Making and Decorating Soy Wax Candles
Making non-toxic soy wax votives at homes is so ridiculously easy and fun that we just had to share it with you! Plus we'll show you how to beautify pillar candles using alcohol inks!
Making your own candles is not only fun but offers you the added benefit of having control over what ingredients are used in your candles.
Soy wax is an all natural wax derived from hydrogenated oil from the soy bean. An advantage to using soy wax is that it has a very light and vaguely sweet smell that blends well with most fragrances. Beeswax has a much stronger honey-like smell that is incompatible with some fragrances and is usually left in it's natural state; unscented. If you want to add colour to your candle, Soy wax is a very light, warm white colour naturally so added colour stays true, unlike beeswax which has a yellow-ish hue, therefore tinting any added colour with yellow.
Why Soy Wax and not Paraffin?
Paraffin wax is considered non-toxic for use in cosmetics and food, however most of us have heard that burning paraffin wax is bad, but what does that mean exactly? All waxes will release some degree of soot when burning, but Paraffin (which is derived from petroleum) releases higher levels of VOC's (volatile organic compounds) than beeswax or soy wax.
VOC's from paraffin are not such a big deal in the open air, but in the confines of your home it's a different matter. I live in a rural area that frequently loses power. On one powerless evening I had a dozen paraffin candles burning in the house. After a few hours I felt faint and woozy and had to open all the windows; the house smelled intensely of diesel-like fumes and I could taste the paraffin in the air. I felt so ill that I vowed never to use paraffin candles again.
Beware of Lead Wicks
Although organizations such as the US National Candle Association have lobbied since the 1970's against the use of lead wicks, producing lead wick candles has been illegal in the US only since 2003! Regulation of the use lead wicks in other parts of the world is spotty at best, so if you're purchasing candles made in foreign places, be a cautious consumer.
How is lead used in wicks?
Votive candles and some pillar candles have a tendency for the wick to slump into the pool of wax when burning. If the wick has a thin metal wire at it's core it will stay upright, burning longer and more efficiently. (The super thin wire just burns away with the wick.) Prior to 2003, lead wire was used for wicks but has since been replaced with zinc, tin or copper wire (which have proven to be non-toxic when burnt).
Making Soy-Wax Votives
stainless steel pot
6 or 7 votive containers (glass or ceramic) approx 2oz - 2.5oz..
fragrance (essential oil) (optional)
wood skewer/stir stick (optional)
- Turn heat element to lowest setting and allow to warm up
- Fill metal pot with soy wax chips
- Set pot with wax chips on the heat element
- Wait patiently for wax to melt (it may take an hour)
Don't be clever: you won't speed things up by using a higher heat. High heat will evaporate (or possibly burn) the wax at the bottom of the pot, wasting wax and creating a smoky mess. Don't give in to temptation: just be patient.
The wired wicks usually start out bent and squished...
- Bend the wick and anchor to shape
- Make sure your wick is just a little longer than your votive container is tall
The wicks we're using have a wire core so they can be easily re-shaped. We want the wick to stand on it's anchor (the little metal disc) more or less straight.
Step 3 (optional)
- While the wax is melting, add drops of fragrance (essential oil)
Fragrance can be added at any time however, I've found that if it's added after the the wax has melted, the essential oil tends to settle on the bottom, requiring stirring. If you add fragrance during the melting, it seems to mix in on its own. As it's nearing the holiday season, I'm using cinnamon oil in these candles.
The wooden shish kebab skewer is a great tool for stirring wax and for breaking up clots of not-yet-melted wax (for impatient people, like myself).
Your wax is now melted completely...
- Set the empty votive container on a squeaky clean, non-absorbent, wax and heat resistant surface (such as a kitchen counter or glass cutting board)
- Remove the pot of wax from the heat
- Pour wax into the votive container
- Place the wired wick in the hot wax as quickly as possible
- Adjust the wick so it stands up as straight as possible, as close to the center as possible.
- Let cool
"I spilled my wax all over the place! What now?"
I was trying to film a video and pour wax at the same time but that didn't work out too well for me..
If you spill...
- Give the wax a few minutes to cool and harden
- Grab a scraper; something like a metal spatula or plastic ruler will do
- Scrape the wax
- Gather up wax crumbles and toss them back into the melting pot
This is why it's important to have a squeaky clean work surface... you don't want crumbs in your candles; not only is it unsightly, food particles may cause mold to grow in your candle.
Should any wax get spilled on the outside of the votive, treat in the same way as a spill; scrape wax off after cooling and buff away any leftover oily residue with a clean dry cloth.
Decorating Candles with Alcohol Inks
Alcohol inks work best on smooth, non-porous surfaces... like wax! In terms of toxicity: the only thing toxic in the inks is the alcohol itself, so once the alcohol evaporates, there's nothing left but the dye which has bonded with the wax. (It's no different than adding dye to the melted wax.)
- pillar candle
- alcohol inks
- extender fluid/ rubbing alcohol
- tissue or paper towel
- disposable or stainless work surface
- drizzle one or two colours of ink on the candle
- rotate the candle as the ink runs (this just helps to evenly distribute the colour)
At this point the candle will have a spider web of colour over it's surface...
- drizzle the extender fluid (rubbing alcohol) on the candle
- quickly begin dabbing and smearing the extender and ink with the paper towel (it helps if the paper towel is pre-moistened with some extender/rubbing alcohol)
- now let's drizzle on one more colour (I used Pinata Inks Sapphire Blue)
- Alcohol inks will mix together on their own, creating more colours so I recommend using only two or three colours in total to avoid creating a muddy mess)
- holding the candle by the wick stops you from leaving fingerprints in the ink
- drip/drizzle more extender on the candle
- quickly dab and smear just a little bit
- set aside to dry