I love candles. I don’t know many girls who don’t. But my taste in candles is a tad on the expensive side. You see, the most common wax used for inexpensive candles is paraffin wax, which, when burned, can emit harmful chemicals and compounds into the air. A better and safer option is to buy soy or beeswax candles. Unfortunately, soy candles are expensive and beeswax candles are really, really expensive. So, once those candles burn down, and there’s that tiny bit of unburned wax at the bottom of the jar, it breaks my little frugal heart to throw it away.
And one day it hit me: I don’t have to.
I could make new candles from the old wax using just a few inexpensive supplies. It’s very fast, very easy, and surprisingly affordable. Here’s how I do it.
Start by saving the little bits of wax that never burn at the bottom of the jar or candle holder. When I’ve collected enough to make a new candle, I weigh it before I melt it. (More on why I weigh it later.)
In order to maintain the integrity of the wax, it needs to melt slowly over a low-to-medium heat. The best way to do this is by using a double boiler set-up. But before you go grabbing your good cookware, remember that wax can be very difficult to remove. So, I bought a cheap sauce pan for $2 at my local thrift store. It is now exclusively my wax melting pan, and is stored in my craft area. Set the cheap pan over another pan filled with water, and turn on the heat to medium low.
Using a candle thermometer (which is about $10 at your local craft store – $5 if you have a 50% off coupon), melt the wax.
Now is NOT the time to check email, or organize your magazines, or do anything else that will take your attention away from the wax. It takes only a couple minutes to melt and come up to temperature.
Heat the wax until it reaches about 175. Then remove from the heat, add your fragrance, stir, and let it cool to between 125 and 150 degrees.
Here’s the special note I promised earlier about why I weigh the wax: I weigh it so I know how much fragrance to use. Most fragrances include instructions of the ratio to use for candles, i.e. how many ounces of fragrance to use per pound of wax. I try to use natural essential oil fragrances to avoid releasing any harmful chemicals into the air. Because the different colors of wax inevitably result in a brownish/greenish candle I choose scents that lend themselves to that color – cinnamon, hot cocoa, deep woods, etc.
While the wax is cooling, prepare your candle container. You can use any container that you know is heat resistant. Think of all the things that are meant to withstand heat – canning jars, tea cups, previously used candle jars, etc.
You’ll need some sort of wick and a wick clip. Both of these are easy to find (and cheap) at your local craft store. The most common type of wick is the cotton cord kind, but I like the wood wicks because they crackle like a fire. (Just be sure your wicks aren’t the kind with a lead core.) Place the wick in the wick clip, then place a little bit of wax at the bottom of your container (to secure the wick clip) and place the wick clip in the center of your container. If you’re using a cord type of wick, you can wrap the wick around a skewer or chopstick, then lay the skewer/chopstick across the top of your container. This will keep the wick upright and centered in the container.
Once the wax has cooled below 150 degrees (but above 125), it’s time to pour it into your container. Pour slowly so you don’t over-pour or spill. It’s a good idea to have an overflow container handy to pour any extra wax into. (I usually over estimate how much melted wax will fit into a container, so I have extra melted wax that won’t fit. Pouring it into an overflow container lets me keep it and reuse it for the next candle.)
Let your candle sit several hours – preferably overnight. Trim the wick to about ¼ – ½ inch above the candle surface.
All that’s left to do is place your reborn, recycled candle onto a heat-safe surface and enjoy the ambiance while thinking of all the money you didn’t spend buying a brand new candle.