Wax Formulas For Floating Candles

By Bob Sherman

Wax formulas or recipes as they are sometimes called can be quite confusing to beginners. In this article I will explain various ingredients and offer wax formulas I have had success with for making floating candles.

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.

Why Floating Candles?

There are several reasons for the popularity of floaters:

NOTE! - Just because floating candles are safer, that does not mean they are 100% safe. As with any form of open flame all usual safety precautions should be observed.

All Candles Float!

The term floating candles is somewhat of a misnomer since all candles float. Being an oil based product, wax is lighter than water therefore it floats. Even though all candles float, that does not mean that all candles are what are commonly called floaters or floating candles.

What Is A Floating Candle?

In the broadest terms, any candle that floats upright may be considered to be a floating candle. This has nothing to do with style, color, scent, mold type, designs / patterns, and really the only factor is the overall shape.

  • Rule One - In order to float upright, the candle must be wider than it is tall.
  • Rule Two - The wider the diameter in relation to the height, the more stable the candle will be in the water. For example a: floater 6 inches in diameter and 1 inch high will be more stable than a floater 2 inches in diameter by 1 inch high.

What Makes A Good Floating Candle?

Generally a well made floating candle contains a fairly hard wax formula and has a wick suitable for that formula / candle diameter combination. This will provide a candle that has:

  • Stable in the water.
  • Long Burn time.
  • Water pressure will not cave in the sides prematurely.
  • The wick will not protrude from the bottom - this will often cause premature failure by wicking water into the candle.
  • Sag resistance - will not sag from the heat in normal room temperature ranges.
  • Maximum possible scent throw (if scented) - note that since floaters are made with a harder wax and have a smaller melt pool, they cannot throw scent as well as most other candle types.
  • Minimum carbon buildup on wick - floaters are normally made with cored wicks. A properly sized wick will have minimal carbon buildup (mushrooming) when burned.

Paraffin Wax

The main ingredient. Paraffin wax is a complex molecule that is created at oil refineries by fractional distillation. The general assumption is that wax is wax, however the reality is that no two waxes are identical and they even vary slightly from one batch to the next from the same manufacturer.

Although on the surface that last statement does not seem too significant, the implications have an enormous bearing on your candle making:

  • Any published wax formula (including mine) may need to be adjusted unless you are using the exact same wax and other ingredients.
  • As far as we are concerned, Melt Point is just a simplified way of comparing waxes - however two waxes with the same melt point may have radically different properties that affect the finished candle.

The most important factor with wax is to find one that works well for you and stick with it. Every time you change waxes, you will need to test your formulas and wick sizes.

Scent

If you are making scented candles, scent oil will affect your wax formula and usually the wick size needed as well. Scent oil will make the wax slightly softer and lower the viscosity (thickness) of the melted wax. The main implication of this is that you may need a different wick size for scented and unscented candles made with the same wax formula.

Some important things to know about scent oils:

  • As mentioned previously, any published wax formula (including mine) may need to be adjusted unless you are using the exact same scent oil and other ingredients.
  • There are virtually no standards - scent oils from different sources will have different properties.
  • Most wax formulas have a maximum carrying capacity of 1 ounce scent oil per pound of wax (with some formulas it is less). because of this always use a high quality oil for the best scent throw. You cannot just double up on a cheap low quality oil.
  • Avoid potpourri oils - these usually contain glycol which is not oil soluble and will make a slimy, oily mess of your molds and equipment. Some cheap "candle scents" contain glycol as well.
  • If you make both scented and unscented candles, the use of carrier oil in unscented candles will allow the use of the same wick size for both which helps simplify things.
  • Most scent oils have a tint - avoid using these if a white candle is desired.

Colorants

Floating candles should always be colored with candle dyes. Pigments or crayons are for external use only and should never be used to color the core wax as it will cause wick clogging leading to a poorly burning candle.

Wick

Floating candles are typically made with cored wick since it simplifies the process of making them with most molds. See my Wick Selection Guide for information about choosing the correct wick.

Floater Wax Formula #1
This Vybar based formula is my favorite floating candle formula and I highly recommend it. It works very well with both scented and unscented candles, and is very economical compared to stearic based formulas. This will also provide a bright white candle if you leave out the dye. Vybar based formulas will hold the maximum amount of scent and will inhibit oil mottling (snowflakes).

  • 1 pound of 140 melt point paraffin wax
  • Vybar 103 - 1 1/2 to 2 level teaspoons
  • Scent Oil - 1 ounce per pound of wax
  • Color - dye block or flake to desired color

Note: Vybar based formulas are more opaque and require slightly more dye to attain the same depth of color.

Floater Wax Formula #2
This Stearic based formula is what I used before Vybar was widely available. It is rather old fashioned and dates back to when I started making candles in the 1970s. Stearic is more expensive to use, however it is slightly easier to obtain - especially outside the U.S. Stearic based formulas will not hold as much scent oil and will not retain their scent as well as Vybar based formulas. Stearic based formulas are less opaque, and do not inhibit oil mottling (snowflakes).

Stearic based formulas are inferior in nearly every way to Vybar based formulas. The one exception is if you are intentionally making mottled candles because Vybar will inhibit the mottling reaction.

Display

I am far better at making candles than I am at displaying them but here are some tips:

 

Candle Making Supplies

The following candle making supplies are what I use to make floating candles. Clicking on the item name will bring you to that item's page with a full description and ordering information.

140 Melt Point Paraffin Wax

Additives (Vybar, Stearic)

Dye Blocks

Dye Flakes

Scent Oils

Square Braid Wick

Melting / Pouring Pot

Thermometer


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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 Originally published in June 2007 and updated in July 2011. 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.

This article is provided free of charge for use. Candles may be made and sold using this design royalty free, however no portion of this article may be reproduced for publication elsewhere without express permission from Bobby's Craft Boutique Inc. with the following exceptions:

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