Note: This method has only been tested for soy wax scented candles.
We don’t always use up all of our scented candles. Sometimes the wick becomes too short to hold a decent flame. Or some candle wax presents tunnelling problems. Wax tunnelling means only the centre part of the candle is spent and burnt off leaving a thick ring of hard wax on the inner wall of the jar. Instead of disposing them, we leave them lying around somewhere for months. What stops us from throwing them away immediately are the candle jars that still look beautiful and unscarred even after many hours of burn time. Of course we can easily just toss them into the recycling bin. But some of these jars are expensive, exquisitely handcrafted and made of fine material. At times, the jars make up a huge portion of the candle price.
Here is how you can recycle candle jars to give them a new lease of life. This way you can continue making the most of them and even build up a collection.
1. Types of wax removal methods
Freezing and high heat methods may be used to remove wax from jars. Please take caution that both methods have their own risks. Personally, we prefer the heating method because there is no prodding, prying and smashing like with the freezing method that could lead to breakage and projectile injuries. But when handling high heat, please take the necessary precautions and safeguards such as using heat protection gloves and attire. If you wear goggles when you cook, then please also have them on when melting candles.
2. The Bain Marie Method using a heated bath
STEP 1: Set up the hot water bath
Bakers should be familiar with the Bain Marie heating method. It’s actually not as posh and scientific as it sounds. All you need is a small shallow metal or glass saucepan. Basically, it involves heating up the candle jars in a hot water bath.
Fill a shallow pan with water up to the halfway point and set it to simmer.
Start with a small pan to handle one jar at a time. When you are better at this, you can use a bigger pan that can hold more candle jars.
While the water is heating, take this time to check that your heat protection gear is on.
Make sure you have also have paper towels close by to wipe off spills.
STEP 2: Melting the candle wax
Carefully slide the candle jar into the simmering water.
Please protect yourself from the heat and steam.
I used a frying spatula with a long handle to slide the jar into the water. But this may not work for deeper and larger pans to handle more candle jars.
At this point, you will see a lot of steam and be warned that it is searing hot. Do not let your bare skin come into contact with the steam
It is highly recommended to invest in a pair of dish tongs for a better grip and safer transfer of the jars into the simmering water.
Make sure these tools are within reach before you start so that you are not running around searching for one.
STEP 3: Give some time for the candle wax to melt completely
Turn down the heat when the jar is inside the hot water.
The water should not be bubbling too much to prevent the jars from tossing around. Reach a heat level that calms down the water but also maintains the required hot conditions to melt the wax.
It will take longer for the candle wax to melt completely if there is a huge amount of hard wax in the jar.
Melting starts near the jar wall and then progressively towards the centre.
You may see chunks of floating wax but do not attempt to remove them. Give them time to melt completely.
Soy wax can melt quite quickly. Keep monitoring and never leave this process unattended.
STEP 4: Remove debris in the melted wax
When the wax has fully melted, turn off the heat immediately.
Use the dish tongs to lift the jar out of the hot water.
Use a pair of tongs with long handles to retrieve the wicker base tab, hard debris and any other accessories.
Some scented candles are embedded with crystals, herbs and decorative items. Be sure to carefully remove these too with a pair of tongs.
Hard objects that do not melt can cause uneven flow and splashing during the melt disposal step.
They may also block the wax flow. It is not a good idea to try to dislodge stuck items while pouring hot wax melt into the disposal bag.
STEP 5: Discard the melted wax safely
Prepare a plastic disposal bag close by.
First, please check that you have turned off the stove burner.
Secondly, make sure the water surface in the pan is calm with no boiling.
Thirdly, use the dish tongs to carefully lift the candle jar out of the pan and onto a heat protection mat laid on a flat countertop or tabletop.
And then, wait for about 2 minutes for the candle jar to cool down, but watch that the wax melt does not start to harden again.
Use heat protection gloves to pour the wax melt into the plastic disposal bag, tie up securely and dispose safely.
STEP 6: Give the candle jar a good wash and scrub
After pouring the wax melt out completely, do not leave any wax residue to cool down and harden.
If the jar is still little too warm to handle, immediately squirt a generous amount of normal dishwashing liquid detergent into the candle jar and fill it up with a gush of water to create some foam.
Detergent foam helps to separate the wax melt residue and prevent it from combining into a hard layer during the cooling process.
When the jar is cool enough to handle, use a dish sponge to scrub both the inner and outer walls thoroughly. Please ensure there is no residual oily wax and odours left.
Rinse with water and leave the jar to dry on a rack or wipe it down with a drying cloth.
STEP 7: The clean and dry candle jar is now ready to be re-used
When the candle jar is completely dry, inspect it for cracks, chips, scratches, rough surfaces and any other damage.
If there are significant signs of wear and tear, it’s best to hand them over to the recycling company and not reuse them as candle jars.
If there are only slight imperfections, make sure that there are no sharp edges that can cause injury. Other than that, you will need to weigh on the aesthetic factors especially if you are running a candle business.
For example, it would be a good idea to state that the candle jars are recycled in the product details so that customers can make an informed decision. But, most customers will be more happy to support an honourable effort to save the environment.