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Some Hints and Tips on Making Recycled Candles

An unlit candle is decorative but even better when lit and can produce a lovely fragrance.

You can melt down the remains of your used candles and unused ones you'd like to improve. At the beginning, you may not be able to predict exactly how the end result will turn out when you mix bits of differently coloured candles together. Try experimenting, and as you make more candles you'll gain experience to improve the results.
There are books available as well as other Web sites which will give you more information and details on candle-making; researching these is essential if you want take the hobby seriously. However, the following information should enable you to get started quickly on this environmentally-friendly and rewarding hobby.
Always remember that safety is most important. Wax is inflammable and vaporised wax is explosive. Also bear in mind that melted wax is very hot and can cause skin burns. Do not heat up the wax in a microwave oven; this can be dangerous. Children should have adult supervision when making candles. See some safety precautions below.

What do you need to begin with?

You'll need a few things before you get started, some of which you'll have to buy. They're available from craft shops and from some department stores.

  • A suitable melting pot for the the wax. A relatively safe, and recommended, way is to use a double pan with the inner wax-container sitting in a water bath. You might well have an old pan and a suitable sized can or pot to to stand on a raised mesh inside it so that there is no direct contact between the wax container and the heat source. Purpose made jugs can be bought to stand in the water bath at a modest price. Alternatively you can buy a special double unit for candle making but these are likely to be quite expensive. A cover-all metal lid is desirable for use in an emergency. An alternative is to buy special wax boil bags which are also heated in a water bath.
  • Wicks: you will probably need to buy these. Make sure to get the right thickness for the size of the candles you're going to make and you should be able to get some guidance when you buy them.
  • Containers or moulds to make the new candles in: you can make candles in a glass, or a glass jar, or container that you've already had a candle in; or you can buy candle moulds. They come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, materials and prices.
  • And of course, old candles. (You can buy suitable wax, such as beeswax, intended for candle making but our purpose is to encourage recycling.)
Candle home-made from Beeswax
Not recycled but Candle is home-made from strip of Beeswax

Click to enlarge

General tips
  • If you mix lots of colours together, you'll probably end up with a murky brown mixture. This may suit you, but if not, try separating old candles into like colours and make new candles in batches. If your outer pan is large enough you may be able to stand two or more cans or pots in the water.
  • Apart from a variety of colours your old candles will probably be made of different types of wax, which might burn at different speeds, so the candles you make may burn unevenly. Breaking the candles into small bits and mixing them together well should help in this respect.
  • If you mix several scented candle bits together, the scent of your 'new' candle may not be as you expected; you may or may not like it!
  • The wick should be straight and in the centre of the mould or container, or if you're making a wide candle with more than one wick, these need to be in the positions where you want them to be. One way to help achieve this is to tie the wick to a pencil, about in the middle of the pencil; then place the pencil horizontally across the top of the container or mould with the wick vertically down into the container; you can adjust the height of the wick until it's correct. Some wicks you buy may have a base and will stand up on their own, but you'll still need to ensure they don't fall over as you pour the wax in.
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Fragrant Red Lily
Fragrant Red Lily
Tips on making the candles
  • Prepare everything before you start paying special attention to your working area so that it is not cluttered and you have freedom of movement. Get your containers or moulds ready and set up the wicks etc
  • Clean up your old candles before melting them; take off any paper, decorations etc from the outside of candles; cut off any burnt, blackened wick
  • If you break up your old candles into pieces, these will melt faster. You can probably remove the wick and decorative pieces from inside the candles as you break them up. If not, it doesn't matter too much as you can fish some of these out with a fork when the wax is melted
  • Place your pieces of candle in the pan or boil bags (follow any instructions supplied with these). Do not fill the pan too full, say no more than half full, as when the wax melts some will probably melt faster and could start bubbling causing the level of wax to rise in the pan; this could be dangerous. Don't be tempted to heat the wax in a microwave
  • Heat the wax gently (on a very low heat) until it's melted; don't leave it unattended on the heat. Very carefully fish out any floating bits and pieces of unwanted debris that will inevitably find its way into the melt.
  • Pour the wax into your prepared containers or moulds up to the level you require. It's a good idea not to completely empty the pan; that way any remaining bits will stay in the wax in the pan, ready for disposal, and won't end up in your candles
  • Any unwanted residues or extractions should be disposed of by putting them on old paper or rags and dispose of them as refuse: do not put them in the kitchen sink.
  • Leave the candles to cool and set, then trim the wick to the required length
  • Store in a cool place not exposed to bright sun. We have experienced such conditions on an exceptionally hot day and the candles melted and the resulting grease soaked into the base of a wooden drawer.
Notes on safety and things to watch out for

As enjoyable and interesting as it is, making candles can be dangerous and there is an element of risk such as you would have when cooking with oil and fats.
Wax, like oils and fats, can reach much higher temperatures than water and doesn't give the same clear warning as water does by bubbling when it boils. Watch the melt constantly and if you see and smell the wax smoking, you have a problem. There is no need to heat the wax to anywhere near that temperature for candle making, so it shouldn't happen and if you are using a water bath correctly it can't. If, nevertheless, for whatever reason, it does, then turn off the source of heat, don't move the pan and stand away until it cools significantly. If the vapour is accidentally ignited, carefully cover the pan immediately with a wet cloth or a covering lid (if you have one) to exclude the air.
Even if you are careful with the melting don't forget that the wax will be very hot even if it doesn't appear to be. Avoid any bodily contact with the molten wax as it can produce severe burns. If there is an accident then immediate immersion in cold water should ameliorate the damage.
When burning the candles avoid placing them in a draught or near curtains or other flammable decorations. They should be securely fixed so that they won't be accidentally knocked over and there should be some way of containing the molten wax which inevitably runs down. As a general rule don't leave them burning in an unoccupied room.
It is not a good idea to pour any liquid wax down the sink as this will solidify and could block the waste pipes.
The tips above are general guides and it is recommended that you get further guidance from appropriate texts or Web sites.


By Brenda Shaw
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Page originated: 2 February, 2005  Last amended: 27 October, 2013