How I make recycled candles

Candlemaking has been quite the learning process, especially with my somewhat unorthodox method. Basically, one day Mike and I were driving either to or from Wisconsin and I got this idea that maybe I could melt down old candles that no one wanted anymore and make new ones out of the wax. And what I really wanted to do was put the candles into found objects I collected while thrifting. I looked on etsy and found that others were pouring their wax into teacups and jelly jars, but no one was really using recycled wax.

So I bought a bunch of supplies and dove into it. I discovered that making a candle is actually pretty easy, but making a perfect candle is a lot harder. And when you’re using a slightly different product for every single batch, you are going to get a slightly different result every time.

But, I love a challenge, so I’m still tweaking my process and experimenting with new containers. In case you were interested in how I do it, I thought I’d give a little tutorial.

In my craft room I have a stockpile of candles that basically look like this.

I have just about every color, shape and style – leftovers from weddings, bags of half-burnt candles people give me, garage and estate sale finds.

If they’re too large to melt whole, I start by putting the candle in the freezer for 15 minutes to an hour. When it comes out, it will be really brittle, and sometimes even crack.

I put it in a plastic tub and whack the crap out of it with a hammer until it breaks into chunks.

To melt it, I have this little setup with a burner and a pot with a lid. This keeps everything completely separate from what I would use in the kitchen. Trust me, everything gets too waxy to use anywhere else.

I bought a couple of metal pitchers so that I could do two colors at a time, and this has really helped me since I started making candles with stripes.

So I fill my pan with about an inch of water and heat that to boiling. This melts the wax with a double boiler effect. Then I drop in the chunks and wait for it to melt. I usually stir it a bit, and if there is any debris in there, I’ll pull it out.

Meanwhile, I heat up my glue gun so that I can glue the wicks to the bottom of my containers. I usually use a pencil to push the wick into the exact center of the container without burning my fingers.

Then I string the top of the wick through a clothespin, center it on top of the container, and pinch the end to keep it secure. If your container is wider than the clothespin, you can twist the wick around a pencil and rest it on top.

When the wax is completely melted, you can use a thermometer to test the temperature. Often with big batches sitting there a long time it can get a bit too hot, which can effect the wax when it cools, so I try to keep it below 175.

At this point, if my wax is unscented I usually add a fragrance. In this case I used apple because it seemed to go with the green color, but I have tons of others, and sometimes I will use a few drops of essential oil, like citronella. Originally I thought I would only use essential oils, but I found that too limiting so I added the fragrances.

When wax cools, it actually creates kind of a sinkhole, so you really have to pour twice. The first time you fill it a little lower than where you want it. Let it cool for at least four hours.

Then pour the second layer to fill in the hole, and let that cool. With this candle I poured white for the second layer, and then did a third layer in green to create the stripe.

When it’s all done I put a safety sticker on the bottom that has room to write in the scent. For my tins I also print off logos and stick them on the side.

My initial investment was probably about $100 for a starter kit with a pitcher, wicks, scents and colors, plus the burner and the pot. Later I bought a heat gun, which is great for cleaning out old containers or fixing any bubbles that come up to the surface. It’s basically like a hairdryer, but not for your hair!

Comments

  1. 1

    Jeff says

    Very nice post with great instructions. I appreciate the clear pictures.

    I keep an empty coffee can in the cupboard and put old candle stubs in as I accumulate them. When it's full, I put the can in a pot of water to melt them down and recycle much as you describe. Left over wax stays right there and the new stubs just get tossed on top.