You can purchase specially made molds for floating candles or you can use a number of household items. As long as the finished candle will have a wider top than bottom, your candle should float.
Something to think about before making floating candles is what they will look like while burning. For instance, a candle shaped like the sun or a flower will look pretty good and normal with a flame in its middle. However, a fish shaped candle, which may look good in water, looks kind of bad after it gets a burn hole going through it. The same goes for shapes like baby bottles or booties. They’re just not very cute anymore and look somewhat sick really. Therefore, I don't think every shape is always a good fit for floating candles or even regular candles. I have a hard time lighting a cute bunny shaped candle on fire. For these reasons, I try to go for more traditional shapes in all of my candle making. Anyway – just something to think about.
Below I will show you how to make some petite and fun floating candles using both specialized molds and household items. If you'd like to get fancy, see my Notes section at the bottom of this article for multi-colored floating candles.
Please read all instructions before beginning this project.
Equipment and Supplies
• Double boiler system - pan of shallow water with a smaller pan or metal can inside
• Molds - I am using purchased flower and sun shaped molds, as well as mini muffin tins and large candy molds
• Mold release spray - cooking spray in a pinch
• Paraffin Wax - amount will depend on how many candles you plan on making
• Dye(s) as necessary
• Fragrance if desired - I'm actually using some citronella since I plan to use these outside in the summer.
• Wicks - small diameter with a small tab (good opportunity to use up any trimmings from votives if you’ve saved them and have tabs)
• Glass bowl for holding water and floating candles
• Skewers – for propping wicks if necessary
• White glossy paper or freezer paper
• Optional items to add to your bowl or to float with your candles - fresh flower petals or leaves, fresh cranberries, drop of food color, plain or colored ice cubes, ice cubes with fruit or petals in them, marbles, pebbles, sand, drop of additional fragrance, fake eyeballs if they fit your decor!
• Begin melting your wax in your double boiler using as many cans as you need for your colors. You will not need or want to get your wax too hot for this project because a perfect surface isn't the goal here. If you're using plastic molds, a lower pouring temperature reduces the risk of melting your molds.
• Prepare any wicks you may need
• Spray your molds with mold release
• When wax is melted, turn your heat down and add your dye
• Test for desired color(s) by dripping a few drops on white glossy paper or freezer paper
• Add fragrance if using
• Fill your prepared molds with the melted wax – not too full because you will need to insert your wick.
• After about a minute, a thin skin will start to form. This is when you plunk your prepared wicks into the center of the wax and prop them straight with skewers if necessary.
• Let cool completely
• Pop out of molds
• Trim wick to about ¼ inch
Place a few candles and any other items you want in your float bowl. Do not use too many candles in one bowl so you can avoid creating too much heat. This will help them to burn longer and more evenly. If you’re adding pebbles, sand, or something that will not float, add those items before your candles or other floating items.
• To create a flower with a different colored center, first make a small batch of the different colored wax. Since you won’t need much, use a very small tray or as I am using, the bottom of a pint milk carton. Just cut about an inch high and fill about ¾ inch (same height as your candle mold) with wax.
While still warm, cut small circles and in the center of each circle poke a hole with a skewer, for your wick. I happen to have a small ½-inch metal cookie or marzipan cutter. You could do this freehand with a small knife though. Since the wax is still warm, you may need to repeat the cutting and poking steps until the shapes and holes stay.
Once firm and cut through, but still slightly warm, remove them from the tray. Pull away any excess wax. If using the milk carton bottom, you could just tear it away. Place wick in the center hole(s) and then put them in the center of the flower mold. Pour your other wax around the outer edges just to the top of your inserted core. Let cool, trim wick and you have a floating flower candle that has a nicely defined center color.
• To create a multi-colored layered floating candle, such as red white and blue stars; you just need to melt the desired colors. After you pour your first layer, plunk your wick in and let cool almost completely before adding your next color. Wait another few minutes and add your third color and so on. Ending with a different color is an option here as well. That way you could have three different colored tops for your candles (one red, one white, one blue). You could always use graduation colors, wedding colors, whatever suits your needs.
• If you are trying to fill an area with an inviting fragrance, you could add a drop of fragrance to your water or even a drop of food color for contrast.
• Larger molds (like full sized muffin tins) can be used if you have a large area like a pool or pond or hot tub that you want to float candles in.
• If you use citronella – make sure you use them outdoors only.
I actually tried using a large turtle shaped candy mold for these candles but I didn’t really want the turtle to have to float upside down on his back. Therefore, I didn’t add the wick while the wax was cooling. Instead, I just poked holes (did it a few times) in the center with my skewer and waited until they cooled. That way I could put the wick in with it coming out of the top of the turtle. I wasn’t sure if it would float because it wasn’t exactly smaller on the bottom. However, because of the wide surface with little turtle legs sticking out it ended up working just fine! Still not sure I like burning turtles but they’re not too weird looking.
These are just a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing. Go ahead and use your imagination. Some experiments will turn out the way you wanted them to and others will be a learning experience. This is what makes you an artist and will make you a better candle maker!