Ideas & Inspiration
How to Make Candles
Candles are one of the most timeless home accents. They add warmth, a comforting glow and sometimes even a pleasant home fragrance. It’s no wonder that candles are a ubiquitous housewarming gift and a common personal lifestyle purchase.
Though you will find candles at many home goods stores, you have another option when looking to add one to your collection. You can make a DIY candle, a process that is generally more involved but very rewarding. Not only will this save you money, but it’s a great weekend project; one that is meditative and customizable, that requires little prep and easy-to-source ingredients and tools. This guide will break down the steps, so you’ll be able to make candles whenever the mood strikes.
To make DIY candles, you just need to have a few items, many of which will likely already be in your kitchen or tool box. You may have to visit a craft store for one or two things, but most likely, you’ll be able to find just about anything that you don’t already own at The Home Depot. To top it all off, every supply is available at an affordable price point.
Gather these materials to prepare for DIY candle making:
- Candle containers (heat-proof jars, glasses, tin canisters, etc.)
- Pre-waxed, pre-tabbed wicks
- Wax flakes
- Superglue or hot glue
- Melting pot, heat-proof pitcher, large heat-proof glass bowl or old saucepan
- Large pot to use as a double boiler
- Mixing spoon
- Kitchen scale
- Candy thermometer
- Painter’s tape
- Paper towels
- Fragrance oil or essential oil (optional)
- Small container, for weighing fragrance (if using)
Start by assessing your chosen candle container. This is one of the most fun and creative parts of the process. You can use mason jars, tin containers, ornate vintage mugs or candle containers that have been burned down. Choose whichever you like best, considering style, size and shape.
If your vessel is a leftover candle container, give it new life by placing it in a pot of simmering water until any remaining wax melts away. Then wipe the container out with a paper towel and remove the wick if it is still intact. If you find you need some help doing this, you can use a butter knife to pry the wick off of the container’s base.
With a clean and ready vessel, you’ll need to assess the amount of wax you’ll be using. Fill the empty holder with water and then pour that water into a measuring cup. This is the volume of wax you’ll need.
Measure the volume of water by weighing it on an electric scale. You can do so by first weighing the measuring cup by itself, zeroing the scale, and then weighing the water by placing the measuring cup, containing the water you’ve poured from the candle container, on the scale. For every fluid ounce of water, you need an ounce of wax flakes.
You should also be mindful when selecting your wick. You need a wick that will complement the candle’s size, shape and ingredient makeup. For example, wide candles should get thicker wicks and if you add essential oils to the wax, you will create a candle that melts more slowly than if it were unscented. The wisest decision when choosing a wick is to go for one that is “pre-cut and tabbed,” meaning it has a silver base that can be secured on the candle’s base. The wick you select should be coated either in paraffin or veggie waxes.
Now that you've prepped, you can begin making your candle.
- Melt the measured-out wax in a double boiler. You can fashion this by filling a large pot halfway with water and bringing it to a simmer. Transfer the wax from the measuring cup to a heat-safe bowl, pitcher or saucepan, and lower it into the simmering water, taking care to not let any water into the bowl. Resting on top of the simmering water, the wax will slowly melt as you stir occasionally to help it on its way. When the wax is fully melted, it will look like olive oil and have reached a temperature of about 180-degrees Fahrenheit.
- Allow the wax to cool a bit, lowering to a temperature of at least 140-degrees Fahrenheit, if not below. Once it has hit this lowered temperature, you can add your chosen essential oils. A few excellent options include lavender, chamomile and citrus scents like orange.
- The scent will be much stronger in the melted wax than in the final dried candle, so you should weigh the oils to make sure you’re using the right amount – you won’t be able to assess by scent. You want a ratio of one ounce of fragrance per one pound of wax.
While the wax is cooling from the 180-degrees Fahrenheit melting point, you can prepare the vessel. Make sure it is clean and dry, then place a dab of superglue or hot glue on the metal base of your wick. Press the wick into the bottom center of the container. If you find you cannot reach into the container effectively, you can use a pair of tweezers or pliers to help you out.
Tip: When working with a very wide candle, you should use multiple wicks. Space them out evenly across the candle’s circumference. This will help make sure wax melts evenly across the surface area.
- Give the glue a moment to dry. Once the wick is secure, prepare the container for the wax by securing the wick in an upright position. An effective way to do this is to cut a hole in a strip of tape and carefully work the wick through the hole (your tweezers will come in handy again here). Then attach the tape to either side of the vessel’s rim.
- Pour the wax into the vessel, taking care to avoid the top of the wick and the tape holding it upright. Pour slowly to avoid creating any air bubbles, which will leave the surface looking bumpy, uneven and unfinished.
- Let the candle cool at room temperature for at least 24-hours. Once the candle is fully cooled and hardened, remove the tape and trim the wick to be 1/4-inch from the top of the wax. It is important that you maintain this height at all times, so when burning the candle, if you notice the wick is getting a bit longer, go ahead and give it a trim. If you fail to do this, the wick will “mushroom,” giving off smoke.
Making DIY candles is simple, but there are a several factors that contribute to success. Here are a couple notes that you should keep top of mind when tackling the DIY project:
- Avoid burning homemade candles for too short a time. Doing so will lead to tunnelling, or the effect when wax melts only around the center of a candle. Instead, burn your candles, particularly new ones, until the entire top layer is liquid. If your candle is quite wide, having multiple wicks will help this. If you like to burn your candles for short periods of time, select a container with a small diameter.
- If you plan to gift your candles, make a test candle first. While the DIY project is extremely simple, it is informed by a fair amount of science. Factors such as wick size, wax brand, container width and fragrance choice will all contribute to your outcome, and it’s tough to say exactly how without testing first. So do a test run. This means you’ll also be gifting yourself a candle, too.
Cleaning up after this DIY project is exceedingly easy, but you must do it straight away. If you wait until the wax is hardened on your various tools, you’ll have a much trickier task on your hands.
While the wax is still liquid, use paper towels to thoroughly wipe away any remaining wax from the spoon you used to stir it and the pot you melted it in. Once this is done, all you have to do is give everything a good wash. We recommend hand washing your candle-making materials.
When you're ready to start making your own custom candles, we're here for you. We've got the supplies you need to creatively brighten any season. The Home Depot delivers online orders when and where you need them.