How to Remove Candle Wax From Just About Any Surface

Cozying up in cold weather usually means candles—and lots of wax to clean up. Whether the mess is on your wall or your sweater, this guide will help you get the wax out.
Many lit canldes on a table in a dim room, casting a golden glow.
Photo: istockphoto.com

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No matter their placement—on the mantel, beside the bathtub, or on the dining table—lit candles instantly create an atmosphere of relaxation. During the holiday season, lighting candles becomes a festive tradition as folks adorn their homes with the joyful glow of candlelight. In fact, the demand for candles spikes during the holidays. According to the National Candle Association, just about 35 percent of candle sales occur during the winter holiday season.

As beautiful as a candlelit space can be, the aftermath can be frustrating if your candles leave behind drips or pools of stubborn, tough-to-budge wax. While there’s no single, universal solution, it’s pretty easy to remove candle wax using common household items, as long as you know which method works best for which wax-covered surface. Ahead, learn how to remove candle wax from the surfaces where it most often lands.

1. Cotton Fabric

Table decorated with plates with beads and candles on a white tablecloth and cherries and cheese on a cutting board.
Photo: istockphoto.com

The Fix: Clothes Iron

To free your cotton tablecloth from stubborn wax, toss the tablecloth into the freezer. Once the wax has cooled, lift it away with a knife. If the wax has left a stain, lay a brown paper bag over the stain, and then press an iron (set on high heat) over the bag. The stain should transfer from the cloth to the paper.

2. Metal

Metal retro candlestick with five burning candles against a dark background in the room
Photo: istockphoto.com

The Fix: Boiling Water

If wax has dripped onto a metal candlestick, there’s an easy way to restore the metal to its pristine state. Simply boil a pot of water (enough water to completely submerge the candlestick), and then, after turning off the burner, place the candlestick into the pot. As the water 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. Do not use this method on antique or weighted sterling silver candlesticks, however, as the extreme heat may damage them.

If you’re trying to remove candle wax from a large metal object that doesn’t fit into a pot, you can use a blow dryer to melt the wax off the candlestick. Be sure to put down a cloth to catch the wax.

RELATED: Buyer’s Guide: The Best Candle Lighters

3. Carpet

Cozy large burning candle on carpet.
Photo: istockphoto.com

The Fix: Ice

Fill a plastic bag with ice cubes, and 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. Once you’ve separated the hardened wax from the carpet fibers, use the upholstery attachment to vacuum up the small, hard bits left in the pile. Finally, moisten a soft cloth with rubbing alcohol and dab away any discoloration.

4. Vinyl

Burning candles on white vinyl table against blurred lights
Photo: istockphoto.com

The Fix: Mineral Spirits

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, which should be long enough to firm up the wax. Then, dislodge the hardened wax with a blunt-edged kitchen spoon. (Do not use a sharp object that could damage the vinyl.) If the wax leaves any discoloration, saturate a cotton ball with mineral spirits and wipe away the stain.

5. Wood Furniture and Floors

a single lit candle on a wood surface.
Photo: istockphoto.com

The Fix: Vinegar

A safe and quick way to remove candle wax from wood is to hold a blow 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, moisten the cloth beforehand with a mixture of 1 part vinegar and 2 parts water. The same methods work for removing candle wax from hardwood floors.

RELATED: How to Clean Wood Furniture

6. Leather

Brown leather sofa near a coffee table with black vase and modern candle holder.
Photo: istockphoto.com

The Fix: Blow Dryer

The key to restoring leather’s plush comfort? Your blow dryer. Hold the appliance a few inches away from the wax and move it back and forth to warm up 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.

7. Hats and Headpieces

Friends celebrating the day of the dead lighting candle
Photo: istockphoto.com

The Fixes: Ice and Heat

If the hat is small enough to fit, place it in the freezer to harden the wax. As an alternative, dab the wax with a few ice cubes to solidify it. Carefully scrape off the hardened wax with a plastic scraper. If there is any residue, Angela Rubin of Canada-based cleaning company Hellamaid suggests using a blow dryer on the lowest setting to gently melt the wax, and then blot it away with a clean cloth. She adds, “Take care with delicate embellishments.”

8. Painted Walls

Two lit white candles in canelabra against green wall texture background
Photo: istockphoto.com

The Fix: White Vinegar

Use a blow dryer to soften the wax. Once it’s pliable, use a plastic scraper—not a metal scraper, which could chip the paint—to carefully remove any larger pieces of wax. To get rid of any residue, gently wipe down the area with a clean cloth dipped into a solution of 3 parts white vinegar and 1 part boiling water. Buff the wall dry with a clean microfiber cloth.

9. Wallpaper

candles on windowsill with purple curtains and beige wallpaper.
Photo: istockphoto.com

The Fix: Ice

Place a few ice cubes in a plastic bag and gently press it against the wax-covered area of the wallpaper. Once the wax has hardened, use a plastic scraper to pop it off. If the wax has left a stain on vinyl wallpaper, saturate a cotton ball with mineral spirits and wipe it away.

RELATED: Solved! What Does a Candle in the Window Mean?

10. Glass Jar

Lighted candles floating in canning jars
Photo: istockphoto.com

The Fix: Boiling Water

Hoping to repurpose a candle jar after the candle itself has been used up? First, let the wax cool and solidify, and then use a spoon or butter knife to pop out as much wax as possible. Pour boiling water into the jar, leaving enough room for the wax to float to the top. Let the water cool before removing the wax. Spritz the jar with glass cleaner and wipe with a dry cloth.

11. Glass Furniture

Lit candle on a tray with other decor on top of a glass coffee table.
Photo: istockphoto.com

The Fix: Rubbing Alcohol

Begin by using a blow dryer on low to medium heat to soften the wax. Then, gently scrape the wax away from the glass surface using a plastic scraper or the edge of a credit card. Avoid using a metal scraper, which can scratch the glass surface. Finish up by moistening a cotton round or cloth with rubbing alcohol and using it to wipe away any residue.

12. Brick

Small white votive candles lighted and placed in red glass holders on a table covered with aluminium foil in front of a brick wall.
Photo: istockphoto.com

The Fix: Ice

To remove stubborn wax from brick surfaces, first ensure that the wax is completely solidified. Don’t try rubbing at it, which will smear it into the brick even further. Instead, rub ice onto the solidified wax and then pop it off with a plastic scraper. Follow up by wiping the area with a bit of warm, soapy water and a clean cloth.

RELATED: 15 Ways to Decorate With Candles

13. Bathroom Fixtures

a hot tub and burning candles
Photo: istockphoto.com

The Fix: Blow Dryer

If wax drips into the sink, remove it as soon as possible to prevent it from going down the drain. If the wax has hardened, the best way to remove it is by reheating it first. Use a blow dryer on a high setting to melt the wax. Once it softens, wipe away the residue with a paper towel.

14. Clothing

Woman in brown sweater holding finished white candle in hands
Photo: istockphoto.com

The Fix: Iron

First, let the wax cool and harden before attempting to remove it. You should then be able to pick off most of the solidified wax. To remove any residue, place a few sheets of unprinted paper towels over the wax stain, and then run a clothes iron set on low heat (no steam!) over the area.

RELATED: Buyer’s Guide: The Best Flameless Candles

15. TV Screens

A decorated white Christmas mantle with pine garland, silver candleholders with candles and a television.
Photo: istockphoto.com

The Fix: Dishwashing Liquid

After unplugging the device, use a rubber spatula to gently remove as much wax as you can. (Note: Don’t use a scraper on an electronic device as it can damage the screen.) Dip a sponge in a solution of hot water and a drop or two of dishwashing liquid, squeeze out the sponge, and gently wipe away any residue from the screen. Once the screen is clean, wipe it dry with a microfiber cloth.