How to Remove Candle Wax from Just About Every Household Surface

Updated: May 09, 2024

A little wax stain can be a big problem. Here's how to remove candle wax from any surface, according to the professionals.

Even the most expert cleaners run into difficult stains, spots, drips and in this case, wax spills. Logan Taylor, founder of Seattle-based Dazzle Cleaning Company, was working on a yacht and carrying a tray of freshly blown-out tea candles when the boat hit a swell and he lost his balance. The entire tray flew out of his arms and wax spattered on every nearby surface, including upholstery, rugs, hardwood floors, walls, tables, chairs and clothing. “A harrowing experience indeed,” Taylor recalls, but also a great learning opportunity for how to remove candle wax from just about every surface.

While every stain presents its own annoying challenges, cleaning hot wax is a bit more temperamental, different from red wine stains or coffee stains. “I think the reason people find it hard is because you have to choose a specific technique based on the material you’re cleaning,” Taylor says. Using the wrong approach with wax can actually make the problem worse.

That’s why Reader’s Digest consulted experts who know a thing or two about how to remove stains, including Taylor, who creates cleaning training programs for his employees, and Rosa Nogales-Hernandez, a professionally trained cleaner and head of home cleaning at Valet Living. Read on to discover expert wax removal tips.

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About the experts

  • Logan Taylor is a cleaning expert and founder of the Dazzle Cleaning Company, an eco-friendly cleaning service in Seattle. 
  • Rosa Nogales-Hernandez is head of the cleaning team at Valet Living, a full-service amenities provider in Tampa, Florida.

Reviewed for accuracy by: Mary Marlowe Leverette, a highly regarded housekeeping, laundry, stain-removal and fabric-care expert with more than 40 years of experience.

How to remove candle wax

Not many people will face Taylor’s scenario on that yacht, but Americans buy enough candles each year to use more than 1 billion pounds of wax, according to the National Candle Association. The top spots to burn candles in the house are the living room, kitchen and bedroom. And the odds that you’ll need to know how to remove candle wax from some kind of household surface are high.

The first thing you’ll want to do is wait for the wax to dry. Never try to remove hot, liquid wax. Waiting until it has cooled and hardened is the best approach. Not only does hot wax pose a potential burn hazard, it can also spread to surrounding areas, or inadvertently grind deeper into fabric fibers—even with the most careful blotting.

Removing candle wax also requires more prep time than treating other stains. You’ll want to gather the right tools for the job, Taylor says, and take into account the surface you’re cleaning. “Some surfaces, such as carpets, fabric furniture and linens need heat,” says Nogales-Hernandez, who has tackled wax removal many times in her career. “Other surfaces, like wood, require cold, like an ice cube, to get the wax off.” Here’s everything you need to know about removing wax from every surface of the house.

How to remove candle wax from clothes and fabrics

white shirt with wax dripsAlaina DiGiacomo/

The best stain removers for clothes will not work here. Nor will picking at it for hours. The best advice for removing candle wax from clothes and fabrics is to actually apply heat, according to Nogales-Hernandez. For this job, you’ll want an iron, a butter knife and two paper bags (any non-glossy bag will work).

First, use the butter knife to gently scrape away as much of the dried wax as possible. Avoid nicking or pulling the fabric. Then place the material between the two paper bags, like you’re making a sandwich. Set the iron to medium heat and iron over the paper bags until the wax transfers out of the fabric or clothing and onto the paper bags. Repeat using clean paper bags, as needed. This approach works on a variety of clothing materials, including cotton and denim. For delicate fabrics, like silk and wool, be sure to use the lowest possible heat setting and keep the iron moving so one spot doesn’t stay under direct heat for too long.

Once the wax is removed, there may be a residual oil or dye stain that must be treated, says laundry and fabric-care expert Mary Marlowe Leverette. She recommends placing a dab of an enzyme-based stain remover or heavy-duty laundry detergent on the stain. Then use a soft-bristled brush (an old toothbrush works great) to work the stain remover into the fabric. Let the stain remover sit for at least 15 minutes before washing the garment in the hottest water recommended on the care label. Check the stained area before tossing the garment in a hot dryer and repeat the steps, if needed.

How to remove candle wax from upholstery

Upholstery fabric can be treated similarly when it comes to wax removal. First, you’ll want to use something gentle to scrape away as much wax as you can without damaging the fabric. Try a plastic putty knife or unused plastic gift card or credit card. Then apply heat using a blow dryer or hot iron and use paper towels or paper bags to absorb the wax as it softens. For delicate upholstery, keep the blow dryer moving so you’re not focusing direct heat in one spot too long.

To treat any discoloration left on the upholstery from the wax, Leverette recommends mixing a paste of one part water to two parts powdered oxygen-based bleach (which is safe to use on all colors and all upholstery fabrics except silk). Spread the paste on the stained area and allow it to air-dry for at least four hours. Vacuum away the powder and repeat the steps if necessary.

How to remove candle wax from carpet

candle wax in carpetAlaina DiGiacomo/

If wax spills on your carpet, all is not lost. But the process is much different from typical carpet cleaning or removing coffee stains or chocolate stains from rugs. To remove candle wax from carpeting, you’ll need a damp cloth and a hot iron. Dampen a clean cloth so it’s moist but not dripping. Place it over the dried wax stain on the carpet so it covers the stain completely. Using an iron, apply medium heat to the cloth. This will pull the wax out of the carpet and make it stick to the cloth, Nogales-Hernandez explains.

For oily or discolored spots left on carpet after the wax is removed, Leverette suggests using rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol to treat the stain. Put a few drops of alcohol on the stained area and then blot it with a white cloth or paper towel. Allow the carpet to air-dry and treat again, if needed.

How to remove candle wax from a wall

Instead of staring at the wax stain on your wall and wondering how it even got there, dive into action. When it comes to cleaning walls, the faster you act, the less likely the wax is to stain. You’ll need a blow dryer and some paper towels. Use the blow dryer to apply medium heat to the wax stain on the wall. Wipe away the wax with a paper towel as it softens, being careful to avoid dirtying other areas of the wall as you wipe.

If you do notice some staining post-removal, you can try removing the leftover residue with a solution of one part vinegar to two parts water. If the wax was a dark or bright color or had been sitting unnoticed for a few days, however, you may need to touch up the area with some paint.

How to remove candle wax from wood

tea light candle drip on woodMikhail Dmitriev/getty images

There are many products you shouldn’t use on wood. When wax drips onto your wood table or floor, don’t reach for the blow-dryer or iron! Wood is porous, which means heating the wax could actually help it melt and sink into the wood even more. Instead, grab some ice and a towel.

Gently rub an ice cube over the wax to make it as hard and brittle as possible. Apply the ice for only a few seconds at a time, using the towel to prevent the area from getting too wet—it’s harder to scrape when it’s slippery. Then, gently scrape off the wax using the back of a butter knife or edge of a spoon. Lightly graze over the surface to avoid scratching the wood. Repeat the process as needed until all the wax has been removed. You can use some rubbing alcohol or nail polish remover to remove any waxy residue left behind, Taylor adds—just test it on the surface in an inconspicuous spot first.

How to remove candle wax from leather

Knowing how to clean leather properly will ensure it lasts for years to come. While you can use ice to remove candle wax from leather, Taylor says he gets the best results using heat instead. Carefully scape any big pieces of wax off the leather with a plastic putty knife or plastic card. Next, put some really absorbent paper over the stain, such as paper towels or a paper bag. While holding the paper to the stain, use a blow dryer on light heat to soften up and release the wax. Once you have transferred some of the wax, toss the paper and grab a fresh piece to continue the process. Repeat this until you have removed as much wax as you can.

At this point, if there is still a noticeable stain where the wax was, apply a little rubbing alcohol to the stain, say the experts. Let it sit on the stain for 30 seconds and then blot it off with a clean towel. Test a discreet area of leather first to ensure that there isn’t a unique finish on the leather that may not be safe to use alcohol on.

How to remove candle wax from glass

dripping candle onto a glass candle holder plateDetry26/Getty Images

Whether it’s wax that’s dripped down the side of your glass candleholder or a wax stain on a glass mirror, here’s how to get rid of it without damaging the glass or leaving a waxy residue behind. Gently scrape off the excess wax with a butter knife or plastic putty knife. Then use a blow-dryer on medium heat to soften the wax, wiping it away with paper towels as it softens. A little rubbing alcohol or nail polish remover can remove any waxy residue.

How to clean candle wax around a candle

Aren’t candles supposed to be waxy? Well, sure, but it can be a problem if wax has built up around the edges of your candle holder or dripped wax has dried down your candle’s sides. To fix the problem, you’ll want to start with a room temperature candle—do not start if you’ve just blown out the candle.

Then, use a piece of ice to freeze the wax around the problem area, advises Nogales-Hernandez. This will harden the wax and make it easier to work with. Gently rub it over the wax for a few seconds at a time. Carefully break away the drips and pieces of wax with the thin end of a butter knife. Voilà! Your candle will look as good as new!

Why trust us

At Reader’s Digest, we’re committed to producing high-quality content by writers with expertise and experience in their field, in consultation with relevant, qualified experts. For this piece, Maryn Liles tapped her experience as a seasoned lifestyle and home writer. Then Mary Marlowe Leverette, a fabric-care, stain-removal and housekeeping expert with more than 40 years of industry experience, gave it a rigorous review to ensure that all information is accurate and offers the best possible advice to readers. We relied on reputable primary sources, including cleaning and health experts and reputable organizations. We verified all facts and data and backed them with credible sourcing, and we will revisit them over time to ensure they remain accurate and up to date. Read more about our team, our contributors and our editorial policies.