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A Step-by-Step Guide to Light and Put out Incense Sticks

Incense has a long history in almost all regions of the world (see a brief history and introduction to incense here). A lit incense not only creates a beautiful scent for the home, it can also be very calming for the mind. Many people use incense as an accompaniment to meditation, yoga, or simply for winding down at the end of day with a book.  

The most common form of incense used today is stick incense, or incense sticks. Stick incense comes in two forms, one type has a core in the center, and the other does not have a core. But how do you actually use incense sticks and incense burners?

We have created these instructional videos and step-by-step guides for lighting and putting out stick incense using the second type of incense - those that do not have a core. The steps for lighting and putting out stick incense with a core are very similar, so you can also follow along. (For those of you wanting to try backflow incense, you can also find instructions on how to light backflow incense cones here).

How long does it take for an incense stick to burn? 

First, a quick note on a common question we get, and that is how long an incense stick is expected to burn. It generally takes 20-40 minutes for an incense stick to burn completely, depending on its thickness, length and quality.  

Our full length incense take approximately 40 minutes to burn. They do not have a core, and are 21cm/8.25” in length, and about 1.5-2mm/~1/16” in thickness. You can compare the length and thickness of your incense stick to this to get an estimate of its burning time. For example, often Japanese incense sticks are shorter, about 10-15cm/4-5.5”, but tend to be somewhat thicker. These would probably take 20-30 minutes.  

Burning Incense: How to Light a Stick Incense

You can choose to either light the incense while you're holding it, or when it's been placed it into an incense burner. The actual method of lighting is the same for both. Below you'll see a video demonstration of each method, and a set of written instructions underneath. 

Method 1: Lighting a stick incense in an incense burner

*This video uses the Kin Ridge Extends incense burner and walnut base

Method 2: Lighting a stick incense while in the hand

* This video uses the Kin Moon incense burner

Detailed instructions:

1. You can choose to either hold one end of the stick incense, or place it on an incense burner to keep it steady and angled upwards 

2. Light the other end of the stick incense with a match or lighter as you would a candle wick. Ensure that the incense is immersed in the flame until it ignites, and a small flame is visible

3. Allow the flame to burn for a few seconds, then gently fan or blow out the flame

4. Check the incense tip where the flame was. If you see a small glowing ember, and a small amount of smoke coming out of the tip, then the incense has been correctly lit. If you're unsure, leave the incense for a minute or so, then check to see if you can smell the scent and whether more ash has been created at the tip. If you do not see a glowing ember, and there are no smells or ash, you have completely extinguished the incense by accident, and will need to repeat steps 1-3 above.

5. If you were using your hand to hold the stick, you can now place it into the incense holder. Be sure that the tip of the incense is within the boundary of the incense burner, so that any ash can be collected on the burner

6. Sit back and enjoy the smell of your burning incense stick

How to Put Out a Stick Incense

Sometimes we don't want to burn an entire stick of incense. Perhaps you only wanted to burn the incense for a 15 minute meditation session, or 10 minutes of reading. In this case, you can put out an incense that is half way through burning, and keep the remainder for your next session. 

There are two main ways we use to put out stick incense. You might find other instructions which tell you to put the burning stick into water. We prefer not to do that, as water can affect the quality of the incense, and prevent it from burning properly the next time. The below two methods are simple and also keeps the incense dry and ready for its next burn.

Below you'll see a video demonstration of each method, and a set of written instructions underneath. 

Method 1: Putting out a stick incense by pressing the tip off

*This video uses the Kin Ridge Begins incense burner and walnut base

Detailed instructions:

1. Remove the incense from holder using your hand

2. Press the lit tip of the stick incense against a heat-resistant surface with some force, until the piece with the ember breaks off. (Our video shows the use of our concrete incense burner. Other heat-resistant surfaces include ceramic, glass or metal. Do not use flammable surfaces such as wood, fabric, plastic, or paper/cardboard surfaces.)

3. Ensure the ember stays on the non-flammable surface, and wait until the ember has completely died out before touching it to clean up

Method 2: Putting out a stick incense by cutting the tip off

*This video uses the Kin Ridge Begins incense burner and walnut base

Detailed instructions:

1. Using a pair of metal scissors, cut the tip of the incense off, making sure that the piece includes the part with the ember

2. Ensure the ember lands on a non-flammable surface, and wait until the ember has completely died out before touching it to clean up

A Few Words of Caution

As with all things flammable, we do want to remind you that you should take care in using incense. There are a few things you should be aware of:

  • Please ensure you put the incense on surface that is heat-resistant, and no flammable items like curtains or books are near where the ashes can drop. Incense burners are generally designed to help with this (you can browse our collection of stick incense burners here)
  • Please ensure that you do not leave the incense unattended
  • Please place incense out of reach of children or pets
  • Do not touch remnants of the stick incense right after it has finished burning. Also do not touch metal parts of the incense burner right after burning. Both of these may still be hot. Give them several minutes to cool down

Of course, if you have any other questions about how to use stick incense, please feel free to leave us a note in comments. 

Otherwise, enjoy! 




2 Responses



February 22, 2023

Excellent video – Thank you



November 03, 2022

My incense sticks will not stay “alight”. I have had them for some years now, would the age affect their ability to stay “lit”?

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