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Make Your Own Soy Candles
Soy-based candles are easy to make and less toxic to burn than paraffin-based candles. You'll feel more comfortable burning these natural, environmentally friendly beauties in your home and can proudly share them with your friends and family. Are you ready?
The following will make one 18 oz. candle.
- 18 oz. soy wax flakes (I use natural soy with a bit of additive)
- 18 oz. glass container (I use a Victorian apothecary jar)
- 3 tabbed cotton wicks (I use 3 LX-16 wicks for a 4-inch diameter jar)
- 1 oz. essential oil, fragrance oil or a combination
- Dye (optional)
- A glass jar that holds at least 22 oz. of liquid (like a pasta sauce jar - thoroughly cleaned out of course!)
- Cooking thermometer
- Stir stick (I use a resin "wooden" spoon)
- Hot glue gun
- Label (optional)
You can purchase soy wax online and most of the rest of the ingredients at a natural food store or craft store.
Step 1: Melt the Wax
Place the wax flakes in the 22-oz. glass jar (the pasta sauce jar, not the candle jar) and place in the microwave for approximately 3 minutes on high. The temperature of the wax should reach about 200 degrees. You can gauge the temperature without a thermometer because once the wax reaches 180–200 degrees, all the flakes should be melted, and the liquid will be somewhat clear. Be careful! The jar and the wax are very hot! Use potholders when removing the jar from the microwave!
You can also melt wax at a low temperature on the stove. Place flakes in a large saucepan and stir often until wax is clear and no flakes are visible.
Step 2: Scent (and Color) Your Candle
Remove the jar from the microwave and allow to cool for about 10 minutes. Once the temperature drops to about 160–180 degrees, add the fragrance or essential oil. Essential oils are natural fragrances that are derived directly from a plant, tree, or flower without the addition of man-made chemicals.
Essential oils are more expensive than fragrance oils and the scent will not be as strong, but these precious oils have therapeutic properties that will enhance the effect of your candle. Orange, peppermint, cinnamon, eucalyptus, and lavender are less expensive than more exotic oils and can provide health benefits. If you must use synthetic fragrance oil, use phthalate-free versions to reduce the toxicity.
Gently stir the oil into the wax and allow to cool to about 110 to 120 degrees.
If desired, add your color dye to the melted wax at this point. Start with one drop of color and stir. Continue to add a drop at a time until you achieve your desired color. Stir until color is evenly distributed.
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Step 3: Affix Your Wick
Because soy wax melts at a lower temperature than paraffin wax (120 degrees Fahrenheit vs. 130 degrees F), soy wax should always be poured into jars rather than molds. You can use one or more wicks in each jar, depending on the jar's diameter.
While you are waiting for the wax to cool, place a small bead of hot glue on the bottom of the wick tab and affix to the inside of the candle jar. I use three LX-16 wicks to get an even melt pool in the jar I use, which is about four inches in diameter. The proper wick size is crucial to get a proper size melt pool. Too small a melt pool and you burn a tunnel inside the jar during burning; too large and your wax can catch fire. Really! This has happened to me in the past!
Place the wicks in a triangle about 1" apart. (Note: Wicks can be tricky, depending on the type of wax, the type and amount of fragrance or essential oil, the amount of dye, and the size and shape of the jar. I have given you the wick I use in my specific jar with my specific wax and the amount of oil I use. You may have to experiment if you don't get a full melt pool or your wick ends up mushrooming. More on that later.)
Step 4: Pour the Wax
If you use a tinted wax, warm the candle jar slightly. I place the jar in a warm oven for about 2 or 3 minutes. You can also turn the jar upside down and run it under hot water, making sure no water gets inside the jar. A warm jar will allow the wax to adhere to the edges better, reducing what is called "frosting" or white spots on the finished candle. This step is not necessary when pouring colorless wax.
Pour the cooled wax into the jar slowly, holding the wicks up straight. Fill to about 1/2 inch from the top. You can use a wick-centering device or just place something long and straight—like a knife or ruler—next to the wicks to keep them centered until the wax hardens. Once the wax has hardened, trim the wicks to about 1/4 inch. Keep your wick trimmed to avoid too large a flame.
Label your candle jar, and you're done! You can burn your candle right away or wait for about 24–48 hours when it will be more "cured," which will allow it to last longer.
Let's face it—many things can go wrong when making candles. Here are a few pointers:
Q: There are still chunks of wax in my jar after I heated it in the microwave.
A: You probably haven't gotten the temperature to 200 degrees. Microwave for 15 to 20 seconds more and stir until all flakes are melted.
Q: Why doesn't my candle smell very strong after it has hardened?
A: Some fragrances don't "throw" well until the wax is melted. Try lighting the candle and allow a melt pool to form. If you still can't smell the fragrance, try this: Set the candle on an electric skillet on low until all the wax melts.
Pour the melted wax back into the glass jar you originally used to melt the flakes. Add more fragrance and, after cleaning out the candle jar and replacing the wicks, pour the re-scented wax back into the candle jar. Don't forget to warm the candle jar first before pouring.
Q: Why is the top of my candle bumpy-looking?
A. Some soy waxes have an uneven finish. If your candle top looks bumpy or uneven, you may be pouring too fast or too cool. To smooth out rough tops, use a blow dryer with a diffuser to melt the top of the candle. Be careful not to blow melted wax out of the jar. Let it re-harden, and it will look much smoother.
Q: Why are there wet or white spots on my colored candle?
A: All soy wax has a tendency to "frost" or show tiny white lines. Some soy waxes have more of a tendency to frost than others. Try a soy wax with a bit of botanical oil in it. Also, make sure your candle jar is warm so the wax will adhere to the jar better.
Q: Why does the wax not melt all the way to the edge of the jar when I burn the candle? It leaves wax around the edges and burns a tunnel in the middle, and the wick seems to drown itself out.
A: Most likely, your wick is not big enough. Try wicking up to the next size, or wick down and use two wicks.
Q: Why does the wick have a big black lump on it as it burns? It looks like it's smoking.
A: That's called "mushrooming," and it occurs when your wick is too big. The flame is burning more of the wick than the wax and carbon build-up, causing it to smoke and emit soot into the air. Try using a smaller wick, or if a smaller wick doesn't create a big enough melt pool, go even smaller but use two or even three wicks. The goal is to get an even melt pool that is about 1/4-inch deep and liquefies all the way to the edge of the jar. Also, keep your wick trimmed to about 1/4-inch.