No matter their placement—on the mantel, beside the bathtub, or on the dining table—lit candles instantly create an atmosphere of relaxation. The mood can swiftly change to one of frustration, however, if your candles leave behind drips or pools of stubborn, tough-to-budge wax. While there’s no universal solution, it’s pretty easy to remove candle wax using nothing more than common household items, so long as you know which method to use. Usually, the right approach depends on the material on which the wax has dripped. Read on for the details on removing wax from the surfaces where it most often lands.
The Fix: Vinegar. Your first instinct may be to scrape off the wax with the edge of a kitchen knife, but unless you have a remarkably steady hand, you run the risk of scratching the finish or even the wood itself. A safer, quicker way is to hold a hair dryer (set on medium) a few inches away from the wax. When the wax becomes soft, dab it away with a soft cloth. To prevent stains on light-colored wood, be sure to moisten the cloth beforehand with a mixture of one part vinegar and two parts water. Note: Follow the same process to remove candle wax from hardwood floors.
The Fix: Clothes Iron. After you’ve cleared the table, done the dishes, and straightened up, spotting dried-up wax on the tablecloth may be enough to make you swear off entertaining. Take a deep breath and—yes, seriously—toss the tablecloth into the freezer. Once the wax has completely cooled, you can easily lift it away with a knife. Don’t worry if the wax appears to have left a stain. Simply lay a brown paper bag over the stain, then press an iron (set on high heat) over the bag. Watch as the stain transfers from the cloth to the paper. Note: You can also use the ironing trick to remove candle wax from painted walls.
The Fix: Boiling Water. It’s easy to see why wax would drip onto the metal candlestick that holds the taper in place. Fortunately, it’s also easy to restore the metal to its pristine state. Here’s what to do: Boil of pot of water—enough water to completely submerge the candlestick—then after turning off the burner, place the candlestick into the pot. As the water gradually cools, the wax slides off the metal. Once the water has returned to room temperature, remove the candlestick, and wipe away any residual wax with a soft cloth. Note: Follow the same process to remove candle wax from thick glass objects.
The Fix: Ice. But don’t rub it in! Instead, fill a plastic bag with ice cubes, then lay the bag over the wax. After waiting several minutes for the wax to cool, use a butter knife to lift the wax away from the carpet. The important thing is to separate the hardened wax from the carpet fibers. Once the wax has been separated, don’t worry if any small, hard bits are left in the pile, because the next step is to vacuum the area thoroughly using the upholstery attachment. Finally, moisten a soft cloth with rubbing alcohol and dab away any discoloration. Note: The ice cube trick also works to remove candle wax from brick.
The Fix: Mineral Spirits. It may be highly durable, but vinyl flooring isn’t invincible, at least not when it comes to candle wax. What not to do: Because vinyl is prone to discoloration, it’s best not to subject it to any treatment that involves high heat. A better bet is to place an ice cube-packed plastic bag over the affected area. Let the bag sit for several minutes, long enough to harden the wax. Then, dislodge the hardened wax with a blunt-edged kitchen spoon; sharp objects and vinyl don’t mix. If the wax leaves any discoloration, saturate a cotton ball with mineral spirits, then use it to wipe away the stain.
The Fix: Blow Dryer. Soft, supple, and luxurious, leather furniture deserves better than to be pocked by drips and drabs of candle wax. The key to restoring its plush comfort? Your hair dryer. Hold the appliance a few inches away from the leather and move it back and forth across the area to warm the wax without damaging the material. As the wax softens and loosens its hold, wipe it away using a soft cloth dampened with warm water and mild detergent. Note: Follow the same process to remove candle wax from tubs, sinks, and other bathroom fixtures and surfaces.