Incense Sticks

Why Does My Incense Keep Going Out? How To Keep it Lit!

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So you just purchased a beautiful and exotic incense holder. You lit one of your backflow cone incense, you set it up on the holder, and watch the waterfall of incense smoke.

Backflow incense burners FTW!

But a few minutes later, the smoke completely stops. The incense isn’t completely burned, but it seems the amber has died. So you try to light it up again but it dies again.

Why does my incense keep going out, and how can I keep it lit? And what is the spiritual meaning of incense ceasing to burn?

Read on to find out!

3 Things To Check When Your Incense Keeps Going Out

When your incense can’t seem to hold ember and burn, one of the first things we blame is the incense itself. We’ve all felt like throwing them in the trash because they won’t do what they’re supposed to. Although poor quality incense could be the culprit why the ember doesn’t hold, that’s not the only reason. There are actually three main factors you should consider to figure out what’s going on.

These are as follows.

1. The Incense Itself

The incense comes in many forms. They can come in sticks, spirals, cones, powders, moldable incense, and other natural incense-like resins or bundles of herbs tied together with a string. As we’ve mentioned earlier, poor quality incense can frequently go out.

This could be due to the formulation of the products. There may not be enough combustible binding material or poor quality is used so it doesn’t hold the ember. Be sure to check out our list of the best incense brands for some high-quality choices.


Another thing to check about the incense you are using is moisture. It is possible that the incense isn’t completely dry, so it can’t burn easily. To remedy this, you can heat up the incense on top of a heat lamp. The incense may also be too wet because of the essential oil content in them. You could try to dry them up more by wiping them off with a tissue.

Just remember that they are meant to ignite so they can be a fire hazard. As a precaution, don’t put them in your oven or microwave to try to dry them up. 


Make sure that you properly keep your incense. Refrain from exposing them to moisture to avoid such problems. If the incense is also older, they are more likely to already have absorbed moisture, especially if the packaging is already opened. Consider finding airtight storage for your incense stash like spaghetti noodle containers. 

2. The Incense Holder

Incense holders secure the incense in place to help lessen the risk of accidental fires. There are many different types and each is created for the different forms of the incense. Box type holders like this Wooden Coffin Incense Burner could be used for either cones or sticks.

With this type of holder, the sticks would lay directly on the bottom of the holder.

There are also simpler ones where you just place the incense in the provided hole like the Boao Bamboo Wood Incense Sticks Holder.

Last update on 2024-04-25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

With these, the stick is held at an angle, which is great for providing enough oxygen to keep the incense stick burning. 

If you have a box type holder and you can keep the fire on your incense stick, check to see the bottom of your box. Make sure you have a bed of ash that comes in contact with the incense. If it has a metal bottom and you place the incense stick directly on it, it won’t be able to hold the ember and eventually go out.

If you don’t have ash, some suggest using clean sand, salt, or uncooked rice as an alternative.

Box type holders usually cover the whole incense and keep them inside while burning. These can provide better safety as you will less likely accidentally touch the burning incense. However, the presence of the cover can also cause the ember to die.

Check to see whether the box type holder for the cones are big enough for the incense cones you are using. If not, then you’ll just have to open the box to keep the cone burning.

Additionally, the cover can also lessen the amount of oxygen available for the burning process. Unlike stick type holders such as this beautiful Corciosy Incense Stick Burner Holder, which exposes the sticks into the air, the box type limits the air.

Corciosy Incense Holder for Sticks-Ceramic Decorative Lotus Incense Burner Leaf-Incense Ash Catcher...
Corciosy Incense Holder for Sticks-Ceramic Decorative Lotus Incense Burner Leaf-Incense Ash Catcher...
. Multipurpose:incense burner holder is suitable for sticks, cones incenses.
$19.99 Amazon Prime

Last update on 2024-04-25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Although there are holes in this burner, it is possible that they are already filled with soot, especially when they are already used for a long time. Make sure to clean the incense burner to ensure good airflow for the incense to burn. 

3. Lighting The Incense

Lastly, the way that you light up the incense can affect whether it keeps burning or not. To prevent you from relighting the incense, light up the tip then wait for it to catch fire. The fire will usually die but the ember remains. If the fire doesn’t die on its own, you can blow it off gently or fan your hand to put it off.

Just don’t blow the flame out too quickly. 

Some suggest lighting the tip and having about 2mm of ember on the stick to ensure that it continues to burn. Of course, sometimes, it won’t easily catch fire and the ember produced usually dies right after it is lit. Hold the fire from your match or lighter at the tip for a longer time to make sure that the incense is properly lit. 

What About The Spiritual Meaning of Incense Not Staying Lit?

What about the spiritual meaning of incense ceasing to burn? What does that symbolize? What is the incense trying to tell you?

Many traditions suggest that the spiritual meaning of incense not staying lit is that you are not sufficiently concentrating. Perhaps your breath is scattered and random, maybe your monkey mind is taking over and you simply can’t concentrate.

The extinguising of incense is a potent symbol for many, and it reminds us to redouble our efforts to concentrate on our breath, and to expand our awareness.


There are a variety of reasons your incense may stop burning unexpectedly. It may be that the incense is just poorly made, or it was stored improperly, or you’re not lighting it with enough oomph.

What about when the opposite happens: you want to put out incense, but it won’t go out? We have your answer! See our article How To Put Out Incense Safely for more.