Natural Orange Candles

It is summertime which means warm evenings and fruits are aplenty. Going to the farmers market on the weekends is a favorite family tradition of mine so I was excited to transform a handful of fresh oranges into a set of nifty, natural burning candles.

Orange peels naturally contain an essential oil called limonene, which is flammable (you may have encountered flaming limonene as a garnish for fancy cocktails). The pith of an orange, however, contains very little limonene, and also tends to be drier than the rest of the peel or sections of juicy orange. These qualities make the pith a slow burner and ideal for a candle wick.

Always be careful when using candles and fire. Be sure to only light the candles on a safe fireproof base. Never leave lit candles unattended or unsupervised by an adult.

Want to explore more kitchen science experiments? Explore the tastier side of learning with Science of Cooking: Bread & Butter from the KiwiCo Store!

  1. Ages: 5 - 16

  2. <30 minutes

  3. Messy

  4. Grownup needed


Materials you'll need

Step-by-step tutorial

  • Step 1

    Take your orange and slice it in half horizontally. Have an adult help or carefully supervise any cutting necessary for this project.

    Photo reference of how to complete step 1

  • Step 2

    Remove (and eat!) the middle portion of the orange while leaving the white stem intact. This step can get messy so we recommend doing it over the sink.
    Carefully cut along the perimeter of the orange to loosen it up. Then use a spoon to scrape out the insides. Be very careful not to poke a hole through the peel.
    Remove all of the fruit from the inside so that only white remains on the inside. The pith is now your natural wick!

    Photo reference of how to complete step 2

  • Step 3

    Pat the inside with a paper towel. Then fill the orange with oil until just below the top of the white stem.

    Photo reference of how to complete step 3

  • Step 4

    Carefully light the stem with a lighter or match until it starts to burn. An adult should perform or carefully supervise this step, if needed. You now have a natural burning candle! The wick will continue to suck up the oil in the base of the orange and keep the fire going.

    Photo reference of how to complete step 4

  • Tip

    If you have trouble lighting the wick, it may be too wet. Try to dry the wick with a paper towel and then let the candle sit for a few minutes so that it can soak up the oil before lighting again.

  • Step 5

    To make it a bit more unique, you can hollow out the top half of the orange and place it over the base to create a soft orange glow. Just remember to cut out enough holes so the fire can breathe. You can continue to experiment with different oils and citrus fruits. Do some citrus fruits last longer than others? What oil seems to burn better? Enjoy lighting up your evenings with these beautiful natural candles!

    Photo reference of how to complete step 5

  • Learn moremagnifying icon graphic

    What's going on?
    Candle wicks are designed to do two things: burn very slowly, and draw up fuel (either wax, or, in this case, vegetable oil) to slowly feed the flame. In the case of your orange candle, the dry pith burns slowly at its top, and heats up oil below it. The now-heated oil flows up the pith via capillary action and keeps the flame going. Because the pith burns so slowly, your orange candle should stay lit for many hours.
    To experiment with the more combustible side of oranges, save a bit of your extra orange peel, and after you've lit your orange candle, carefully spray some orange zest through the flame (keeping your face and hands away from it). You should be able to see a small but exciting explosion - that's the orange's flammable limonene in action.

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