Burning a candle is soothing and uplifting for many. But after your candle is spent, you are left with a beautiful jar and a mess of unburned wax. Give that jar a chance at a new life by removing the wax and washing the vessel so it can become your next container garden pot, drinking glass, doodad holder, or vase. It doesn’t involve expensive or specialized equipment, just a little patience, and old-fashioned elbow grease.
Want to use the leftover candle wax? You could make a wax firestarter for your outdoor fire pit or campfire with an empty paper egg carton and dryer lint (or the paper towels you used to wipe your jars clean) You can make your firestarters look fancy if you pour them into muffin paper and decorate them with dried herbs, pinecones, flower petals, and the like. If you want to make a wick, you could use a 3 to 4-inch section of candle wick or insert a 3 to 4-inch section of a wooden skewer into the wax firestarter. You could similarly make a wax melt from the melted wax. Note that if you plan to use a muffin tin with the muffin paper, do not use the muffin tin for baking anymore. I picked several up from a discount store for just a few dollars; they are also usually found at thrift stores for less than a dollar.
It helps to know the type of wax that was used to make the candle before we start. For soy and coconut, I much prefer melting the wax in the oven versus other methods. Paraffin candles can be placed in the freezer for 30 minutes to cause the wax to shrink; then use a wood skewer or chopstick to pop the wax out. Some people prefer to run hot water or boiling water over the vessel, but I find that vegetable waxes just become a squishy mess with this method. I would avoid use of the microwave to melt the leftover wax because of the metal wick tab stuck in the bottom of the candle.
Also, take a quick look at your candle jar to check for chips or cracks. If the glass is chipped or cracked, it's best to just discard it.
Regardless of the method you use, avoid using metal objects (e.g., knives, spoons) to dig out the wax from candle glass as they can damage the jar. This is especially important if you plan to use the jar as a drinking glass or to hold new candles.
- An old baking sheet (don’t use it for food anymore)
- Newspapers, old towels, or rags
- Paper towels
- Dish gloves
- Rubbing alcohol
- Soap and water
- Anything you might need if you plan to make firestarters or wax melts: paper egg cartons, muffin paper, small paper cups, etc., natural materials to add to the wax melt like dryer lint, dry paper towels that were used to wipe down jars, wick or wood skewer, decorative materials like flowers, dried herbs, and spices.
I like to melt the wax from spent candle jars in my oven. Heat the oven to its lowest setting - mine is 170°F (77°C). I line an old baking sheet with newspaper, paper towels, or cloth rags to create a cushioned, level surface for the jars to sit on. The lining also prevents the jars from sliding around on the baking sheet when you move them. Place the baking sheet with the candle jars into the oven. How much time it will take to melt the wax depends on how much wax is in the containers. Mine are usually melted within 30 minutes, so just check on your candle jars every 10-15 minutes until the wax is melted. I like to wait until the wax is completely melted because it can be easily poured off and the jar wiped out.
Once the wax is melted, remove the baking sheet from the oven and place it on hot pads or a heat-resistant surface. The jars will be too hot to hold with your bare hands, but dishwashing gloves give enough protection if I’m quick with the jar. If the jars are still too hot to handle, just let them cool for a few minutes. If you aren’t fast enough, just pop them back in the oven for a few minutes to remelt the wax.
Don the dish gloves. Scented candles are usually made with 6-10 percent fragrance oils or 2-6 percent essential oils. This concentration of scented oil is higher than is recommended for use in most lotions, so while it might be tempting, do not use your wax as a lotion or massage candle unless it's specifically formulated for that purpose. The gloves will also protect your hands from the heat of the jars and from exposure to rubbing alcohol, which can dry your skin.
Now, remove the metal wick tab from the wax. I use a wooden skewer but you could also pick it out with a toothpick, or with your hands if you wear dish gloves. Discard the wick tab.
Next, pour off the melted wax. A paper cup or a container that you already plan to discard is a good place to pour off the melted wax.
While the jar is still warm, take a paper towel and wipe down the interior of the jar to remove as much wax as you can.
Wet a clean paper towel with a little rubbing alcohol and wipe down the interior of the jar to remove any remaining wax that clings to the walls. If the wax has hardened and you think more can be wiped away, you can reheat the jar and wipe it again. One paper towel can be used on several jars before you need to get a new towel. Used towels can be dried, cut up into squares, and used in the wax melt fire starters in place of dryer lint.
Repeat this process for all of your jars.
After wiping down with rubbing alcohol, you can now wash your jars with dish soap and water by hand or in your dishwasher.
Now you can enjoy your repurposed jar. If you plan to use it as a drinking glass, check out my tip on Instagram for making Goddess Water 🙂
Do You Know About my Vessel Return Program?
It’s true, I collect clean, wax-free Spanish glass jars. If you are in the Pittsburgh area, I collect your used candle glass jars during Pop-Ups and Vendor Markets. Just save your jar (or jars) until you see me again. I’ll give you a discount on your next candle purchase. I advertise my popups and vendor market locations and dates on Instagram and my website.
If you aren’t near Pittsburgh, I have a more formal vessel return program. I ask that you collect at least 6 vessels to return - this amount is the best trade-off between carbon emissions associated with transit, shipping costs, and ensuring the glass remains intact after shipping. Just reach out to me at email@example.com with the words “vessel return” in the subject line.