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Frugal Fragrance: Rehab Your Scented Candles in a Solar Oven

Dave L HeadshotFall is giving way to winter here at the Desert Homestead. The sun goes down early and the winter rains make for some gloomy days. During the day, Barbara keeps the house warm and inviting by baking on a regular basis. Today, apple crisp in the oven will fill the house with one of my favorite odors. But, in the evening and during the days of clouds, snow, and rain, we rely on our candles to bring a measure of joy and a feeling of cozy warmth to our straw bale house in the desert. Despite the cold and wet weather, candle burning season is great!

       First  Snow in the Dragoons
We love the fragrance of scented candles, but they are expensive. So Barbara has come up with a frugal method of ensuring that we have our much loved candle light and fragrance whenever we choose, with little cost. We do occasionally purchase scented candles and, even more likely, receive them as welcome holiday gifts from friends and relatives who know how much we enjoy them. But most of our candles are “personally modified” by Barbara.

        Candle Scraps for Melting Down

 After burning our purchased or gift candles until the wick is a blackened stub at the bottom of a well of unburned wax, the candles often have as much as 25% or more of great scented wax remaining. This holds true of last year’s rehabbed votives, as well. Throwing the remains away would be a real waste, so we rehab the candles.

          Melting Candles in a Solar Oven
The first step is to clean up last year’s votive candle holders. Barbara puts them on a pan in our solar oven. You can use the oven in your kitchen, of course. The pan keeps spills from the oven which could hurt the flavor muffins baked in the solar oven or your kitchen oven. What tragedy that would be! A kitchen oven set to about 275 degrees should work fine. Whichever method of melting you use, be careful. Don't burn yourself.

As the old wax melts, Barbara  removes the burned wick stubs and wick bases and pours off the remaining wax into a pint glass jar for reuse. This year she accumulated nearly a pint of delightfully scented wax just from our last year’s candles.

Note: It is important to remember that wax and water don’t mix. To clean our used votive holders, we heat them until the wax is just melted and wipe them with a paper towel. Don’t bother trying to wash them in soapy water.

When melting the wax, it’s important to remember that a solar oven can get well up into the 300 to 400 degree range. Don’t neglect your melting wax. If it begins to smoke, which it will if left too long in the solar oven, you have allowed it to get too hot.

      Before and After Rehab Candles
During the summer, we look for sales on unscented votive candles and buy a few dozen. Most of our votive candle holders are about the same size and shape, so when we get ready to rehab our candles we want to know how much scented wax will fit in our holders without submerging our new votives, not filling the holder enough, or, worst case, spilling wax over the lip of the candle holder. Barbara does a few experiments with a typical votive holder filled about a third of the way with water. She puts a new votive in the holder partially filled with water.

When the water in the holder just meets the top of the new candle, she notes the level.  She then removes the water and dries the holder. Melted scented wax is then poured into the votive holder and the new votive is placed in the melted wax.

Note: Your wax should be just barely melted. If it is too hot, it will melt the new votive, the wick might collapse, and you’ll have a mess.

       Tray of Rehabbed Candles
While occasionally  we do use tapers, especially for the dining table in the evening, we prefer our votives for a variety of reasons. We can reclaim unused wax. We rarely have to clean up wax drips from the burning candle. They are less expensive to burn, so we feel very comfortable about having candle light on a regular basis.

      Lighted Votive Candles
We try to isolate our candles by fragrance, keeping sandalwood, bayberry, cinnamon, and vanilla separate as we prepare the candles. But, I’m sure that we wind up with “mystery fragrance” from time to time. As yet, I have not found one of the rehabbed candles to have anything but a delightful scent. You can do your own custom scents by adding some beeswax or some scented oil to the melted wax. Experiment and have fun with your homemade scented candles. For us, this is all part of simple, rural living. There is no rule that says you can’t make your own scented candles in town, as well.

dave larson
11/16/2011 10:56:24 AM

Hi N Dave, Thanks for the note on the candles. It sounds like your winter garden now resembles ours a bit. We have some variety of lettuce, kale, chard, and spinach that continues to provide us with great greens for much, if not all, the winter season. But, then, even at nearly 5,000 ft, we are still warmer. This week, I'm building a mini-hoop house for our lettuce bed to try and protect the tender little ones from any upcoming cold. We'll see. Although I love eating the fresh produce, half the fun for me is the project. I suspect that's true there as well. Have a good time doing some custom candles!

nebraska dave
11/15/2011 6:40:24 PM

Dave, what a great idea to recycle mostly used up scented candles. I have a couple fancy seasonal candles that I buy candles for. To get the old candle wax out of the decorated glass holder, I just nuke it in the microwave for a few seconds to get the wax melted enough to slide right out of the holder. Then it's in with the new candle and I'm ready to go for the season. I never thought about recycling the left over wax. It would be an easy thing to do. I don't really have candles burning during the regular part of the year. I do keep them handy if the power goes off which it has and seems to do more often every year. So far we here in Nebraska have been fortunate and not had any long term power outages. I really feel for those folks out on the East coast. The gardens are done here except for the Mesclun salad mix. It's a bit bitter but once you get used to it it's OK. I just throw in the chopped onions, sprinkle it with Mrs. Dash Orginal, slice up a boiled egg, and dowse the salad with blue cheese dressing and a taste delight is born. Actually, it's not bad and the plants are pretty dog gone tough. I basically just planted the seeds and walked away. It just doesn't look like the lettuce I'm used to growing. I did find a couple yellow lettuce plants that were ever so delicate compared to the tough rugged Mesclun. Have a great desert Thanksgiving.

dave larson
11/11/2011 2:49:07 PM

Hi MW, thanks for your kind words. As I read your blogs, I feel that you, as we try to do, flow with the seasons and try to find as much beauty as we can in the passage from one season to another. Doesn't matter whether its the forests of the New England mountains or the desert Southwest. Enjoy your thrifty scented candles!!

mountain woman
11/11/2011 1:19:21 PM

Dave, I loved your description of life in the desert with the dwindling daylight and the gloomy, rainy days. Here, it will be dark before 4:00 fairly soon and the snow will begin falling. Just as you and your wife do, I burn scented candles with all those wonderful fragrances you described. I'm also thrifty and try to make the most of my left over wax so your post proved highly instructional to me. Thank you so much. Here's to enjoying the seasons as they change and the joys of each. Thanks for a great post.