There is something comforting about the soft, flickering glow of a scented candle that adds a sense of calm and warmth to your surroundings. It was difficult to give up regular candles but the negative impact they carry was too great to ignore so our family has switched to beeswax candles.
Beeswax Candles: A Natural Alternative
Beeswax candles are a great substitute for artificially scented paraffin candles and they actually work to purify the air instead of pollute it. Beeswax emits negative ions when it is burns. Negative ions are effective at reducing dust, dander, and mold that float in the air we breath.
Beeswax candles can be pricey to purchase so this is a great project that is easy to do yourself and will help purify your home. I have some friends who are beekeepers so I am able to get beeswax from them. You might be surprised how many beekeepers live in your area. If you ask around, you may be able to get local beeswax. If not, it can be purchased at most craft stores or online.
One Downside to Beeswax
Beeswax burns very hot so it can be tricky to find the right combination between your jar and the wick. I did a little experiment using regular mouth canning jars to find the ratio that burned the most evenly without burning away too quickly. I also tried a couple different blends of wax and oils to see if that worked better than solid beeswax.
By blending the beeswax with a softer oil, you are effectively bringing down the melting point of the candle. The purpose of that is to create a mix that is slightly softer which allows a more even burn. You don’t want it too soft or your candle will burn away too quickly.
A Note About Beeswax Candles
It is certainly acceptable to use only beeswax. Just be aware that your wick will “tunnel” down into the wax and you will be left with a ring of wax around the inside of your jar that will not burn. This can simply be melted down once the wick is gone and reworked into a new candle.
Pure beeswax also tends to crack if the candle cools too quickly. This shouldn’t affect it’s function but some people don’t like how it looks. I have heard that if you set the finished candle down into warm water, it will cool more slowly and therefore not crack. I did not try this method and my pure beeswax candle did crack slightly at the surface.
How to Make Beeswax Candles
I used pure beeswax and two different blends for this experiment and used 2 different wick sizes. Since I chose half-pint canning jars for my candles, used 2.5 inches as my guide for the jar opening and purchased an appropriate wick at a local craft store. I used a 60 ply wick that was recommended to me by a beekeeper for the second wick.
The two different blends I used were a 50/50 mix of beeswax and palm shortening (sourced sustainably) and a 1 pound beeswax to 1/2 cup of coconut oil ratio for the second. I made each of these blends and the pure beeswax with both sizes of wick and burned all 6 candles in the same environment for 4 hours before I blew them out.
It is widely recommended to burn any poured candle for 1 hour per inch diameter of the jar the first time you burn it. This helps prevent the candle from tunneling. The goal is for the entire surface of the candle to be melted before you blow it out. If the entire surface doesn’t melt, your wick is probably too small for your jar. Because a couple of my experimental candles were tunneling I let them go a little longer to give them a fair shot.
And the Winner Is…
The coconut oil blend with the larger 60 ply wick! It was the only combination of the six that burned a complete surface without burning away too quickly. The palm oil blend with the smaller wick did fairly well but it burned too quickly. The palm oil blend with the larger wick melted the entire surface, but again, it melted quicker than the others. This combination would make a very nice candle if you are trying to dilute your beeswax slightly in an effort to save cost.
The pure beeswax with the smaller wick burned the slowest but very distinctly created a tunnel. The beeswax with the larger wick burned a little faster and did a better job of melting toward the edges than the one with the smaller wick. If I wanted a pure beeswax candle I would definitely use the larger 60 ply wick. In fact, these pure beeswax candles are a great option (and the most simple to make) if you don’t mind the tunneling. This has never bothered me since I just re-melt used candles into new candles anyway.
So to recap, the pure beeswax burned slowly but quite hot so the surface never completely melted while the beeswax/palm shortening blend melted far too quickly. A different ratio may work better but the coconut oil blend did such a good job that I am going to stick with that.
This recipe is for the beeswax/coconut oil blend, but if you want to experiment with other blends the process will still be the same so be brave and try it out!
Beeswax Candles Ingredients
- 1 lb pure filtered beeswax
- 1/2 cup coconut oil
- palm shortening
- 3 half-pint canning jars
- 60 ply cotton braided wick #4 cut into 6 inch pieces
- A metal pitcher (or an empty coffee can)
- pot large enough to fit your pitcher to use as a double boiler
- bamboo skewers
Beeswax Candle Instructions
A note before you start. Beeswax is very difficult to remove from surfaces. I have designated a few tools specifically for this job so I do not have to worry too much about getting them clean. These same tools can be used to make lotion bars and other oil-based products, and this removes the need to clean these tools between uses. I use the same tools for candles, lotion bars, lip balms and other products and just melt and remove as much of the wax/oils between uses.
- Place beeswax in pitcher or coffee can.
- Put the pitcher in the pot and fill with enough water to come up the outside of the pitcher without spilling into the pitcher. The water will eventually boil so you don’t want to fill it so high that the water bubbles into the pitcher.
- Bring the water to a boil and then keep it at a gentle boil until all of the beeswax has melted.
- While the beeswax is melting, prepare the wicks by cutting 3-4 pieces 6 inches long. I was able to fill 3 candles by filling just to the bottom of the threads on the jar but it is not a bad idea to have an extra wick ready just in case.
- Once the beeswax is completely melted, remove from heat and add the coconut oil. Stir gently with a bamboo skewer until the coconut oil is melted and incorporated.
- Pour a small amount of wax into the bottom of each jar so that there is about a half-inch at the bottom. Return the pitcher to the hot water to keep the wax melted.
- Place a wick down into the wax in the center of each jar. You can use a skewer to make sure it is placed correctly by pushing down the wick and holding it there for a few minutes.
- Let the wax cool until it is solid enough to hold the wick in place, approximately 5-10 minutes.
- Wrap the top end of the wick around a bamboo skewer until it is taut with the skewer resting across the top of the jar. You might need to use a small piece of tape to keep the wick from slipping off of the skewer.
- Hold onto the skewer and pour remaining melted wax into each jar. Leave about an inch of space at the top.
- Reposition the skewer holding the wick as needed so that it is in the center of the jar.
- Let cool completely! This can take several hours but it is best to leave them over night.
- Trim the wick to about 1/2 inch. Do not trim any shorter than this because this will make a smaller flame and it is more likely the candle will tunnel. After you light the candle, if it is flickering wildly or smoking, simply blow it out, trim the wick a bit more and re-light.
- During the first burn keep your candle lit for at least 2.5 hours and preferable until the entire surface has melted.
Caution: Beeswax is flammable so take care to keep an eye on it while it is heating. You don’t want to forget about it so that it gets too hot or spill it on your hot stove.
Have you given up scented candles? Ever considered making your own?