I am very picky about my candles. There, I said it. There will be no more going to the dollar store and purchasing “3 for $1” candles for me. No, I want great candles that last; however, after years of buying candles that disappointed me, I knew that I had to find another way to get some I love. My solution? I’ll learn to make them myself so I always get candles that will meet my tough standards!
Everyone loves candles and a lot of people want to make their candles themselves. But it involves far more than just melting wax and sticking a wick in the middle of the jar. Your measurements have to be exact, especially when it comes to the amount of scent that you’re using.
The way your candles turn out in the end is a direct result of taking every step seriously and paying attention to the “do”s and “don’t”s of candle-making. Fortunately, the instructions are not difficult at all; you just have to make sure that you do exactly what they tell you to do at each and every step so your candles turn out just as you wanted them to.
For starters, it’s best to have all of your supplies nearby before you do anything else. Crafts stores usually have all of their candle-making supplies in the same spot so it should be easy to get what you need with just one trip to the store. These instructions will center on making soy candles because they are often easier for beginners to make. Here is a list of the items that you’ll need to make your candles:
- Soy wax flakes
- Double boiler
- Candle molds or jars
- Wick holder (Pencil/bamboo stick/skewer)
- Candle dye, either block-style or flakes
- Fragrance/essential oils and Carrier Oils
- Eco-wicks and stabilizer
- Miscellaneous kitchen items such as a thermometer, spatula, etc.
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Just the Basics: Before You Get Started
Before we go any further, let’s take a look at the specifics of some of these supplies. When making candles, you essentially have three major materials to work with – beeswax, paraffin, and soy. Beeswax is a little on the expensive side while paraffin tends to be very inexpensive. Soy usually falls somewhere in between the two.
If you buy soy to make candles with, keep in mind that it’s a natural product, which is good for those who care about the environment. You should also purchase pure soy wax only as the blends could actually contain only small amounts of soy.
Another important tip when using soy is that only containers should be used and never candle molds or pillars. Soy is soft, pliable, and not very versatile; even though it holds scents extremely well, it does much better in jars and other containers than it does in actual candle molds.
Furthermore, although soy holds color dye well, most soy candles end up being more of a pastel color due to the texture of the soy and the fact that the pigments contained in soy wax don’t dissolve when it’s melted. Of course, these soft colors are why soy candles tend to have such an exquisite look and why their colors are always so unique.
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How Much Wax Should You Use?
At this point, you’re likely wondering how much soy wax you need to use with each candle. Just as with everything else involved in making candles, this is easy to figure out. Take your container and fill it up with water to the level you want your finished candle to be at, then measure how much water was in there.
There’s a simple formula to use to determine how much candle wax to use. Say you measured out 20 ounces of water because it’s a large container. You’ll take that number and multiply it by 0.85. In this case the resulting number is 17 (20 x 0.85 = 17). If you ever do this and the number comes out between two whole numbers, just round it up to the next number.
If you like, you can also add in another ounce to the number, which in this case would make the number 18, but you certainly don’t have to do that just to get the right amount of soy to use. In time, you’ll learn how much, if anything, to add to the total number to get the right amount of soy wax. NOTE: this formula only works for soy wax so never use it for paraffin or beeswax candles.
When it comes to your dyes, most brands come in flake, liquid, or block form. I prefer the flake type because it seems to provide more even-looking colors in the end. Keep in mind what was mentioned earlier; most dyes end up being lighter and more of a pastel color when you’re using soy wax so this is something to take into consideration when choosing your dye colors.
Let’s Talk About Scents!
Regarding your scents, you have two options for candles: scented oils made specifically for candles and essential oils. The best part about choosing scented oils for candles is that they are very inexpensive whereas pure essential oils can be on the pricey side. Just how much oil should you use? Believe it or not, there’s a formula for that as well!
As a general rule, the amount of scented oil should equal roughly 6% to 10% of the weight of your wax. Therefore, if your candle is going to be 20 ounces in size, you don’t want more than two ounces of scent added to it. Most people find that 7% to 8% works best but whatever you do, never go above the 10% mark. If you do, your candle’s best features could be compromised.
One more tip: add the scented oil after you’ve added the color dye and never let the wax get above 200ᵒ Fahrenheit while you’re heating it up. If you do, it’s possible that some of the oil used to scent the candle will burn off, meaning that the final product won’t be as yummy-smelling as you want it to be.
If you use essential oils instead of scented oils for candles, simply add one ounce for every pound of wax you use. This ends up being in the 6% to 7% range but keep in mind that some essential oils, such as eucalyptus or peppermint, are extra strong and will require that you use even less than that. You’ll have to play around with essential oils to get it just right but it won’t take you long to learn the right combinations.
We’ll learn more tips later on but now that you’ve learned some basic ones, let’s get started with the fun part — making the candles!
Step-by-Step Instructions for Making Soy Candles
Remember what we said earlier about following the directions closely when making candles? Keep that in mind right now as we go through each step in detail. Don’t worry and remember that it’s not difficult. Just pay attention to the instructions and you’ll be fine.
If you have a double boiler, use it. It will make melting the wax a lot easier. If you don’t have one, all you have to do is place some type of metal container over a pot that is filled with water. The next thing that you want to do is add the soy wax and start heating it up. Don’t use the highest setting because things can get out of control quickly.
Use the medium setting on your stove so that the wax melts slowly, which is what you want. After all, it’s better to be safe than sorry. While the wax is melting, you can prepare your jar or container by gluing the wick to the bottom of it. You can use a simple glue gun if you like and put a dab of the glue on the bottom of the stabilizer before pressing it into the bottom of the container.
Step 1: Getting the Container Ready
At this point, the wick will likely be standing straight up; however, in some cases, the wick is a little droopy and not centered in the middle of the container. This is an easy situation to remedy. Just take a pencil, wrap the top part of the wick around it, and then place the pencil straight on top of the container. This will hold the wick in the proper place — centered in the jar — so that all you have to do next is pour in the wax.
If you like, you can use a bamboo stick or skewer instead of a pencil but a pencil is usually slightly heavier and may make it a little easier to set the wick in the position you want it to be.
Step 1: Getting the Container Ready
Step 2: Melt the Wax
Then you can start melting the soy wax. Remember how much wax and water we talked about above.
Step 2: Melt the Wax
Step 3: Add dye (optional)
If you’re using a liquid dye, use four to five drops of the dye for every pound of soy wax you’re using. If you’re using other types, you can go by the recommendations on the package. But again, keep in mind that the color of soy wax usually comes out lighter than the color the dye looks before it’s used so feel free to use a little more than what’s recommended if you like.
Step 3: Add dye (optional)
Step 4: Add essential oil
Once the soy wax and the color dye are completely melted, it’s time to add in the fragrance. Depending on the type of fragrance you’re using, either scented candle oil or essential oil, the amount you add should equal roughly 7% to 10% of the amount of soy wax you’re using. Once again, you’ll likely have to play around with the scents to determine how much is just enough for your tastes.
Step 4: Add essential oil
Let’s face it; some people love strong-smelling candles while others prefer a more subtle, lighter scent. It’s up to you to determine the right amount of scent so that your home smells just as wonderful as it looks.
Step 5: Pouring the Wax Correctly
Once you get to this point, it is time to pour the wax into your candle container. Remember to take it slowly. Hot wax is indeed hot and if you pour slowly, you’re less likely to spill the soy wax on yourself or nearby objects. Hold the pot steady and slowly pour the wax into your container. The candle will automatically start to take shape!
Step 5: Pour the wax into your candle container
At this point, we need to talk a little about “sink holes.” It’s a funny name, I know, but it does affect how your candle will look once you’re done. When wax starts to cool, it can contract, which can cause slight indentations in the middle of the candle around the wick area. This is not a look that you want in the final product but it’s an easy situation to remedy, fortunately.
If you notice this happening as you’re pouring the wax or even after the wax is in the container, all that you have to do is wait until the candle is halfway set. Once it gets to that point, take a skewer or even a needle and puncture the center of the candle close to where the wick is located. Next, reheat some of the wax and pour just a slight amount on top of the candle. Add another layer, in other words.
Once the candle sets all the way, the top of it should be leveled out and even-looking. You can do this more than once if you need to, but always make sure that the layers of reheated wax are very thin. If you pour in too many extra layers of wax, the candle could be difficult to remove once it’s finished.
Step 6: Wait for 24 hours
Finally, once you get to this point, all you have to do is let the candle set one more time for 24 hours. After 24 hours have passed, it should look exactly as you want it to, provided that no more sink holes have developed!
Step 6: Wait for 24 hours
Step 7: Clean up, trim wick
In the end, you have some finishing work to do. Clean up the workbench, trim wick, etc.
Step 7: Clean up, trim wick
You got your candle!
Congratulations on Creating Your First Candle
And that’s it! You’ve just completed your very first DIY scented candle made with soy wax. If you’re surprised by how simple it was, you’re not alone. Now, just think of all the things that you can do to change up the scents and colors the next time you decide to make another candle. The possibilities are endless!
Congratulations! Enjoy your own candles.
Candle-Making Tips for Beginners: Make the Best Candles Ever!
Okay, so you now know how easy it is to make gorgeous, great-smelling candles. But does this mean that you can’t do more to make the candle even better? Of course not. If you’re looking for some extra tips to make that candle of yours turn out even better, keep reading.
First of all, let’s go back to the sink holes. Few things are as frustrating to candle makers than to take a look at their candles after they’ve been setting for a few hours and find an indentation in the center of the candle. You can easily start to panic in this situation, but don’t. When you poke the hole in the candle with your skewer or needle, make sure that you poke it straight down right where the indentation is. You should also poke the wax almost all the way down to the bottom of the container, leaving only about an inch that is un-poked.
There are two things to remember while you’re doing this: always poke the candle vertically and straight down, and never disturb the position of your wick as you poke. As a general rule, pillar candles suffer far fewer sink holes than other types of candles, possibly because they are typically narrower than jar or container candles.
Also keep in mind that once a candle cools completely, it is usually too late to do anything about these sink holes. Therefore, you should make it a habit to check on your candles one to two hours after they’ve been filled up with wax.
A Review of the Wicks
Another tip to keep in mind is that there are many types of wicks available for making candles these days, but they are not all alike. In the U.S., wicks with lead in them are illegal because of how unhealthy they are but if you order your supplies from an overseas company, you may still find these types of wicks available. Whenever possible, however, buy lead-free wicks instead.
When you shop for wicks for your candles, you’ll see that they are made out of many types of materials. Below are a few of those types of wicks.
- Zinc core wicks: Used for pillars, votives, and in gel candles, these wicks do a better job of standing up straight, thanks to their wire cores. These are not, however, lead wicks so you can use them safely with all types of candles.
- Paper core wicks: These wicks usually burn very hot and therefore are recommended only for very large containers. As with other types of candle wicks, they are available in a number of sizes.
- Eco-friendly natural cotton wicks: These wicks are made out of braided cotton and usually have some type of wax coating on them. They have a paper core, are lead- and zinc-free, and they burn very clean.
- Natural fiber wicks: Braided just the same as cotton wicks, these do a great job of bringing the heat of the flame closer to the edge of the jars, which results in a more even aroma and a better melt pool. They are sometimes available in a flat design rather than being round.
- Wood wicks: Great for both paraffin and soy wax candles, they provide a great “crackle” sound when being burned, making them an extremely popular type of candle wick. They may require a little more scent to get the full crackling sound that everyone loves.
Once you get a little more candle-making experience under your belt, you can start experimenting with the different types of wicks so you can decide for yourself which one you like best. One thing is certain: you have a wide variety of wicks to choose from, regardless of which type of wax you decide to use.
Other Types of Wax
Finally, let’s talk about wax types. This article covered the basics of using soy wax, which is also called vegetable-based wax, but there are many other types that you can learn to love. For a long time, the most popular type of candle wax was beeswax, which is made by bees when they are making honey or incubating their larvae.
Beeswax has a natural sweet scent since it is made with a little honey in it but you can easily change the scent by using a variety of oils made for candles, including essential oils. You usually find beeswax in slabs, blocks, or sheets and it is one of the most expensive types of wax for candle-making purposes.
Paraffin, on the other hand, has no scent or color so you’ll need to add some scent if you want the candle to smell good. Paraffin comes in a block that is hard in texture but it burns consistently and it therefore makes a great type of wax for candles. It is a by-product of the oil-refining process and since it is easy to mass produce, it is a very cheap type of wax to use.
Of course, paraffin can vary from one brand to another and one of the things that you’ll want to check out is the melting point of the wax because each brand offers a completely different melting point. Still, people use paraffin for making all types of candles from small votives to large container candles. For those individuals who prefer unscented candles, this is usually the best type of wax to use.
Finally, there are the lesser-known wax types, such as palm wax, which is made from palm oil and burns very bright when compared to other types of wax. Most palm oil is used to make various food products but some of it is used to make candles. Just as with soy wax, it is best if you use palm wax that is 100% palm wax and not a blend of two different wax types.
Make Them Your Own
As you can see, when it comes to making your candles original and unique, you have a lot of options to choose from! Different wax types, different scents, and different candle holders all combine to make for some truly interesting candles so it’s super easy to create something that is uniquely yours and unlike anyone else’s homemade candle!
Best of all, most candle-making supplies are cheap and easy to find, especially since so many online stores carry them. Whether you want to make some pretty tealights or a large three-wick candle, you can find just the color, shape, and type of materials that you need to end up with a candle that you’ll be proud to show off to family and friends.
Do it now!
Making your own candles is easier than you think and you owe it to yourself to give it a shot. After all, there’s nothing quite the same as the sense of pride that you’ll feel when someone compliments the beautiful candle sitting on your mantle and you can say “I made that!”
What’s more, you can get creative in many more ways once you learn the basics. For instance, you can make candles in layers of different colors, candles that include knick-knacks to enhance their look, and even candles that come in dozens of interesting shapes. When it comes to uniqueness, few things are as easy as making candles that are designed using only your imagination.
In addition, it’s good to keep in mind that there’s always a learning curve when it comes to making candles. Most of the supplies you’ll use are cheap so if you mess up on one candle, you can simply discard everything and start all over again. Many times, you’ll have to try several times to get the exact color or scent that you were hoping for but it won’t cost you a lot of money to do so.
Better still, there are now dozens of ways to improve or even begin your candle-making skills, including in-person and online classes, YouTube videos, and a variety of books and magazines that give you very important tips for success. This is because more than anything else, making candles should be fun and that’s why there are so many ways to get started with this hobby.
In fact, many stores even sell complete candle-making kits that come with everything that you need to make your first several candles, which means that you don’t have to buy the supplies individually and take a chance that you’ll forget something while you’re shopping. The kits are usually very inexpensive as well and they are a great way to test out your candle-making skills and decide if this hobby is for you.
Now that you know the basics of the candle-making process, I’m sure you’re pretty excited about getting started. With candle-making being so simple, cheap, and not very time-consuming, that leaves you no reason not to get started immediately. If you’ve ever dreamed about filling up your home with beautiful, wonderfully scented candles that you made yourself, there’s no time like the present to start.
However you decide to get started, another thing to remember is that many people all over the country have made lucrative businesses out of their candle-making obsession and you can too with just a little time and practice.