Monday, May 26, 2014

Candles for a Rainy Day

Good morning, everyone! I hope you had a wonderful weekend. Mine was unexpectedly open; I completely goofed on the dates for the Mother Earth News Fair, so once I figured out that it's next weekend, I had a little free time on my hands. It all worked out just fine, though.

While I was straightening things up around here, I noticed that our candles had all burned down to nothing and I needed to put new ones in. I love candlelight, but I don't love how expensive they can be! Thinking that you might feel the same way, I wanted to share with you a quick(ish) project that I do, that lets me recycle those candle leftovers for a whole lot less than buying new ones.

As I swap candles out around the house, I take the leftover wax and store the bits until I get enough saved up to make a good batch all at once. (The hands-on time is short, but heating up and melting the wax takes a bit of time- some things just can't be hurried.) I separate out my scents and colors as I collect them, and I have a handful of zip-top bags and old spaghetti sauce jars for that purpose.

When I'm ready to make candles, I gather up my supplies: the candle bits, some new wax, small wax-coated paper cups, new wicks, and a couple of wooden chopsticks to stir the wax while it melts.I also like to put some newspaper or paper towels down on the counter where I'm working, to make cleaning up easier.

The first thing I do is chop off some chunks of the new wax, to mix with the old. I put them both together in a jar, and then the jar goes into a pot of water straight from the tap- double boiler style. This all goes on my stove, with the burner set to medium. I like to have the water level in the pot come up about halfway on the jars, so I added more water -very slowly- once everything is in the pot, to adjust. Sometimes, the jars don't have enough weight and will start to float. If that starts to happen, stop pouring and add a bit more wax to the jar, so it doesn't tip over.

Speaking of tipping over- wax doesn't come out of things easily, if at all, so be extra careful if you choose to make candles. There's also a possibility of getting burned. Please use common sense and be safe when undertaking projects like this.

Back to the wax- it took about 20 minutes for everything to melt completely. While it was taking its time, I prepped my paper cups and wicks. You can buy a tacky adhesive to affix the wicks to the bottom of the cup, but I think it's just as easy to dip the metal base of the wick into some wax, and set it in place in the center of the cup. I will occasionally have a wick go out of place if I move the cup before it has cooled, but that's rare.

Once the wax melts completely, I take one of the jars out of the pot and wipe off any excess water. (I'm just using my hands, so I don't want it to be slippery.) Being careful not to splash or bump the wick, I carefully pour the melted wax into my cup, about halfway full.

The wax will contract as it cools, so I make sure to leave about an inch of wax in my jar, so I can top off each candle to level out any low spots once they're mostly cool. The photo below shows the cooled wax after the first pour. It's not the end of the world if you were to leave it like that; I just prefer to level them out with a second pour.

I repeated this process for each of my jars of wax, and I ended up with 12 votive candles for less than I would have spent on buying a couple of new ones. In a few hours, I'll be able to peel off the paper cups and trim the wicks, and my candles will be ready to go in their holders.

I don't worry about using up all of the wax- I just let any leftovers cool in their jars on the counter, and later I'll stick the lids on and put them away with the rest of my candle supplies. I also (clearly) don't worry about exact measurements when I'm making these. It's just a fast and fun way for me to re-use something that I'd otherwise have to throw away.

Do you have any quick recycling projects like this that you do?

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