Wax Formulas For Votive 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 votive 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.
What Is A Votive Candle?
Contrary to popular belief, a votive candle is not a small pillar candle and in fact they should never be burned as freestanding candles. Votives are essentially a container candle without the container, and as such they should always be placed in a votive holder before burning them.
What Makes A Good Votive Candle?
Generally a well made votive candle contains a medium or soft wax formula and has a wick suitable for that formula / candle diameter combination. This will provide a candle that has:
- Long Burn time.
- Sag resistance - will not sag from the heat when stored in normal room temperature ranges.
- Good scent throw (if scented).
- Large Melt Pool - A melt pool that extends all the way across and at least 1/2 inch deep is most desirable for maximum scent throw.
- Minimal Carbon - Since votives should be made with a cored wick, it will not be self trimming. This causes carbon deposits (mushrooming) on the wick. A properly sized wick will have minimal carbon buildup.
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 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.
Votive candles should always be colored with candle dyes. Pigments or crayons should never be used to color votive candles.
Always use a cored wick in votive candles. Cored wick is used for two main reasons:
- Safety - The core prevents the wick from leaning over close to the glass on candles with a deep melt pool.
- Convenience - Generally it is much easier to make votives with a pre tabbed cored wick.
See my Wick Selection Guide for information about choosing the correct wick.
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.