That last bit of the candle that never fully burns is valuable stuff for the waste not – want not minded. You can turn those old bits into new candles and it’s easy!
If you keep reading you’ll learn how to make new candles from old candles at home. We’ll cover how to get a hold of stearin for free, what type of candles you can make, what you can and can’t use to make new candles and a step by step description of the entire process.
Save up Those Leftovers
While you may be tempted to toss that little bit of stearin left in your tealights or the butts in your candlesticks you should save them and once you have a couple of handfuls you can turn them into new candles, from which you, of course, save the leftovers and create new candles.
It’s not a matter of becoming self-sufficient with candles. Unless you are making beeswax candles and have a steady supply of beeswax. You will need a source of new stearin or you will eventually run out. After all, most of the stearin in each new candle you make is burned off. It is however easy for most people to come by new stearin, even for free a lot of times.
Ask your friends and family to save their leftovers for you. They may look at you like you are crazy, but we don’t usually mind that, do we?!
I’ve even heard of one guy who managed to snag a deal with a restaurant that would put out fresh candles on all their tables every night. Now that would be an amazing stream of stearin coming into your life. At that point, you could even think of making a homestead business out of selling your new candles.
The Types of Candles You Can Make
Your imagination sets the limit to the kind of homemade candles you can make. In this post, I will walk you through the process of making moulded candles and tealights. You could use mason jars or any other container that is either safe to burn it in or will be removed, like the ones I’m using.
I’ve made ‘fairy candles’ in the past using the same process as below but using a walnut shell as the ‘container’. These are beautiful floating in a bowl of water and a great gift.
You can also make regular dipped candles, like the ones you use in candlesticks. It’s much more time consuming and not as baby/ toddler-friendly, which is why I haven’t included step by step instructions here. It is, however, my favourite way of making new candles. I love the process, it becomes very meditative once you find your rhythm.
If you want to, you can add fragrance to your new candles by adding a few drops of essential oils in with the melted stearin (please don’t use other fragrance oils). You could even add colours. But take note of the next section and do your own research before choosing which oils to use.
What You Can Use and What You Can’t Use
There are many different types of wax on the market, from so-called candle wax to soy wax. You should only use two things when making new candles from old ones and you should never mix them.
You Can Use:
- 100% pure stearin.
- 100% beeswax.
You Can’t Use:
- Any candles that aren’t 100% stearin.
- Any candles that are scented.
You could technically use scented candles if they are otherwise 100% stearin and you know for sure what they are scented with, but I’ve found they rarely are unless you’ve made them yourself. In that case, only ever melt like with like.
As a rule of thumb, if a candle doesn’t say 100% stearin on the packaging, then it’s not 100% stearin. If it feels waxy it’s not 100% stearin.
What You’ll Need
Now that we have a firm agreement that you will only ever use 100% stearin or 100% beeswax and you have collected a stash to melt, we can move on to the few other things you’ll need.
- A pot to warm water in on the stove
- Something to hold your wick if you are using a form. I use long matches. You can also buy some that are designed for the purpose (affiliate link). Something to cover your work surface. A dishtowel or some newspaper work well.
- A container to melt your stearin or beeswax in. The size will depend on the type of candles you decide to make. If you are making dipped candles the container needs to be about an inch taller than your desired length. I use a glass canning jar.
- Forms for your candles if you want to make moulded candles. I use metal food forms, you could also use silicone muffin forms (affiliate link).
- A spoon (soup or sauce spoons work well) if you are using forms.
- Cotton wicks. I prefer 100% cotton and no pre-wax. Sometimes they are pre-waxed with soy, which I don’t want. If you can only find pre-waxed wicks then opt for beeswax (affiliate link). You can get some with metal taps on the side (affiliate link), already connected (affiliate link) or, my preferred kind, a long role of wick (affiliate link) you can cut to any length you want. You honestly don’t need the taps in most cases.
Basically, the only thing you need to buy to get started on turning your old candles into new is the wick and if you are really crafty, you can make your own wicks. For now, though, let’s just stick with buying them. For everything else, you most likely already have something on hand that will work, which makes this a very frugal project. In fact, the p/hop for this project is next to nothing.
A Word of Caution
Several years ago, when I made my first batch of new candles from old ones, I hadn’t yet discovered the trick for holding the wick down without a tap. I tried to use small coins with a hole in them as the wick holder because it was much cheaper than buying the actual taps. It worked great until it didn’t work anymore.
As you can see from the leftovers, the stearin became discoloured from the coin. I had to toss the remaining stearin from those candles. So please don’t use coins as taps or you’ll be hard strapped to make a second batch out of your leftovers. Now, let’s get into the details of making new candles from old ones.
Step by Step Instructions: Turn Your Old Candles into New Candles
Step 1 – Get All Your Stuff Out
Get all the things you need based on the type of candle you are making out. Reference the list above for what you need.
Step 2 – Prepare the Stearin
Collect your bits and bobs and make sure you trim off any sodded wick. If you include any black wick it will discolour your new candles. You can leave any white wick in, it will just sink to the bottom of the container you are melting the stearin in.
Step 3 – Make a Bain-marie and Melt Your Stearin
Fill a pot with water, turn the burner on low-medium. You don’t want the water to boil, but you want it to be hot. Put your container with the old stearin inside the pot and let the stearin melt slowly. You have essentially created a double boiler.
Quick tip: If you use a glass container, then add it from the beginning and put a splash of vinegar in the water. These two steps will respectively prevent the glass jar from breaking and keep it fairly clean.
Step 4 – Prepare Your Wicks
While your stearin is melting you can prepare your candle wicks. If you opted to make the candles without the taps, like I usually do, then wait until there’s a bit of melted stearin you can work with.
Cut the wicks to the appropriate sizes. If you use a match and no tap, then you need to have enough wick to tie it around the match and about a 1/4″ to place on the bottom of the form.
Use a little of the melted stearin to fasten the wick to your form. It doesn’t matter if it comes loose, what you need is for it to cool completely before you add more stearin to the form.
Step 5 – Pour in the Melted Stearin
Transfer the melted stearin to your forms and let it cool. Make sure that the wick is roughly centred, this will ensure an even burn. It’s not a disaster if you don’t get it centred. That just means you’ll have more stearin left from that candle for your next batch.
Step 6 – Let the Candles Cool Completely
If you need to move the candles then wait until the surface is cooled enough to harden a bit. At this point, you can gently move them and let them cool overnight.
Step 7 – Remove Wick Holders
Now that your new candles have cooled completely you can remove the wick holder, in my case the matches and trim the wicks to your prefered length.
Step 8 – Remove the Forms
If you have made your new candles in forms you don’t want them to stay in, now is the time to remove them.
Enjoy Your Candles
You can start using your candles right away and remember to keep those leftovers for your next batch. It really is as easy as collecting your leftovers, melting them, pouring it into a form with a wick and letting it harden as it cools down.
To me, it’s one of those projects that don’t take very long but give me a lot of joy in seeing something produced ‘on the homestead’ so to speak.