By Bob Sherman
This article was originally written in 1997 and has been rewritten, modernized,
and modified for this web site.
Mottled candles have long been a problem for many and sought after by a few.
Most candle makers that use oil based scents have at one time or another accidentally
made mottled candles. In this article I will discuss both how to avoid mottling
as well as how to get your candles to mottle.
PLEASE NOTE! - Candle making can be dangerous if proper
safety procedures are not followed. Please read these Safety
Rules before attempting any candle making projects.
This article assumes basic candle making skills. If you are new to candle
making, my Introduction To Candle
Making Course is free and will show you all the basics for working with
What Is Mottling?
Mottled wax for our purposes is wax that exhibits a random "snowflake"
pattern on the finished candle. While air bubbles and other defects in molded
and container candles may give a mottled appearance, that is not the effect
we are discussing. This mottled snowflake appearance is caused by a chemical
reaction with oils in the wax when certain combinations of temperature and
cooling time occur, which is why many of us encounter it during the course
of normal candle making.
What Causes Mottling?
As mentioned previously, the main ingredient in mottling is oil. There are
two common sources of oil in candles. Paraffin wax is an oil based product
so it contains some oil and some waxes have a higher oil content than others.
Another common source of oil in candles are oil based scents. Waxes with a
high oil content may mottle without the addition of any oil under certain
The only way I know to guarantee your candles will not mottle under any conditions
is to use Vybar 103 (for harder waxes) or Vybar 260 (softer waxes). These
Vybars completely inhibit the mottling reaction and I have never seen a candle
containing them mottle.
If you desire to produce mottled candles you must first understand
that two things need to happen - the wax must contain sufficient oil and the
candle must cool within a certain speed range. For the sake of simplicity
I will refer to these as oil content and cooling speed from here on.
Although it varies from one wax to the next, I find that adding one ounce
of oil to most waxes will cause mottling. Depending on your scent oil that
alone may be enough. This works better with "oily" scents than it
does with less oily scents such as citrus scents. For unscented candles or
candles with less oily scents, the addition of mottling oil may be necessary.
Bear in mind that the paraffin wax you are using may have high or low oil
content so you may need to add more or less oil.
This is the tricky part so be prepared to do lots of experimentation. To mottle,
candles need to cool slowly, but not too slowly. Cooling too fast or too slow
will prevent mottling. Mottling occurs best when cooled within a fairly narrow
range of cooling speeds. Unfortunately there is no easy way to describe or
measure this cooling speed so some trial and error will be required.
There are several factors that affect cooling speed such as pouring temperature
and room temperature, but the most important is mold size. The larger a mold
is, the longer it takes to cool. Large molds are much easier to make mottled
candles in than small molds. Small molds such as votives which can air cool
within 2 hours are extremely difficult to mottle candles in. A large mold
such as a 6 x 6 inch pillar which takes approximately 24 hours to air cool
will mottle with pretty much no effort. This is further complicated by fluctuations
in room temperature although pouring temperature is easily controlled.
Most often you will be looking for methods to slow the cooling speed. Some
popular techniques for slowing cooling time:
- Placing a box atop the mold after pouring (not touching)
- Placing the molds in a cooler
- In difficult cases some folks use an oven although I don't recommend it.
Extreme care must be used. The molds are placed on baking sheets and positioned
in an oven preheated to 150 degrees F. until cool. Use caution that no wax
gets spilled in the oven as this would be an extreme fire hazard when the
oven is later used.
oil is my oil of choice for mottling wax. It is basically unscented scent
oil and I always keep some in my workshop. Most importantly, it does not have
any adverse effects when burning the candle. There are other oils marketed
as "mottling oil" but I have had better results with carrier oil.
I have also seen solid mottling additives which I have not been impressed
with. Mineral oil works well too and is inexpensive and commonly available
in your local supermarket.
The exact amount of oil needed will vary with the brand and melting
point of your wax. I have found that most waxes will mottle with wax formulas
in the range of 3 to 9 percent oil. As a general guideline, low melt point
waxes typically have a higher oil content and require less oil to achieve
mottling but there are some exceptions. I prefer to mottle with no hardeners
or other additives in the wax although some folks add a bit of stearic. If
you are using scent oil, less mottling oil will usually be needed.
Basic candle making techniques are used with the following exceptions. Pour
at a higher than normal temperature. Cool as slowly as possible. The mottling
occurs while cooling, and slowing the cooling process improves the mottling
up to a certain point. Mottled candles have visual interest, but usually take
a bit of experimentation to get optimum results with your wax, molds, and
Disclaimer: The information presented here is accurate to the best of my
knowledge and common candle making practices as of the time of this writing.
This article was originally published to the internet in November 1997 and
has been modified and republished in August 2007. The author and the publisher
accept no liability for the use or misuse of any of the information presented
in this article. This article is presented for informational purposes and
is used at your own risk.
Author: Bob Sherman
Publisher: Bobby's Craft Boutique Inc.
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sold using this design royalty free.
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