Nothing sets the mood for a relaxing soak in the bath, or just chilling on a calm rainy evening, like the warm glow and comforting scent of a candle.
And there’s something primitively healing about fire and natural aromas.
But have you ever lit a candle and noticed all the black soot pouring into the air? Commercial store-bought candles tend to be made with potentially harmful paraffin wax and synthetic wicks.
If you’re even a little bit crafty, you can avoid the toxic chemicals in pre-made candles by learning how to make your own candles with essential oils and cotton wicks. By opting for natural ingredients, aromatherapy with pure essential oils can provide double the therapeutic benefit of a scented candle.
Best of all? Candle making is remarkably easy to do. This tutorial will walk you through the process so you can enjoy your very own DIY essential oil candles with complete peace of mind.
Soy Wax or Beeswax? How to Select the Right Wax
While paraffin wax has been the candle wax of choice since the late 19th century, we now know that its costs outweigh its benefits.
In case you didn’t know, paraffin is a byproduct of petroleum, which in turn is produced by the oil industry. Straight out of the gate, it’s not a sustainable option for our DIY candle making process.
On top of that, a 2009 study showed that paraffin wax emits many of the same chemicals as diesel exhaust. The substance also creates more harmful soot than other wax options. Because soot is a fine powder, it can get into your lungs and cause irritation and allergic reactions.
Lastly, paraffin candles often contain synthetic fragrances and dyes. Those dyes and fragrance oils are usually made of hundreds of chemicals, many of which are phthalates. These ingredients are known hormone-disruptors. Let’s avoid inhaling those!
Perhaps the two most popular natural wax options for homemade candles are soy wax and beeswax. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each.
Soy Wax vs. Beeswax for Candles
Both soy wax candles and beeswax candles are great options. Both of these non-toxic waxes burn slowly and last a long time. However, because beeswax is significantly denser than soy wax, it lasts even longer.
Neither wax has an impressive scent throw, which means you’ll have to use a lot of essential oil to get the aromatherapeutic effect you desire (we’ll get to that below). But beeswax on its own has a mild honey scent that is soothing and pleasant.
Lastly, you should consider the type of light you want in a candle. Soy wax emits a cool blue tone, while beeswax produces a warm yellow tone. Beeswax also emits more light.
Environmentally speaking, soy and beeswax are both more sustainable than paraffin wax.
However, soy is increasingly linked to deforestation in the Amazon. As the demand for soy increases, land is being cleared for soybean farms.
On top of that, most soybean seeds are genetically modified to resist herbicides and pesticides. This mutation means farmers are able to spray toxic chemicals freely onto their grounds, where the chemicals then mix with groundwater. Some of those pesticides and herbicides may also make it into your wax.
Beeswax, on the other hand, is a natural byproduct of the beekeeping industry. It’s not a vegan option, though, as harvesting beeswax could contribute to colony collapse.
What About Your Own Health?
As long as you choose a responsibly sourced wax, you can avoid most negative health effects associated with candle wax.
For example, soy wax is often bleached, dyed, fragranced and mixed with paraffin. Look for non-GMO, pure, organic soy wax to avoid inhaling these harmful chemicals. Unfortunately, this type may be hard to find.
Be aware that beeswax can become contaminated if the bees are pollinating in a field in which pesticides are sprayed. You may be able to support your local farmers and find pure, organic beeswax at your local farmer’s market. Ask the beekeeper about his bees and nearby fields.
Overall, beeswax is the safest option for you and the environment. Not only is it easier to obtain locally, but it also produces a warm, bright light. It will last longer and its natural honey-like scent pairs beautifully with any essential oil.
Picking the Perfect Essential Oil
There are many ways to add essential oils to your daily routine. Adding your favorite essential oils to a homemade candle is a convenient way to reap the benefits of aromatherapy.
The oils you choose should match the ambiance you want to create. Essential oils can be used to calm anxiety, boost focus or simply set the mood for a special occasion. You also want to ensure it has a pleasant scent!
(One important note: so-called “aroma oils” aren’t a good choice for candles. They’re just essential oils substantially diluted by carrier oils, created primarily for use in diffusers. Aroma oil is cheaper but much weaker, and may contain synthetic ingredients as well.)
Let’s look at some of the top essential oils for aromatherapy candles.
Essential Oils for Relaxation and Peace
It may seem like a clichéd choice, but there’s a reason why lavender essential oil is one of the most popular essential oils for candles. Studies show that inhaling lavender calms the mind and improves sleep.
Bergamot has also been shown to reduce anxiety, heart rate and blood pressure. A 2017 study infused a mental health waiting room with bergamot and found the patients’ physiological indicators of anxiety were reduced.
Other good choices, if you’re seeking relaxation and calm, include geranium, lemongrass, and if you don’t mind stronger scents, patchouli and vetiver.
Essential Oils for Energy and Focus
There’s romance in journaling by candle light that can’t be replaced by electricity. Or perhaps you’re doing some spring cleaning and need a boost of energy while you perfect your nest.
Citrus scents like lemon, orange, and grapefruit are excellent options which also add to that freshly-cleaned ambience. You might even want to light up a citrus-infused candle for your post workout shower. A 2017 study on mice showed that citrus aromas reduced exercise-induced fatigue.
Want the best of both worlds? Ylang ylang and sandalwood essential oils appear to boost mental alertness while also providing a calming effect. Aromatherapists often suggest lotions made from those oils, but candles will also do the trick.
Essential Oils for Holiday Candles
Essential oil candles make amazing homemade, inexpensive gifts. Add cedarwood for a rustic aroma. Vanilla and cinnamon are classic holiday options, too.
How Much Essential Oil for a Candle?
While undiluted essential oils may throw a strong scent, you’ll need to add quite a bit to soy or beeswax candles.
We recommend using 30 to 40 drops of essential oils for a single eight-ounce candle. Remember that soy and beeswax aren’t known for their ability to throw scent. If you’re concerned that your candle will be too strong, start with 30 drops.
How to Make Scented Candles with Essential Oils
Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of making scented candles with essential oils.
Materials You’ll Need to Make Scented Candles with Essential Oils
- Your wax of choice
- Your essential oil of choice
- A cotton wick
- A hot glue gun
- A glass measuring cup
- A glass jar to hold your candle (mason jars are attractive choices)
- 2 bamboo skewers
Essential Oil Candle Making: Step-by-Step
Making candles with essential oils is surprisingly easy. After you’ve gathered your materials, the process will take you less than 10 minutes.
Step #1: Placing the Wick
First, you’ll want to prepare the wick. Cut a small notch in the center of one of the bamboo skewers to hold the wick. Alternatively, you can tie the wick to the skewer. Be sure to leave enough length so that one end of the wick reaches the bottom of the mason jar.
Center a dab of hot glue onto the inside bottom of the mason jar. Then place the end of the wick in the hot glue. This step should leave the skewer perpendicular on the top of the jar, supporting the wick so it’s upright.
Step #2: Preparing the Wax
Place your dry wax in the glass measuring cup. Heat it in the microwave until it’s fully melted. Then add 30 to 40 drops of essential oils and stir with the other bamboo skewer. If you don’t have access to a microwave, you can also use a double boiler to melt the wax.
The double boiler process works by filling half of a larger saucepan with water and setting it on a heated stove. Put the wax in a small container or smaller saucepan and place it inside the heated saucepan, periodically adding more water until the wax is fully melted.
Step #3: Make Your Candle
Carefully pour the melted wax into the mason jar. If your wick moves during this process, you’ll have time to fix it before the wax hardens.
You can either place your candle in the refrigerator to harden quickly or leave it out for a few hours at room temperature.
Essential Oil Candle Recipe: Beeswax, Bergamot and Cedarwood
Imagine yourself in a bucolic cabin in the mountains. A cedar forest surrounds you as you step onto the porch and breathe in the rejuvenating mountain air. You hear birds chirp as a light breeze rustles through the branches.
This rustic scene is what we imagine when we light this all-natural, DIY essential oil candle. Nature lovers are sure to be energized by the refreshing scent.
Here’s how to make this bergamot and cedarwood candle.
Step #1: Gather Your Materials
Using the list above, gather your supplies. In this case we’re making an eight-ounce beeswax candle in a decorative mason jar.
You’ll need 8-10 ounces of hardened beeswax, a small mason jar, and essential oils of bergamot and cedarwood.
Step #2: Place Your Wick
Tie your cotton wick to a bamboo skewer with about five inches to spare on one end. By applying hot glue, affix that end of the wick to the bottom center on the inside of your mason jar. If you have leftover wick, roll it around your skewer until it is taut.
Step #3: Prepare Your Wax
Place your hardened beeswax into your glass measuring cup. As your wax melts, it may reduce. We recommend placing 10 ounces of hard wax into the measuring cup. When it melts, it should end up measuring around eight ounces.
Microwave your wax (or use a double boiler) until it melts completely.
Step #4: Add Essential Oils
Add 20 drops of bergamot essential oil and 20 drops of cedarwood essential oil to your melted wax. Stir quickly to prevent your wax from cooling.
Step #5: Make Your Essential Oil Candle
Finally, carefully pour the scented beeswax into your mason jar. Let it sit, or move it to the refrigerator until it hardens.
After your candle hardens, cut the wick to about a quarter of an inch above the wax.
There you have it! A walk in the woods for your senses.
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