Don't toss those old candle jars! Try these clever tricks instead to give them a new lease of life

Do you have old candle jars lying around the house? These easy pro tips will save them from the bin and turn them into beautiful home decor

A tray with candles on a dining table
(Image credit: Future PLC/Dominic Blackmore)

Everybody loves a scented candle burning in the house, filling your home with a beautiful aroma of florals, citrus, woods or spice. Or all of the above. But once your candle is all used up and burnt out, what do you do with the candle jar you’re left with? 

Whether you’re a repurposing freak, like us, or you simply want to know what to do with that leftover candle clutter, you might be thinking about how to reuse candle jars to save them from going to waste.

These days, most of the best candle brands put as much effort into the presentation of their candles as they do into their scents. So a candle jar's potential for home decor ideas is limited only by your imagination. 

We asked some of the top organising and candle experts for their tips and tricks on what to do with old candle jars, as well as how to clean wax out of candle jars to get them back to their former glory. 

How to reuse candle jars

A home office with a desk and framed photographs on the wall

(Image credit: Future PLC/Polly Eltes)

‘If you’ve made it to the very bottom of your candle, congratulations! Rather than throwing away the jar, reuse it! Your candle can be repurposed in so many ways,’ starts Stacia Prince, co-founder of candle brand CONTROL & CHAOS.

One of the most common (and perhaps obvious) uses for an old candle jar is as a pen holder for your desk. That’s what I did with my pretty Cire Trudon candle jar. But it could become a DIY storage idea for a wide range of items.

‘You can use your candle to store pens, pencils, makeup brushes etc. for an aesthetic, organised desk or dressing table. It’ll keep everything neat and tidy and make missing earrings a thing of the past,’ Stacia suggests. She adds that the same can be done in the bathroom to hold toothbrushes, cotton wool pads or cotton ear buds. But we would recommend choosing a jar with a lid for storing the latter two to protect them from dust.

A black-tiled bathroom with a wheeled shelving unit

(Image credit: Future PLC/David Giles)

Kate Ibbotson, APDO (Association of Professional Declutterers and Organisers) member and founder of A Tidy Mind, continues, ‘The leftover candle holders are a good way to tidy up your bedside table. There's the tradition of keeping false teeth in a glass! But they're also good for glasses, lip balms and medication.’

And it’s not just your bedside table that will benefit from such organisation. As Kate suggests, you can use an empty candle jar for collecting together all kinds of bits and bobs, ‘Items that go astray if loose; like hair pins, elastic bands, buttons, batteries, screws, pins or craft bits such as rolls of ribbon or sequins. Use transparent glass jars if you want to see what's inside easily.’ Or you can label them with stickers to identify what’s inside.

Apart from storage, old candle jars can also be used as functional home decor for your plants and flowers. ‘They make great plant pots for small plants like cacti or succulents. Or for herbs,’ Kate recommends. ‘Larger and taller candle holders can be reused as small vases and mean you can split bouquets and put them in multiple rooms.’

And lastly, you could reuse them for new candles made from leftover wax or bought candle refills. Or for tealights. ‘To save money on expensive candles in the future, you could put a tea light, which are very budget friendly, into your glass holder,’ Kate advises.

How to clean candle jars

A tray with candles on a dining table

(Image credit: Future PLC/David Giles)

But before you can start repurposing your old candle jars, you, of course, need to get it back into shape and get rid of the waxy residue on the bottom of the glass. 

However, wax can be a tricky substance to get rid of, which is why we turned to pros for some cleaning advice

The most recommended way of cleaning old candle jars is by filling them with hot water. 

‘One of the best ways to get leftover wax out of a candle jar is to pour hot water into it, leaving some space at the top,’ says Siân Pelleschi, professional organiser, owner of Sorted! and APDO president. ‘Then wait for the wax to melt slightly around the edges and float to the top of the water. You’ll need to wait until the water cools before fishing it out. Give the jar a wash in hot soapy water to remove any residue left behind. Then wipe dry and it’s free to be used for something else.’

Portrait of an expert
Siân Pelleschi

Siân Pelleschi is the owner of Sorted!, a Cheshire-based home and office decluttering and organising service, and the current President of APDO - the Association of Professional Declutterers and Organisers. With Sorted!, she aims to take away the stress and hassle that everyday life can sometimes bring, both in your home and working environment.

However, this tip is not ideal for more delicate and fragile jars made from thin glass as you could risk shattering the jar. If your candle jar is made from thin glass, then submerging it in a pot with hot (not boiling though) soapy water is best, which should also solve the issue of removing any stickers or labels attached to it. ‘Fill a saucepan with hot water and place the jar in the large pot, creating a makeshift double boiler. Once the remaining wax has softened use a spoon to remove the wax and then wash any remaining residue away with warm water and soap,’ says Stacia.

An alternative method is using an extremely cool environment instead of heat by placing the jar in the freezer. ‘Put the used candle holder in the freezer - once frozen, the leftover wax should pop out,’ says Kate.

But similarly as with the boiling water, this might not be ideal if your candle jar is on the fragile side. Stacia points out, ‘I always advise on the hot method rather than freezing jars as it is more effective for delicately designed jars, minimising the scratching and maintaining its visual appeal.’

Whichever method you choose, just remember not to pour out any melted wax down the drain or the toilet as it will clog them up once it hardens again.

How to remove stickers and labels from candle jars

A bath tray with soap and candle

(Image credit: Future PLC/William Goddard)

‘Removing sticky labels is easy when you know how,’ Laura Marsden, Marigold marketing manager. ‘Put the used candle jar into a bowl of warm water with washing up liquid. Allow the jar to sit in the water for five minutes, this will help break down the glue and should make the label easy to peel off.’ Which is how you can also remove the wax itself. Two birds with one stone!

But there are other ways to remove any stubborn labels from your candle jar. Using a hairdryer is one of them. 

‘One way I’ve found works a treat is to use a hairdryer,’ Siân advises. ‘Simply place on a heat resistant surface, turn the hairdryer onto warm heat and using a circular motion work the heat over the sticker. Test it every 20-30 seconds or so until you can start to easily remove the sticker. The heat, in a similar way to the wax, slightly melts the glue used to stick to the jar and quite often allows you to simply rub off any remaining glue once the sticker has been removed.’ Which is why this is a good way to remove the said wax from the jar, too.

Bathroom shelves of wood with towels, a plant and body lotion dispenser

(Image credit: Future PLC/Colin Poole)

Stacia shares a couple more products you can use for removing those candle labels that you most probably own already, ‘Oils are a gentle way to remove a label or sticker on your candles. Use something cheap and cheerful, like your baby oil or olive oil, and apply it to a paper towel to degrade the sticky tag – the oil will saturate and loosen the label from a jar. Acetone also works a dream removing sticky labels from glass – just dab and wipe away.’

We bet that from now on you'll never throw a used candle jar away again!

News Writer

Sara Hesikova has been Ideal Home’s News Writer since July 2023, bringing the Ideal Home’s readership breaking news stories from the world of home decor and interiors, as well as trend-led pieces, shopping round-ups and more. Graduating from London College of Fashion with a bachelor’s degree in fashion journalism in 2016, she got her start in niche fashion and lifestyle magazines like Glass and Alvar as a writer and editor before making the leap into interiors, working with the likes of 91 Magazine and copywriting for luxury bed linen brand Yves Delorme among others. She feels that fashion and interiors are intrinsically connected – if someone puts an effort into what they wear, they most likely also care about what they surround themselves with.