Goddess Tips: How to Reuse Empty Candle Jars (and the wax!)
As I've mentioned before, my home is absolutely overrun with candles. Every surface has at least one candle, and I've got more in my closet waiting to be used. If you're like me - or if you've ever burned through a candle - you're familiar with the charade of trying to figure out what to do with finished candles: It's glass, so they're recyclable, right? But there's wax at the bottom, so it can't go in the recycling bin. I guess just throw it out? That doesn't seem right, but I don't know what else to do, so, in the trash it goes.
This month, I finished a few candles I'd been working through, and decided that enough was enough: there had to be a way to keep my candle holders out of the landfill. If you'd like to learn how to reuse empty candle jars (and the wax!), follow along with me.
Step One: remove wax from the candle holders
In order to make the candle holders reusable, first I had to remove the wax. This seemed a little daunting, but the process was way simpler than I thought it would be. It's no harder than cleaning a dirty pan. I was worried that when I did this I would discover that the wick-holder would be stuck in the bottom of the glass (ft. someone who knows nothing about professional candlemaking), but that wasn't the case! Most candle wicks are held in their place purely by the wax, so the wick-holder can be scooped right out along with the wax.
Remove candle wax with a spoon: Use a spoon or whatever tool you'd like to scoop out the wax from the candle jar. Get as much as you can off of the bottom and sides. Don't throw the wax away, set it aside, preferably in a container somewhere that isn't too warm.
Use the rough side of a sponge, hot water, and dish soap to thoroughly clean out the rest of the wax residue from the candle holder (NOTE: If you're going to be upcycling the candle holders by turning them into drinking glasses, please take extra care to clean them, AND put them in the dishwasher before use to make sure they are completely stripped of wax).
Dry the candle holder thoroughly; there may be wax residue left on the towel that you use, so throw that towel in the laundry bin.
Step Two: What to do with extra candle wax
After emptying out all my jars, I had all of this extra candle wax. They all smelled so good, and it was still useable wax, so I didn't want to toss it out, but on their own each candle didn't have enough wax left to actually burn. So, I melted all of the extra wax together to make a brand new candle, recycling one of my candle holders! As Safiya Nygaard might call it, a Franken Candle of many smells.
First, prepare your wick. You'll need cotton twine, and a small weighted object (I chose a penny).
Secure your twine to the weight. Cut the twine, but make it about twice as long as the candle jar is high, so that while the wax is drying, the twine of your wick can rest on the edge of the glass.
Collect all of your scooped-out wax, and place it into a microwave-safe container. That's right, you can just use the microwave.
Place your container of candle wax in the microwave, and heat it in 20-second increments, keeping a close eye on it. Every 20 seconds, stir the wax, then put it back in the microwave.
Once your wax is mostly liquid, take it out of the microwave. Don't be worried if there's a couple of un-melted clumps, leave it alone for a couple of minutes and they'll dissolve.
Carefully pour your hot, melted wax into the candle holder of your choice
Gently lower your wick into the hot wax, attempting to keep it as centered as possible.
Allow the candle to cool for at least 90 minutes, then cut your wick to the desired length.
Now you've got a brand new candle, for no more than a penny and a few inches of twine! Yes, you can practice mindful living on a budget, and save the planet while saving money. If you'd like to get fancy with it, add fragrance oil to the melted wax, or, add some dried herbs like lavender when the wax is almost cooled to add an elegant look to your new, hand-poured, DIY candle.
Step 3: Decide what to do with your clean candle holders!
Can you put cleaned glass candle jars in the recycling bin? Sure. Or, you could keep them, and turn them into some really cool stuff. You just put all that work into cleaning them, you might as well enjoy the fruits of your labor and keep the containers to see what you can come up with. Whether they're jar-shaped, fancy ceramic, or a plain glass cylinder, there are plenty of things you can do. Here are a few ideas for how to upcycle used candle holders:
Use recycled candle holders for storage: Candle holders hold things!
Make-up brushes: your candle holder could be a new addition to your makeup table as a brush container!
Pens and pencils: use one on your work desk as a place to keep your pens.
Crystals and stones: give your crystals a home by storing them in a recycled candle holder.
Turn candle holders into dishware
Drinkware: glass and jar-style holders make really nice cups and glasses for drinking.
Food storage: if the candle holder's lid is air-tight (or again, jar-style), use it to hold: spices, bulk foods like oats and nuts, homemade jellies and jams, candies, meal-prepped overnight-oats or non-dairy yogurt parfaits
Utensil-holder: Long candle holders (like from saint candles) can be used on your kitchen counter to hold cooking utensils, or a long-handle dish-brush
Upcycle candle holders into plant pots!
Plant pots: if you happen to be handy, you can drill a hole or two into the bottoms of your candle holders, and use them as small plant pots! Or,
Propagation: if you can't drill out a hole in the bottoms of your candle holders, they can still be filled with water and used for growing your plant saplings or cuttings. Check out this video by Garden Up on how to grow new plants from cuttings in water!
Vase: simply use your candle holder as a pretty vase for fresh flowers.
Make gifts (for a friend or yourself)
Bath mix: add your dry ingredients (salts, herbs) for a bath recipe into your empty candle jar.
Recipe jar: check out my article on low-waste, budget-friendly holiday gifts for instructions on how to make a recipe jar. These make great presents; gather the dry ingredients for a baking recipe (or anything you like), and layer it nicely into your recycled candle jar.
Just make a new candle
Seriously, it's easy! Recycle your candle holder by turning it into...a candle holder
Wax melts: wax melts are cheap, you can find them in most grocery stores. Simply - melt them - make a wick just like we did above, and pour the wax into your holder. It'll cost you maybe $3 to make a whole new candle, instead of buying one for $20 at a retail store.
Votive candles: zero work required. Place a votive candle into your candle holder. That's all. You could do this with tealights as well!
Gone are the days of throwing beautifully-crafted candle holders in the trash! Finally, you can keep them! Live harmoniously with the planet and prevent waste by upcycling them. Candles are a vital part of my daily self-care, and it feels really good to know that I can feed my habit sustainably.
Let me know in the comments which of these things you're going to try! Do you have any other ideas for what to do with used candles? Let's chat!