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So You Spilled Candle Wax...Here's How To Get It Off Of Everything

Photo: Nicola Fioravanti (Unsplash)
SqualorJolie Kerr is a cleaning expert and advice columnist. She’ll be here every week helping to answer your filthiest questions. Are you dirty? Email her.

Hello, and welcome to Wax Season! “Wax what-now?” WAX SEASON! Oh, do you not know Wax Season? Well sure, that’s fair since Wax Season is something I entirely made up.

Wax Season is how I think of the period from October 15 to February 15, because those are the months of the year when wax issues tend to cross my transom. See, people start lighting candles around Halloween, then continue on through Thanksgiving, then Hanukkah and Kwanzaa roll around and wow, yup, lots of wax involved in those holidays. Then there’s a little break in the wax-y festivities before the season comes to a close the day after Valentine’s Day. You see now how Wax Season makes so much sense? So here we are on Day 1 of Wax Season, and so I shall tell you all kinds of ways to get wax off of all kinds of things.

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Best For Smaller Items: The Freezer Method

When melted wax gets on small items like a plate, or a candlestick, or like, a sock (Look, I am not out here asking what exactly you were doing with the wax or the sock, OK? I’m just here to help! Butif you want to tell me what exactly you were doing with the wax or the sock I’ll listen because I have a curious and also filthy mind.) the easiest course of action is to put it in the freezer.

When melted wax freezes, it contracts, making it fairly easy to either pop off using a butter knife, the side of a spoon or even your fingernail. This is also a good way to get the dregs of candle wax out of decorative containers that you might want to repurpose for other uses; for example, my makeup brushes live, elegantly, in this container.

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Let the wax cool completely before putting the candle in the freezer, leave it overnight, then use a butter knife to crack the wax down its center — the now-frozen wax will come out in big chunks that you can toss out. Then, let the container come back to room temp and wash it with hot soapy water to remove any lingering wax residue.

Best For Hard Surfaces: The Hairdryer Method

Fun fact about me! In addition to being a Clean Person, I am also a witch. Most of my spiritual practice revolves around candle magic, which means I am forever having to remove melted wax from wooden tabletops and floors. I’ve tried all kinds of approaches, but the one that has proven most effective is to simply turn a hairdryer on the wax to re-melt it, then use paper towels to wipe up the melted wax. Paper towels are the best choice here, because if you use a rag, you’ll then need to get the wax off the rag. Stick with the paper towel!

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Also, did we know there’s a low-cost Dyson hairdryer knock-off out there?! Whoa!

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Best For Carpet & Upholstery: The Iron Method

A similar approachi.e. using heatinvolving an iron is a good way to clean up melted wax that’s spilled on carpet or upholstery. For this operation, you’ll need some brown paper, like the shopping bags you get at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, and your iron.

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Turn the iron onto the lowest heat setting, and place the brown paper over the wax (Note: If the brown paper has any ink on it, like the green Whole Foods logo, make sure not to put the ink-side down). Place the iron on the brown paper, which will absorb the wax as it heats up from the iron. You may need to adjust the heat setting up a bit, but work in increments so you don’t run the risk of scorching the carpet or upholstery.

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Best For Launder-able Items: Launder It (“Duh. Thanks, Clean Person.”)

A few years ago, I knocked over a lit candle and splattered all over a set of curtains made of a woven fabric, which meant that the wax was, ugh, embedded in the fabric. Thankfully I didn’t light the curtains on fire! But it was a big mess, and I was staring dejectedly at them like, “What even am I going to do about this?”

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Well, I’ll tell you what I did: I put them in the washing machine. And they came out wax-free. Yup! That was the big trick.


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About the author

Jolie Kerr

Jolie Kerr is a cleaning expert, advice columnist and the host of the podcast Ask a Clean Person