Friday, September 27, 2013

Getting the most out of your candles

Like most people I like to burn candles in my home. It makes a home more inviting while helping to cover the smell of kids and pets :) Also like many people, I like the expensive candles. You know the ones that cost $23 a jar and promise hours upon hours of burn time. My problem is that there's always a good amount of wax left at the bottom of these candles that goes to waste when the wick is spent. I'm paying good money for that wax that gets tossed out with the trash so I decided to do something about it!
I picked up a handful of cheap votive holders and a package of wicks and decided to transfer this still fragrant and usable wax to a smaller container to make new baby candles. Then I decided to invite my girlfriend over with her spent candles and make a fun project out of it. Turns out I got help too :)

Our materials
 Between the 2 of us we had 4 usable candles. One of mine I passed on because it was a failed attempt previously to layer the wax from more than one candle. My intention at the time had been to keep this wick-less candle on the stove top so it would scent my kitchen whenever we used the stove but it never occurred to me that the waxes would all meld together when melted this way (and the resulting smell wasn't harmonious). Duh, I know. Hindsight is always 20/20!

I used a hot water bath to melt the wax rather than microwaving it because I was afraid of scorching the wax (and killing my microwave). This method is easy, quick and almost fool proof.

It's hard to get a picture of steam!
 Once the wax was completely melted I removed the remaining wick stub left at the bottom (except a couple pesky little bastards that got away from me) and CAREFULLY poured the melted wax into my votive holder. I bought pre-waxed wicks with the little metal clip attached. The clip allowed the wicks to stand up straight-ish in the glasses on their own. I just popped a wick into each candle holder and poured the melted wax slowly into the glass.

In case you were wondering, that's a Mickey glove oven mitt :)
 It's damned near impossible to pour off the melted wax without getting some of the soot in the bottom of the used candle too but I tried anyway. This particular candle below had a lot of soot so I got more into the new glass than I wanted. I was hoping it would settle out like it had in the hot water bath but the wax sets up to fast.

The wax hardens from the bottom up which didn't give the soot time to settle out like we were hoping

Ta Da!
The size of our votive holders were slightly different and the large one is a double shot glass so that one held a lot of wax. We each got a new candle from each of the old spent ones plus a little extra to make a layered one (on the end). For the layered candle, I just put the glass in the refrigerator after the first layer to make it set up faster and once that was firm enough I added the second layer of wax. I was worried that pouring melted wax over the first layer would melt it again but it held up with just a few minutes in the fridge.

After they had set up we found that the middles had sunk in each candle. I'm not sure how this will affect total wax usage :/

So now I have all these new candles and a bunch of dirty, empty jars. Hmmmm... I had seen something on Pinterest about how to clean them so I dug it up the Pin and tried it out (see the tutorial here ).
I put one of my jars in the freezer but only left it in there for probably about 30 minutes instead of the "at least an hour" like the tutorial suggests. It was perfectly fine in this case since there really wasnt much wax left in the jar. I also peeled the label of first and much to my surprise found that it came right off with no fight.

Just out of the freezer

The remaining wax shrinks and cracks as it pulls away from the glass. SCIENCE!

This is after using a butter knife to break it up. Lots of wax still clinging to the jar.

I hacked away at it with an old butter knife first, then scraped the inside with a flexible plastic scraper I use for cleaning. Once most of it was out I cleaned it thoroughly with hot soapy water and the rough side of a sponge and finished it off with some citrus based de-gummer to remove the label from the bottom. I ended up with a beautifully clean jar to use around the house!

It reminds me of the apothecary jars I love but never buy because they're expensive.
Lessons Learned

1. Soot transfer is an issue but once the wax cools and sets up it's not very noticeable. I think maybe putting the newly poured candles on a warming plate would allow the wax to stay warm enough so that any transferred soot could at least settle out first. I don't have a warming plate so if someone gives it a try let me know how it goes!

2. Uneven settling of the wax is an issue but I have no idea how to fix that. Research is needed!!

3. An expensive, good quality candle in a nice glass jar is worth the money with a little extra work! This could be a fun project to do with older kids too.

I will DEFINITELY be doing this again. I have another one of my jars in the freezer as I type this so that once clean I can use it in my bathroom for cotton swabs. Not only do you get every last drop of yummy smelling wax out of these but you get a beautiful glass jar with a lid when it's all over!! Now THAT'S worth $23!


  1. You. Are. Brilliant. I hope that one day I can be as motivated, creative and dedicated as you! Between full time mommy and all your other projects you make my job look like CAKE! Much love!

    1. But I love cake! I never would have been able to take on this wonderful hobby while I had been working full time. Well, I doubt I would have had the space in my head for one more thing that it :) Not a day goes by that I don't realize how lucky I am and I am so grateful! These little projects are part of my way of giving back! I'll work out the kinks so you don't have to ;)