Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Light Up the Holiday Season with Safe, Environmentally Friendly Candles

By: Lindsay McNamara, Communications Coordinator

This season, Clean Ocean Action is offering tips on how to green your holiday. Here is the ninth of twelve in COA's '12 Days of Green Giving' series.

Did you know that some of your household candles may be emitting pollutants and unhealthy fumes?  Typical, paraffin candles, according to a study by the American Chemical Society, are a common and often unrecognized source of indoor pollution.  According to the same study, paraffin candles can also release human carcinogens (cancer-causing agents) if lit every day for years or if frequently lit in an unventilated room.  According to, this is because paraffin is obtained from petroleum during the refining process.  Paraffin is the last component extracted during that process and asphalt is the second-to-last byproduct. claims that lighting a paraffin candle in your room is similar to a burning pile of asphalt in your house and that the soot is similar to emissions released by diesel-burning vehicles, yuck!

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Go a healthier, eco-friendly route by purchasing natural candles made from beeswax or soy.  Take your eco-experience even further and try making your own recycled candles from beeswax or soy.

Materials: Double boiler to melt down your old candles, deep sauce pan and melting pot with a pouring spout (to make double boiler), non-paraffin candles, wicks, pencil, mesh strainer, candle holders (try using recycled mason jars, glass or cups)

  • Before you put your non-paraffin candles in your melting pot, try to pull the wicks
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    out, or cut them off as much as you can, if pulling them all the way out is not possible. Be sure to remove any labels or stickers that may be on the side or bottom of the candle.
  • Fill the bottom part of your double boiler with approximately two inches of cool water, and place on the burner.  Set burner to a high temperature. When the water begins to boil, turn the heat down to medium low/low. 
  • Place the candles (with no wick or labels/stickers) into the top of double boiler or melting pot and set it over the bottom pot with boiling water.  Be sure not to place the melting pot into the water until it begins to boil.  Be sure to stay and watch the burner during this process!  Be patient; this process can take up to 40 minutes.
  • It’s a good idea to prepare the candle holders while you are waiting for the wax to melt. Measure the wick length so that the wick touches the bottom of the holder and stays straight. Lay a pencil across top of holder and tie the wick string around a pencil to help it stay in place.
  • Check the wax and stir until any remaining chunks are dissolved.
  • Use a mesh strainer and pour the hot wax through it into your candle holder. Using a strainer will help remove any remnants of dirt or burnt wick from the wax (the whole idea is to have eco-friendly and clean candles!).  If you do not have a pan with a spout, use a small ladle. Don’t forget to wear an oven mitt.
  • Place the full candle holders on a flat surface out so the wax can harden evenly. Top off candles as needed as the wax settles.
  • Once the wax has set, untie the wick string from the pencil and cut to desired length.

If you decide to make your own recycled candles, send COA a picture; we’d love to see your work!  Tweet your photo to us using #12DaysofGreenGiving @CleanOcean or message us on Facebook.

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