Should you light a Candle or an Oil Lamp on your Altar?

One of the many offerings that you can offer to the Buddha is light. When you make a light offering, you help to eradicate the darkness of ignorance. With each light offering, you are celebrating the enlightenment of the Buddha and accumulating merits.

You have seen candles and oil lamps being lighted in temples, but which type of light should you offer at home? Let's dive into the differences between candles and oil lamps.

Burn Time
Oil lamps can burn for a much longer time than candles. Although we have huge candles that can burn up to14 days, the flame will eventually die off once the wax burns out. Oil lamp, on the other hand, can keep the flame lighted as long as there is oil in the fuel reservoir. You can easily top up the oil when the oil depletes without extinguishing the flame.

Candles can only be used one time, while oil lamps which are made of quality materials can last a long time, especially when they are well-maintained. In this case, using an oil lamp will definitely be cheaper in the long run.

Candles or butter lamps usually have a gentle fragrance that fills the room when they are lighted. Oil lamps, on the other hand, burns on lamp oil (purified liquid paraffin oil), which is usually odorless.

Size of Flame
The flame from an oil lamp can be controlled by adjusting the length of the wick exposed above the burner. For oil lamps placed in home altars, it is advisable to keep the exposed wick short to keep the flame as small as possible. This will help you to save oil, as well as prevent the flame from burning the inner sides of the lamp chimney. As for the flame from a candle, it cannot be controlled.

Oil lamps need to be cleaned at least once a year to prevent clogs. The wick has to be trimmed as it will turn black and affect the flame after it has been well-used. As candles are of one-time usage, there is no maintenance required, especially when you use butter candles, as the butter burns through thoroughly.

As long as a flame is involved, there will be risks of fire hazards. Lamp oil used in a oil lamp is not very flammable. It will not burn without a wick. In cases whereby the oil lamp is toppled, the oil within will flow out and extinguish the flame. The flame stays within the lamp chimney, which helps to protect it from wind. However, a buildup of carbon or soot on the wick or the glass chimney may occur. When the soot is not removed and has accumulated over a prolonged period of time, the glass chimney may crack. It is highly advisable to check on your oil lamp regularly to prevent the soot from accumulating. The flame from a candle, on the other hand, is usually more exposed. When using candles, please ensure that there are no flammable items placed around it, such as curtains, cloth, paper, etc. Do not leave burning candles unattended.


Both oil lamps and candles make great offerings for the Buddha. In Buddhism, light is light, the method in which it is offered does not matter. It all boils down to your personal preference, and commitment to ensure a safe environment for the flame to burn in.

Please note that only quality lamp oil should be used in oil lamps placed indoors. Do not use raw gasoline, kerosene, or alcohol as fuel for your oil lamp. Shop our purified paraffin lamp oil here.

If you are keen to light up candles on your altar, you can consider our butter lamps, which are toxic-free, eco-friendly, scald resistant and smokeless. Shop here.

Back to blog