How to Remove Candle Wax

Several lit candles give off a soft light.
  • 0-1 hours
  • Beginner
  • 0-20
What You'll Need
Ice cubes or ice pack
Credit card, butter knife, or plastic ruler
Paper bags
Furniture polish
Clean cloths
Hot water

Almost every holiday or family celebration uses candles to add a bit more festivity. Colorful and aromatic candles make their appearance as decorative centerpieces, clever accent pieces, and interesting discussion pieces. Unfortunately, while flowery, perfumed scents delight our sense of smell, unsightly wax drippings bring us back to the reality.

Not to worry though—wax drippings can be removed almost as easily as they accumulate. Depending on the surface type and the location of the wax dripping, different methods can prove successful for removal. Several easy to follow sets of instructions are offered here, so simply select the appropriate one for your needs.

Tablecloths, Cloth Napkins, and Placemats

Melted candles on a tablecloth

Once wax has dried onto a tablecloth, cloth napkin, or placemat, several steps are required to remove it properly and completely. First, apply an ice cube or ice pack to the wax. This will make the wax brittle, allowing you to scrape off a good amount. Use a credit card or a thin butter knife to gently scrape away as much wax as possible. Never use a regular dull knife that has serrated edges since this may damage the cloth.

Next, you will need to get your iron and a few clean paper bags. Place one paper bag underneath the cloth while you set the iron to heat on a medium to medium high level, depending on the fabric. A second paper bag goes on top of the wax.

Gently iron the area until the wax has been transferred to the paper bag. Throw the paper bag with the wax residue into the trash once it has cooled to the touch, and repeat the process with another paper bag until all of the wax has been removed.

Unfortunately, if the wax drippings came from colored candles, a stain may appear on your tablecloth, napkin, or placemat. If this is the case, pre-treat the stain and follow the laundering instructions for the item. For the best results, launder the soiled fabric as soon as possible.

Wooden Furniture

The corner of a table

Occasionally, the wax from brightly colored candles drips onto our furniture, especially our wooden buffets, bookcases, and tables. To clean up, simply apply an ice cube or ice pack to the wax to harden it, and again, scrape off as much as you can with a plastic credit card or other non-abrasive item such as a thin, dull butter knife or a smooth, plastic ruler.

Some of the wax residue may remain on the wooden furniture, especially if you have been extremely careful not to scratch the surface. Apply a bit of cream furniture wax to the area and rub gently with a soft clean cloth to remove the remaining residue.

Carpets and Upholstery

An area rug

Candle wax often finds its way onto our carpets, area rugs, or upholstery. How this happens is no real mystery, as many people move the candles while they are still lit. Additionally, people sometimes forget to allow the wax drippings to cool before moving a candle once its flame has been extinguished.

If this happens to you, freeze the wax with an ice cube or ice pack again. You can also use a commercial product that is designed to freeze wax on carpeting or upholstery. Once the wax is frozen, use a clean, blunt object to shatter the wax and then immediately pick up or vacuum the broken pieces. If you wait too long and the pieces soften, then you will need to refreeze them.

Glass Votive Holders

A decorative votive

With glass votive holders, the best thing to do is prevent wax buildup in the first place. If you place a tiny bit of water in the bottom of the glass votive prior to placing the candle inside, it should prevent the wax from sticking to the surface.

However, once you have wax stuck to the votive, you should clear a small area in your freezer and gently secure the glass inside to freeze the wax. Allow the votive to sit inside the freezer for several hours. Then, attempt to pry the wax loose carefully with a dull knife, preferably a butter knife. It should be easy to dislodge. Any remaining wax residue can be removed by washing the glass in a solution of hot, soapy water.