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The Secret to Removing Candle Wax From Any Surface Is Knowing When To Use Cold and When To Use Heat

3 cleaning pros weigh in to deliver a complete guide to cleaning up a candle wax mess

Candles are one of your favorite mood lifters, and you love lighting one up to add ambiance or a pleasant aroma to your house. The only downside? Even with a candle holder, if the candle gets bumped, burns too quickly or falls over before it’s cooled off, the wax can splatter or drip on whatever it’s sitting on, potentially ruining a tablecloth or furniture. Talk about frustrating! So we talked to experts (including three cleaning pros and a candle company owner) about how to remove candle wax from any surface it spills on.

What we learned? It comes down to two methods: Heat or ice, which we detail below depending on the surface. One caveat: “We do not recommend using the hot method on colored wax that has spilled on any fabrics,” Steven Ip, owner of Cleanzen Cleaning Services. “The heat helps the dye from the wax penetrate the fibers of fabrics, staining your upholstery.”

How to remove candle wax from glass: Go cold

Whether your candle dripped onto a nearby window or you ended up with candle wax on a glass table, there are steps you can take to remove it.

“When dealing with candle wax spills on hard surfaces, patience is essential,” says Ralph Abundo, operations specialist at Canberra Bond Cleaning. “Allow the wax to completely cool and set before attempting to remove it.”

Once you are certain the wax is cooled, set a bag of ice or a freezer pack on top of the hardened wax. “The chilly temperature will make the wax brittle, making removal easier,” he adds. Then gently scrape off as much as possible with a plastic scraper, taking care not to scratch the glass surface.

Still some residue remaining? Use a mild solvent to wipe down the glass surface. “Isopropyl alcohol can be effective on hard surfaces and for glass surfaces, you can also use a window glass cleaner,” says Petya Holevich, domestic cleaning expert and supervisor for Fantastic Services.

To remove candle wax from carpet: Cold or hot

Okay, so you lit a couple of candles in your living room to fill the room with your favorite scent and some of the wax ended up on the carpet. It’s not as bad as it seems.

There are two tricks that can remove the mess:

  1. “Place a brown paper bag on top of the wax and run a warm iron over it,” shares Emily Barron, cleaning expert at Property Rescue. “This will transfer the wax onto the bag.” Just be sure to test it on an inconspicuous area of the carpet first to make sure it doesn’t cause discoloration, she adds.
  2. Place an ice cube in a plastic bag and set on top of the wax until it hardens. Then scrape it off with a butter knife.

How to remove candle wax from wood: Go hot

candle dripping wax on wood

“Use a hairdryer on low heat to soften the wax,” explains Holevich. “Once it softens, wipe it away with a soft cloth.” Note, hold the hair dryer 8-10 centimeters away from the wood surface to avoid hitting it with too much heat.  

If you find you still have a bit of wax that’s left behind, a mild solvent can help. “For wood, use a solution that’s made of ½ cup of white vinegar and 1 cup of water,” she adds. Vinegar’s acetic acid dissolves the remaining residue.

Remove candle wax from clothing: Go hot

Wax drip onto your blouse while blowing out the candles from your dinner party? Holevich suggests her “heat and absorb” method! “For this method, place a clean white cloth or a few layers of paper towels over the wax. Use a warm iron on a low setting and gently press it on the cloth. As the wax melts, the cloth or paper towels absorb it. says Holevich. “Keep moving the cloth or paper towels to a clean area until no more wax transfers. But be extremely careful if you’re using paper as it can catch on fire. So don’t allow the iron to remain in the same spot for too long. 

Remove candle wax from tile: Go hot

“For porous surfaces like tile floor, spilled wax will harden and get stuck in the nooks and crannies of the tile and grout, which can be hard to scrape at,” says Kate De Palma owner of woman-run candle company Scented Designs.  Her trick to remove the wax: Use a hair dryer on low to melt the wax and then carefully dab a paper towel on the melted wax to absorb it. It will lift the wax right up so it doesn’t get into hard-to-reach places.

Remove it from walls: Depends if they’re papered or painted

The candles you set on your console table aded a nice touch for your party, but some of the wax splashed onto the wall.

For walls covered with wallpaper it’s best to try a cold method since using a hot method can cause the wax to melt and stain the wallpaper, says Ip. To do: Rub the wax with an ice cube until it has hardened, then lift it up gently with a credit card. “Be sure also that when cleaning off the remaining wax, the cloth is not too wet so the wallpaper is not ruined.”

For painted walls you can follow the heat method (as described for tile) using a blow dryer on low.

Remove it from upholstery: Go cool

A splatter of wax ended up on your fabric couch when you were carrying your candle from the living room into the kitchen. “You can use the heat method for clear and white wax stains,” says Ip. But if it’s colored, you’ll want to place an ice cube (set in a bag if desired) on top of the wax and wait for it to harden. Then with a butter knife, scrape off as much wax as possible. Remove the remaining residue from the couch with warm soapy water and a clean cloth.

No matter where you have a candle spill to deal with, Holevich offers one piece of advice. “Patience and gentle handling are key to successfully removing candle wax without causing damage. And keep in mind as well that sometimes, you may have to repeat the cleaning process several times until you get satisfactory results.”

Is there a hack to remove candle wax from any surface?

There sure is: Petroleum jelly! The easy way to remove hardened wax from surfaces can be seen in this Youtube video:

For more genius candle stories, click through these articles:

Burn Your Candles for Way Longer With Salt

How to Clean Out Candle Jars So You Can Reuse Them

Extend Your Candle’s Life and Say Goodbye To Excess Wax With This Foil Trick

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