Can you recycle candle jars?

I LOVE a good tag sale. Pass a Goodwill Store on a road trip? Yes, Please. Find a great little thrift store tucked away somewhere? Oh heck, ya!! Stop by and you can find all kinds of goodies. Once, I found a whole footlocker full of 80’s G.I. Joe’s. Being in our 40’s, my husband and I grew up on G.I. Joe and Strawberry Shortcake. You can imagine how exciting this treasure was (which was half as exciting as my husband thought it was, LOL).

I briefly mentioned in my last post about choosing candle containers. Let’s say you find some beautiful glassware and think they’d make unique candles. How do you know if they are safe to use? And can you recycle candle jars?

First things first here, you need to make sure the top and bottom are roughly the same diameters. Any guesses why? Nope, guess again.

The answer is airflow. If the top is narrower than the bottom, the amount of air surrounding the wick will differ as the candle burns down. So you may get a fantastic burn initially, then the flame will die out the further down the candle burns. Or you will have a small flame to start with then as it burns, the flame may become uncontrollable. (It’s a crapshoot sometimes. This is why the testing never ends. Did I say that before? Once?  Twice? Thousand times? It’s still true. Testing never stops.)

Your best bet is to find a container that is straight-sided or has little differing diameters on top and bottom. It needs to be big enough around to keep the flame away from the sides of the glass. Also, the thicker the glass, the better. The thin glass will break so don’t even think about it.

It is fire and heat, that causes breaking glass. Your container should be large enough the flame on the wick will not touch the glass anywhere and enough air can reach the inside. If your container is too small, you will see evidence of soot on the glass. This is not the only reason for soot, but I’ll save that for another day.

On to testing. This part is not that difficult. Does your container say dishwasher safe on the bottom? If that’s a no, pass on the glass. Does it say microwave safe? No? Move on. If it is both dishwasher and microwave safe, go ahead and buy it. Take your treasure home and wash it thoroughly. Remove any grease or dirt build-up as best as you can.

Next, boil some water in a pan on your stove. Once it’s boiling, pour it into your new container. Did it break? Let it cool completely and pour water out. Inspect for cracks or breakage of any kind. Still with me?

If you’re still good, let’s pop that puppy in the oven. Heat oven between 200-250 and heat your container on a cookie sheet for 25 minutes. Again, let it cool and inspect. How is it now? Still good to go? Great!!

You are off to a great start!!! It would appear you found a great new vessel for candle making. But, once again, there will be more testing. You will test this with wax and wick next. Hooray!

You can perform these tests on any glass vessel. You should also do them on a vessel previously used for candles to be sure it’s good to go.  Recycled candle jars are only a tiny bit more complex than testing any other glass. The difference is cleaning out the old wax before you can test. It’s not really that hard. You can place the old candle vessel in a pan of hot water and just like a double boiler, this will melt residual wax which you can just pour out in the trash. NEVER POUR WAX DOWN YOUR DRAIN!!! If you do, I guarantee you will hate candles for the rest of your life!!! (I don’t even wash my pour pots and candle-making utensils in the sink. I use a washtub and throw the whole mess out when I’m done. Wax is a bitch when it’s down the drain.)

Another option for removing wax from a vessel is a heat gun. You will need one anyway once you start actually making candles, so may as well go ahead and buy one now. Any old heat gun will work, no need to spend a small fortune on one. (This could be another great find at a thrift store, so keep your eye out. Also, look for glass measuring cups, metal pitchers, a presto pot, candy thermometer, long metal mixing spoons, glass shot glass, kitchen scales, and any silicone molds that look like fun.)

Since you’ve made it this far without quitting, go ahead and put some thought into what you’d like to name your brand. You can check your secretary of state’s website, and USPTO to see if your name is available. If you are doing this for a hobby only, do yourself a favor and go ahead and check out names anyway. You may decide that after all this time researching, testing, and money spent that you’d better have something to show for it.

Good luck recycling your candle jars and thrifting “new” treasures. Next time, we will talk about wicks. (Which is the absolute WORST part of testing!!! So be prepared for the first really hard part of candle making.)

May the odds be ever in your favor.

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