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I always thought it would be fun to learn how to make soy candles. Everyone has a scent they enjoy, candles provide a pleasant throw of light in almost any room, and they have such a relaxing feel to them.
Some years ago I visited the Yankee Candle Factory store in Massachusetts. They have a room where you can hand-dip candles. It was exciting to start with a string, dip, dip, and dip again until there was a candle right in front of us! Pillar candles are great.
Recently, I was thinking about making jar candles or tumbler candles to use around the house. That led me to learning how to make soy candles. They are also a healthier alternative to popular paraffin candles.
Types of Candle Wax
First, I was curious about all the different types of waxes. So many! Which one to use?? 🙂 In general there are only a few main types (although it’s easy to get lost in the almost endless variations within them).
Paraffin is a soft wax derived from petroleum. It holds color and throws scent well, and is commonly available. Since it is petroleum-based, it will burn a bit smokier than other waxes – you can tell by looking at the tops of candle jars after they’ve burned for a while. There is a black ring of soot around the top. Paraffin is also strong when dry, and suitable for pillar candles, tea lights, votives, tumbler, and jar candles. Most Yankee candles are made of paraffin.
Soy wax is a 100% natural wax derived from soybean oil. It burns cleaner than paraffin wax and holds color well, though the scent throw is usually not as strong. This wax works best in jar or tumbler candles. Because of the cleaner burning, natural ingredients, and easy pouring, soy wax is becoming more popular. As popularity rises, manufacturers are working to develop soy waxes with a stronger scent throw.
Beeswax is a 100% natural wax produced by honey bees. It is a high quality wax that burns cleanly, burns longer than paraffin, throws scent well, and can also hold color. Since it is natural, clean, and performs well, it is generally the most expensive wax.
Palm wax, like soy wax, is 100% natural. It comes from palm oil. The unique quality of palm wax is that it develops a crystalizing pattern as it dries, offering a wax option with a different finished visual style to it.
Gel wax is actually a blend of mineral oil and polymer resin. The finished product is translucent in visual appearance. This makes it a creative option as the candles can be “see-through”, or objects can be placed into the wax and suspended and visible in the finished candle.
I was looking for an inexpensive option as a first try, and it was important that it was closer to being natural and burned cleanly. So I decided to learn how to make soy candles.
Soy Candle Making Supplies
Next, I read up on the supplies I’d need to be a candle maker! It turns out, not that many, awesome. Primarily, you’ll need wax, a pot to melt it in, fragrance oil, a wick, and a jar. Not bad at all. There are a few other things from around the house that are helpful, here is an overview list:
Might need to get:
- Soy wax (about 1lb of wax per 20oz of container volume)
- Candle wicks
- Candle wick glue dots
- Wick centering device
- Double boiler pouring pot
- Fragrance oil
For all but the pouring pot and fragrance oil, I got them in a soy candle making kit from Candlewic. It came in one box and included 10lbs of soy wax, various-sized wicks, glue dots, wick centering devices, and even candle safety stickers. It was fairly priced and the pieces were good quality, I would recommend it.
Might already have at home:
- Metal stock pot
- Food scale
- Digital thermometer
- 8oz mason jars
- Wooden dowel (for stirring) – you can also use an old wooden spoon handle or anything that you are ok with getting wax on
- 1oz measuring device, or jigger – for measuring fragrance oil
That should be mostly it, now on to the fun!
1. Getting Started
First, I opened up the Candlewick kit and checked out all the parts. It was exciting to see the wax, in flake form. I imagined how soon enough it would go from that to a smooth, dry, great-smelling candle. I gathered all the rest of the supplies and made them easy to reach around the kitchen.
Next, I took a jar and placed a glue dot in the very middle of the bottom. Take a wick, and stick it’s metal base firmly right onto the glue dot, it should hold in place. The length of the wick is not too important yet (as long as it’s taller than the jar). The can be trimmed later. Repeat this for as many jars as you plan to fill.
2. Weighing the Wax
It’s important to know how much wax you’ll be melting. This is both to have enough of it, and also to figure out how much fragrance oil to add. For this, I turned on the food scale, placed the pouring pot on top, and zeroed-out the weight. This way, we’ll know the weight of anything added into the pot. In our case, this will be the wax.
Add in soy wax flakes as you watch the scale. We’ll use about 1lb of wax per 20oz of container volume, I aimed for 2 lbs of wax. It will begin to fill up the pouring pot and seems like a lot, though once melted it will take up far less space.
3. Melting the Wax
Candle making uses the “double boiler” technique for melting wax. Resting the pouring pot over an open flame would be much too hot for the wax, so we’ll essentially put a pot into another pot. Start with the stock pot and place the trivet inside it (tip: if you have an Instant Pot, the trivet it comes with works great here). Fill the stock pot about 1/3 full with water. It should cover the base of the trivet and later surround the wax pouring pot.
Place the pouring pot (filled with wax) into the stock pot and on the trivet. Turn the gas on and allow the water to slowly heat up. Keep a close eye on it and as the water warms up it will begin to melt the wax. Use the dowel to slowly stir the wax, making sure everything blends together evenly.
As the wax melts it will start to become a clear, uniform liquid. Once all is melted into a liquid, check the temperature with the digital thermometer. I usually wipe it off after each temperature check, just to make sure wax does dry and accumulate on the tip.
4. Getting the Right Temperature
Temperature is very important for 2 purposes. The first is adding the fragrance oil. The second is the pouring temperature for adding the wax into the jars. Each wax has a different recommended temperature for each, so check with the supplier instructions for your particular wax.
For the soy wax I used, it was best to add fragrance oil at around 180F. I would stir occasionally and periodically check the temperature as it was rising. Adding fragrance at the correct temperature helps it blend best with the wax, which later on improves the strength and throw of the candle. I learned that candle “throw” is how strong and how far the scent travels when the candle is being burned.
5. Adding the Fragrance Oil
Once you’re at the correct temperature, use the jigger to add the fragrance oil. Here, I used about 1oz per pound of wax. Since I used 2 lbs of wax, I added in 2 oz of fragrance oil. Once added, turn off the heat source so the temperature of the wax begins to cool. Also, stir slowly and thoroughly to help ensure an even distribution of the oil within the wax. Stir for about 3-5 minutes.
6. Let the Wax Cool
Now that the fragrance oil has been added, and the heat source turned off, periodically check the temperature of the wax. There is an optimal temperature range for smooth pouring, for my wax it was about 140F.
7. Heat Up The Candle Jars
This is a simple step that is seemingly often overlooked, though makes a world of difference in the final product. When the wax is poured, around 140F, it will be warm. If poured into room-temperature jars, around 75F, there will be a large temperature difference. This temperature difference will result in rapid cooling of the wax and it will dry a bit unevenly, possibly developing gaps, cracks, or air pockets that will be visible through the glass.
To avoid this, put the mason jars into an oven (i used a small convection oven) and heated them to around 120F. Time it so that they come out of the oven just before you are ready to pour the wax. Warm wax poured into warm jars will result in a much smoother pour with even drying. Cool little trick 🙂 This can be done while the wax is cooling.
Do not use the microwave for this as the wick has a metal base and will cause sparks.
8. Pour the Wax
Prep a flat, heat-resistant surface on which to place the jars. You can also cover it with waxed paper or parchment paper so any wax drips or spills will be easy to clean later on.
Line up the mason jars you prepped (with the wicks inside them), and warmed. Place a wick centering device on each. They just rest on the lip of the glass. The wick will go through the hole in the center, and pulled into the small notch so it’s held in place. Ensure the wicks are centered and secured.
Check one last time to ensure the wax temperature is at 140F. Then, you’re ready for action! Remove the pouring pot from the double boiler and bring it towards the first jar. Pour the wax slowly, filling up the jar. Leave a little room at the top, about 1”. You’ve done it! you’ve poured a candle 🙂
Repeat this for all of the jars you have set up. Leave a little bit of melted wax in the pouring pot, you might need it later for “topping off”.
9. Let the Candles Cool
Now, let the candles cool. As they harden they will begin to take on a more translucent look, then eventually a solid appearance. This will take around 2 hours. At this point, you might need to “top off” the candles. When they cool, sometimes the wax pulls away from the edge of the glass towards the top, or little cracks form. While totally ok, visually you might want to make it look nicer.
You can do this by reheating that wax we left in the porting pot until it is around 140F, then pouring just enough onto the tops of the dried candles to make a new layer. This will often dry very smoothly leaving a great-looking top to the candle. In candle-making terms, this is called “topping off”. Then, once topped-off, let the candles cool for at least 12-24 hours.
Once cooled, trim the wicks to be about 1/8″-1/4″ long.
10. Curing the Candles
Hooray! You’ve done it! Do you feel like a pro yet? Do you envision yourself opening a store at the mall with your candles lining the shelves, customers happily sniffing from wall to wall as smiles fill their faces? You’re on the right track, there’s just a few more things to do 🙂
When candles cool, changes are happening at the molecular level. The fragrance oil is binding to the wax, and this occurs over time. This is called, “curing”. In some ways, candles are like wine were the longer they cure the more integrated the scent is with the wax and the smoother/stronger the scent will be when burned.
As a candle is burned, the wax melts and is burned away. So the fragrance molecules and the wax molecules have blended/bonded during curing, and they separate as they are burned. It is when this happens the fragrance is released into the air, and we smell the great smells.
Curing length is a debatable, and personal topic. Though, most store-bought candles are cured at least 1 week, minimum. When factoring in shipping time and shelf life, candles could have cured for months before being burned. When making candles at home, cure at least 1 week. If you’re tempted to light one up as soon as possible, go for it! It’s fun. In a few more days or weeks, though, the scent might be stronger or have a slightly different aroma to it.
You Did It!
So that’s how to make soy candles! It’s a rewarding and fun craft to get into. In the end you have some great candles to use at home, share with friends, give as gifts, and bring smiles. You can even get creative with scents, wax blends, colors, and jar shapes. Learning how to make soy candles can be exciting!
Have you made, or always wanted to try making soy candles?