Making Candles and Soaps For Dummies book cover

Making Candles and Soaps For Dummies

By: Kelly Ewing Published: 11-01-2004

Make floating candles, herbal soaps, and even a home spa

Discover the secrets of color, shape, and scent the fun and easy way?

Whether you're a beginner or seasoned craftperson, this fun book offers everything you need to make beautiful, professional-looking candles and soaps at home. You get practical tips on dyeing and scenting wax, using unusual molds, adding embellishments to candles, working with soap ingredients, and even turning your hobby into a business!

Discover How To:

  • Stock a safe & efficient work area
  • Work with all types of wax
  • Add color and scent to your projects
  • Make melt-and-pour soaps
  • Turn a hobby into a business

Articles From Making Candles and Soaps For Dummies

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16 results
16 results
Making Candles and Soaps For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Cheat Sheet / Updated 02-17-2022

If you want to make your own candles and soaps, you need shopping lists for the basic ingredients for both. Get to know the types of candles you can make: tapers, pillars, or votives — the varieties abound. And when you make soaps, you'll want to know how to fix common problems that affect the appearance and what causes them.

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How to Make a Spa Gift Basket

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

You can make gift baskets filled with scented bath items to give as gifts to family and friends at Christmas time. Consider making bath salts and massage oils; both are great gift ideas. Simple instructions are included here: Bath salts: You have two options: You can purchase the bath salts in your local craft store and add your personal touch by scenting with essential oils. To make your own bath salts from scratch, combine a variety of salts, such as Epsom salt, rock salt, and sea salt. Add some glycerin, essential oils, and colorants and you’re good to go. Finally, place your mixture in a decorative jar or quaint see-through bath bag for storage. Bath Bags: Decorative bath bags not only look sophisticated, but they also feel nice. Whether you’re creating them at home for personal use or giving them away as gifts, bath bags are a classy touch. Although you can include plain bath salts inside the bags, why not make your own special body scrub? To do so, combine your melt-and-pour soap, available at craft stores, with dried herbs and a coarse item, such as grated almonds, oatmeal, or cornmeal. You can even add your favorite flowers, if you like, and of course, the finishing touch can be a few drops of your favorite essential oil or blend. Shower Gel: You no longer have to buy whatever scent the store offers in shower gel ¯ no more rain-fresh shower gel, faux citrus fragrances, and the like. Now, you can create your own shower gel with a scent that doesn’t clash with your everyday fragrance ¯ or your nose’s sensibilities! All you need to do is add a few drops of essential oil to a plain shower gel base, available at your local craft store or online. Then store your gel in a bottle and use as desired. Massage Oil: To create massage oil choose an oil with skin-softening abilities, add a preservative, such as liquid Vitamin E from a gel tablet, and then add essential oils. Sweet almond, apricot kernel, and grapeseed oils are good for massage because they’re so light. Mix well and place in a bottle. After you make these items, buy a basket, ¯ the Salvation Army or Goodwill almost always has baskets for next to nothing. Spray paint it for a fresh look and to customize the color. Fill it with your jars of homemade goodies, and top it off with a bow.

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How to Add a Crackle Finish to Homemade Candles

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

That crackle finish on candles you see in stores, is easy to replicate on your homemade candles. Add a crackle finish to create some visual interest on an otherwise plain candle. Your homemade Christmas gift will have a bit of extra dimension. Create cracks in your candle by overdipping and freezing it several times. Take the following steps to crack your candle: Freeze your finished candle for two hours. Sometimes, freezing can fracture your candle all the way through, so keep an eye on your candle during this time. Melt wax in the top part of a double-boiler. Dip your candle into the can, slowly and steadily. You can hold your candle by the wick with either your fingers or a tool, such as pliers. Dip your candle into cold water. This last step helps ensure that you get a nice, shiny finish. Repeat Step 2 one to two more times, until your candle is completely covered. Place your dipped candle on wax paper and return it to the freezer for an additional two hours. If you want fewer cracks, leave your candle in less time; if you want more cracks, leave it in the freezer longer. When the candle reaches room temperature, find and push out any air bubbles that you see on the candle’s surface.

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Free Candle Molds from Everyday Household Containers

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Homemade candles are budget-friendly Christmas gifts, but save even more money by using household containers as candle molds. Free candle molds are everywhere in your house, if you know where to look. For starters, open your kitchen cupboard. Unique jars, glasses, coffee cups, or salad bowls all make interesting candle containers, where you don’t remove the finished candle from the item. Look inside your trashcan. Empty milk cartons cut in half, yogurt containers, and even empty tin cans provide fodder for your hobby. Use existing items as your candle molds. Here are a few more mold and container ideas: Pop cans with the tops removed Small aquariums Empty popcorn or candy tins Mixing bowls Aluminum foil that you’ve manipulated into a shape Gelatin molds Any hollow container In some cases, you can use a glass jar to mold your candle because these jars are usually designed to hold food that you’re canning. However, you should use them only as container candles and not as a mold because the neck at the top of the jar will cause you problems when you try to remove the candle. Don’t be tempted to use a normal drinking glass, which doesn’t have the neck, though, as a mold because they’re usually not tempered like jars and probably won’t be able to withstand the heat of the melted wax. Unique objects provide lovely containers for your candles and are inexpensive to create. You can even match the colors to your decor, as well as scent the wax with your favorite fragrance. Decorative containers make great container candles. Even when you’re making container candles, you use a mold. The container is functioning as the mold, holding the wax in place; the only difference is that you don’t remove your finished candle from your mold. It stays in the container as you burn it. You just need to make sure that the mold you’re using isn’t flammable and that it’s heat-resistant. If your kitchen is decorated in flowers or an outdoor gardening theme, why not use terracotta flowerpots as container candles? Hurricane vases, lantern-shape containers, or metal buckets can add a nice touch as well. You may even want to add a citronella scent outdoors to keep the bugs away. If you’re using terracotta flowerpots or metal containers, you may want to seal them with a silicone sealer before pouring wax into them to prevent fire hazards or leaks. Think about where you want to use the candle and what you’re trying to accomplish. For example, some people like to take baths surrounded by burning candles. For them you might use a scented candles. Or you might want to give apple-cinnamon tealights for someone’s my kitchen. The aroma of a home-baked apple pie gives a homey feel to guests when they enter the house. The container you choose functions as your mold. As a result, you need to make sure that your container is appropriate for holding hot, burning wax. For example, a plastic or wood container is a definite no-no.

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How to Embed Items into Homemade Soap

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Making soap for Christmas can be a creative endeavor. You can embed objects in your soaps to make them really special. Embedded soaps look like a million bucks, but this gift fits even a small budget. You can really let your creativity go wild with this if you know the criteria for choosing appropriate items. Use your head when thinking of objects to embed. Avoid the following characteristics when choosing an embedment: A sharp item that may cut your skin, such as glass An item that can irritate your skin, such as certain poisonous plants An item that doesn’t hold up to water, such as a dyed, fake flower Some good items to embed include rubber bath toys ¯ the yellow rubber ducky featured in a clear translucent bar of soap is a classic ¯ and dried herbs. If you don’t mind if they get wet and you have another copy, you can even embed photographs. After you decide what you want to embed, make sure that you choose a mold deep enough to accommodate your embedment. Think about colors when you embed your soap. If your soap is dark, you won’t be able to see what’s inside. To place an embedment in your melt-and-pour soap: Melt your soap base. Add your color and then scent; stir well. Pour a thin layer of soap into your mold. If your embedment is small, you may need to pour more soap to raise your item to the center position of the finished bar. 4After the soap starts to set, position your embedment. Wait a few minutes and then add the remaining soap. Remove your finished soap from the mold after it solidifies. If you’re not going to use your soap right away, wrap it in plastic to store. You don’t have to totally embed an item in your soap. For example, you can partially embed a rubber fish in a blue soap so that it appears to be leaping out of the ocean.

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How to Embed Items into Homemade Candles

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

If you're making candles for Christmas gifts, embellish them by embedding decorative items. You’ve likely seen a candle that has some object lodged inside it, such as shells or wax chunks. Gel candles, in particular, are known for their seascape and fruit effects. But paraffin wax can spotlight objects like shells, marbles, and flowers just as well as gel can. Fortunately, this classy little embellishment is an easy effect to achieve. Wax chunks come in all shapes and colors and ready for embedding. Although you have creative license when embedding objects, don’t embed just anything. Follow these tips when choosing and embedding items: If an item burns outside a candle, it will burn inside your candle as well; nonflammable items are best. Objects can cause bubbles in your candles, so if you want to avoid bubbles, consider warming your container prior to pouring and then pour your wax as slowly as possible. You can see your gel candle embedments clearly; paraffin wax gives you a little more room for error. Always clean your embedments. Don’t place an object too close to the wick, which may extinguish when it reaches that point. If you’re making a gel seascape candle, don’t use dried sea life, such as a starfish. Beautiful as it looks, the sea life will eventually bloat and look awful. (Shells, on the other hand, are okay to use.) Depending on what you’re adding and where you want it to end up in your candle, you can embed items in one of two ways: Place your embedment at the bottom of your container and then add your wax: Use this technique mostly for gel candles. After you add your wax, make the candle as you normally would, taking care to remove bubbles. If you’re using a heavy embedment, you don’t need to glue it down. Otherwise, if you’re making a container candle, you can use fast-setting epoxy glue, available at most stores, which also helps place items at various heights. Just place a little glue on the bottom of your object, and then press it down on the bottom of your container. To make a gel candle, add your embedments first, using glue if necessary, and then pour your wax. Add your wax and then add your embedment: Make your candle, but instead of allowing it to cool completely, wait until you see a 1/2-inch thick film on top, which takes about 10 minutes. Cut a hole in the wax. Using a spoon, return the soft wax in the center to your melting pot, and then add your embedments where you want them; for example, place them into the soft wax on the sides on the candle. Remelt the wax and pour it back into the hole. Your embedment appears to float within the candle. You can also embed objects by making a core candle. You then place that candle into a larger mold and fill the perimeter with your items. You then pour wax into the mold. Dried flowers, spices, and other typically flammable materials are fine to use with this method because the wick is sized for the diameter of the core candle and, ideally, shouldn’t extend out to the objects.

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How to Make a Molded Candle for Christmas

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Homemade gifts are always appreciated. This basic molded candle is an inexpensive gift idea and even better, you can customize the candle colors and scents with your recipients in mind. Why not start a new Christmas tradition and give homemade gifts to family and friends? Basic molded candles are great for Christmas gifts. After you choose your mold, figure out how much wax you need to melt by pouring water into your mold and then measuring the amount of water you used. For every 3.5 fluid ounces of water, you need 3 ounces of unmelted wax. Some manufacturers label the mold with its wax capacity so that no measuring is necessary. Metal-cored (lead-free) and paper-cored wicks are appropriate for this project. Use this list to determine the proper thickness for your wick: If your mold is 0–1 inch diameter, you need extra small, 20 ply If your mold is 1–2 inches diameter, use 24 ply If your mold is 2–3 inches diameter, use medium, 30 ply If your mold is 3–4inches diameter, use large, 36 ply If your mold is 4 inches or more diameter, use extra large, 40-plus ply To make basic molded candles, follow these steps: Melted wax is extremely flammable, so use all cautionary measures when doing this project. Fill the bottom part of a double boiler with water and bring it to a rolling boil. In the top part of a double boiler, melt your wax to the package’s specified temperature. If you’re recycling wax or you’re unsure of the temperature, aim for 190 degrees F and maintain that temperature for half an hour. Spray your mold with a mold release, such as silicone or vegetable spray. Using a releasing agent helps you remove the candle from the mold. If you make candles regularly, you may want to use commercial grade release spray instead of vegetable oil because over time, the vegetable oil can leave a film on your mold. However, if you make candles only on occasion, the vegetable oil spray works just fine. Cut your primed wick so that it’s 2 inches longer than your finished candle’s height and then insert it into your mold. A primed wick is one that you (or the wick manufacturer) have thoroughly soaked with wax. You can do Steps 2 and 3 prior to melting your wax, if you’re worried about time or you prefer not to multitask. When your wax reaches the required temperature, add any additives. Unless you’re using a flexible mold, add stearin in proportion to 10 percent of your wax. (If you’re using a flexible mold, use vybar.) Stearin and vybar help release the mold and bind the scent to the wax. When you add these ingredients, your wax’s temperature will probably drop, so continue heating your wax a little longer until it reaches the proper temperature again. Add color, or scent. You can purchase candle scents at a craft store. Essential oils don’t work as well and can clog up the wick. Craft stores also sell dyes. Although you can use pure wax crayons, the color won’t be as true and the crayons can clog the wick. Remove your wax from the heat and slowly and smoothly pour it into your mold. Be careful not to get any water into your wax. Wait a few minutes and then gently tap the side of your mold to remove any air bubbles. As your wax cools, poke holes in the wax around the wick to release tension. If you don’t, the wax pulls the wick off center and may create a concave section on the outside of the candle. After your wax has cooled quite a while, reheat the extra wax you saved and pour it into any holes that have occurred as the wax cools. This step is called a repour. Let your wax cool almost completely and then do a second repour. Don’t rush this step, though. If you repour the wax while the candle is still hot and liquid, you’re just adding more hot wax that has to shrink. When you remove your candle from the mold, remember that the bottom of the mold now becomes the top of the candle. After you’ve removed your candle from its mold, you’re ready to make your candle look beautiful. Using a craft knife or other sharp object, level off the bottom of the candle. Then, trim your candle’s wick. Use a paper towel or cloth to wipe around your candle and remove any extra wax. Congratulations! Your candle is ready to burn.

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How to Make Scented Bath Oils

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Homemade bath oil is a simple gift idea that's easy on the budget. Vary scents and colors to please different friends; combine the bath oil with bath salts and massage oil to make a complete gift basket. If you want a little lather in your bath, consider buying liquid soap bases to create lather and adding scent, colorings, and your favorite oils. To create bath oil, follow these steps: Choose your favorite essential oil. You can use all sorts of scents, but here are some favorites: Chamomile: This relaxing oil is especially good for your skin and children. Jasmine: This sultry oil is another good one for kids. Lavender: This relaxing oil moisturizes skin and relaxes both muscles and mind. Lemon: If you have oily skin or hair, try experimenting with lemon. It also has antidepressant qualities. Peppermint: This tingly oil stimulates your mind, as well as relieving dry skin and hair. It also helps clear up congestion and relieves itching. Rose: This oil is relaxing and especially good for skin. It also has antidepressant qualities. Rosemary: This oil is good for almost all skin and hair types. It relieves both mental and physical pain and even improves memory. Fill an 8 oz. bottle to within an inch from the top with your favorite carrier oil. Carrier oil, or base oil, carries the scent to your skin. Some popular light carrier oils for use in the bath include sweet almond, coconut (virgin coconut oil has that wonderful smell), jojoba, and apricot kernel. Some of these can be found at your local grocery store if they have a selection of specialty oils near the regular cooking oils. Add 5 to 10 drops of essential oil to the bottle, cap, and gently shake.

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How to Make Hand-Milled Soaps

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Scented homemade soaps make great Christmas gifts. If you prefer not to use caustic chemicals while making soap, then hand-milled soaps are your answer. The only special tool that you really need is a hand grater. The advantages of hand-milling soap are many: You don’t have to work with lye. You can buy a bar of your favorite commercial soap at your local grocery store. You don’t have to invest much time. You can still color and scent the soap as you please. You can choose any mold design that you like. You’re still exercising your creativity. The con, however, is that you’re using a prefabricated product so you have no control over the ingredients. Here are the basic steps. Grate your soap. The smaller you grate your pieces, the quicker the melting time. Grate an existing bar of commercial soap into smaller pieces, melt it, and then remold it. Melt your pieces in water in the top pot of a double boiler or in a microwave. Stir your soap as it melts. In general, use approximately 1 cup of water for every 2 cups of soap gratings. If using the microwave, take care not to get the soap too hot. Heat the shavings and water in short bursts and check often, stirring as needed. Some people set their microwaves at 50 percent power when melting clear glycerin soap base or shavings. Experiment with what works best for you and your microwave. After the soap has melted, stir in your color, using commercial soap dyes or herbs and spices. Annatto gives you intense orange and yellow colors. Black-eyed Susans give you a pastel yellow color. Calendula flowers produce yellowish-orange colors. Chlorophyll capsules, available at your local pharmacy, produce green. Cocoa gives chocolate lovers a nice shade of brown, as well as a chocolate scent. Paprika produces a brick red color. St. John’s wort ends up as yellow. Soap dyes, herbs, and spices for the home soapmaker. You can even use certain essential oils to color your soap. And technically, you can use food colorings or wax crayons, but food coloring wasn’t designed to work in soap. What you have in your cupboard is very diluted and doesn’t offer much color. In addition, the color may alter over time. Continue stirring until the soap is thick and creamy and then remove it from the heat. Add any other additives, such as essential oils. In general, essential oils result in a stronger scent than you achieve with fragrance oils, which is good because essential oils are more costly than fragrance oils. How hard it is to extract the oil from the plant and how plentiful those plants are in nature determines how much each type of essential oil costs. Fortunately, a small bottle of oil should last through several batches. Pour your soap into the mold. You can use traditional soap molds, but your options don’t end there. Use candy molds or other household items, such as mini muffin tins, cake pans, or even ice cube trays. Some people have found plastic cat food containers, round Pringles chips containers, or other packaging items to be wonderful molds after being thoroughly cleaned. Be creative when it comes to choosing soap molds. Let the soap cool overnight before removing it from the mold. Your soap isn’t finished just because it’s out of the mold. Allow it to solidify for three to seven days.

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Making Soap with Layered Colors and Scents

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Homemade soaps of layered colors and scents make wonderful gifts — especially if they've been custom-designed for the recipient. In a layered soap, you alternate colors and scents, all in the same bar. Although they look like you spent a lot of time making them, these visually appealing soaps are a snap to create. To make layered soap: Melt your melt-and-pour soap base in a covered microwave-safe bowl for 45 seconds; stir. Don’t forget to cut your soap into 1-inch cubes to make the melting go faster. Continue melting your soap at 15-second intervals, stirring in between each time, until your soap base is completely melted. Working quickly, divide your soap into bowls based on the number of colors you want. For example, if you want a layered soap featuring three colors, you divide your melted soap base among three bowls. Stir a different color into each bowl. Add any scent; stir well. This soap is particularly nice when each layer features a scent that corresponds to the color. Pour your first layer of soap into the mold; let cool until it thickens. Your soap usually takes five to ten minutes to cool. You’re looking for a thin skin to form. Make sure that you keep an eye on your soap. If your soap isn’t cool enough, the second layer of color will bleed through the first layer so that the colors run together. If you wait too long and allow the first layer to become too solid, the layers won’t stick together. After your first layer cools, lightly spritz it with rubbing alcohol. The alcohol helps the layers adhere to each other. Pour your second layer of color. This layer should be no more than 120 F, or it may melt your first layer. Repeat Steps 6 through 8 as many times as necessary to complete your layers. Remove your soap from the mold after it cools completely. Don’t rush this step. If you remove the soap too soon, your layers may separate. If you’re not going to use your soap right away, wrap it in plastic to store.

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