Using Sparklers Safely
Useful advice on using sparklers safely at home and at weddings.
One of the more popular and traditional fireworks in the UK, sparklers are a wonderful part of any celebration with fireworks. However they are often underestimated and as a result cause some easily avoidable accidents. In this article I’ll explain how to use them safely. If you’re buying sparklers for a wedding, I’ll also run through some vital tips to help avoid any singed eyebrows!
Indoor and outdoor sparklers
Firstly it is important to only use sparklers indoors if they are specifically designed for that purpose (it will be clear from the label). Outdoor sparklers are not suitable for indoor use as they emit too much smoke, especially the coloured varieties.
For cakes, the recommended sparkler to use is the smaller silver indoor variety designed for this purpose. However for cakes you should also consider ice fountains which are more spectacular.
If you haven’t already read it, my Sparklers guide has much more information about the various types of sparklers you can buy.
Be aware that sparklers burn hot and remain hot after use
The core part of the sparkler that burns down is a metal rod. This can get very hot in use, easily hot enough to burn skin and set fire to clothing! It is important therefore that sparklers are never pressed against anything while still burning.
Immediately after use, a sparkler still retains enough heat to burn. In order to demonstrate this I took a sparkler that had just finished and pressed it into some plastic, which is shown in the images below. Note that due to Coronavirus lockdown and tight production budgets at time of writing, I had to use my resident Lego stuntperson, who I can assure you was not harmed in this test:
It is recommended that you place spent sparklers immediately into a bucket of either water or sand after use.
Light sparklers one at a time
Whilst it is tempting to light a bundle of sparklers together to save time, this is a very bad idea. Once you bundle sparklers together they act in a much more explosive manner and can flare up very dangerously when lit like this.
The best way to light a lot of sparklers is to hand them out first and then go along the line of people with a good quality lighter such as a BBQ lighter (something with a hot and windproof blue flame), a portfire (a pyrotechnic lighting stick costing around £1 which you can buy from a firework retailer) or even a blow torch, lighting them one at a time.
Using one lit sparkler to light another, one at a time, is also quite safe.
Advice for younger children
The general advice on sparkler packets over the years is not to give these to children under 5 years old.
Needless to say, children should be supervised at all times and discouraged from running around with lit sparklers or from poking other children with them!
Gloves should be worn (and that advice applies to adults too).
One useful tip that has circulated on social media is to place sparklers in carrots first which has the effect of giving the sparklers a much better handle that’s easier to grip. It also keeps the hot part further away from childrens’ hands.
Advice for weddings
Sparklers are great for wedding receptions, adding some wonderful atmosphere and creating some nice photo opportunities. However based on my experience watching (mostly drunk) wedding guests with red hot sparklers I would like to offer the following safety advice:
- Use gold sparklers rather than coloured sparklers as the latter are very smoky.
- Hand out the sparklers one at a time then light them individually. Never light them in a bundle (see above).
- Use a portfire – available from your fireworks retailer – to light the sparklers, or something with a strong windproof flame such as a BBQ lighter, chef’s torch or blow torch.
- Have a bucket of water or sand handy to place spent sparklers in.
- In case you need to know (your photographer might ask), standard sparklers burn for around 40-50 seconds and 18″ sparklers for around 90 seconds.
- It’s impractical to expect guests to bring or wear gloves, so the bigger 18″ sparklers are often safer given that they have longer handles.
- Remember sparklers are very hot and a source of ignition when lit. Keep them away from expensive clothes. And hair products!
Take care with indoor sparklers
It’s very easy to forget – and I can attest to this with my own singed fingers! – that indoor sparklers still burn red hot and remain very hot immediately after use despite their small size and indoor classification. They should not be given to children and if mounted on to a cake, give them a minute or so to cool down before removing them to slice the cake. Ideally have a mug of cold water handy to put them in; don’t put them straight in the bin.
Sparklers at public events
Whilst sparklers have often been given out or sold at public firework events in the past, this has become somewhat of a rare occurrence now and for good reason. The potential to injure added to your liability for any incidents at a public event should make you very wary. Glow products such as glow sticks, glow necklaces or even flashing novelty items are a much safer bet.