Candles & Wax Melts | Crafts

How to Make Candles: A Beginner’s Guide

Learn how to make candles with this complete guide. From wax to wicks, to containers and the best fragrance oils, I’ve got you covered.

How to Make Candles: Complete Beginner's Guide; candle tins lined up with wicks and wick holders, with hot wax being poured into them to make candles

How to Make Candles: Quick-Start Guide

If you’re eager to get started and want to jump right to a great beginner candle-making tutorial, without delving into the pros and cons of different candle waxes, wick types, ideal pour temperatures, etc., this easy DIY soy candle guide is a great place to start:

How to Make Soy Candles: A Beginner’s Guide

overhead view of 4 DIY soy candles burning

Or if you prefer to make paraffin candles, this step-by-step tutorial will get you started. More on the different types of wax below.

DIY Candle Recipes

Paraffin vs. Soy Wax

There are several varieties of candle wax available, and each one has it’s pros and cons. The most common type is paraffin wax. It’s inexpensive, easy to work with, and has the best performance of all the wax varieties in terms of scent throw.

Here’s a simple paraffin candle tutorial. The recipe and instructions are essentially the same as my soy candle recipe.

bowls of paraffin wax and soy wax flakes, both in their solid state

Most store-bought candles are made from paraffin. But it’s a petroleum product and releases carcinogens into the air when it’s burned, specifically benzene and toluene. Many people are concerned about the health implications of burning paraffin candles indoors.

DIY citronella candle made from paraffin wax

Personally, I usually reserve paraffin wax for candles I plan to burn outdoors, like these DIY citronella candles. It’s also the best option if you want to make pillar candles, since it is much harder than other natural waxes in it’s solid state.

Soy Wax

Natural soy wax has gained popularity in recent years because it is relatively inexpensive and easy to work with. It has a decent scent throw, but it’s important to use high quality fragrance oils with it.

Soy wax works best in container candles, because it is relatively soft at room temperature, and may not hold it’s shape well in a pillar candle.

It usually comes in flakes like this:

close-up of natural soy wax flakes on a wood cutting board
soy wax flakes

What’s the Best Soy Wax for Candle Making?

This is my favorite brand of natural soy wax from Amazon. I also like that it comes with cotton wicks and wick holders.

What Type of Wax Is Best for DIY Scented Candles?

This is my favorite brand of soy wax from Amazon.

One more note about soy wax. It cleans up with just soap and water, and you can put the containers and utensils you use right in the dishwasher! And believe me, this is a HUGE advantage when clean-up time comes around! Never underestimate the power of easy clean-up.

Candle Fragrance Oils

There are a couple of basic terms you’ll want to understand before we discuss fragrance oils for scented candles.

Cold Throw

The amount of fragrance a candle gives off when unlit. This is especially important if you’re making candles to sell, since the first thing customers will do is remove the lid and smell the candle! People will do the same thing when you give candles as gifts. First impressions are important!

Hot Throw

The amount of fragrance a candle releases while burning. I don’t think I need to explain why this is important.

Fragrance Load

The amount of fragrance oil a specific variety of candle wax can hold. You’ll see this expressed as a percentage. Most waxes have a fragrance load around 10%, and that’s the ratio I use in all my candle recipes.

many bottle of candle fragrance oils of different brands and scents

I’ve tried A LOT of different candle fragrance oils. And my main take-away is that they are NOT all created equal. I started with the cheapest oils I could find on Etsy.

Do you remember those little pots of wood chip potpourri in every ladies’ restroom in the 90’s? Yeah. Every fragrance I tried my first go ’round smelled like that. Ick!

But I was determined, and after testing over 80 different fragrance oils from 7 different companies, I have a list of winners. And almost all of them are from The Wooden Wick Company, with a few others thrown in for good measure.

Here’s my list of my favorite fragrance oils for candles and where to get them.

2 fragrance discovery kits from The Wooden Wick Company, each with 10 different natural candle fragrance oils

If you’re not sure which fragrances you like, I recommend getting one of their discovery kits (above). I’m especially enjoying the Citrus and Herb and All Natural kits.

Each kit includes 10 different sample-sized scents. One bottle will make a couple of small candles or a batch of wax melts.

fragrance oil being poured into a pitcher of hot paraffin wax

Can You Use Essential Oils To Make Scented Candles?

The short answer is, “not very well.” Sorry, I know that’s probably not what you wanted to hear. But bear with me because I’m going to save you some heartache and potentially a lot of money. And I have a great alternative.

When I first began making my own scented candles, I was excited to try using essential oils in place of traditional candle fragrance oils. It seemed like the obvious way to make all-natural candles.

But…the results were disappointing, and I ended up wasting A LOT of expensive essential oils in the process. The candles hardly had any scent at all!

Here’s the problem: When you’re making DIY scented candles, the goal is generally to achieve a strong “cold throw” (the amount of scent released when the candle is not burning) and “hot throw” (the amount of fragrance released when you burn your candle).

The fragrance oils need to be added to the hot wax, generally somewhere between 175-185 degrees Fahrenheit in order for the two to bind together properly.

Essential oils break down when they’re heated, so their power is significantly diminished from the moment you add them to the wax. And then more so every time you burn your candle.

hand holding a digital thermometer in a pitcher of hot wax. The thermometer reads, " 178.2 F"

Bottom line, it’s just not an effective way to make scented candles or to use essential oils. If you want to use essential oils to scent your home, I recommend using a diffuser instead.

What Fragrance Oils Can I Use To Make Natural Scented Candles?

Most fragrance oils on the market are made from synthetic chemicals. But there are some natural candle fragrance oils made entirely from plants. The best ones I’ve found are from The Wooden Wick Co.

close-up of hand holding a small bottle of Juniper Fir & Balsam Spruce scented candle fragrance oil from The Wooden Wick Co.

I have a sensitive nose, and don’t really like artificial fragrances very much. So I was thrilled to find these natural fragrance oils that smell natural too.

Candle Wax Dye

blocks of candle wax dye for DIY candles in yellow, purple, blue, red, orange, green, and brown

Candle wax dye comes in a few different forms. You can get blocks (these often come in a candy bar shape like the ones below), chips (which are the blocks mentioned before shaved into little bits), or liquid wax dye.

close-up of blocks of wax dye for DIY candle making

Any of these will work just fine to color your candles. It’s mostly a matter of personal preference.

I like to use wax dye chips because it’s easy to control the amount of color you’re adding. This is the kit I use (below), and it’s lasted me over a year (and I make A LOT of candles and wax melts!).

set of candle wax dye chips for making DIY candles

I also like that the containers are easy to open and reseal, unlike kits that come with a bunch of mini zip-top bags.

hand holding a container of bright pink wax dye chips over a bowl of hot wax
pink wax dye melting into a bowl of hot soy wax

The one problem that often comes up with wax dye is the dye chips not melting all the way, leaving little specks in your wax.

The solution is to heat the wax up a bit more to ensure everything melts. Just be sure you get the wax back down to the 175-185 degrees Fahrenheit range again before adding the fragrance oils.

Candle Containers

You can use any container that’s heat-resistant and non-flammable to make candles, so metal, glass, and ceramic are the most common materials.

It’s helpful if your container of choice comes with a lid to keep the candle sealed up while not in use. A few I’ve tried have also come with labels, which is great if you’re planning to sell your candles or give them as gifts.

Here are a few of my favorite candle containers from Amazon that I’ve tried:

collage of empty tins and jars for candle making

A. Mini Glass Jars with Cork Lids (30-Pack)

B. Colorful Boho Candle Tins with Lids (36-Pack)

C. DIY Candle Tins Multi-Pack (24-Pack)

D. Zenjevie 8 oz. Candle Tins in Gold (12-Pack)

E. 8 Oz. Mason Jars with Lids & Chalkboard Labels (12 Pack)

Guide To Wicks

hand using a ruler to measure the inside diameter of a candle tin to determine the best size wick to use with it
large peppermint-scented soy candle in a glass jar with wooded wicks and candy cane pieces on top

Securing the Wicks

There are a couple of different methods for attaching the wick to the bottom of your candle container before pouring the wax, and then many more ways to hold the wick upright while you pour the candle and let it cool.

hand holding a cotton candle wick with the metal end in the air and a hot glue gun in the background
hand attaching a cotton candle wick to the bottom of a glass jar with hot glue
small candle jar with wick held in place with a metal wick holder, ready to be filled with hot wax

Cotton wicks generally come pre-waxed, so they’re fairly stiff. You may be able to get the wick to stand up straight inside the container on its own. But as soon as you pour hot wax around it, it will get floppy.

That’s why you need a wick holder. You’ll also see this referred to as a “wick centering device”. I like to use the metal wick holders in the photos above are perfect for this, and they even have multiple holes if you need to use more than one wick.

4 metal wick centering devices on a wood countertop, with a pile of cotton candle wicks in the background

They come with the soy wax I buy from Amazon (along with a whole bunch of cotton wicks).

wooden wick holders for candle making on a countertop

You can also get these inexpensive wood wick holders (above). They’re basically a popsicle stick with a hole in the center, but I haven’t had great success with them.

candle tins with wicks and wick holders in place, with hot wax being poured into them

Wax Melts

You may end up with some leftover scented wax after pouring your candles. This is the perfect opportunity to try making wax melts!

wax warmer with a white paper liner and two square-shaped scented wax melts inside

Any kind of wax will work. You just pour your leftover scented wax into a silicone wax mold- this is a list of my favorite inexpensive wax molds from Amazon. Then let it cool and pop the melts out of the mold.

hand removing Christmas tree-shaped wax melts from a silicone mold

Getting The Most Out Of Your DIY Candles

The first time you light your candle, be sure to burn it long enough for the wax pool to completely fill the top of the container. This may take a few hours, depending on the size if the candle and the number and size of the wicks you use.

glowing DIY soy candles in glass jars with complete wax pools

If you don’t do this, you’ll get an effect called “tunneling,” where you end up burning a hole down the center of your candle, without using most of the wax. I’m sure you’ve seen this before. It wastes a lot of the wax and is generally not desirable with container candles.

More DIY Candles and Wax Melts…

How to Make Soy Wax Melts

square-shaped soy wax melts in a rainbow of colors

The Best Fragrance Oils for Candle (That Actually Smell Good!)

How to Make Scented Candles for Fall

rustic DIY Fall scented candle with three wicks and pumpkins in the background

Easy Orange Clove Soy Wax Melts

light orange soy wax melts with cloves and an orange in the background

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