Summer´s here and so are the mosquito´s! It´s about this time every year that I get my candle making equipment out and start filling old jar´s with soy wax and bug repelling essential oils like citronella, basil and lemongrass.
I started making my own candles a few years ago, I especially love making them at Christmas and filling the house with the warming scents of clove, ginger, wild orange and frankincense. During the rest of the year I usually just use my diffuser but there is something special about winter and summer candlelit evenings so these seasons tend to be the times that I make them.
I haven´t bought a shop bought candle in years, now I know how economical and easy they are to make I would never part with the money on some of the price tags you see! One thing I did do, was to hang onto the containers from my old candles so now I just re-fill them or just use jam or glass yogurt pots.
You don´t need any fancy equipment to make candles but an accurate digital thermometer is an essential and apart from the wax and wicks, was the only thing I needed to buy. I´ve listed below the equipment you need:
- Saucepan and bowl – you need to melt the wax in the bowl using the bain-marie method. An old bowl and saucepan will do as it is messy and not the easiest to clean so don´t use any of your finest for this!
- Digital thermometer – like I said above this is an essential, you need to be able to accurately take the temperature to know when you can add your essential oils
- Pouring jug – from experience I´ve learnt that you need a little jug (glass or metal) to pour the wax into your jars, something you can handle easily and not too heavy as you need a slow, steady hand to pour the wax
- Clothes pegs – you need one for each jar you are filling and you use them to hold the wick nice and straight and in the middle of the jar
- Jars – upcycle to your hearts desire here, anything will do as long as its nice and thick.
There are quite a few options out there when it comes to what wax and wicks to use. Personally, I get on best with soy wax, I find it melts easily and I like the white colour of the candle, it´s also pretty much odourless so won´t interfere with scent. I buy it online as there is no local supplier, a 10kg bag is about €20 and will make A LOT of candles!
Bee´s wax has obviously been used for centuries to make candles and it has a lovely deep yellow colour and slight scent to it. Whichever wax you buy, get it in pellets which will make it easier to measure out how much you need.
When buying wicks, look for pre-waxed cotton or hemp wicks with the little tin base attached. Another option are wooden wicks which normally come with a clip on metal base which you can re-use. Using the right size wick is important in order for the candle to burn evenly and without smoking and the depth of your jars will determine the length of wick you need.
So once you´ve got everything together and have selected the essential oils you want to use, you are ready to make your own candles. When selecting the oils please make sure you are using a reputable brand – shop bought candles are laden with synthetic fragrance and burning them is actually hazardous to your health so there is zero point in going to the effort to make your own candles and using cheap, synthetically laced essential oils! I use DoTerra, which is a brand I know and trust, plus they´ve made it extra easy for me when it comes to anti-mosquito candles as I can just use their blend Terrashield which is specially formulated to keep the bugs away!
Making your Candles:
- As a general rule, in order to work out how much wax you need, fill your jar to 1cm from the top twice over. Once you have done this add the wax to the bowl you are going to melt it in.
- Using the bain-marie technique fill a saucepan of water just to underneath the bottom of your bowl. Once the water has come to the boil place the bowl filled with the wax on top
- Using a low heat melt all of the wax until you have no lumps stirring occasionally. Melting point for soy wax will be around 70 degrees celsius
- Dip the tin end of your wick into the wax and place into the centre of your container pushing down until it dries (a chopstick is quite handy for this). Another option is using a glue gun and sticking the wick down. Once it is in place and dry use a clothes peg to hold the wick nice and straight
- When your wax is completely melted remove it from the heat and let it start to cool. Once the wax has reached between 50-55 degrees celsius you can add your essential oils. It is important you do not add them before as a higher temperature will damage the compounds and reduce the throw of scent. A standard 200ml size candle will need anywhere between 80 – 120 drops in total. For the anti-mosquito candle I add 50 drops of Terrashield, and 20 each of citronella and lemongrass. Once you have added your oils stir the wax to make sure the oils are evenly distributed
- Making sure your wick is in place you can now pour your wax into the jar. Dip the jug in and fill it up then slowly pour the wax into your container making sure the wick stays straight – try not to knock the clothes peg!
- Fill the jar up to about 2/3 cm from the top. At this point it´s handy to leave a bit of wax aside as once the wax starts to harden you´ll be able to see if there are any dips or holes around the wick so you can use the remining wax to fill them in
- Leave somewhere cool (not the fridge) and not in direct sunlight to set. You´ll see they harden fairly quickly but you should leave them for 48 hours before you light them to make sure it is completely set.
- After 48 hours take a sharp pair of scissors and cut the wick to about 1cm from the top of the wax. Now your candle is ready to be lit!
You can use dried flowers, herbs, shells or crystals to decorate the top layer of your candle, you just need to wait until the wax is starting to harden very slightly to add light things like dried lavender or rose petals. Heaver objects like crystals or shells should be placed on top with tweezers once you judge the wax is hard enough for them not to sink!
Once you get adept at doing it you can experiment with double or triple wick candles, using different containers like large shells, old tea cups or ceramics, you are definitely not just limited to jam jars. So give it a go and make your own!