Best Candle Making Tips and Trouble Shooting Guide
When you have made enough candles, something is going to go wrong and leave you scratching your head. I am going to help you through it. Once you understand what causes the problems in candle making you can head them off or at least fix them.
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I work primarily with soy wax but I will try others and update this article to give you the best that I can find. Soy wax is a soft vegetable wax. It can make an amazing candle but can also be very temperamental. Most manufactures give you basic instructions and then leave you with a cliffhanger! Some of their websites have little information on them but not much. We are going to break it down!
Root Cause of Most Candle Making Issues
Understanding that it is the rate of temperature change that causes most problems is the key. Soy wax needs to cool at an even rate. If you are adding cold fragrance oil to hot soy wax it is like adding ice cubes to your drink. The temperature is going to drop fast! What happens is your wax may be fluctuating at a temperature between 175-185, you are working on candles in a chilly room, when you mix in your fragrance oil it is probably sitting at room temperature at about 65-70. Suddenly, your candle wax is shocked into a 140-150 temperature.
When adding fragrance, the mixture must be brought back up to the recommended temperature of the wax or the flashpoint of the fragrance oil whichever is the lowest. For example, GB 464 is recommended that the wax is melted to 185 degrees Fahrenheit. I will be added Lavender fragrance oil with a flashpoint of 180 degrees. I will heat the wax to 185 degrees and let it cool to below 180 to about 175 before adding the fragrance oil. If adding the fragrance oil drops the temperature (because it is cold) I will heat it until it reaches at least 175 before I remove and let it cool.
Not doing this does not allow the wax enough time to bond while it has expanded. It can make your candle look terrible as the fragrance does not mix with the wax. It is often the culprit of ugly candles. If you pay attention, you will find that making candles in the summer is easier than making them in the winter.
The goal is to control the temperature of the wax, fragrance, and equipment as much as you can. And by equipment, I mean anything that you use to make candles with including the candle jars or vessels.
In the beginning, I used a double boiler and pot of water with a melting pitcher. This worked well because I could put the pitcher back on the heat to get the temperature I wanted.
As I scaled my business and needed a faster way to make more candles, I switched to a 5-quart roaster. I ladled wax into large glass measuring cups, 32 ounces, and mixed in fragrance oil based on what orders I had. That was a huge mistake! My wax cooled too fast and I had no way to bring it back to room temperature other than using a microwave. If was so inconsistent and such a mess, I wanted to quit. I couldn’t keep up with orders and my candles turned into a mess.
Here is what I learned from Candle Making
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- Do not use glass. It takes energy to heat it and takes the heat from your wax.
- Heating 100 or more jars in the oven does not work. If you need to pour that many candles make sure the room is WARM or put an electric blank on your table with a table cloth over it. Keep them babies warm.
- Pour your candles in the jar boxes they came in if you can. This will insulate them.
- “Tent” your candles to keep them warm to slow the cooling process but don’t let them build up condensation.
- My best pouring pitchers are the white plastic $1 cheap ones from the Dollar Tree. (and other stuff)
- Wicks that slouch also slide. Make sure they stand up straight and centered
- The cheapest centering tools are wooden sticks with holes dripped in the center. I have 1000. These little things will limit how many candles you can make at one time.
- I bought 6-foot folding tables. They hold 150 candles comfortably. As I pour, I set up another table and work my way across the room. You can also stack a few trays high and still work. This is good for small rooms.
- I put bed lifts under my tables so that my back doesn’t hurt at the end of the day. I also have foam mats for my feet. You cannot work if you hurt.
- I now use a 22-quart roaster to make a 45-pound case of wax with 5 pounds of fragrance as my batch sizes. That makes about 115 candles at one time. That’s not a tip, but I am proud. If I can do it so can you!
- GB 464 is water-soluble and cleans up with warm soapy water but wipe out your pitchers first with a paper towel or pour excess into a paper towel. Any plumbing can still get overwhelmed. Rinse well. Soap residue does not mix well with candles.
- Use a skewer against the opening of a bottle to prevent drips. The liquid will follow the skewer.
- The cost of your candle is the cost of material total marked up about 20%. Take your total cost and divide it by .8, which includes your overhead. Take that number and multiple it by 2 for selling wholesale and multiply it by 3 for retail. That is the easiest way to calculate the price of your candle.
- Never take a wholesale order smaller than 1 batch. My batch size is 115 candles. That is my minimum order for wholesale for 1 fragrance. The price break starts on batch 2. To get 10% off you must order a minimum of 225 candles wholesale. Wholesale is already a discount.
- Price your candle according to what you are worth not someone’s budget.
- Make what you like that you can be proud of.
- To get into the craft shows search events on Facebook and go to one. Talk to the coordinator in person. Get their contact information and give them yours. Often they have a waiting list or will call if they have a spot open up. They often manage more than one event.
- Candle tins are lighter and cheaper to ship. They are also less fragile than glass. Consider that when picking vessels.
- Calculating wax and fragrance is tricky. See my resource page for help.
- A hot glue tool works better than wick stickers.
- Most candle tops can be smoothed with a heat gun.
- Wood wicks are less likely to clog so if you must add a pinch of mica, test these.
- Do not add things to your candles that are not meant for candles. Things like vanilla extract will not give a hot throw.
- Adding too much color will hurt your hot scent throw.
- Liquid dyes work better than color chips. However, they do not mix well with paraffin blends.
- The flashpoint is the temperature at which the fragrance oil can combust and burns off. Adding the fragrance oil above this temperature can be dangerous and will ruin the scent.
- Start with a candle making kit. This will give you an idea if you like making candles and everything should be measured and done for you. A good kit should be ready to go.
- You can set your brand apart by custom blending scents or renaming fragrances.
No matter what wick I try, it keeps tunneling.
I have found that once your candle container diameter gets to be about 3.5”, you will have to go to multiple wicks.
Not all wicks are created equal. Try a different style wick like changing from a CD to an HTP or vice versa.
Sometimes we extinguish a wick before a full melt pool has established and on the next burn the wax directly around the wick burns off before the outside. This pool of wax has already started to breakdown from the heat of the flame and will burn off faster than the rim starting a tunneling effect.
The top of my candle looks oily.
This could be from adding too much fragrance oil. If you followed the ratio from the manufacture it maybe something else.
The wax was not hot enough when you added the fragrance. To enable the fragrance to chemically bond with the wax, the wax needs to expand. This is done through heat. Sometimes with certain fragrances, this will happen if you added the fragrance at around 150-160 degrees. This is a common problem so it needs a little more attention. See the root cause.
My candle has wet spots that keep coming back.
Soy wax does not always adhere to glass. You can fix this with a heat gun or hairdryer, but there is no guarantee. It is the nature of the wax.
My wax has craters and looks bumpy on top.
The candle may have been poured too cold and the air was trapped when the wax congealed as it cooled. Some fragrances like florals cause the wax to look like rice and may need to stay at a hotter temperature for a longer time to bond well. You will have to do more testing if you find that a specific fragrance has this problem.
My candle has a sinkhole.
The candle may have been poured while the wax was still too hot. Try pouring at a lower temperature. Harder waxes such as a blend have this common problem.
The top of my candle looks like it bubbled and volcanoes.
Water can get into the wax and create problems. Sometimes this happens when it is humid as well. It is possible to get a bad batch of soy wax. Try heating the wax to 185 for about 15-20 minutes to reduce moisture. If it is an issue with many of your candles, contact the supplier.
My candle has a good cold throw but not a hot throw.
Softer soy wax as GB 464 can hold up to 12% fragrance load, but around 10% should smell good. That is about 1.5 ounces for every pound of wax by weight. (see resource page) You may not have added enough. Harder waxes as a soy blend with paraffin in a 70/30 mix will not hold as much, but some say the hot throw is better. You can add about 3-6 teaspoons of stearic acid per pound to help the candle smell stronger and burn longer. Adding too much can ruin the candle. I have also heard adding 1 tablespoon of coconut oil per pound helps.
I am making gel candles and I get a lot of bubbles.
Heat the candles until the bubbles float up to the top. Gel candles cool faster than soy wax and the bubbles get trapped. I put the candle in the oven on a cookie sheet set at 200 degrees until the bubbles are gone. Watch it very carefully! Gel candles are very flammable.
I dip the decorations in gel wax before I put them in the candles to get rid of or trap the bubbles. This will help stop the air from bubbling up your candle so much and make it clear.
My soy candle is sweating.
This happens when too much fragrance oil is added or more commonly when soy candles experience extreme temperature changes. Use a heat gun on the top of the candle until the wax melts and the fragrance is absorbed back into the wax. Sometimes letting the candles sit for a few days will allow the wax to absorb the fragrance. Sometimes the wax releases fragrance oil when exposed to ambient heat such as sunlight.
My candle has lines going up the side.
This is called chattering. This happens with the glass jar is cold and the wax cools quickly as the candle is being poured. Try heating your jars before pouring. This can be fixed with a heat gun.
My candle is smoking.
This happens when the wick is too big. Sometimes we can use a wick that is just one size smaller and get a good result without smoking. Sometimes this does not happen until halfway through the candle. It is important to test burn a candle and burn completely to see how the wick responds near the bottom.
My candle looks like cauliflower.
Sometimes this happens if the humidity is very high. It is hard to save a candle like this but try putting them in an oven at 150 degrees until the wax is clear for about 15-20 minutes. Watch carefully. You may have a bad batch of wax, sorry.
My fragrance sinks to the bottom of my candle.
This is a sign that there is too much fragrance added or it did not bind well when mixed. The fragrance may have been added when the wax was not hot enough or the temperature of the fragrance and wax was too different. (shock)
Bramble Berry has a wonderful video explaining candlemaking