For millennia (by some estimates, as much as 5,000 years), people have used candles to provide illumination for domestic and ceremonial purposes.
Nowadays, many candles are made using glass jars and containers, which lend themselves to decorative and functional uses.
Therefore, with the popularity of candles, this raises the question of what happens to all those used candle jars and containers?
Can You Recycle Candle Jars and Containers?
Glass candle jars and containers can be recycled, provided that all remaining wax is removed beforehand. Furthermore, there are various methods for effectively removing wax remnants, and once this is done, used candle jars and containers can go into the recycling bin, or they can be reused or repurposed.
Recycling candle jars and containers just requires a little know-how to make it effortless. Additionally, it is the sensible thing to do with many benefits, the most impactful of which is preventing perfectly reusable materials from ending up in landfills. Read on for more info!
Are Candle Jars and Containers Recyclable?
Recycling used candle jars and containers is an environmentally conscious thing to do, but there is a very important step that must be taken first before putting them into the recycling bin.
Even when candles are fully burned, there are remnants of wax at the bottom of the jar or container, and this material must be fully removed before recycling them.
How Can I Remove Remnant Candle Wax?
Whatever the type of wax, it has to be removed before recycling. There are a variety of waxes currently used for manufacturing candles these days, with the most common being:
- Soy wax
- Palm wax
- Synthetic wax
All of these waxes are considered completely safe for use in candles though opinions may vary as far as whether any of these waxes are biodegradable.
From a recycling point of view, all candle waxes, regardless of the particular type, must be completely removed before the jar or container that held them can be recycled.
Fortunately, there are several very effective techniques for removing just about any type of candle wax from a jar or container, and these methods require very little by way of materials.
How to Clean Candle Jars and Containers for Recycling
Removing candle wax from used jars and containers is fairly straightforward, and there are a variety of proven methods to choose from.
To help you find the technique that you feel most comfortable with, here are the four best methods for cleaning candle wax from used jars and containers.
The Freezer Method
Wax shrinks when it is chilled, so placing your used candle jars and containers in the freezer for several hours is a surefire way to remove candle wax easily.
- More often than not, the wax will simply pop out if you turn the jar or container upside down
- Otherwise, use a butter knife or similar implement to carefully pry the wax out
- In some cases, it may be helpful to break the wax into chunks rather than trying to extract one big piece
The Oven Method
This technique is ideal when you have more than a handful of used candle jars and containers to process.
- Begin by removing as much of the remaining candle wax as possible from each jar and container (using a spoon or butter knife usually does the trick)
- Also, remove whatever remains of the wick and its base (a pair of pliers does the trick quite nicely)
- Using an appropriately sized oven tray lined with parchment paper, place the jars and containers mouth side down onto the tray (so that the wax can melt onto the paper)
- Heat the oven to around 180° F and “bake” the jars and containers for roughly 15 minutes
- Using oven mitts or gloves, carefully wipe the inside of the jars and containers with a paper towel to remove the last traces of wax and soot
- You can also wash the insides of the jars and containers with soap and water but be careful not to let any bits of wax go down your drain as they will stick and clog your pipes
The Boiling Method
Another effective technique for removing wax remnants from your used candle jars and containers is to place boiling water in them.
- As with the oven method, remove as much wax as you can with a spoon or butter knife
- Place your used jars and containers on a flat surface lined with a towel
- Pour boiling water into each jar and container, stopping about ¾” from the top
- The boiling water will melt the wax remnants, which will float to the surface
- Once everything cools down enough, the solidified wax bits can be strained out and repurposed, saved, or discarded
The Double-Boiler Method
This is the most involved technique for cleaning used candle jars and containers but works well for large or oversized candles that may not fit in your freezer or oven.
Like all the other methods, try to remove as much wax as possible before performing the following steps:
- The basic concept of this technique is creating a hot water bath for the jar or container without the water coming into direct contact with the wax
- Place the jar or container into a large pot and pour boiling water around the candle (but not in it)
- The heat from the surrounding water will melt the wax, which can then be poured out or wiped clean with a paper towel
With any of these methods, you can end up with a clean jar that is ready to recycle – or reuse.
Reusing Candle Jars and Containers
Chances are, if you have a bunch of empty candle jars and containers at home, you may soon need new ones.
Depending on how many spent candles you have accumulated, you may already have all the necessary materials on hand to reuse the jars and containers.
Additionally, by removing remnant wax from your jars and containers, the job of reusing these vessels to make new candles is already halfway done.
The only steps left that need to be taken to have some brand new candles ready to go are filling your now clean jars and containers with molten candle wax and inserting new wicks.
Here are some simple procedures for making new candles from your used jars and containers and wax harvested from old candles:
- Since the idea is to reuse remnant wax to make new candles, you will need to collect the wax gathered from cleaning all your used candle jars and containers
- Make sure that you group similar types of waxes together (while you’re at it, perhaps grouping similar scents together would also be a good idea)
- Prepare your empty (and cleaned) candle jars and containers by placing new candle wicks in them (these are easy to find in craft stores and on Amazon)
- To center the wick, fasten the free end to a skewer laid across the rim of the jar or container
- Using the double-boiler method described in the preceding section, melt the wax into liquid form and carefully pour it into each jar or container, stopping half an inch from the top (you will need to clean the wax from whatever vessel you are using to melt and pour the wax)
The Type of Glass Matters for Recycling
Reusing candle jars and containers is not only economical and environmentally friendly but doing so also may be the only viable alternative to throwing them away.
This is because not all glass candle jars and containers are recyclable.
Plain old soda-lime glass, which is your typical glass used for containers, is recyclable and can go into your curbside bin (once it has been cleaned of any remnants of wax).
If you have any candle jars made from borosilicate, however, you should contact your local recycling center or waste management company to see if they accept that type of glass.
Borosilicate is a special glass that can withstand higher temperatures, so it has a higher melting point.
This means that it may be incompatible with being recycled with other types of glass that have lower melting points.
Instead of Recycling, Repurpose that Candle Jar
Jars and containers that are used to make candles come in a wide array of shapes, sizes, and colors.
As such, they are ideal vessels for repurposing into things besides candles.
Therefore, once they are properly cleaned, the possibilities are endless, but here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Desk organizers for items like paper clips or push pins
- Taller jars can be used as pen holders
- Flower pots or mini-vases
- Convenient storage vessels for items like loose change, various types of hardware (e.g., screws, nuts, bolts), or even stray Lego pieces
- Tea light holders (so you do not have to clean the wax out of them again!)
To learn more, you can also read our posts on whether you can recycle textbooks, what the explanation behind the plastic recycling symbols and numbers are, and whether you can recycle butcher paper.
For centuries, candles have lit up homes and occasions, and even in today’s digital age, they are as popular as ever. However, the world is a different place than it was millennia ago, and being environmentally conscious is not just a sensible thing to do; it is a shared responsibility.
Therefore, recycling, reusing, or repurposing candle jars and containers is more than just a bright idea as it also helps keep one less item that doesn’t belong in landfills out.