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How to Make Candles without Making a Mess

Updated on August 17, 2014

No Wax Left Behind

I've watched Martha Stewart make candles and no drop of beeswax would dare fall anywhere but into one of her clever candle molds. Me, I'm not so lucky. I'm forever dribbling paraffin somewhere when I make candles. So, I have learned to prepare for my inherent messiness.

If you're the sort of crafter who always has something to show for your creativity - on your hands, your clothes, your table top - here are some tips for making candles without making a mess.

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c. bossypants
c. bossypants

Cover All Surfaces

Aluminum foil molds well, won't burn, and offers good protection. My husband laughs at our "chrome plated" kitchen, but it beats having to scrape wax off the counter or stove top. If you are the frugal type, you can fold up the foil and reuse it the next time you make candles. Oh, and buy the cheap stuff - no need for heavy duty or non-stick.

c. bossypants
c. bossypants

Dress Appropriately

Wear clothes and shoes that you're willing to sacrifice to the crafting gods. Most times, I don't spill any wax on myself, but the occasional splatter or drip has ended up on my clothes. Also, stay away from loose fitting sleeves or shirt tails and scarves or ties that might brush against the heat source. Wear an apron to protect your clothes.

c. bossypants
c. bossypants

Take Your Time

Heat the wax slowly and safely, think before you pour.

Don't move a candle mold with warm or liquid wax.

Don't rush to unmold a candle before it has cooled sufficiently.

Follow directions.

A Word on Safety

A Fire is Very Messy

Whether it's beeswax, soy wax or paraffin, wax is flammable. (Duh - that's why candles burn, right?) And, whether you're using a gas range, a hot plate, or something else, your heat source can cause the wax to ignite, if you don't take care.

Prepare for the worst and have a properly charged fire extinguisher handy. You'll probably never ever use it (I never have), but needing it when it's not there is much worse than feeling silly for having it nearby.

Follow directions for whatever appliance you're using. I prefer not to use the microwave for melting wax, but there are instructions out there for microwave candle making. However you heat the wax, begin "slow and low" and don't leave your melting wax unattended. On my range, the burner is set to the lowest possible setting and I find things to do that keep within sight of the stove while the wax melts.

Use a double boiler and an appropriate candle pot. Candle pots aren't pricey and with proper care, you'll only ever need one. (Mine is more than 20 years old.) Never heat the wax directly over the range or hot plate. My double boiler is simply a discarded sauce pot into which I put a couple inches of water and the candle pot.

You know the candle burning rules. Never leave the candle unattended while it's burning. Keep candles away from children and pets. All that stuff.

c. bossypants
c. bossypants

Avoid a Mess in the Dining Room, Too

In a perfect world of high quality wax and no drafts, candles would never drip. My world is not so perfect, so here's how I contain the wax, short of burning only jar candles.

For pillar candles, use a tray or plate with a lip to catch any wax that drips. Only burn pillars for 2 hours (or less) at a time to reduce the amount of liquid wax that builds up. Don't move the candle until the wax has cooled and hardened.

When burning tapers, try to avoid drafty locations and consider using bobeches to keep wax off the candlestick and tablecloth. (A bobeche is also called a candle ring and is often made of glass or crystal.)

For votives and tea lights, always use a container. Unless the candle is made of soy wax (which is water soluble), put a few drops of water in the bottom of the candle cup to make it easier to pop out the remaining wax residue when the candle is done burning. (I do this with tea lights, too, as the foil cups they come in have been known to leak.)

Oh, and about those jar candles (or any candle container)... Don't let the candle burn itself out. The heat of the flame and the hot wick tab can cause the glass to burst. And, you may wish to put the jar on a coaster to protect your table top from the hot glass, in any case.

What kind of candles do you burn?

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When Prevention Isn't Enough

Wax Removal Tips

Despite your best efforts, if you live with candles, you'll probably have to clean up wax at some point. In many cases, wax accidents can be reversed, but some surfaces, like leather or very delicate fabrics, may not recover from a wax spill. Here are some things to try when wax has spilled. These methods are for paraffin and beeswax.

Always let the wax cool and harden. Wiping at warm wax will spread it out on hard surfaces and cause it to soak into fabrics.

Gently chip away at the wax to remove as much hardened wax as possible. Be careful not to scratch the surface underneath or to pull fabric threads.

For carpet or upholstery, a warm iron and absorbent cloth or paper towel may help.

Soy Wax

Soy wax is marketed as water soluble.

In cases of small spills, soy wax will clean up with soapy water.

Dyes in soy wax may stain, and there may be candle residue left behind.

Try some of the gentle methods recommended above to remove residual soy wax.

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Do You Have a Candle Mess Story? - Feel free to comment even if you've never made a candle mess!

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    • Monika Weise profile image

      Monika Weise 4 years ago from Indianapolis, IN USA

      I use a lot of candles. Recently I've started making them again. Of course, I always make a mess lol

    • Spiderlily321 profile image

      Spiderlily321 4 years ago

      I love candles but I've never actually made any. I always wanted to though. I've made a mess with premade ones though and spilled wax all over clothes and furniture in the past. I was a teenager and clumsy. Nice lens. Angel blessed~

    • Margaret Schindel profile image

      Margaret Schindel 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      I've had candle drips on more tablecloths than I can count, which is one of the reasons I love bobeches (that and the fact that they're so darn pretty!). Wonderful tips that are inspiring me to go buy some paraffin wax. Blessed!

    • profile image

      SteveKaye 4 years ago

      I tried to save wax by making candles out of small cubes of wax. Unfortunately, the melted wax ran down the spaces between the cubes and made a mess. My Aunt was quite unhappy about this.

    • delia-delia profile image

      Delia 4 years ago

      I once left the candles burning on my glass mirror table, when I came back in they had melted on to the glass...what a mess!

    • Linda BookLady profile image

      Linda Jo Martin 4 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

      I used to make candles a lot when I was very young and living in San Francisco. Somehow when you're young you have energy to experiment with all kinds of things. Well, that's my story. Now I'm much older and getting back into crafts, and candlemaking is one craft I want to return to. Thanks for the tips.

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 4 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      I've dripped candles onto nice old linens (oops and couldn't get it out of the lacy portion) while burning candles. When making them, I don't seem to make as much of a mess. Go figure.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I haven't made candles for years but maybe its time to give it a try again with your no mess tips and common sense approach...covering everything with foil is a wonderful idea. Very nicely presented from one who has attained Martha Stewart neatness in candle making!

    • Joan Haines profile image

      Joan Haines 5 years ago

      Oh, my. The first few times the 12 year old me made candles, it was such a mess! I made them while my parents were away, with no thought to mess prevention. I used two pots, one inside the other as a makeshift double boiler. I was cleaning wax off of everything, the floor was a little slippier and waxier than before, and my shoes were never the same.

    • Pam Irie profile image

      Pam Irie 5 years ago from Land of Aloha

      Not me.........I NEVER make a mess. ;)