Friday, April 15, 2011

Recycled Candles

I love candles. Most days, the first thing I do when I get home (after putting my stuff down and greeting my dog of course) is light up a candle in the room where I am about to spend time. I find it a calming way to introduce cleansing and energy flow into my space. I also love when I light candles throughout the house. I can walk from room to room and be invited by a warm glow and pleasant smell wherever I go.

That said, candles are EXPENSIVE and they never last as long as I'd like. Plus, once the wick is gone there is still so much wax left that I feel badly tossing it. So...what does a good semi-urban homesteader do? She reuses old candles and makes them into new ones!

The process starts with wick making. Today when I got excited about making candles I was sad to learn that this process would take me about a week. So I got started as quickly as possible as the candles I have right now are getting low. I went to my local co-op and got myself a baby food jar full of borax. I got a recipe off of - 4T of borax, 2T of salt, and 1.5 cups of warm water is all you need to get these babies started. Oh, and you need cotton string. I decided to use some of the leftover string from when I made my pea trellis.

Mix all the ingredients together and soak the string it it for 15 minutes. I was upset to see that the proportions were such that there was precipitant in the bottom of the glass. This means that the solution was saturated and no more of the solvents could be dissolved. To me that seemed a waste, and in the future I will use less of each. Perhaps when you are making your own you could add the borax and salt in proportion to one another at increments and see when you reach the saturation point. If you are dedicated enough to do that, you are certainly dedicated enough to let us know what amounts of salt and borax are actually needed for this project.

Once you have soaked your strings for at least 15 minutes, you need to hang them to dry completely. This is what takes so freaking long! The ehow article said it would take about 5 days to make sure that the strings are dried completely. This being Oregon, I decided it might not hurt to wait until the following weekend to finish the project. We shall see...

I hung the strings on the handles of my kitchen cupboards. I think it looks pretty. We shall see what kind of nuisance I have created for myself this week!

It took just shy of a week for those strings to be totally dry. I imagine that if I lived in a less humid part of the world this would not have taken as long. In the end the strings were dry, stiff, and coated with crystallized borax and salt.

The next part was the fun part! I needed to melt down my old wax so I could turn it into candles. Now let me tell you, candle wax is flammable, so you don't want to toss it into a pot on the stove. Most of the ways I know of to melt the wax call for a double boiler. Yeah...I don't have one. So what I did was place some similarly-sized, flat, river rocks in the bottom of a saucepan. The idea is that the container into which I am placing the wax does not come into contact with the burner.

I just tossed all my wax into the pot and boiled the water around it. It took about 30 minutes for all of this wax to boil. As you can see I have a couple of different colors in here. I don't actually care about the color of my candles as much as that I get flamy goodness. If you do care it should be an easy fix to just keep the colors separate.

While the wax was melting I prepped the strings for becoming wicks. I decided to hook each one onto a large safety pin. I then dipped each string into the melting wax and hung them up to dry.

Being able to just stick them into the bottom of my kitchen cabinet to hang was a nice bonus of using the pins!

The strings dried stiff and straight. Then I had to prep the wicks to be in the center of the candles when I poured them. I did this by trimming them longer than the depth of the container. I then used the stiff stickiness of the wax-covered string to bend it around stainless steel skewers. When I set the skewer down over the top of the container I could center where the string hung down.

Once the wax was totally melted I poured it into the containers. I spilled a lot which made me sad. I probably could have gotten 5 candles out of what I had, but instead I got 4.

I let the candles sit out until they were hard enough to pick up without sloshing. Then I put them in the fridge to harden faster and turned to cleaning up my mess...sigh.

Once the candles were hard I trimmed the wicks to 1/4" and lit 'em up! I think they are very pretty, and even with a big mix of colors and scents, they ended up smelling great too.

I will say the one thing I noticed is they give off a bit more smoke than store-bought ones.

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