We’ve looked into which candle wax is the best for the environment, but how do we go about making our own?
Making eco-friendly candles at home control what goes into them, ensuring that your candles are healthy and environmentally friendly. It can also be cheaper if you intend to make a bigger amount of them.
Read on to see four of the best homemade eco-friendly candles recipes you can follow, as well as tips on safety and how to make them last for longer. Because candles are a source of fire, make sure to do all the research you can before making them – hot oil and candle flames are a major hazard for you and the environment!
What’s the most eco-friendly candle wax?
The most eco-friendly candle wax is soy wax, though beeswax and coconut wax can also be used to limit the environmental impact of your candles.
Most commercial candles are made with paraffin wax. Paraffin is derived from petroleum oils and is also often bleached. The toxic chemicals in paraffin wax candles can release carcinogens, though the amount released isn’t enough to be considered a health risk by organizations.
However, if you regularly burn candles it’s best to avoid paraffin wax candles. Making your own candles gives you more control over what you’re burning, and this can be better for you and the environment!
You can buy soy wax and beeswax candles commercially, but sometimes they’re combined with unsustainable essential oils and other ingredients. Harvesting beeswax can also be harmful to bees, so sourcing your own beeswax ensures you only purchase from sustainable, bee-friendly beekeepers.
Many question the environmental friendliness of soy wax, because the soybean industry isn’t the most sustainable. Compared to other wax sources, certified organic or local soy wax is much more eco-friendly overall.
How to make homemade eco-friendly candles
There are many articles out there that tell you how to make eco-friendly candles. Before you start, make sure that you have everything you need and have chosen the right recipe for you.
According to Hello Nest, soy wax is the best choice for homemade eco-friendly candles because it’s a slow-burning wax that will last longer and hold natural scents for longer. They also advise choosing a hot-burning wick like cotton wicks, as well as picking strong essential oils. You can also mix and match essential oils to strengthen the scent.
Make sure to research thoroughly before you begin. You should know fire hazards and safety tips to ensure that you and others won’t be harmed.
Some candle safety articles I recommend:
- Fire Safety & Candles
- 5 Candle Making Safety Tips Everyone Should Follow
- Choosing Safe Containers for Container Candles
If you’re using essential oils, you should also read Healthline’s 13 things to know before using essential oils. Always use and store essential oils away from sources of fire!
Are wick tabs necessary?
Wick tabs are necessary for fire safety when making and burning candles.
When I started this article, I looked around for ages trying to find alternatives to wick tabs, whether to avoid single-use metal or just to find a more environmentally friendly alternative. The bad news is that there’s no alternative.
Without a wick tab, the flame will eventually burn down to the bottom of the glass. This can cause the wick to move, causing the flame to burn the side of the container. It’s also why you should trim your candle wicks.
Once the glass is hot enough, it could crack, melt, or even shatter.
If you really don’t want to use wick tabs, make sure that the candle never melts more than halfway. However, this just isn’t sustainable, because you’d have to remelt and top up the candle over and over.
Wick tabs are very hard to reuse, so bear this in mind when making candles. There are articles out there that suggest not using wick tabs is okay, but the fire hazard is much more of a threat to you and the environment than not using one.
How to attach wick tabs
Most candle-makers use either hot glue or wick stickers to secure wick tabs to candle containers. There aren’t enough people using eco-friendly natural glues to know how safe or secure biodegradable glues are in candle-making yet. Wick stickers also aren’t biodegradable, but they may be a cheaper alternative.
Wick stickers are double-sided stickers, so make sure to follow the instructions given by the manufacturer and secure the sticker to the bottom of the wick tab after your wick is in place. Then attach the other side to the bottom of the candle container.
To retrieve your wick tab after the candle has fully burned down, you can use eco-friendly ways of removing adhesive like soaking the container in hot water.
DIY eco-friendly candles recipes
Finding recipes of the most eco-friendly candles can be difficult, so here are some I’ve found.
Soy wax candle recipes with essential oils
Treehugger’s soy wax candle recipe uses soy wax flakes and essential oils. This is one of the best recipes available, with all the ingredients (other than fragrance oils) being environmentally friendly.
The recipe has five simple steps to follow:
- Melt the wax
- Add the essential oil
- Put the wick into the container
- Pour the wax into the container
- Leave the wax overnight to harden
Each step gives you enough detail to follow to get every candle right the first time.
It’s important to note that Treehugger’s instruction to use wax to adhere the wick in place at the bottom can be a fire hazard. Instead you should use a wick tab.
Melissa K Norris has a fantastic guide on how to make eco-friendly soy candles at home with essential oils. They advise using 20 drops of essential oil per milliliter, so around 100 drops for every pound of wax.
The recipe has six steps to follow:
- Prepare the jars
- Measure out the wax
- Melt the wax
- Prepare the wicks
- Let the wax cool and add essential oils
- Pour the wax into the jars
The recipe also includes some of Melissa’s favorite combinations of essential oils, as well as an extra tip. When blending the essential oils, letting the wicks absorb some oils could help with fragrance.
It might not be ideal if your essential oils aren’t the cheapest though!
The only thing I’d suggest swapping out is using hot glue for wick stickers.
Beeswax eco-friendly candles recipes with essential oils
Beeswax isn’t vegan, so bear that in mind before selecting beeswax. Always source beeswax from responsible, bee-friendly beekeepers.
You don’t need to add essential oils to your beeswax candles because they can freshen the air on their own.
Our Oily House’s beeswax candle recipe uses beeswax and coconut oil. This recipe has some great tips on using household items for anchoring your wick.
The recipe has seven steps to follow:
- Put the beeswax into a metal container
- Melt the beeswax by putting the metal container into a pot of water to boil
- Add coconut oil once the beeswax is melted and no longer heated
- Add 30-50 drops of essential oils
- Secure the wick and fill the jar
- Use a pencil to anchor the wick
- Trim the wick once the wax has hardened
Our Oily House doesn’t use wick tabs, so remember to add a step into the recipe to be safe.
After the recipe, the article suggests some essential oil combinations, like geranium and lemongrass, as well as peppermint with lemon and wild orange.
On Mommypotamus’s blog, their DIY beeswax candles are also made with beeswax and coconut oil. Illustrated with photos, this recipe is ideal for anyone who finds themselves checking if a craft project is going right by comparing it online.
The recipe has seven steps to follow:
- Prepare the wick and wick tab with a sticker
- Attach the wick to the bottom of the jar
- Melt the wax and oil
- Add essential oils and stir
- Pour the wax into the jar
- Set the wick in the center
- Let the candles harden in a warm area
They recommend leaving the candle to harden for two days, and give a tip about cleaning beeswax from the bowl. If you want to put your beeswax to extra use, you could use it to make a small wax bar to refresh your beeswax wraps or to use as a lotion bar.
Which essential oils are best to use for homemade candles?
Essential oils are the most eco-friendly way to add scent to your candles, though there are concerns about how sustainable they can be. To create essential oils, the essence of a plant has to be extracted.
The alternative to essential oils is fragrance oils, but these are made with synthetic chemicals. Picking the right essential oil for you means looking at how appealing the smell is as well as how sustainable the oil is.
You also need to be aware that some essential oils aren’t safe for children or pets.
The following essential oils should be used with caution:
- Peppermint (not safe for cats, children, or dogs)
- Eucalyptus (not safe for cats or children)
- Ylang-Ylang (not safe for cats or dogs)
- Tea tree (not safe for cats or dogs)
- Spearmint (not safe for cats)
- Thyme (not safe for cats)
- Bergamot (not safe for cats)
- Fennel (not safe for children)
- Rosemary (not safe for children)
- Verbena (not safe for children)
- Cinnamon (not safe for dogs)
- Pennyroyal (not safe for dogs)
- Citrus (not safe for dogs)
- Sweet birch (not safe for dogs)
- Pine (not safe for dogs)
You should do your own research into the essential oils you plan to use, as some are also dangerous for pregnancy, small pets, and people with asthma.
Unsustainable essential oils include Indian sandalwood, agarwood, rosewood, frankincense, myrrh, and narrow-leaved peppermint (Eucalyptus radiata). These essential oils are sourced from trees that are often endangered or threatened, per the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species.
It’s hard to know exactly which other essential oils are threatened, so finding sustainable brands and sources of essential oils is best.
There are many sustainable essential oil brands to choose from. It’s best to source your essential oils from local companies, but failing that here are some of the most sustainable brands to look at:
- Appalachian Botanical Company – lavender (West Virginia, USA)
- Plant Therapy – variety (Idaho, USA)
- Bursera – variety (Canada and USA)
- Vitruvi – variety (Canada and USA)
- Essentially Australia – variety (Australia)
- Zea – variety (Australia)
- Naturallythinking – variety (UK)
- Norfolk Essential Oils – variety (UK)
- Banyan Tree – variety (Asia)
Tips for candle making
Some of the best tips for making candles include:
- Add oils at an ideal temperature (around 185°F or 85°C)
- Write notes so you can perfect your technique
- Don’t melt wax in the microwave
- Experiment with essential oils but don’t use too much – work up to adding more
- Anchor wicks with a clothes peg or stick to make sure it stays in the middle
Once you’ve made your candles, look after them by:
- Covering the candle with a tight lid between uses
- Soy wax candles should fully melt during its first burn
- Not burning candles for more than 4 hours at a time after the first full melt pool