Candles are wonderful tools and delightful additions to any space, especially as fall and winter bring chilly darkness to our days. This flickering source of light adds natural ambience to a cozy room, or a comforting feeling of warmth while you read a good book. They can be used to heat essential oils in a diffuser, or be lit to set the mood during a special dinner with your sweetie.
Homemade candles are easy, fun, and affordable. Not only are they the perfect project for craft night, candles also make the sweetest holiday or birthday gifts for just about anyone. Plus, you can be really creative! While making candles is mostly just melt and pour, you can also formulate a blend of essential oils to create a special scent.
Here are some things to consider before making your candles…
Beeswax candles are a favorite among many folks for the naturally sweet, honey-like smell that beeswax produces when burned. It also burns slowly, which is something to take into consideration when purchasing wicks and containers. If using 100% beeswax (without fats like coconut oil, palm oil, or cocoa butter) it is necessary to either buy wicks that are one size larger than recommended or purchase high temperature wicks in the correct size range. I recommend a mix of roughly 75% beeswax to 25% coconut oil.
Beeswax alone will tend to cave in at the top as it solidifies, due to the outside wax cooling faster than the inside. Mixing the beeswax with coconut oil helps the candle solidify at a more even temperature and reduces the likelihood of center collapse, although it can still happen. For this reason, it’s good practice to leave space at the top of your jar, so you can cover up any caving in after the initial pour has cooled with a little more melted wax.
For those of us who prefer not to use beeswax, carnauba wax is an option. Carnauba wax is the hardest natural wax available. Because this wax is so hard and has such a high melting point, it is not a good idea to make a candle out of 100% carnauba wax. I experimented with diluting the carnauba wax with coconut oil and found the best solution is a 50/50 combination. This will lower the overall melting temperature, making it easier to get a nice looking – and well-burning – candle out of your hard work. Crafting with carnauba wax does require a bit of patience, with a melting temperature above 180 degrees. I recommend using a wick size up or high temperature wicks on all carnauba based candles.
Making Scented Candles with Organic Essential Oils:
From refreshing citrus or peppermint, to evergreen cheer and floral geranium, naturally scented candles are such a lovely way to incorporate aromatherapy into your space. If you’d like to use essential oils to scent your homemade candles, you’ll need to add more essential oil than you would for a typical body care recipe ratio or even natural cleaning recipes. The amount you’ll want to use is similar to what you’d find in soap recipes, since much of the essential oil dissipates when mixed into the hot wax. I recommend 1/2 oz to 1 oz essential oil per 8 oz of melted candle wax. I used roughly 200 drops of essential oil per 4 oz of wax, and found this to be a good ratio for strong aromas like lavender. However, for lighter smelling essential oils, you can go higher.
Containers and Wicks:
You can use any container you like, but the size will determine the wick size. Colleen, our QA/QC Office Lead, loves these Clear Glass Salve Jars for making beeswax candles. The 1 oz size lasts 4 to 5 hours. Our Pantry Jars would be an excellent choice for gifts!
I recommend buying your wicks in bulk through an online supplier, for the most cost effective and sustainable method. You can buy 25 yards at a time for under $10 through several e-retailers. You’ll need to use their catalog or sizing chart to find out which wick to use for your container size, since the wick size is determined by the diameter of the container. If you are using 100% beeswax with no fat added (such as coconut oil), you’ll want to use either a High Temperature Wick or buy a size larger than recommended to ensure an even burn. If you are using carnauba wax, you’ll want to use a high temperature wick or buy a size up, even when mixing with coconut oil. Buying the wrong size wick could result in an uneven burn that will create a pit down the center of your candle, rather than burning from the top down evenly, and burning ‘out’ before making it through all of your precious wax.
- Metal pot with water
- Pyrex measuring glass that is able to hold twice the amount of wax you will need
- Candy thermometer (for watching flash points)
- Wick Clips (optional)
- Wick holders or pens/pencils for centering your wicks.
- Beeswax or Carnauba Wax
- Butter/Oil/Fat of choice
- Essential Oils
- Glass Containers
- In a double boiler, heat the wax/fat blend until melted together. Insert a candy thermometer in the center of the mixture. If you are working with an open flame, you do not want to heat your wax too close to the flash point. For beeswax this is 200 degrees F. This is the lowest flash point of most of the materials you will work with (coconut oil is near 350 degrees F). It’s important to look up flash points for materials you are working with if you are working with an open flame heat source!
- Once melted, dip the wick end into the melted wax (only works for beeswax) and place in the center of your container. Press into the bottom of the container. The beeswax will solidify and hold your wick in place. This unfortunately does not work for carnauba wax. You can secure the wick end with a piece of tape, or pour a bottom layer of wax to cover the wick end and allow to cool while you hold the wick in place.
- Next, suspend the wick in the middle of the container with a pencil or skewer by wrapping the excess length of wick around a pencil/skewer and balancing it horizontally across the jar opening.
- Add essential oils while the melted wax blend is still on the heat source, right before you pour into your candle containers. Do one quick stir after all essential oils have been added.
- Pour wax into containers, leaving roughly ½ inch of room at the top.
- Leave Pyrex measuring cup in the heated water while your candles solidify.
- Once they appear to be solid (this can take thirty to sixty minutes) you may notice that some have caved in slightly on the top. You can now top them off with the remaining wax, leaving ¼ inch of room at the top.
- Once completely cooled (overnight is fine) remove wick holders and snip wicks to ½ inch.
- Light and enjoy!
For easy clean up, cover a pan with aluminum foil or wax paper and place on the bottom rack of your oven. Put that wax coated Pyrex jar upside down on the top rack. Turn oven on to 180 degrees and allow to sit for an hour or so. All of the wax will melt down onto your pan – mess free. This is also a good method for prepping your used candle containers for reuse once you’ve burned them through and are ready to make more!
Article written by: Alieta
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Debra Mauldin, Certified Aromatherapist
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