I love having candles throughout my home but I don’t love that they can be really expensive and in some cases not good for your health. So I did what I always do and educated myself on candle making so that I could make my own. While there is a bit of a science to it, candle making is actually pretty simple. In this post I will share my guide for soy candle making for beginners.
Why make your own candles?
There are a few reasons why I wanted to venture into candle making. First, I love to make things so playing around with different scents and shapes sounded like a blast to me (spoiler alert, it is!) More importantly though, I wanted to be sure that the candles that I was burning weren’t damaging my indoor air quality. Did you know that there are toxic chemicals in a lot of the cheap store bought candles? This could be due to chemicals in the fragrance, the use of paraffin wax which is derived from petroleum (gross!), lead wicks or other carcinogens.
How to make non toxic candles
So what should you look for when you are buying or making candles?
- Use 100% soy or beeswax ( I used soy wax for mine)
- Use 100% pure essential oils
- Don’t add artificial coloring
- Use 100% cotton or wood wicks
Soy Candle Making Materials
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- Soy Wax Flakes
- Double Boiler (Pot filled with water with a melting pot inside for the wax)
- Mixing spoon
- Container(s) – Make sure that they are heat proof like glass, metal etc.)
I’m by no means an experienced candle maker. This was my first time making them and if you’re a beginner too I’d recommend purchasing a candle making kit from amazon. I went for the 10 lb soy candle making kit and it came with 10 lbs of soy wax flakes, 100 wicks and 2 wick centering devices. The wick centering devices were too small for my containers so I didn’t use them this time around but I’m sure they will be handy in the future. I really like the kit because it’s all natural and sustainable. Plus it was very easy to work with.
- 100% essential oil (I used citronella essential oil to keep the mosquitoes away)
- Hot glue gun and glue
- Tape and pencils for stabilizing the wicks
Step 1 – Prepare your container
First, make sure that your container is heat proof. If it will melt or burn when it gets hot you don’t want to use it! It’s safe to stick with glass or metal containers. Once you’ve selected your container make sure that it is clean.
Step 2 – Add wick(s)
Next, you’ll want to add your wick(s) into the container. I used a dab of hot glue to stick the base of the wicks to the bottom of my containers. This ensured that they wouldn’t shift out of place when I poured the wax. The quantity of wicks that you need for your candle will depend on the size of the wick and the size of the container. While this really is a trial and error process based on the wicks that you buy, Typically, you will have 1 wick in a 3″ and smaller diameter container. For containers larger than 3″ a good rule of thumb is to add 1 additional wick for every inch in diameter above the 3″. For example, a 4 inch container would use 2 wicks, a 5 inch container would use 3 and so on.
If you want to be sure that your wicks stay upright you can stabilize them with some tape, items around your home or wick centering devices. I taped them to pencils and it worked well.
Step 3 – Weigh the wax
Use a kitchen scale to weight the wax. I made two citronella candles using 1 lb of soy wax flakes and 1 oz of citronella oil.
Step 4 – Heat the wax in a double boiler
Ok, so to be completely honest, I had no clue what a double boiler was until the other day. When it comes down to it, it’s just a pot of water with a container inside that you put the wax in. I used a crappy old pot that I had and put my 1 pound of soy wax flakes in a large measuring cup with a handle and spout. You can buy a specific pot for candle making but honestly, my glass container worked just fine. Just be sure to use oven mitts so that you don’t burn your hand when you remove it.
The concept of the double boiler is that the water will boil at 212 degrees F and slowly melt the wax. Fill the pot with an inch or two of water and then place the container with the soy wax flakes directly into the pot of water. Heat the water to a boil and stir the wax occasionally (but not too much) until it is all melted. The wax is white flakes to start but when it melts it is a yellow liquid (don’t worry it’ll turn back to white when it sets).
Use a Thermometer to check the temperature of wax while it is boiling. Once it is completely melted, remove it from the pot of boiling water. Be sure to read up on the melting point, pouring point and fragrance point for the wax that you buy. Note that if your wax gets too hot it may yellow when it dries. While all wax types differ from what I’ve researched, most articles say that 180 degrees is the maximum temperature that you want your wax to get.
Step 5 – Add the fragrance oil (optional)
If you are adding fragrance to your candle you’ll want to allow the melted wax to cool down to around 140 degrees before you add the fragrance. Just dump the essential oil(s) into the melted wax and mix it with a spoon. If you add it when the wax is too hot it may burn off a bit a produce a less fragrant candle.
For every 1lb of wax you’ll want to use between 1/2 oz – 1 oz of essential oils. I went with a full 1 oz bottle of citronella essential oil for my 1lb of wax because I want to keep those pesky mosquitoes away!
Step 6 – Pour the candles
Pour the wax into the containers slowly to avoid creating air bubbles which can make the surface of your candles uneven. Pouring is much easier if you’re using a container with a spout.
Step 7 – Let the candles set for at least 24 hours
You’ll want to wait at least 24 hours for your candles to set. Once they are set you can cut back the wicks if they are too long and then go ahead and burn your new candle!
The tops of my candles turned out a little lumpy (again, this was my first time). From research after the fact this could be because I poured the wax when it was too hot, poured it too fast or mixed it too much. I’ll adjust next time and hopefully they will turn out prettier. I don’t care too much in this case because these are outdoor citronella candles.
You won’t know if your wick(s) are perfect until you burn your candle and officially test it. If the wick is hard to blow out and there is a lot of soot on it, it’s too big. If the melt pool doesn’t make it to the sides of the container the wick is too small or there aren’t enough of them.
One interesting thing that I read in my research is that soy wax has memory. If the first time you burn your candle it doesn’t burn long enough for the melt pool to reach the edge of the container, the next time you burn the candle it will take the same burn path (tunneling) and won’t ever melt the wax on the outer edge of the candle. This could cause quite a bit of waste. So be sure to let your candle burn long enough the first time to allow the melt pool to fill the entire container.
If you like candle making you should check out some of my other related projects like Soap bars and Bath bombs!
I’m super happy that I bought the 10lb candle making kit because I have plenty of wax and wicks left over to make more candles for inside my home. I think I’m going to get some wooden wicks too. Mostly because they look really cool. 😉
If you give candle making a try I’d love to hear about it in the comments. Also for any experienced candle makers out there, feel free to leave your tips and tricks in the comments!
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Hannah, your post is so timely. Just the other day, after paying a fortune for a soy candle, I told my husband I was going to start making them. Thanks to you, now I know how! Pinned 🙂
I’m so happy that this is timely for you Marie. You should definitely make your own candles if you care about the quality and don’t want to pay an excessive amount. Thanks for pinning. 🙂
These are really neat! What a great idea to make your own citronella candles.
Thanks Michelle. They smell way better than the store bought citronella candles too.
Thank you for sharing on the Classy Flamingos Blog Party. I’ve learned something new.
I love the way these turned out. They look so beautiful and would fit my home decor perfectly! Thanks for sharing!
Thank you Traci.
Great tutorial, Hannah. And i love the black ramekins you used for the holders! I’m excited to be able to share this tomorrow at TTA! Pinned!
Thanks so much Julie! I got the reamekins for $2 each at my local grocery store so I couldn’t beat that price.
Love it, thanks for sharing on craft schooling Sunday!
Thank you for sharing this at last week’s BFF Open House and it couldn’t be more timely. This is something I’ve been wanting to explore so your helpful post is perfect! Featuring when this week’s party opens up tonight!
Sarah @ The DIY Mommy
LOVE soy candles and adding citronella to these is a great idea and much needed for my yard! Great tutorial.
Thank you Sarah.
Just made my first candles!! And It was a lot of fun.. Question, can I use fresh or dried herbs from my garden in my soy candles? Thank you, Yvonne
I’m so glad that you enjoyed it Yvonne. Yes, you could totally add dried herbs. My sister used to add lavender to her candles and it added such a nice fragrance and texture.
I tried making my own candles and they all turned out pretty good. Smooth on top with some small cracks. I’m wondering…1, what could cause the cracking/sink holes? I waited until the wax was 135 before pouring so I’m not sure what caused this. 2, how in the world do you clean out your pouring container?! I have an aluminum one. If I choose to do another type of fragrance, how do I clean all of the wax out the container? It seems really hard to clean. and 3, how do you determine how much essential oils to add for fragrance? Mine didn’t turn out very strong smelling unfortunately.
I’ve cleaned out old candle jars by freezing them overnight. The wax chips off easily after that, and then I wash with regular dish soap. That might work for you?