Scented candles are one of my secret indulgences. Their warmth and luscious scents are about the best stress relief gifts for when I feel like treating myself. As lovely as they are while burning, though, eventually they all end up the same: a pretty jar with a lump of cold hard wax in the bottom. If you’re like me, you probably have a collection of old candle jars that are too pretty to throw away, but are just sitting around collecting dust. What to do with them? You can get the most out of your luxury candles by making a new candle from them or by repurposing the jars to decorate and brighten your home.
Before You Begin: Tips for Making the Best Candles From Old Ones
So you’ve gathered up your leftover candles and you’re ready to get started with melting and pouring. Hold on. There are a few things you should know before you get started, especially if you’re planning to melt together a bunch of different waxes. The bad news is it’s not quite as simple as grabbing a new wick. Candle manufacturers, especially the luxury brands like Anthropologie, spend a lot of time calculating things like burn rate and combustibility when they develop their scented candles. Everything they add to wax — and the wax itself — affects the way the candle burns. They use those calculations to determine the safest wick choice. When you mix together a bunch of different brands, scents, or colors, you could end up with a candle that won’t burn right — or worse, one that’s dangerously combustible. So what do you do?
- Stick to leftovers from one kind of candle if you intend to remelt and combine wax for a new candle.
- If possible, stick to the same size and type of candle wick as the original candle. If you’re not sure, check the type of wax used in the candle and the diameter of the container, then consult a candle wick guide, like the one at Candle Science.
- You can buy candle wicks that are best for soy wax — the preferred wax for most luxury candles — or choose a wick that is suited for most types of wax, like these, which come ready to stick to the bottom of your jar.
- A saucepan or measuring cup with a lip will make pouring much easier.
- Pour your wax at the lowest possible temperature — as soon as it’s pourable.
Shop the candle-making essentials:
Step One: Getting the Old Wax Out of the Jar
The first step is to get the remains of the original candle out of the jar. Here are four ways to do that.
If the jar has a fairly wide mouth, this is your best choice. Just pop the jar into the freezer for a couple of hours. The wax will harden and shrink away from the sides of the jar and you can pop it out in one big chunk. If the jar has a narrower neck, you can use a butter knife to cut up the wax a bit before you put it in the freezer.
Put the jar on a towel on a stable surface. Pour boiling water — or just below boiling — into the jar, leaving some room at the top. The wax will melt and float to the top. Let it cool enough to start hardening, then scoop the soft wax out with a spoon. Strain the water through cheesecloth or a strainer to get out any bits of wax. Let it harden completely before remelting it to avoid water in your new candle.
In the Oven
If your intent is to just get the wax out of the jar and you’re not planning to reuse the wax, this method is a good one. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or tin foil. Get as much wax as you can out of the jar with a butter knife or spoon. Set the jars upside down in the pan and put the pan in an oven at a low temperature for about 15 minutes. The wax will melt and drip out of the jar. While the jar is still hot, wipe the inside with a paper towel to absorb any last traces of wax. Let the jar cool, and then wash with hot, soapy water. Your jar is now ready to reuse any way you want.
The Double Boiler Method
Fill the lower pot of a double boiler about halfway with water and bring it to a boil. Place jars containing unmelted wax on a towel or a rack in the top pot of the double boiler and set the top pot on the bottom pot. When the wax has softened, remove it with a spoon, spatula, or butter knife.
The Microwave Method
Many commercial candles have a metal piece in the bottom to hold the wick in place. You know you don’t want to put that in the microwave. If, however, you can dig that metal piece out first, you can heat the candle jar in the microwave for about 30 seconds, pour off the melted wax, and repeat the process until all the wax is removed. This is a good choice if you’re making the new candle in a different jar.
Step Two: Preparing the New Candle
- Stick the wick to the bottom of your chosen container. Some wick kits come with paper stickers made for that purpose. If you don’t have stickers, pour a little bit of melted wax into the bottom of the new jar and press the metal tab at the bottom of the wick into it. Let it harden until firm.
- Place a pencil or wooden coffee stirrer across the top of the jar at the center.
- Curl the top of the wick around the pencil to keep it standing straight and centered in the jar.
Step Three: Melting the Wax
- Place the chunks of wax you’ve removed from the candles into a heat-safe measuring cup with a lip for pouring.
- Place the cup into a pot on the stove.
- Add water until it comes about halfway up the side of the cup.
- Bring the water to a simmer and keep it at that temperature until the wax is completely melted.
Step Four: Pour the Candle
- Using a potholder or oven mitt, remove the jar of melted wax from the hot water.
- Carefully pour the wax into your prepared jar. Avoid pouring directly onto the wick. Reserve a small amount of the wax for the next step.
- Let the candle cool. As it hardens, a small dip or depression will form around the wick. Reheat the reserved wax and carefully fill the depression with the remaining melted wax.
Step Five: Finishing Up
- Let the candle harden completely. Depending on the size, this could take a couple of hours or a full day.
- Slip the pencil out of the wick loop.
- Trim the wick to about a quarter to a half inch above the top of the candle.
Instead of Making Candles With Old Wax
Don’t want to mess with the whole wick selection thing? You can still reuse the last of that wax and get the most out of your luxury candle investment by making wax melts to use with a wax melt warmer.
- Follow the instructions for getting the wax out of the jar.
- Now, instead of making a new candle, carefully pour the melted wax into silicone molds or a mini ice cube tray.
- Pop them in the freezer, let them harden, and then store them in a jar.
5 Ways to Reuse Empty Candle Jars
Even if you decide not to reuse the leftover wax in your scented candles, you can reuse the jars. Here are just five ideas for reusing empty candle jars around your home.
- Fill them with DIY body scrub for yourself or as a gift. They make great stocking stuffers.
- Turn them into a miniature succulent garden. Just add succulent soil and some adorable little plants.
- Yankee Candle style glass candle jars are ideal containers for terrarium fairy gardens.
- Fill them with cut flowers and set them on your desk to brighten up your space.
- Make a snow globe out of them.
Whether you keep them for yourself or to give them away, reusing those glass candle jars and wax will leave you feeling virtuous and crafty — and what could be better than that?
Prices are accurate and items in stock as of time of publication.
Deb Powers is a freelance writer who specializes in home, education, and lifestyle topics. She draws on her experiences as a teacher, mother, grandmother, and all-around creative spirit to help others achieve their own goals.