How To Remove Wax From Wood, The Complete Guide

Wooden furniture is as impressive to look at as it is to touch. It not only remains very popular but also lasts for a very long time if properly taken care of. Wooden furniture is among some few priceless items that are passed on from generation to generation. Now and then spills and staining will inevitably occur. Cleaning up after the said spills and stains will be done in such a way that the original wood in the furniture isn’t harmed in any way.

The same case applies to candle wax spills. Candle wax can be particularly tricky to clean from wood. Apply too much pressure while scraping and you have yourself a ruined wooden piece. Attempt to clean it too soon and the result is furthering the extent of the candle wax spill. In this article, I’ll discuss a few ways on how to remove wax from wood.

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Introduction

The ambiance, scents and the general atmosphere good old fashioned candles create is breathtaking to most. Once in a while, candle wax is bound to spill over onto your wooden furniture surface. Don’t panic, this can be addressed without necessarily causing any harm to your antique furniture piece.

It is recommended to take your time while cleaning candle wax spills in order to ensure their proper removal and maintenance of the wood’s natural appeal. There are several methods you can use to clean candle wax spills on your furniture safely. This article is aimed at highlighting the chemical makeup of candle wax and how to remove wax from wood without ruining it.

About Modern Day Candle Wax

Throughout history, candles have existed in different cultures and civilizations. From the Chinese, Romans and probably the Greeks, Candles were made from varied materials such as animal fat, beeswax, spermaceti, rapeseed oil, colza oil, and tallow. Presently, candles are mostly made from purified paraffin wax with added stearic acid. Molten wax isn’t hot enough to cause damage to your wooden furniture although colored wax may stain lighter shades of wood.

Via art-now-and-then.blogspot.com

Today, candles are made from paraffin wax that is purified from coal, petroleum or oil shale. Paraffin wax is a mixture of hydrocarbons comprising roughly 20 to 40 carbon atoms in each molecule. At room temperature, paraffin wax is a white or colorless solid. It has a melting point of between 48 to 68 degrees Celsius. Paraffin wax was first isolated by Chemists in the late 1850’s. This initial form had a lower melting point which was corrected by the addition of stearic acid.

Candle wax is comprised of heavy long chain alkanes. It can be dissolved in non-polar organic solvents. This leads us to question the methods that effectively remove wax from wood. Discussed below are some ways you can safely clean candle wax from your furniture. Number two will blow your mind!


1. Using An Iron Box And A Few Paper Towels

This simple method yields incredible results. As mentioned earlier, normal candle wax has a melting range of between 48 and 68 degrees Celsius. For this method, you will need an ironing box and several paper towels.

remove wax from wood using iron box

Use Iron box and some paper towels to remove wax

Step 1: First, scrape off excess wax from the wood surface using a blunt object such as a spoon or a butter knife. Pay attention so as to avoid damaging the wood.

Step2: Second, plug in the iron box and allow it to get hot. It is important to note that the steam model iron boxes should be set to release no steam at all. Place the paper towels on top of the candle wax stain and place the hot iron box atop the paper towels.

Properly time the duration the iron box stays on top of the paper towels so as to ensure you don’t burn them. The idea here is to melt the wax so that the paper towels can absorb the liquid wax off of the wooden surface. Repeat the process as many times as is necessary until the wax stain vanishes.


2. Using Home Cooking Oil

In chemical terms, “like dissolves like”. Candle wax is no exception despite being unreactive to literally everything. Candle wax is basically Paraffin wax; a long hydrocarbon chain compound.

Candle wax can only be dissolved in non-polar organic solvents and lipophilic solvents. To effectively remove wax from wood using this method you will need cooking oil, liquid detergent, paper towels and some warm water.

Step1: First, scrape off excess wax with a blunt implement such as a butter knife. Be careful not to touch the furniture’s wooden surface.

remove wax using cooking oil

Use Cooking oil to remove wax

Step2: Second, measure out a tablespoon full of cooking oil and pour it onto the wax-stained area. The amount of cooking oil used will vary with the area of the stain and the volume of the candle wax. A tablespoon of oil will suffice for every 2 ounces of candle wax. The cooking oil will dissolve the wax forming a greasy solution.

Step3: In step three, use the paper towels to mop up the wax-oil solution.

Afterward, pour a small amount of liquid detergent on the mopped up areas. Gently scrub to form a lather. The detergent lifts any remaining traces of the oil and wax solution. Using the warm water, rinse off the detergent and allow your furniture to dry. Voila! Good as new.


3. Using A Hair Blow-Dryer

As discussed earlier, paraffin wax present in candles will melt at temperatures above 48 degrees Celsius. The intermolecular binding between the hydrocarbon molecules is known as Van Der Waal’s force. Van Der Waal forces are degraded by application of heat and temperatures between 48 and 68 degrees Celsius.

In this method, you will need a standard hair blow dryer and several paper towels.

Via Lionessegiveaway.com

Step1: First, scrape off wax using a blunt tool while being careful not to scratch the wooden surface. Wipe off the excess candle wax.

Step2: Second, plug in the hair blow dryer to a power outlet and toggle to medium heat. Blow hot air onto the candle wax stained areas until the wax liquefies. Place the paper towels on the liquid candle wax and allow the wax to soak in.

Repeat this process several times until all the wax has been absorbed by the paper towel. After several cycles of blowing hot air and paper towels, the candle wax stain will completely disappear.


4. Using Ice Cubes

Paraffin wax is a solid at room temperature. This method exploits paraffin waxes shortcomings after interaction with lower temperatures. Paraffin wax has a latent heat of fusion of candle wax under constant pressure is 200 to 220 joules per gram. Water has a latent heat of fusion of about 333.5 joules per gram. The difference is astounding.

Photo by Kyle May

Treatment of candle wax with ice cubes in this method can, therefore, be considered overkill to some extent.

In this method, you will need ice cubes fresh from the freezer and a blunt tool such as a credit card, a butter knife or a plastic ruler.

Step1: First, place the ice cubes in a small plastic bag. Place the plastic bag containing ice cubes directly on top of the candle wax stain. Leave it on for about 10 minutes. Ordinarily, wax cracks at lower temperatures. In this case, the wax stain becomes stiff and brittle.

Step2: In the second part, use a blunt implement chip the sides of the candle wax stain. The wax breaks off in little pieces or will come off completely as one large stiff piece leaving absolutely no trace of wax on the wooden surface. Incredible don’t you think?


5. Using Organic Solvents

As mentioned earlier on, paraffin wax can be dissolve using non-polar organic solvents. Contrary to popular layman belief, ethanol (packaged as rubbing alcohol) and acetone commonly used in nail polish removal are not non-polar solvents. These two common household solvents will have minimal effects on candle wax stains on wooden furniture. Don’t despair, solvents such as ether, turpentine, benzene, toluene, and xylene will work incredibly well on candle wax stains.

Via www.magentocommerce.com

The above-mentioned solvents convert crystalline paraffin wax into a viscous isoparaffin complex that can be wiped off using paper towels or cloth. You will need a suitable non-polar solvent (pick your favorite from the ones I’ve mentioned) and a piece of highly absorbent cloth or paper towel.

Step1: Fist, scrape off excess candle wax using a blunt implement such as a spoon or a credit card. Wipe off the wax flakes then pour a generous amount of organic non-polar solvent onto the area of the stain. Gently rub in the solvent on the wax stain until a viscous compound is formed.

Step2: Using a piece of absorbent cloth or paper towels, wipe off the isoparaffin compound and repeat the procedure until the solvent has no more wax to dissolve. This method is effective in instances where the wax stain is colored.

As soon as all the wax has been eliminated from the wood, it is recommended that you apply wood polish to the cleaned area. This restores that natural glossy shine.


Conclusion

Candle wax spills shouldn’t be a death sentence to your wooden furniture. There are more ways than one to restore your wood to its previous beautiful state safely and economically of course. I hope my guideline on how to remove wax from wood was as informative as it was fun to read. It has personally helped me clean up messy candle wax scenarios and I felt it is only right I share it with you. Feel free to share your comments, thoughts, and suggestions in the space provided and also forward this to a friend.

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Jose A. Brown
 

Jose A. Brown is a mechanic engineer and an enthusiastic blogger whose mission is to provide the readers with the best tips, guides in the Home Improvement, DIY Project, and Industry.

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