One of my favorite ways to decorate my home is with a new candle.
Colorful candles, scented candles, plain old candles, I love them all. But I'm not crazy about the little waxy ends they leave behind.
I used to throw these out, before I realized that they were probably worth something if I knew how to use them.
It turns out there's a whole community of people who recycle their candle dregs, and they've come up with some pretty creative uses.
How to remove candle wax
Before we begin, you may be wondering about just how we get our candle ends out of the container.
You don't need to break them into pieces or try to melt them out, just poke a few holes into the candle's base. Now boil some water and pour it into the container (best to do this over the sink, for your safety).
As the wax heats up under the water, and the warm water seeps under the wax through the holes, the dregs will float to the top.
Now scoop it them and recycle them for one of these clever projects.
1. Make pincushions
This is one of the easiest ways to "upcycle" old candle bits, whether you have an unsightly candle end or plenty of smaller pieces.
Melt or squish them together to make a free pincushion for your sewing box.
Wax is actually great for this, because the coating makes your pins slide through fabric more easily.
2. Waterproof something
This works best with a white candle, but most colors will also work if you rub gently.
Wax residue is see-through but very water-resistant. You can rub it over things like the nametag on a child's backpack to keep the letters from washing out.
Small wax pieces are also handy for important labels and recipe cards. Just rub them with wax to protect your writing.
3. Guard against paint marks
Here's another clever use for water-resistant wax candle pieces. Rub them anywhere you don't want paint to go.
You might not have enough to cover the entire edge of a wall in your bedroom. But a small piece of wax can coat an entire doorknob or wall switch while you paint around it.
If any paint does get on, it should wipe right off the wax with a wet cloth.
4. Caulk up a window crack
It's not a permanent fix, but if you notice any holes around your window edges or on your outside walls, you can plug them with wax.
This quick fix will bring down your energy bills until you have time to do the job properly.
5. Save on air freshener refills
There are all sorts of home air fresheners you can buy these days, but ones that heat up scented wax cubes are very common.
If you're already buying candles, it's pretty easy to turn the candle dregs into your own refill cubes.
Candles are pretty cheap, so this is a much better deal than the actual refills.
6. Fix a squeaky drawer or door
When a drawer or door in my house starts to squeak and stick, I usually reach for my can of WD-40.
But candle wax actually works even better, because it sticks to the hinge for longer than spray will.
Just rub the wax piece over the hinge or drawer runners and watch as it slides like new again. The trick works for zippers too!
If the wax doesn't fix the problem, swollen wood is probably causing friction, and you'll need to sand it down.
7. Treat leather clothes and shoes
This project is not for the faint of heart, so don't attempt it unless you're serious about keeping your leather clothes in good condition.
Wax is used to keep leather sturdy and water resistant, and olive oil helps to form a protective seal over the material.
You'll need to heat the wax first, then blend it with the oil and smooth it over your leather goods. Check the label first, and apply a bit on the back to see if it will leave a noticeable stain.
You should also mind the wax and oil mixture, because it's flammable.
8. Protect your shower from mildew
Unless the grout in your shower is an unusual color, this trick works best with white candle wax.
After a thorough cleaning, rub the wax pieces between your shower tiles.
The waxy barrier keeps your shower looking sparkling clean, because it prevents stains, mold and mildew from spreading.
9. Make a new candle
You'll want to start saving candle jars as well as leftover wax for this craft. And of course, you'll need a wick from the craft store.
Melt down the wax over low heat, then pour it into a container and insert a wick - voila, a new candle. If you have a special design in mind, there are more ambitious tutorials on the web.
10. Make homemade firestarters
The last home I lived in with a fireplace had a push-button start, but not all models are so convenient.
For those cold winter nights when you want the hearth lit up ASAP, try dipping cotton rounds in wax and letting them dry out for handy kindling.
11. Keep pests away
For unwanted house guests, leave a bundle of scented candle ends wherever you've noticed them nesting or scurrying. It should drive them away.
If unwanted visitors are eating the veggies from your garden, hanging socks full of scented candle ends along your fence will repel them.
12. Fix damaged furniture
Have a noticeable chip or dent in your dining set? A little wax will fix it right up.
Roll the wax between your fingers to heat it up and press it into the dent. Once it's full, color the wax in with a furniture marker. I guarantee your guests will have no idea the mark was ever there.
13. Make cheap tea candles
You can turn one candle into multiple little lights if you save your tea light containers.
Just like full-sized candles, you only need to heat the wax, pour it in, and leave a wick to rest inside.
If you're feeling creative, food coloring or sweet spices will make a colored or scented candle.
Now, turn those tea lights into these relaxing homemade holiday candles.
A bar of soap has just as many surprising uses around the house.