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Wax Formulas For Tea Light 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 tea light 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.

This article assumes basic candle making skills. If you are new to candle making, my Introduction To Candle Making Online Course is free and will show you all the basics for working with wax safely.

What Is A Tea Light Candle?

Generally a tea light candle is a small candle in a cup. Until recent years this cup was typically aluminum, but they are now available in clear polycarbonate as well.

What Makes A Good Tea Light Candle?

There are two schools of thought on tea lights and I will discuss these separately.

Unscented Tea Light Candles - Most commercial tea lights are made with unscented white wax with few exceptions. This is mainly due to high volume tea light machines not being able to deal well with heavily scented wax. These machines granulate wax and then compress it into candles. The percentage of scent needed for a strong smelling candle causes clogging and binding problems on these machines, and requires many hours of downtime to clean out before changing color / scent. When making unscented tea lights the actual wax formula is not that critical since a deep melt pool is only needed on scented candles.

Scented Tea Light Candles - The main reason for a hobbyist or small business to make tea lights is to get scented or colored tea lights because you can buy good white unscented tea lights for less than it costs you to make them yourself. The buying power of a company that makes a million candles a day cannot be matched by a small scale operation and the raw materials will cost you more than they sell finished candles for. Thus it really only makes sense to make tea light candles they can't or won't make.

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:

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:

Colorants

Tea light 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

Most tea light makers use a tabbed, cored wick for ease of use. See my Wick Selection Guide for information about choosing the correct wick.

Molds

Aside from major machinery there are some tea light molds available, however most folks (including myself) just pour them directly into the cups - much the way any container candle is poured.

Tea Light Wax Formula #1
This Vybar based formula is fairly soft and a good all around tea light formula. It works well for both scented and unscented tea lights. It 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 retain scent well and will inhibit oil mottling (snowflakes).

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

Tea Light Wax Formula #2
This Vybar based formula is a bit harder and best suited to unscented candles. It may be used for scented candles, however the scent throw will not be as good as a softer formula. It 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 inhibit oil mottling (snowflakes).

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

Tea Light Wax Formula #3
This is a decent all around formula that should perform fairly well in both scented and unscented tea lights. Stearic based formulas are 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, although I did not make tea lights back then. 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.

Tea Light Wax Formula #4
This formula offers maximum scent throw as it is very soft and will have a large melt pool. As you may have noticed, tea lights are actually miniature container candles. Because of this we can use container blend wax which is very soft and low shrink if pouring directly into the cups. This is not recommended if you are using a tea light mold.

Summary
It is vital that you understand the need for a different size wick for each of these formulas. All four formulas have different properties so don't expect any "tea light wick" to work well with all four. The softer formulas will require a larger wick.

Candle Making Supplies

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

Paraffin Wax

Container Blend Wax

Additives (Vybar, Stearic)

Dye Blocks

Dye Flakes

Scent Oils

Tea Light Cups

Pre Tabbed Zinc Core Wick

Melting / Pouring Pot

Thermometer


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 - April 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.

This article is provided free of charge for use. Candles may be made and sold using this design royalty free.

Web sites may use links to this page without restriction.

No portion of this article may be reproduced for publication elsewhere without express permission from Bobby's Craft Boutique Inc. with the following exceptions:

All other requests need to be submitted via our reprint request form.

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