No. Earwax, or cerumen, is not really a wax. It is mostly dead skin, with some long-chain fatty acids and cholesterol and other compounds binding it. Normal candles burn from the top as the wax melts in the heat from the flame, is drawn by capillary action up the wick, vaporises and burns.

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Earwax can’t do this because keratin in the skin cells won’t melt. Instead of a flame at the tip of the wick that burns down it, there would be a flame spreading across the surface until the whole candle was alight.

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Asked by: John Bothwell, via email

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luis villazon
Luis VillazonQ&A expert

Luis trained as a zoologist, but now works as a science and technology educator. In his spare time he builds 3D-printed robots, in the hope that he will be spared when the revolution inevitably comes.

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