If you accidentally spill hot candle wax on wood furniture or floors, don’t fret.
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I’m going to teach you four tried-and-true ways to clean spilled wax without damaging the wood.
The easiest and safest way to remove wax from wood is to allow the wax to cool, then gently scrape it off with a plastic utensil, spatula, or credit card.
For a substantial mess, gradually soften the wax with a hair dryer or clothing iron before wiping it off of the wood with a cloth. If you don’t have an iron or hair dryer handy, harden the wax with ice, which makes it brittle and effortless to remove.
Additionally, there are products designed specifically for removing wax from wood and other surfaces that are worth trying if these other methods don’t do the trick.
Although the steps are simple, there are several pitfalls that you need to know to avoid damaging the wood in the process.
Keep reading to get the full details on each method, including the materials needed, things to consider when preparing, and the step-by-step instructions.
By the end, you’ll be able to weigh your options and choose the best course of action for your situation.
Okay, let’s get into this!
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Quick Summary: How to Remove Candle Wax From Wood
If you only have a minute, here’s a quick summary of each method.
Use a large washcloth to ensure that the surface of the iron never comes in direct contact with the wood.
Check the fabric makeup of your washcloth to avoid scorching the cloth during the process.
Method 3: Freeze and Scrape
I recommend the Freeze and Scrape method because it’s a relatively quick fix and doesn’t require heat, so it’s safer if you want the kids to help.
This Old House, an Emmy-winning trusted resource for homeowners and DIY enthusiasts since 1979, recommends this method and involves freezing the wax with ice.
Here are the details.
Materials NeededFirm, plastic spatula, plastic spoon, or credit cardClean, white, or light-colored lint-free clothsIcePlastic zipper-style bagFurniture polish of your choice (or furniture wax cream)
StepsStep One: Add several ice cubes to a plastic bag.Step Two: Place the bag over the affected area for one minute to help freeze the wax.Step Three: Use a plastic spatula, plastic spoon, or credit card to remove the cold wax gently. It usually will break off in one clump but may leave trace amounts of wax behind.Step Four: Use the spatula or credit card to help gently scrape the remaining wax.Step Five: Once the wax is removed, clean and buff the area using a lint-free cloth and the furniture polish of your choice.
Preparation and Considerations
Use enough ice to cover the affected area. Be sure to place a lint-free cloth as a buffer between the bag of ice and the wax stain so that condensation will not make the wax wet.
When wax gets cold, it becomes more brittle, which makes it easier to break or scrape off wood surfaces.
If the wax is deeply embedded in the wood grain and there are remnants left behind after using this method, consider using the Heat and Wipe method to finish the job.
Method 4: Use Wax Removing Products
Another way to remove wax from wood is to use a product specifically designed for the job.
There are several wax-removing products on the market, but these are the three I recommend. All three get are inexpensive and get extremely high ratings on Amazon:
These products have multiple uses, so follow the instructions on the label for best results.
One major caveat—these products work well if you need to remove a minor smear of wax, but they don’t stand a chance against significant spills. If you have a considerable mess, you need to alter the composition of the wax so it detaches from the wood (as I described in Method 2).
Although some experts suggest using mineral spirits to clean up wax, I wouldn’t recommend it.
Because mineral spirits are stripping agents. Sure, they may remove the wax, but they also could remove the protective sealant on your wood surface.
So, you’ll solve one problem, but you’ll create an even bigger problem in the process—the damage it could cause may require you to sand and reseal the surface of the wood. In my opinion, it’s not worth the risk.
Speaking of repairs, if you damage a few minor areas while removing the wax, all is not lost. These simple-to-use products will help you fill in scratches and restore your wood:
(click to see each product on Amazon)
Removing Candle Wax From Unfinished Wood
Wood is innately hygroscopic, which means it absorbs and retains liquid easily, just like a sponge.
Most wood floors and furniture are sealed with a protective layer, usually polyurethane, which prevents liquids such as water and hot wax from absorbing.
But, if you spill wax on unfinished wood that’s not protected with a sealer, the wax will soak into the wood’s pores, making it extremely difficult to remove.
Even worse, if the wax has dyes or color tints, it can permanently stain the wood. Again, due to the porous nature of unfinished wood, the stain will settle deep in the layers of the wood.
If you find yourself in this situation, don’t panic.
The best way to remove wax from unfinished wood is to use the Heat and Wipe method with an iron as the heat source.
As I described earlier, here’s what you need to do:Place several layers of paper towels over the wax.Lay a washcloth over the paper towelsSet the iron to the lowest temperature (no steam)Press the iron on the washcloth in five-second increments.Replace the paper towels as they absorb the wax.
The Heat and Wipe method works best on unfinished wood because the heat from the iron draws the wax into the paper towels. Other methods, such as the Settle and Scrape, may remove the top layer, but won’t remove the wax that’s embedded into the wood grains.
If you give the Heat and Wipe method a solid try, but your attempts are unsuccessful, you may need to sand the wood gently.
If you’re dealing with an expensive piece of furniture, I suggest calling a professional. You can get a free quote from sites like HomeAdvisor to get an idea of what it will cost.
While there’s nothing like the beauty and fragrance of a flickering candle, there are some safer options to try if you’re worried about ruining expensive wood furniture or floors.
These options will either give you the close-to-real glow you desire, scent, or a combination of both without the risk of creating a waxy mess.
LED Candles (see on Amazon): Many LED candles are battery-operated or solar-powered and shaped like pillar candles, votives, or tea lights, and mimic a flickering flame. Some even come in wax form with a scent, but the flames are all LED lights.
Ultrasonic Diffusers (see on Amazon): While you won’t get the candle-glow feel with these devices, many of them light up. Adding essential oils provides a pleasant scent profile without the threat of spilling candle wax.
Scented Oil Lamps and Warmers (see on Amazon): Scented oil lamps and warmers are another safe, flame-free option that smells fantastic without the waxy mess on your wood. You can use oils or scented wax melts for the fragrance.
You can also set your candles on heat-safe mats or stands to guard against spills. Options such as candle mats, heat-resistant placemats, or silicone trivets all do the trick.
When you discover a hard clump of candle wax on your beautiful wood floors or furniture, there’s no need to stress.
If you follow the steps I outlined in this article, you’ll have it cleaned up in no time.
But, before you roll up your sleeves and tackle that mess, keep these “do’s” and “don’ts” in mind.
Do’sAttend to the spill as quickly as possible (but not right away since fresh wax will be piping hot). The longer it sits, the more it can settle into the wood.Take your time when scraping the wax and use a plastic spatula, plastic spoon, or credit card to limit the risk of scratching the wood.Use a low heat setting on an iron or hair dryer to remove wax.Use furniture polish or wax already proven to work well with your finished wood furniture to put the finishing touches on the cleanup.
See more: What Country Has The Most Castles Per Capita? Which Country Has The Most Castles
Don’tsDon’t allow a candle wax spill to sit for several hours or days.Don’t apply an iron directly to the wood surface when using the Heat and Wipe method.Don’t use metal, including knives and razor blades when scraping the wax. You can damage the wood surface.Don’t use products with mineral spirits as they can strip the protective finish from the wood.Don’t use abrasive materials such as steel wool, green scrub sponges, or Mr. Clean Magic Eraser or magic eraser-type products on finished wood.
What methods have you tried?
Have you tried any of these methods? If you have, let us know how they worked for you—and please share your tips in the comments below!