Sometimes candles can be found at a major bargain. If the price is right you might consider buying some that are not the longest burning.

Making Your Own Candles

Making your own candles allows for customization and is much cheaper to do, especially if you want to be really careful what you are burning in your home.

What you need to make your own:

  • Jars
  • Wicks
  • Wax
  • Scent or essential oils if desired

12-15 16 ounce jelly jar candles can be made with 10 lbs of wax!

These candles are not only great for emergencies they are good for gifts or just adding some scent to your home without even burning them.

Prepare jars by placing wicks at the bottom. Use a clothes pin laid on its side over the top of the jar to hold the wick in place . Pour hot wax into jars and allow to harden. Remove clothes pin and then store your candles however you like. You can use a jar lid to cover them when no tin use or for gift giving.

You can definitely reuse the jars to make future candles after you burn one up. Just set in a double boiler and warm and then pour out any remaining wax and wicks. If times are really hard you can salvage this wax to repour more candles.

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Be warned though that if it has a lot of black stuff and wick in it you will want to heat the wax up and filter it or pour it off or you will wind up with a dirty burning candle.

At $25 for 10 lbs of wax, that means your cost would be about $2 for the wax. Wicks are about $0.08 each. Jelly jars are around $0.75 each when bought new. This puts your cost at about $2.83 each for candles that will burn for 85-100 hours depending on the drafts and air currents where they are being burned!

That is a lot of candle power for very little money. On top of that you can reduce your cost significantly by using old jars. As long as a jar is glass it can be used as a candle container. Just make sure that there are no visible cracks and damage before using.

As you can see if you really want to have some emergency candles, making your own is a lot more cost effective and it really only takes a few minutes to make them. You can also add essential oils if you want and everyone knows that natural based good smelling candles can be very expensive so there is even more incentive for making your own.

Use mirrors

Mirrors reflect light and thus maximize the brightness potential of your candle. If you have some small mirrors that you can set up or have some larger ones that you can set candles safely in front of then you might be surprised how much light you can get.


It used to be quite common for oil lamps to have a reflector that was hung onto the wall to reflect light. Lehman’s still has these and they are really beautiful for those that want some built in to their decor emergency lighting.

Go over fire and candle safety with kids.

Not everyone regularly has any type of flame in their home. It doesn’t hurt to go over safety tips with kids and teens. This helps everyone because they can help watch out for hazards and reduce the chance of a fire.

Large Versus Small

Larger candles often have 3 wicks or more. This creates concentrated light in a small area. 3 single candles spread out can offer more usable lighted area. On the other hand a large candle is often made with a large and heavier container so it can be harder to budge.


Emergency Essentials 115 Hour Candle Pack of 6

This is an interesting take on the emergency candle. For starters it burns liquid paraffin. Only the wick is exposed. The liquid is sealed into each candle and the claim is that it is odorless and burns clean compared to the hard paraffin wax that most of us are used to.

115 Hour Plus Emergency Candle Clear Mist

The burn time for each candle is an amazing 115 hours! That means each candle can withstand being burned for 3.5 hours for per day for a solid month. That is not bad for a candle that comes in at about $6 each.

Sterno 100 Hour Emergency Candles Pack of 4

Sterno is a trusted name and this 4 pack of emergency candles definitely has what it takes to get you through some hard times. This is a liquid wax so it burns clean and you do not have to deal with any messy and hot wax drippings. The sturdy container offers stability.

Sterno 30278 100-Hour Emergency Liquid Wax Candles

Sterno candles are manufactured in the United States and have high quality wicks that don’t smoke or reignite when you try to blow them out. These candles are well under $5 each which is an excellent value for non electric or battery powered emergency lighting.

UCO Original Candle Lantern Value Pack with 3 Candles and Storage Bag

If you are looking for a fancier candle solution, then the UCO Candle Lantern has some advantages. For starters this lantern keeps the flame consistent via a spring powered candle tube that advances the candle up as it burns.

UCO Original Candle Lantern Value Pack with 3 Candles and Storage Bag

The glass enclosure protects the flame from drafts and wind gusts. While the glass does get hot the base stays cool to the touch. Each candle burns for 10-12 hours from what I can gather from customer reviews. You can use the handy hook to hang it up when camping.

UCO Reflector

UCO Side Reflector for the Original Candle Lantern

The optional reflector helps make the most out of each lantern and candle.

Candle Plates

5 Inch Round Mirror Candle Plate with Bevelled Edge set of 12

These trays are mirrored and made especially for placing candles on for safety and maximum light reflection.

The Tri Wick System


These 120 hour candles can also be made into a stove in emergencies. The candles are a blend of soy and beeswax so those staying away from paraffin can take advantage of this neat system. A simple folding stove is all you need to add.

Votive Candles

Votives are small but that doesn’t mean they cannot burn a long time. You need to have something good to set them in. Small holders or a tray that can withstand heat and you are not worried about getting wax drippings on can be utilized.

You also have the option of paying a little more and getting votives that are in glass holders already which can be convenient if you want to set them in many areas and avoid messes. When in a proper holder, votives are far less messy than taper candles that drip.

You can fit a lot of votives in a small storage space so if you are prepping with limited space they may be a good option.

Hosley's Unscented Votive Candles

These are a great value for those that want a lot of candles put back. With a 10 hour burn time this means that you could burn 10 votives for 72 hours which is 18 days at 4 hours a day.

That is not bad for under $20. Of course these come with no holders but you can pick up votive holders for under $10 a dozen or consider the option below.

Hosley 48 Pack Of Votives In Glass Holders

Hosley's Set of 48 Unscented Clear Glass Wax Filled Votive Candles

These are convenient because you can just set them on a table and light them. Of course you may want to still set them on something else if you have a fancy table or countertop that could be sensitive to heat.

You can also reuse the holders later by putting another votive down in them after you clean out remaining wax or you could use with some wicks and wax to pour your own.


While a lot of candles are made in a traditional taper style, there are some reasons to not consider these. Tapers require a holder not just a jar that they set in like a pillar style candle. Tapers can be very unsteady which can be dangerous.

On the other hand they are inexpensive and you can make a holder if you have too. They do drip and make more of a mess so you need to consider this before you hoard up too many of them. Like any emergency supply you may want to have more than one type of candle anyway. Here are a few budget tapers for an emergency.

Shabbos Candles 144 count with a 3 hour burn time

While each candle doesn’t have a very long burn time, these candles are inexpensive and get great reviews. If you are on a budget these are excellent for emergencies but also not a bad deal for special occasions.

Shabbat Candles

I kind of like the idea of a taper style candle that only lasts 3 hours anyway. If a candle gets left for too long it will just burn out. During an emergency I am going to be using candles only when absolutely necessary so 3 hours of light on most evenings would be enough and I could just start with a fresh candle the next night.

Tea Light Candles

Tea Light Candles


There is something to be said for having a lot of tealights. They do provide some light for doing basic things and at around $11 for 100 tealights that burn for 4 hours each, they are one of the better deals out there for emergency candle lighting.

You can put a lot of these on a plate and burn them and get a lot of light. At $0.11 each you can burn 10 of them for 4 hours for just $1.10 which is not too bad.

A combination of different candles might be best

I can see how having a variety of different candles could be handy. Candles are an excellent trade or barter item in an extended emergency.

candle burning

While you might like the jar candles you made yourself, tea lights and votives could be more useful for using to cook or warm foods. Of course anything scented is not going to be something that should be used for cooking.

Do you have candles stashed back? What is your plan for back up emergency lighting?

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Candles are a great option for emergency lighting - inexpensive and easy to use. Check out our guide to find the best and most long-lasting candles to have in your stash for emergencies.

  1. What a delightful and useful article. Thank you for your time.
    Just ordered some Sterno candles for emergencies. Will supplement with
    battery operated candles with batteries and remote – batteries which I can

  2. I burn several candles in lanterns hung from trees at my cabin which make a wonderful scene when in an area of very little light pollution. Candle lanterns are fairly inexpensive at about $2 – $3 each at a lot of places during the spring and summer. The candles that I burn last about 8 hours each and cost $1 for four at the local Dollar Tree. Candles will last a lot longer inside a lantern protected from a breeze and are a whole lot safer. I personally will not burn any candles that aren’t in a lantern with the exception of maybe a scented candle to help clear the air.

  3. I like to shop at a dollar store for religious candles. I find them in a tall glass holder for a round a $1.00 each. They have a long burn time

  4. I have always had a pack of tealights on hand, but when we were prepping for Harvey, I also grabbed several of the tall, religious candles. They are like a 6″ votive candle, already in a heavy glass holder!

  5. I use floating wicks and my old cooking oil. Fill a glass or jar halfway with water. Add 1/2 inch of oil and set the wick on top. If it tips over, it will self extinguish.

  6. After Christmas sales.
    If you don’t mind red candles, you can get them for almost nothing.
    I made the store manager an offer for them all. Almost he paid me to get them out of the store.

  7. Good article. I get my candles at thrift stores and literally have 400-500 if not more (some will be for barter or post-shtf gifts). Most thrift stores are around .25 a piece but I never pay more than 3 for a dollar, anything higher and I just leave’em and shop for other items. I store them in ‘3-shoebox size’ Sterilite containers that stack well and have locking lids (candles get heavy). I also have numerous candle lanterns w/ glass globes and basic candle holders that have the finger holes and drip tray on them (the Ebeneezer Scrooge type) so to make carrying them easier and safer, I have a few of the taller ‘candelabra style, but they are less stable and I wont use them unless necessary. Along with a stack of (used) pie-plates (again, from thrift stores) for fire-proof surface and several small mirrors as reflectors and lots of matches and Bic lighters, we’re pretty well stocked for emergency lighting. We also have several kerosene lamps and Coleman type propane lanterns with extra wicks and a fair amount of fuel to help out.

  8. I stock up on unscented votives at the thrift shops, always a good bargain.

    One suggestion to maximize the spread of light: If you drop a smaller candle in a translucent WHITE or FROSTED glass cup, bowl or coffee mug, it magnifies the “glow” and helps light a larger area. I would guess it’s similar to the reason why ceiling lights have frosted white covers, rather than clear! You could pick up inexpensive frosted glass containers at the thrift shop, too, if you want to pour your own candles.

  9. Did I miss beeswax? It costs more (unless you have bees) but smells great without adding scent & is healthier for breathing than paraffin.

  10. I absolutely LOVE my Emergency Essentials 115 hour candles! They go on sale around twice per year, they have reflector caps to snap on available in red, clear or amber as well. I have cases of these candles, as well as pillars, votives, and tea lights. An amazing bargain (and much safer) are Etekcity LED lamps. They are amazingly bright and last a tad of forever. They sell them in 2 and 4 packs as well. Flashlights and batteries out the nose holes. I have wall sconces (and loose lamps) that accept lamp oil, extra rolls of wicks, and Shabbot oil that burns pure. I save cat food cans, tuna cans, any flat can. I buy bricks of wax and wicks of varying lengths and make my own emergency candles- over half are in my trading bins. I keep the used jars from jar candles to re-pour into. Michael’s crafts has large jar candles on sale every year. Great article Samantha!

  11. I don’t know what kind of candle that I burned but it was in a jar already and the same height as a pint jar. As it burned down the wax that had melted already put the flame out. So I had to keep pouring the melted wax out so that it didn’t burn the candle out. Pain in the butt! Does anyone know if soy or beeswax does the same thing?

  12. I’ve had good results with the UCO-style candle lantern, with the clip-on reflector, while camping. The reflector focuses a beam that can light up a dark pathway, or make reading by candlelight much easier. If your eyes are behind the reflector, they won’t be dazzled by the light directly from the flame and can adapt to the darkness. Just be sure to keep your stock of lantern-compatible candles from warping in hot weather! And be aware that the top of the lantern does get very hot. Don’t let it melt your tent fabric.

  13. I picked up a bag of assorted sizes of white pillar candles at a garage sale. They had been purchased as decorations for a wedding, but were not used. It was a score for $3 !


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