How To Get Wax Off Wood (5 Easy Methods)

How To Get Wax Off Wood (5 Easy Methods)

Seeing stubborn blotches of dried candle wax on your wooden table can ruin your table and your mood!

Especially if you have those bright-colored candles, then stains on surfaces like wood can even be more apparent.

You’re not alone on this one. So, don’t panic. Many candle lovers will experience this once in a while and with a bit of digging around, you can easily find a simple solution to this problem.

Before we list some of the best methods available, there is one golden rule you need to follow:

Do not attempt to remove the hot wax.

It can be hard to resist the mess without wiping it up quickly. But we’re dealing with wood surfaces here! Even the slightest scratch can leave lingering damage.

The general tip is to let the wax cool before attempting to remove it. Wax hardens by itself, so you can either just wait for it, or speed up the process by placing an ice bag over it for about 30 seconds or so. Until the wax completely hardens.

Here are 5 methods you can use to remove candle wax, depending on the severity of the spill and the type of wood you are cleaning.

#1 For Minor Stains

If you’re in a rush to get the stain out of your sight quickly, this step is for you. It’s one of the simplest ways to remove a minor wax spill.

  1. Put some ice cubes in an ice or plastic bag.
  2. Place the ice bag over the wax until the wax hardens.
  3. Scrape off the hardened wax from the wood. Never use metal to scrape off the wax for this step. It could be a plastic spoon or maybe an unused credit card.
  4. Using a lint-free cloth, clean the surface to remove any stain or chunks of wax. You can use a mixture containing ½ cup of white vinegar and 1 cup of water to remove lingering stains or colored wax stains on light-colored wood.
  5. Use furniture polish as a final touch to buff the surface.

Tip: Since you’ll be scraping wax here and there, there’s a risk of scratching the wood. Scrape in the direction of the wood grain when doing this step. As we mentioned earlier, using something with a softer edge like a plastic spoon, is ideal.

Vinegar solution works for tougher stains from colored candle wax. Test the mixture first on a spot that’s less visible before using it on the surface.

Do not gouge the surface when working on this step. Try not to scrape into the wood while doing so.

But, if the stain is tougher than you thought and there’s still some wax left, try Method #2

#2 For Tougher Stains

The previous method is more of a quick band-aid solution for a small wax spill, but if we’re dealing with a big, big chunk of wax on wood, then scraping isn’t the most ideal thing to do.

This method uses heat to soften the wax. There’s less chance of scratching the wood since you can use a cloth to absorb the melted wax.

  1. Set your iron on the lowest setting. Remember not to use steam for this step. If you opt to use a hair dryer, set it to a medium setting.
  2. Place some paper towels over the wax stain.
  3. Cover the paper towels with a clean, iron-friendly cloth to protect the wood from the iron’s heat. You can use a rag or even an old t-shirt for the cloth.
  4. Place the iron on the cloth directly over the stain for about 10-20 seconds. The wax should soften when heated, allowing it to be absorbed by the towel.
  5. Check if the paper towels have absorbed any wax. If not, repeat step 4 for about 10 seconds.
  6. Repeat this process as you move to clean sections of the wood. Change the paper towels to fresh ones if the original ones have absorbed too much wax.
  7. Continue heating the wax until all of it is absorbed.
  8. Buff the wood using a clean, lint-free cloth. Use furniture polish where necessary.

Tip: Remember to use lots of paper towels for this method. The cloth might directly absorb the wax and cause a bigger mess when it hardens.

#3 For Unfinished Wood

Dealing with unfinished wood without a protective layer requires extra care.

See, finished wood is usually protected with a layer of polyurethane to waterproof the surface. Unfinished wood, on the other hand, is less protected, allowing the wax to settle deeper in the pores of the wood surface. Colored wax might be harder to deal with since it can leave a permanent and more visible stain.

The best method for unfinished wood surfaces is a combination of methods 1 and 2. Freezing the wax can help remove most of it, while heating draws in the remaining wax stuck along the wood grains or grooves.

  1. Do steps 1-4 from Method #1
  2. Do steps 1-7 from Method #2
  3. After absorbing as much wax as you can from Method #2, allow the wood surface to cool entirely.
  4. Use a small brush or vacuum to remove any residue from the process.
  5. Stains from colored dyes or oils from your candles can remain even after doing these steps. Prepare a mixture of ½ cup of white vinegar and 1 cup of water for this step.
  6. Allow the affected area to dry.

Tip: You can also use talcum powder for this method to help the paper towels absorb more wax.

#4 For Finished Wood

Wax on finished wood can be removed using a blend of vinegar and water with a sponge. Finished wood in most cases is already waterproof so this method allows the use of water and vinegar to be directly applied to the surface.

An ideal mix is one part of white vinegar and two parts of water.

  1. Dip your sponge in the vinegar-water mixture.
  2. Make sure it’s damp by wringing it out.
  3. Place the sponge on the affected area.
  4. Wipe the area in a straight motion and ideally in the direction of the wood grain.
  5. Continue wiping until the stain disappears.

#5 Using Hot Water

If you don’t have an iron, hair dryer, or scraping tool, this tip is probably your best solution. 

You can use hot water to remove wax from finished (or treated) wood surfaces only. The protective seal will repel water to prevent any water damage.

However, painted and unfinished wood can be at risk from damage when too much water is used. So, this method should be your last option when trying to remove wax stains.

  1. Place a towel on the affected area. We’d recommend a cloth or rag – something sturdy enough to not fall apart when it gets wet.
  2. Pour a small amount of hot water over the towel. Make sure it’s enough to be entirely absorbed by the towel.
  3. This will melt the wax allowing you to wipe it off with the towel. Ensure to immediately dry any remaining water after doing this method.

How Can I Prevent Getting Candle Wax Spills In The First Place?

Every candle enthusiast must have gone through the same thing. We’ve all been there.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t prevent wax spills from happening. Here are a few tips to save yourself from the stress of cleaning your wood furniture or floors next time.

  • As a candle burns the wax liquefies. This liquid layer is prone to spilling if you move the candle suddenly. So, when you extinguish your candle, ensure to let it cool down and solidify first before moving it.
  • Learn how to put out candle flames properly. Blowing the flame risks spillage of the wax.
  • Keep your candles in a safe place while burning. Candles catching more dust particles burn unevenly, which can cause more wax dripping. Burn your candles ideally in an area with a low movement of air and minimal dust.
  • Use a container for your candles. A pretty simple tip, but if you have a candle container to collect any dripping wax, your problem will be solved from the very start.

Remember These Tips

  • Melted wax is hot and malleable. Fight the urge to quickly clean it up. Let fresh wax harden first naturally or with ice.
  • Once the wax is solid, attend to it as soon as possible. Remember that the longer you let wax sit, the harder it gets to remove and the deeper it may absorb into unfinished wood surfaces.
  • Don’t use anything metal or abrasive to remove the wax. Choose something plastic, like an unused credit card or a plastic spoon to minimize the risk of scratching the wood.
  • Always set the iron or hairdryer on a low to medium setting. Direct heat on wood can lead to minor burning and warping.
  • Don’t use wax-removing products with mineral spirits. This creates more harm than good. While mineral spirits can lift off the wax, they can also work against the protective seal of your wood and leave it unprotected.

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