The term "natural candles" refers to candles made from soy wax, palm wax, and beeswax. More people are seeking these out and the trend is veering away from artificial ingredients and colors, too. You can use natural colorants in soap making, but can you use the same natural ingredients in your homemade candles?
While you can use a lot of the same herbs and spices in candles, some do not work as well as others. There are a few tricks you'll want to learn to make natural soy candles that use natural ingredients for coloration.
Why It Works
It is important to note that regular pigments and other dispersed colors like micas and oxides don't work well in candles because they clog the wick. Additionally, the process of extracting the herbal oils that color the wax needs to be more delicate than what you would use for soap making.
Since soy wax is just modified soybean oil, it stands to reason that this natural infusion method does work. The difference between the soy wax and the soy oil used in soaps is that the oil is liquid at room temperature, whereas wax is not. You need to keep wax at 120 degrees or hotter to keep it liquid so the color will infuse.
It's also good to be aware that natural colors are often more sensitive to fading than synthetic colors. When not in use, it's best to keep these all-natural soy candles in a dark place.
What You Need
You can use a slow cooker to make naturally colored wax candles in about 24 hours. You will also need jars, soy container wax, wicks, herbs or spices of your choice, coffee filters, and twist ties.
Using madder root, alkanet root, annatto seeds, peppermint, and spirulina can result in a nice coloration. The madder root imparts a nice light peach shade. The alkanet gives you a wonderful burgundy red shade. The annatto seeds turn the wax a warm yellow shade. The spirulina imparts a nice warm green hue, while peppermint gives candles a very light green shade.
Other herbs, including comfrey, rose hips, and lavender, do not infuse as much color into the wax. Although, the rose hips will give it a slight orange tint. With more herb in the filter and more infusion time, you may get the colors to come out a little darker.
How to Make Naturally Colored Soy Candles
- Start by putting jelly jars in a water bath in the slow cooker. Fill each jar with about 6 ounces of soy container wax.
- Place the herb into a coffee filter—one for each jar—and tie it into a bundle using a twist tie. How much you need depends on the herb: 1 teaspoon of peppermint, 1/2 teaspoon of madder root powder, 1/2 teaspoon of alkanet root powder, 1/2 teaspoon annatto seeds, and 1/2 teaspoon of spirulina powder.
- Put the herb-filled coffee filters into the jars, turn the heat on low, and let them steep for about 24 hours. The wax should stay around 130 F to 140 F. Stir it every few hours to make sure that the infusion spreads throughout the wax.
- After 24 hours, pull the filters out. You can either add the wicks to the jars or pour the melted wax out into other molds or jars that already have wicks in place. Either way, let the wax cool completely. The recommended cure time for soy-based candles is generally one week before they should be burned.
None of the recommended infused colors will affect the burn time or cause clogging of the wick. You may notice a little bit of sediment in the alkanet and spirulina candles, but it's not enough to affect the candle.
Basically, the process is the same for infusing any herb or plant material into any oil: Mix the two together, put them on low heat, and let them stew for a while. Do some experiments when working with other plants to see how well and how long it takes to color the wax.
Alternate DIY Methods
It's entirely possible to tweak this method to suit your own personal preferences and needs. For example, if you do not have a slow cooker, jars, or coffee filters, there are adjustments you can do to make it work.
- Other cooking devices: As an alternative to a slow cooker, you can use a Presto Pot or Instant Pot to make these candles. Both are great options since you can accurately adjust the temperature and keep it steady for a long time. A crockpot on the low setting stays at about 130 degrees.
- No jar method: Instead of using jars, you could just put the wax into the pot and set it on low. It will make a large batch of melted and infused wax that can be poured into any mold or container. Be sure to check the temperature so it doesn't get too hot. You want it to steep at the lowest temperature possible that keeps the wax in liquid form.
- Stovetop: While it is possible, do not use a regular pot directly on the stove. It's far more difficult to regulate the temperature properly.
- Other infusion methods: If you do not want to use a coffee filter, you can also use cheesecloth or a small muslin bag. You want the color to infuse out, without too much of the plant material getting into the wax. With really fine powders like alkanet and spirulina, it's not quite possible to prevent all of it from making its way into the wax. You may need to let some sediment settle out of the wax or strain it before making your candles.
- Time: It's important that you give the wax plenty of time to stew. Infuse for at least 24 hours, stirring every 4 to 6 hours. For deeper colors, you can let it go another 24 hours. Past that, you're not going to get much additional color.
- Fragrance oils: Remember that if you use fragrance oils or essential oils that have color, these will add some color to the wax as well.