The candle project

For several years and at least three moves, I’ve had these scented beeswax candles in glass jars. I got them in two trips to Reading Terminal in Philadelphia, and over the years I’ve burned most of them two-thirds or halfway down, to the point where I can’t light them anymore because the wicks are drowned in the wax. My attempts to light them anyway have only added smoky tints to the jars.

Green Apple and Rosemary Mint Bee Natural candles in jars

The whole candle-in-a-jar thing seems like a design flaw to me. How are they ever supposed to burn all the way down? I had the idea of getting the wax out of the jars and pouring it instead into paper cups. We did this at summer camp, making “ice candles” by pouring hot wax into paper cups filled with ice, with a new wick; once the wax cooled, you could peel the paper cup off the outside, the water (formerly ice) ran out, and you were left with a cool, sculptural candle.

I asked my friends on facebook if they had had any ideas for getting candle wax out of jars. Surprisingly, this question generated more activity than just about anything else I’d ever posted, excepting the engagement announcement. Unfortunately, a lot of the strategies relied on the shape of the jar: specifically, it couldn’t be narrower at the top, as my jars with their screw-top lids were.

One strategy looked like it would work, however: melting the candles entirely. I replicated the summer camp setup (minus the ice) with paper cups and new wicks, then heated the candles one or two at a time in a small saucepan of water over medium-high heat.

Candle in glass jar, wax partially melted, in water in saucepan on stovetop

From WikiHow:

“Put the jar candle in boiling water (or put it in the oven on low temperature) until it melts the wax enough for the whole thing to be dumped.

Use oven mitts when handling the jar with the melted wax, because it will be very hot. Also take great care not to overheat the glass––if the jar candle gets too hot or touches electric hotplates directly, it risks exploding.”

No kidding about the oven mitts and the hot glass. I used tongs to raise the jars out of the simmering water very carefully, then held the jars with oven mitts very carefully to pour the wax into the paper cups, which were labeled according to scent – peach, green apple, rosemary mint, lavender, and citronella. I cut the wicks to the right length and tied them to pencils or pens resting across the tops of the cups, so the wicks would hang relatively straight down. Then I placed them in the fridge to cool overnight.

Candle wax in blue paper cups colling in refrigerator

The next day, the wax had hardened again. I removed the cups from the fridge, and the candles in their new shapes popped out easily. They’re wide enough I could have placed two wicks in each; I had meant to buy smaller cups but the store only had this size. If I ever do this again I’d just drape a double-length wick over the pen or pencil top instead of tying the single wick off around it.

Labeled paper cups, including green apple and peach

Five different scents/colors of candles in their paper cups

Fingers holding the lavender candle by its wick

Over all, though, I’m calling it a success. I won’t have to look at the smoke-stained jars anymore and I’ll be able to use more of the candles. So in answer to my mom’s question: yes, it was worth the time.

A lit citronella candle burning on a glass coaster


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