How to Remove Candle Wax from Table Linens and Hard Surfaces

Wax spills can be confounding to clean, but some unusual methods exist for removing wax.

wine and wax spills on tablecloth
Photo:

Marty Baldwin

Wax spills, whether from tapers that drip when lit or from a candle or wax warmer that's been knocked over, can be maddening to clean up. The job of removing spilled wax can be tedious, but using common household items for the task can bring some levity to the chore.

When it comes to cleaning melted wax, there are two primary approaches: Applying heat or freezing. The best method depends on where the wax has spilled, as there will be items that lend themselves better to one approach versus the other. This guide provides three methods for using heat to clean spilled wax, and one option to remove wax safely from items that can withstand freezing.

How to Remove Wax with a Blow Dryer

Using a hair dryer to soften and melt wax so that it's pliable enough to wipe up with paper towels is the best method for cleaning up most wax spills and messes. While it's a straightforward process, it can be tedious and time-consuming, depending on how much wax has spilled.

What You Need

  • Hair dryer
  • Paper towels

Step 1: Use the Dryer to Soften the Wax

Turn the blow dryer on, starting with the lowest heat and airflow settings, and direct it at the spill, holding it about an inch away from the wax. Adjust the distance to the wax, as well as the heat and airflow settings, as needed to ensure that the dryer melts the wax.

Step 2: Wipe Wax with Paper Towels

As the wax melts, use paper towels to wipe it up. Paper towels are ideal because the paper will absorb the wax. Rotate and/or replace the paper towel as sections of it become saturated with wax.

Step 3: Work in Sections to Remove the Wax

Working in sections, repeat steps 1 and 2 until all the wax has been removed.

blue laundry room with ironing board
John Granen

How to Remove Wax with an Iron

Another heat-based method for cleaning up spilled wax is to use an iron to reheat the wax, combined with brown paper to absorb it as it melts. 

What You Need

  • Iron
  • Brown paper

Step 1: Heat the Iron

Heat up the iron, starting on the lowest setting. 

Step 2: Cover Wax with Brown Paper

Lay a sheet of brown paper over the wax, then place the iron on top of the paper. The heat from the iron will melt the wax, which will be absorbed into the brown paper.

Step 3: Monitor Progress and Adjust

Check the underside of the paper as the wax begins to soften and absorb into the paper. Increase the heat setting on your iron if needed, and rotate the brown paper as sections of it become saturated with wax.

How to Remove Wax with Boiling Water 

This is another method for melting wax off of items that can withstand exposure to heat and are small enough to fit in a pot of boiling water.

What You Need

  • Large pot
  • Skimmer (optional)
  • Tongs (optional)

Step 1: Boil Water

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

Step 2: Submerge Waxy Item

Place the waxy item in the boiling water. The wax will melt and float to the top of the water.

Step 3: Remove Item from Water

Once the wax has melted off the item, remove it from the water using tongs to protect your hands. Alternately, remove the pot from the heat, allow the water to cool, then skim the wax from the top of the water before taking the item out.

Step 4: Skim the Wax

Skim the wax from the top of the water and dispose of it in the trash (avoid pouring waxy water down the drain). Use a skimmer to remove wax from the hot water, or allow the water to cool and remove it manually when the water is at a temperature that's safe for handling.

How to Remove Wax in the Freezer

When wax freezes, it contracts, making it easy to pop off of hard surfaces. If wax has spilled on a small item or items that can fit in a freezer, this method is an easy, relatively hands-off option. 

What You Need

  • Freezer
  • Spoon or butter knife (optional)

Step 1: Put the Item in the Freezer

Place the wax-covered item in the freezer. 

Step 2: Pop the Frozen Wax Off

As the wax freezes, it will contract, and it can be popped off using a fingernail, a butter knife, or the edge of a spoon. 

barn door laundry closet
Marty Baldwin

How to Remove Wax in the Washer

If candle wax has dripped, splattered, or spilled on launderable textiles like tablecloths, cloth napkins, curtains, or clothing, scrape as much off as possible using a butter knife or the edge of a spoon (avoid using anything sharper to prevent damage to the fabric). Then, following the instructions on the care tag, machine-wash the item using the hottest water setting the fabric can tolerate. Typically, the wax will come off in the wash without requiring any extra work on your part. Check the item to be sure the wax has been removed and there is no residual staining prior to drying.

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