As a homeschool mom, I find ways to reuse and recycle whenever I can. A candle jar is a perfect solution for things like art supply storage and even growing herbs or starting larger plants. The tricky part is getting all of the old candle wax out of the jar. I’ve tried a few methods and made some mistakes along the way, but now I know exactly how to clean out a candle jar. I’ll give you my favorite method (that removes all remaining wax) and a few alternatives to consider.
Important Tips Before You Get Started
The candle jars I’m talking about working with are glass. If you have candle jars made from ceramic or other materials, make sure you check manufacturers’ recommendations before you begin.
In addition, when working with glass jars, make sure your hands are dry, and you have a good handle on things; broken glass in the kitchen is a disaster.
Also, many candles have a scent to them, and the residue can still have a strong smell. I recommend working in a well-ventilated area.
How To Clean Out a Candle Jar
The best way to clean out a candle jar is to use temperature changes to benefit you. Putting the candle jar in the freezer allows the leftover wax to go through a process of thermal contraction. Essentially the melted wax solidifies and is no longer sticky, leaving you with an empty candle jar.
- Spoon or butter knife
- Access to a freezer
- Access to warm water
- Aluminum foil
- Dish soap
Before you begin, use a spoon or butter knife to remove wax that is loose and sitting in the candle jar. If anything pops off, it just makes the next steps in the process easier. Remember you are working with a glass jar, so don’t use anything with a sharp edge, and don’t push it here; only work on loose wax.
Step-By-Step Process To Remove Candle Wax and Clean Glass Candle Jars
- Take a piece of aluminum foil and place it over the top of the candle jar
- Use a rubber band to ensure that the foil is in place
- Place the candle jar in the freezer overnight
- Carefully remove the frozen candle jar and use a butter knife to separate the frozen wax from the sides of the jar
- Remove the wax immediately before it has a chance to warm up; if it does, place the candle in the freezer again
- Continue until all leftover candle wax is removed, and then fill the jar with very hot water
- Any wax remnants will float to the top
Once you have the wax from a candle jar removed, you can simply clean candle jars with soap and water. There should be no wax left at this point, but there may be some residue. A good cleaning with warm water and soap should be all that you need. Dry the used candle jars with a paper towel or dry kitchen towel.
Alternative Methods To Clean Glass Candle Jars
If you noticed, removing wax from candle jars has everything to do with getting the wax to move away from the surface of the glass. Once it does, it will pop right out. Here are some other methods I have tried.
Wax has a lower melting point than glass. That means you can get the wax to melt without doing damage to a glass jar. The double boiler method is easy, but make sure you have a good pair of tongs, or you could risk a broken glass or a painful burn.
- Create a double boiler by placing your glass candle jar in a pot of boiling water
- Allow the candle jar to heat up for about five minutes
- Take a pair of tongs and grab the hot glass jar; it will have liquid candle wax inside
- Dispose of the excess candle wax
- When the jar cools, clean it completely
The hot water method is one of the simplest, but it can take a few rounds of the process for it to work. Boiling water makes the candle wax contract, and it becomes much easier to remove all residue.
- Place the candle jar on a heat-resistant surface, an area of your counter or your sink that won’t be damaged by heat
- Boil water and then pour it directly into the clean candle jars
- Let the boiling water and wax sit for about five minutes
- Dump the water and then use a butter knife to remove any excess wax that hasn’t popped off on its own
- Repeat the process until all wax is removed
When wax softens, it becomes easier to work with, and you can remove it from the sides of the glass containers. I suggest using an oven mitt for this process because you will be working with a hot glass.
- Place the candle jar on a baking sheet or heat-safe surface
- Set the oven to a temperature of 175 degrees Fahrenheit (do not use high heat)
- Let the spent candle sit in the oven for about 15 minutes
- Remove the glass candle holder and use a butter knife to get all of the leftover wax out of the jar
- Let the glass car cool, and then wash
The hairdryer is the least effective of all of the methods only because it takes more time and physical effort. However, the hair dryer has helped me on occasion when dealing with a unique shaped candle jar where it was difficult to get to the excess wax.
- Put your hairdryer on the highest setting
- Apply concentrated heat to the area of wax in the jar that needs to be removed
- As the wax shrinks, use a butter knife to remove any pieces that are released from the glass jar
- Continue until all excess wax is removed, and then wash the candle jar
Tips for Cleaning Out Candle Jars of Different Shapes and Sizes
Classic candle jars are almost a cylinder shape, and they are really easy to work with. However, you may come across some different options that are more narrow or even extra large. Here are a few tips to help.
- Using a bottle brush can be an effective way to get to hard-to-reach areas of unique candle jar shapes
- Try a spoon when a butter knife is not the right size
- For a delicate glass jar, dip a cotton ball or even a paper towel into the boiling water and then press it against the wax; it can work better than filling the glass completely with boiling water
- Pour a small amount of olive oil into the empty candle jar to coat the inside walls and get into any hard-to-reach areas; the oil helps loosen any wax residue, and then it can be wiped clean
Removing the Label and Sticky Residue
If your candle still has the label on it, you can use Goo Gone for the removal. Liquid Goo Gone can be placed on a microfiber cleaning cloth and then used to wipe away excess candle wax and the label or sticky residue left from the label.
Always protect the surface you are working with when dealing with Goo Gone; the product can be a little oily and leave you a secondary mess. Also, wash away any remaining Goo Gone when finished.
Cleaning and Polishing the Jar After the Wax Is Removed
Once all of your wax is removed and you are ready to reuse your candle, these are my recommended methods for cleaning and polishing.
Dish Soap and Warm Water
Fill the glass partially with warm water and add about a teaspoon of dish soap. Use a bottle brush or a rag to wash the interior of the glass jar and then rinse out any excess soap.
Vinegar and Baking Soda
Put a few tablespoons of baking soda at the bottom of the jar. Add a few tablespoons of vinegar to the jar. Let the baking soda and vinegar react with each other. Then take a sponge and scrub to remove wax pieces or the residue you have in your favorite candle jar.
Lemon and Salt
Cut a lemon in half, and do not squeeze out the excess juice. Sprinkle salt on the surface of the lemon and then use the lemon to gently scrub, removing the wax residue as you do. The acid from the lemon and the grit from the salt can polish the glass and remove waxy residue. Don’t scrub hard to avoid scratching the glass surface.
Mistakes To Avoid When Cleaning Glass Candle Jars
Luckily the process of reclaiming a glass jar after it’s finished being used as a candle is really not difficult. Here are a few things to watch out for:
- There is a risk that jars with thin glass will shatter when boiling water is used
- Remove any stickers or external residue before putting the candle jar in hot water; you could melt the sticker and leave yourself with a mess
- Don’t take a hot candle jar and run it under cold water; when the temperature changes occur quickly, you risk cracking the glass
- Always allow the jar to dry and cool completely before storing; this will help discourage mold growth while your jar is stored
Creative Ways To Reuse Candle Jars
If you are like me and enjoy cleaning the candle jar to repurpose it, here are a few of my favorite ways to turn a used candle jar into something functional in my home. When I buy candles now, I even think about what I will use them for when they are done; it’s good for the environment to recycle like this, and some candles are placed in really cool jars.
- Use the old candle jar to make a new candle
- Plant holder or seed starter
- Art supply or pantry organizer
- Bathroom organization
- Decorations or table settings for parties
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What Types of Wax Are Easier or Harder To Remove?
Beeswax is actually the easiest to remove and cleans up quite easily with soapy water when finished. A blend of several waxes and paraffin wax tends to be stickier and create a strong attachment to the candle jar.
Is It Safe To Clean a Candle Jar in a Dishwasher?
A dishwasher may be too hot for a candle jar, and therefore it is best to clean these with soap and warm water. In addition, all remaining residue has to be removed, and the dishwasher is not the place to get old wax out of your candle jar.
Can I Reuse a Candle Jar for Food Storage?
Stick with a traditional glass food storage container anytime you need to store food. The recycled glass candle jar can still have wax residue, chemicals, and scents that should not be near your food. There are plenty of other ways to reuse glass candle jars.