Lighting Sparklers This Fourth of July? You’re Going to Want to Read This
Here’s a handy safety guide to glance over before igniting any sparklers this summer.
Sparklers are a quintessential summer party addition that bring a hint of magic, nostalgia, and Americana to any occasion (hello, Fourth of July!). They’re also a safer and simpler alternative to more hazardous, non-family-friendly consumer fireworks—making sparklers the perfect way to light up the night without all the risks and regulations. While sparklers are considered ideal for consumer use (unlike big display fireworks), they still come with a list of safety instructions and precautions to keep you, your family, and your guests out of harm’s way. Here’s how to light, hold, and extinguish a sparkler as safely as possible—plus a few more sparkler tips you never knew you needed.
First Things First: Are Sparklers Legal Fireworks?
According to the Amercan Pyrotechnics Association, “The definition of consumer fireworks varies from state to state, but can include everything from cone fountains to roman candles to multiple tube ‘cake’ devices to sparklers.” Sparklers should only be used if they’re legal in your municipality (Check your state’s regulations in this directory of state fireworks control laws from the American Pyrotechnics Association). However, the APA also says, “49 of the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia allow legal ‘consumer’ fireworks for the Fourth of July.” Massachusetts is one state that permits absolutely no use of consumer fireworks, even on July 4 (but don’t worry, you can still enjoy professional fireworks displays in Massachusetts!).
Finally, only to buy sparklers from officially permitted retailers. And remember, it’s illegal to ship sparklers via air mail (they’re classified as hazardous materials by shipping companies and the USPS); if you place an order from a permissible online retailer, allow enough time for ground shipping.
How to (Safely) Light, Handle, and Extinguish a Sparkler
Hold the sparkler away from your body at arm’s length, at least six feet from another person (be extra careful if you’re wearing billow sleeves or loose clothing—in fact, maybe avoid loose clothing altogether). Ignite the tip of the sparkler with a long-reach butane lighter, says Julie Heckman, executive director of the American Pyrotechnics Association. Once the sparkler is lit, tip it upright, perpendicular to the ground, and keep holding it away from your body. Heckman says it’s safe to use the lit sparkler to light additional sparklers—just make sure to light only one sparkler at a time. And if one sparkler doesn’t light or malfunctions, do not try to relight it. Have a bucket of water at the ready to dip used sparklers into after all the fun. Allow them to cool for at least half an hour before throwing them away.
Sparkler Safety Tips
Sparklers are best for those ages 12 and up, and always under the supervision of a responsible adult; they should never be pointed or thrown at anyone or anything. Sparklers should always be used outdoors (never light a sparkler inside!). Find a flat, open space outdoors where sparks can’t ignite brush, plants, sign posts, vehicles, or anything close to your home. A concrete driveway is ideal, but if you opt for a lawn, consider first, wetting down the grass with a hose. If you want to take extra precautions, wear closed-toed shoes to prevent accidental foot burns.