A Comprehensive Guide to Remove Candle Wax Stains from Any Surface
Follow our tips for treating tabletops, linens, and upholstered furniture that have been marred by melted wax.
Flickering candles set the mood for a dinner party, but there's nothing charming about spilled wax. Don't despair, though; it's relatively easy to remove wax on your own, and a professional dry-cleaner can help you with more delicate items. If the fabric is durable, as cotton is, try to clean it yourself. If the material is fragile, however, you should not attempt to scrape off the wax as the friction may cause damage. "With silk or any other delicate fabric that has wax spots, the best thing to do is have it professionally cleaned," says Jerry Pozniak, owner of Cameo Cleaners in New York City. "Dry-cleaning solvents will dissolve the wax without damaging the material itself. No mechanical methods are needed, so there is no risk of the fading that can happen if you try to remove the wax yourself."
Still, if you're determined to mend things yourself, here are the methods recommended by Pozniak.
To remove it from tabletops, heat pooled wax with a blow dryer on the lowest setting for several seconds, then scrape it off using a credit card, plastic spatula, or flexible dough scraper (don't use anything made of metal). You should be able to buff the excess away with a soft cloth. To harden soft wax (from a fresh drip), place ice cubes in a plastic bag and rest the bag against the wax. The hardened wax can then be scraped away easily.
Allow wax to harden before you attempt to remove it. When wax is frozen, it becomes even more brittle and is easier use ice to freeze wax or place the item in the freezer. Once the wax is hard, gently flake it off with a dull butter knife. (Do not scrape since this may damage the fibers.) The dyes used in colored candles may leave behind a stain; if an oily spot remains, have the item dry-cleaned.
Although a dry cleaner should remove wax from delicate fibers such as silk, for durable fabrics such as cotton, you can try to clean them yourself. First, let the wax cool on its own or hasten the process by placing an ice cube wrapped in plastic on top of it. Once firm, carefully scrape off as much wax as you can using your fingernail or the dull edge of a butter knife. If the wax is on a cushion cover that can be removed, take it off and place several layers of damp paper towels on each side of the fabric, ironing over the paper on a low setting; the wax should be absorbed by the towels. Apply a fabric stain remover to eliminate any lingering residue (check for colorfastness first in an inconspicuous spot, then follow label instructions on the spot remover); blot with clean paper towels before laundering. If the drippings are on a cushion or pillow cover that can't be taken off, Pozniak suggests that you ask your dry-cleaner to recommend a tailor who can carefully pull out the stuffing so the covering can be treated separately. As always, light candles only when the wick is a safe distance from flammable materials such as curtains or other loose fabrics. And before going to bed, be sure to extinguish every flame.
Rugs and Carpeting
Candle wax on the carpet looks a lot worse than it is. Let it harden, then scrape up as much as possible with a spoon. Place a white cloth or paper towels on top, and run a warm iron over it. (On synthetic carpet, make sure the iron is on the lowest setting.) If any wax remains, try dry-cleaning fluid. Little burn marks can't be removed, but they can be camouflaged-trim those black bits away with scissors. Cut some fibers from a hidden swatch of carpet, then use superglue to secure them into the burn mark and even out the top with scissors. After all of this, if a stain has gotten the best of you, don't despair: You can always rearrange the furniture.