This winter, it's likely you'll be burning a lot of candles; for entertaining, for ambient lighting, and perhaps for the occasional power outage. That means that you're inevitably going to end up with a larger number of one of our old enemies: wax candle stubs. What do you do with those little nubbins of wax that are too short to burn, but just large enough to make you feel guilty for tossing them? Read on to find out.
Candle wax makes a great lubricant for certain kinds of projects. One of the best uses for wax is on sticky drawers; try running a stub along the edges of the drawer to smooth out the edges so it will open and close without a hitch. If the drawer is still sticking, you may need to sand it slightly, as it could be swollen from humidity. When neither of these tricks works, call a handyman; your furniture might need some surgery. Wax can also be great for sticky zippers.
Photo: Paul Maingot/Flickr
2. New candles
Candle stubs can easily be melted down and turned into new candles, and you don't need to be a crafting wizard to do it. Use a pot over low heat to slowly reduce the wax to liquid, and then you have several easy options for candle creation. One involves making classic dipped candles; cut a length of wick (available at craft stores), center your fingers or tongs in the middle, and lower it into the wax before raising it again. Allow that layer of wax to dry before dipping again, and repeat until your candles are the desired thickness. You can hang your candles to completely dry and harden before storing them.
Dipped candles can make great presents in addition to lighting sources. If you're concerned about muddied colors from different candles, you can either combine wax ends wisely (rich red and white will make a pale pink, for example) or melt several pots of wax for candles in different colors or even rainbow dipped candles! You can also use candle dye.
Candle molds in various shapes and sizes are available, which make candlemaking a cinch for those who don't want to dip.
Photo: Harsh Agrawal/Flickr
3. Candle glue
You know how new tapers always wobble when you put them into the candle holder, or candles tend to shift around when you set them out on trays? Your solution lies in candle stubs, which while too short to offer much light can still burn enough to eke out a few drops of wax that wil act like glue to hold new candles down.
Photo: David Smith/Flickr
If you want a firestarter with some flare, dip a pinecone into melted wax and allow it to dry. The cones can sit around being decorative until you need something to get the fire going — the flammable wax will help flames get established when you light the fire. Add salt to the wax if you want some additional sparkle with your flames.
Alternatively, you can mix candle wax and dryer lint in cardboard egg cartons. It doesn't look very attractive, but it works very well as a fire starter: Simply tear off an egg cup and toss it into the fire to help it get going.
Photo: Bert Kimura/Flickr
5. Wax-resist dying
Several cultures use wax-resist dye to make colorful, stunning fabrics, such as batik. To give it a whirl, you'll need a candle stub, fabric dye, and, of course, a length of fabric. Use the stub to draw designs onto the fabric and then dip it into the dye and process it — the result will be a gorgeous design. Here's a detailed tutorial from someone who visited the batik capital of the world.
Photo: andy carter/Flickr
6. Leather conditioner
Wax is one of the oldest materials used in leather conditioning. If you have a leather project that needs to be more water resistant as well as tough, try treating it with melted wax. Be aware that too many layers of wax can cause the leather to stiffen, which may be the goal — for example, some people in the Society for Creative Anachronism treat their leather armor components with wax to create impact-resistant body protection. For something waterproof but a little less hard, just rub one or two layers of softened wax blended with olive or grapeseed oil into the leather.
Please, be careful when working with melted wax. It is flammable and it can cause fires. Make sure to have the heat on low at all times, and monitor the wax while it's over the stove. We don't want to hear about you needing a kitchen remodel after starting a fire!
Photo: Paul Simpson/Flickr
7. Protect your packages
Don't you hate it when a package doesn't get where it needs to be? This clever tip from Yahoo! Shine is brilliant: Rub the labels on your mail with wax before sending them out. The wax acts as a sealant, keeping the lettering intact even if your mail gets rained on.
Incidentally, if you're facing a beeswax problem, we have that covered too.
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