removing candle wax from fabric.

January 13, 2020
removing candle wax from fabric | reading my tea leaves

At the time of writing I have three different candles burning because it’s January and this weekend’s brilliant sun and unseasonably warm temperatures have been replaced with the month’s hallmark dreary gray skies and cold. To combat the winter blues on days like this one, I rely on the predictable coziness of a burning candle. But unbridled enthusiasm for candle burning is not without risk. Open flames, of course, need to be carefully monitored, and the prospect of melted wax spills can also present something of a headache.

removing candle wax from fabric | reading my tea leaves

At the risk of fancying myself a domestic goddess, in the aftermath of wax-related distress over the holidays, I learned a simple way to remove wax from fabric.

One of my favorite traditions for the past three Christmases has been attending a beautiful candlelit mass at a local church on Christmas Eve. Long tapers light up Tiffany stained glass windows and surround each of the pillars inside the Gothic Revival sanctuary. There are plain pine boughs and pews filled with the devout and the lapsed and everyone in between, including my own heathen children whispering loudly when it might be time for us to depart. At the end of this year’s service, I left with a full heart and a wool coat splattered in white paraffin wax. One of the candles festooning a church pillar had gotten knocked slightly askew and so it merrily dribbled its wax on my coat sleeve for the duration of the service while I echoed back my joyous strains, et cetera. My coat looked like it had either been recently vomited on by a milk-sated infant or else smeared by a toddler high on gingerbread icing.

Here’s how I learned to fix it:

Materials:

+ Soiled garment/napkin/tablecloth/&c.

+ Ice cube

+ Blunt knife

+ Brown paper bag

+ Iron

Instructions:

+ Start by assessing your wax spill. If there’s a good bit of wax, you might choose to start by freezing the fabric in its entirety, or rubbing an ice cube over top of the spill to harden the wax and crack off any large bits that you can. (Used carefully so as not to abrade the fabric, a blunt knife can also be helpful for scraping off any loose bits.)

+ Whatever remains, you’ll get off by melting. If the wax has not seeped through to the opposite side, place one piece of brown paper on the top side of the spill only. If the wax has penetrated the fabric and is visible from both sides, place a square of clean brown paper bag both underneath and on top of the wax spot to make sure you’re not transferring wax to your ironing pad.

removing wax from fabric | reading my tea leaves

+ Carefully rub the brown paper with a warm iron and watch as a greasy looking wax stain emerges on the the brown paper. Rotate the brown paper to a clean spot and continue ironing the paper until all of the wax has lifted and transferred from the fabric to the square of paper. Depending on the size of your spill, you may need just a few small squares of paper, or you might find yourself using much of a paper shopping bag.

removing candle wax from fabric | reading my tea leaves

Notes: I’ve done this now a couple of times with different fabrics and candle waxes. I found the white paraffin wax from the church candles to be remarkably easy to remove; a really quite considerable quantity of wax lifted without a trace very quickly. The yellow-tinted beeswax on pale linen, like the spill you see in the photographs above, took a bit more rubbing with the iron and also benefitted from a quick scrub afterward to help lift the stain.

For the curious:

+ My candleholders are all made by Notary Ceramics.

+ James molds our beeswax candles using wax and taper molds from BetterBee.

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10 Comments

  • Reply Danielle January 13, 2020 at 3:26 pm

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! My husband got wax all over his suit jacket a year ago (while zealously blowing out a candle) and I have been wondering about the best solution.

  • Reply Julia January 13, 2020 at 3:36 pm

    Pouring boiling water through the back side of the fabric also works wonderfully. My church used beeswax candles, and they are much harder to clean up. I think because they have more oil in them.

  • Reply Katie January 13, 2020 at 4:41 pm

    Goodness this is timely, thank you!

  • Reply S January 14, 2020 at 10:05 am

    Any tips for removing wax from wood? Looking over at my poor wooden candlesticks! 🙂

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE January 14, 2020 at 12:59 pm

      If it’s untreated wood, I would try putting them on a tray in a very low oven and rubbing the wax off/into the wood. Bonus for a little added luster!

      • Reply S January 14, 2020 at 1:43 pm

        Thanks! Will give that a try!

  • Reply Susannah January 14, 2020 at 11:03 am

    Brilliant! I often end up with little splatters from rendering beeswax from my beehives and would love to add: If you have a woodstove or fireplace, don’t toss the brown paper when you’re done! The wax-soaked paper from this activity makes insane good kindling.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE January 14, 2020 at 12:57 pm

      Ah, yes! So true!

  • Reply Liz January 14, 2020 at 9:55 pm

    We also have a heathen child, but we do holidays with her grandfather, who is a minister. Our families have been incredibly kind about our decision on how to raise her and share their stories and traditions in a way that is respectful of our hope that she gets to choose what she believes for herself. I hope that a lot of people get to share that experience. I love the traditions, though neither my husband nor I practice a religion.

    1
  • Reply julie January 21, 2020 at 2:42 am

    I use a paper towel and very carefully my hair straightening irons, as I don’t want wax on them or anything to burn!!!

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