Wax Formulas For Floating Candles
By Bob Sherman
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
- Appearance - The juxtaposition of fire and water
is beautiful. Even plain water can provide
reflections of the flickering flames, but the addition of interesting bowls,
flower petals on the water, and other decorative elements can provide a
stunning display. Very large floaters are sometimes used in ponds or pools
for outdoor events as well - although some form of anchoring system should
be devised if there is any overhang or foliage nearby.
- Safety - Anything that has an open flame includes some element of danger
including candles, fireplaces, campfires, torches, and so forth. However
when used properly, no other candle type is as safe as a floating candle.
Water is about as non flammable as you can get and the combination of a
non flammable bowl with water provides a lot of isolation for the flame.
Additionally floating candles will usually be put out by the water if the
bowl is knocked over - but not always so do not rely on this in case of
mishap and make sure the candles are out.
- Due to this increased safety factor, some municipalities have passed laws
banning other candle types at large banquets, but this will vary depending
where you live.
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
- 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)
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.
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
- 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.
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.
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).
- 1 pound of 140 melt point paraffin wax
- Stearic Acid - 6 level Tablespoons
- Scent Oil - 1 ounce or less per pound of wax
- the actual maximum amount that can be used will vary depending on your
- Color - dye block or flake to desired color
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.
far better at making candles than I am at displaying them but here are some
- Avoid any bowls that curve in on top to overhang
the water - the flame can and will crack the glass.
- Avoid any overhanging flammable materials.
- Avoid free floating candles in pools or ponds that have any overhang or
other flammable material. To use floater in that case requires devising
an anchoring system.
- For maximum stability a width to height ration of 3 to 1 or greater is
recommended. Candles with smaller ratios will have a tendency to flood if
the display is bumped.
- Pedestal fruit bowls make a nice display and
allow placement of floral materials below
the bowl level.
- Clear bowls may be enhanced with the addition of marbles, gravel, sand,
- Float fresh flower petals on the water surface between candles - do not
use dried or silk flowers as these are more flammable.
- Several smaller floaters per bowl is more striking than one large floater.
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.
Melt Point Paraffin Wax
Square Braid Wick
/ Pouring Pot
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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.
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