How to Remove Candle Wax From Wood (4 Easy Methods)

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If you accidentally spill hot candle wax on wood furniture or floors, don’t fret.

I’m going to teach you four tried-and-true ways to clean spilled wax without damaging the wood.

The easiest and safest way to remove wax from wood depends on the size of the spill.

For a minor accident, allow the wax to cool, then gently scrape it off with a plastic utensil, spatula, or credit card.

For a more substantial mess, gradually soften the wax with a hair dryer or clothing iron before wiping it off with a cloth. If you don’t have an iron or hair dryer handy, harden the wax with ice, which makes it brittle and effortless to remove.

Additionally, there are products designed specifically for removing wax from wood and other surfaces that are worth trying if these other methods don’t do the trick.

Although the steps are simple, there are several pitfalls that you need to know to avoid damaging the wood in the process.

Keep reading to get the full details on each method, including the materials needed, things to consider when preparing, and the step-by-step instructions.

By the end, you’ll be able to weigh your options and choose the best course of action for your situation.

Okay, let’s get into this!

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Quick Summary: How to Remove Candle Wax From Wood

If you only have a minute, here’s a quick summary of each method.

Best ways to remove wax from wood

Method 1: Settle and Scrape – Allow freshly spilled candle wax to cool, then gently remove it with a plastic spatula, spoon, or side of a credit card. Finish up with a good buff by applying a round of furniture polish with a lint-free cloth. Skip ahead to read the full details.

Method 2: Heat and Wipe – There are two versions of the Heat and Wipe method: one that requires a clothing iron, and another that requires a hair dryer.

For the first version, keep the iron on a low setting without steam. Lay a few paper towels over the wax and then cover them with a washcloth or other heat-safe cloth. Press the iron over the washcloth for five-second intervals. As the wax melts, it will absorb into the paper towels. Repeat the process until the majority of the wax is removed, then wipe any remaining wax with the cloth.

If using a hair dryer, keep it on a low setting aimed at the wax. Once the wax softens, gently wipe it away with a lint-free cloth.

Skip ahead to read the full details.

Method 3: Freeze and Scrape – Place a plastic bag full of ice cubes on top of the wax to freeze it. Once the wax is cold and brittle, gently scrape it away with a plastic spatula, spoon, or credit card. Skip ahead to read the full details.

Method 4: Use Wax Removing Products – There are several highly-rated products available formulated to help remove candle wax, among other things. My favorites are Goo Gone, Weiman Wax Away, and De-Solv-it Orange Sol Citrus Solution Spray. These products work well for minor spills or wax stains but are not designed to clear major wax spills (use the Heat and Wipe method for those). Despite some experts’ advice, avoid mineral spirits because they are a stripping agent and could remove the protective sealant on your wood floors or furniture. Skip ahead to read the full details.

Remove Candle Wax From Unfinished Wood – The best way to remove wax from unfinished wood is to use the Heat and Wipe method with an iron. This method works on unfinished wood because it draws the wax upward into the paper towels, including wax that’s embedded deep in the wood grains.

Preventative Measures – Nothing beats the warm glow and relaxing scent of a real candle. But, if you want to be extra careful around expensive wood furniture, opt for a safe alternative such as LED candles, ultrasonic diffusers, or electric oil lamps. Another way to avoid damaging your wood is to simply place a protective mat under your candles or buy candles in glass jars.

Final Thoughts – Take your time when applying these methods. Rushing through them or skipping steps could lead to unnecessary damage. Remember to address the spill soon after it cools, use low heat settings with the Heat and Wipe method, and stick to plastic utensils when scraping.

Method 1: Settle and Scrape

The Settle and Scrape method is the simplest method, and it works best for removing minor wax spills.

If you have a significant mess, skip ahead to Method 2.

This method, which is recommended by the Home Care & Cleaning Products Lab of the Good Housekeeping Institute, requires patience and a gentle hand.

Let’s get into the details.

Scraping wax off wood
The Settle and Scrape Method

Materials Needed

  • Firm, plastic spatula, plastic spoon, or credit card (make sure it’s expired in case it gets damaged)
  • Piece of paper
  • Clean, white, or light-colored lint-free cloths
  • Hand towels or protective cloths
  • Furniture polish of your choice (or furniture wax cream)

Steps

  1. Step One: Using the spatula, spoon, or one side of a credit card, begin to scrape the wax off in the direction of the wood grain. If your wood has cracks or deep crevices, use the pointed tip of the spatula or rounded edge of the credit card to help dislodge the wax.
  2. Step Two:  As the wax fragments begin to accumulate, gently push them onto a piece of paper with the spatula or credit card in a broom and dustpan fashion.
  3. Step Three: Repeat this process until the wax is completely removed. It may take several rounds of scraping.
  4. Step Four: Once the wax is removed, use a clean, lint-free cloth to buff the treated area.
  5. Step Five: Next, use furniture polish, working it in with the cloth, and blend until you are satisfied with the results.

Not sure what furniture polish to use?

I recommend Orange Glo (see on Amazon), which is an alcohol-free wood polish and conditioner designed to remove grease, wax, and dirt. Another great option is Weiman Wood Cleaner and Polish Wipes (see on Amazon), which are rejuvenating furniture wipes made with plant-based ingredients.

Preparation and Considerations

If the spill just occurred, allow the wax to cool completely. Patience is critical because, if you try to wipe or scrape hot wax, you’ll end up burning yourself, ruining a cloth, and spreading the wax around, furthering the mess.

Before you start, peel off as much as possible with your hands. This will minimize the amount of scraping necessary. 

The main downside of this method is that you run the risk of scratching the wood if you’re not careful. To minimize this risk, work in the direction of the wood grain.

Sometimes the wood grain is evident just by looking at the direction of the lines, but it may be much harder to see on stained or painted wood.

In those cases, run your hand across the wood. The direction that feels smoother is the direction of the wood grain.

Use white or light-colored cloth to buff and apply polish to avoid any potential dye transfer from a colored cloth.

Finally, protect the surrounding area with hand towels to avoid stray wax from getting onto clean wood surfaces.

Method 2: Heat and Wipe

The Heat and Wipe method is the best way to remove major wax spills from wood.

Why?

Because other methods, like the Settle and Scrape, only work for cleaning a few drops of wax. If you try scraping off a giant blob of wax, you’re almost guaranteed to scratch the wood. This method works wonders on major messes because it doesn’t require scraping with sharp objects at all.

In short, this method involves gradually warming the wax, so its composition becomes softer. Once the wax is soft enough, you can wipe it with a cloth or absorb it into a paper towel, avoiding the risk of scratching your furniture.

There are two different ways to go about this method. One involves a hair dryer, and the other involves a clothing iron.

Let’s get into the details.

Materials Needed

  • Clean, white, or light-colored lint-free cloths
  • Heavy-duty paper towels
  • Cheap washcloths
  • Heat source: iron or hair dryer
  • Furniture polish of your choice (or furniture wax cream)

Steps When Using a Hair Dryer

  1. Step One: Hold the hair dryer at least three inches away from the affected area.
  2. Step Two: Using a low setting, point the hair dryer toward the candle wax.
  3. Step Three: When the wax begins to soften, try to peel off what you can with your hands. And then use a lint-free cloth to wipe the area.
  4. Step Four: Repeat the heat application and wipe the area until the wax is completely removed.
  5. Step Five: Use a clean, lint-free cloth to wipe the treated area, apply furniture polish, and buff.
Removing wax from wood with a hair dryer
The Heat and Wipe Method with a hair dyer

Steps When Using an Iron

  1. Step One: Place your iron on the lowest setting with no steam.
  2. Step Two: Cover the affected area with at least three layers of heavy-duty paper towels.
  3. Step Three: Place a clean, iron-safe, lint-free cloth, or washcloth over the paper towels.
  4. Step Four: Press the iron onto the cloth over the affected area for three to five seconds.
  5. Step Five: Pull back the cloth to see if the wax absorbed into the paper towels. If not, you may need to add an extra second or increase the temperature slightly.
  6. Step Six: Repeat the process with a clean section of the paper towel until the wax is entirely removed. You may need to replace the paper towels after a few heat applications, depending on the amount of wax.
  7. Step Seven: Using a clean, lint-free cloth, wipe the treated area, apply furniture polish, and buff.
Removing wax from wood with an iron
The Heat and Wipe Method with an iron

Preparation and Considerations

You can use these methods separately or together. If you have deep grooves in the wood, the iron can be used as a secondary step once you’ve removed the majority of the wax with the hair dryer.

Using an iron is a slower process than removing wax with a hair dryer because you must gently apply the iron to a cloth over the affected area, repeatedly. But, it’s the best method to use when the wax is deeply embedded in the wood grains because it draws the wax upward into the paper towels. If you don’t have the time, try the hair dryer method.

If using the iron method, start on the lowest setting with no steam and only increase the temperature if the wax is not melting. The iron should be warm, not extremely hot.

Make sure to place several paper towels on the wax. This is very important. If you don’t use enough paper towels, the wax will absorb into your cloth, harden within the cloth’s fibers, and cause an annoying mess.

Wax absorbed into a paper towel
Wax absorbed into a paper towel

Use a large washcloth to ensure that the surface of the iron never comes in direct contact with the wood.

Check the fabric makeup of your washcloth to avoid scorching the cloth during the process.

Method 3: Freeze and Scrape

I recommend the Freeze and Scrape method because it’s a relatively quick fix and doesn’t require heat, so it’s safer if you want the kids to help.

This Old House, an Emmy-winning trusted resource for homeowners and DIY enthusiasts since 1979, recommends this method and involves freezing the wax with ice.

Here are the details.

Removing wax from wood with ice
The Freeze and Scrape Method

Materials Needed

  • Firm, plastic spatula, plastic spoon, or credit card
  • Clean, white, or light-colored lint-free cloths
  • Ice
  • Plastic zipper-style bag
  • Furniture polish of your choice (or furniture wax cream)

Steps

  1. Step One: Add several ice cubes to a plastic bag.
  2. Step Two: Place the bag over the affected area for one minute to help freeze the wax.
  3. Step Three: Use a plastic spatula, plastic spoon, or credit card to remove the cold wax gently. It usually will break off in one clump but may leave trace amounts of wax behind.
  4. Step Four: Use the spatula or credit card to help gently scrape the remaining wax.
  5. Step Five: Once the wax is removed, clean and buff the area using a lint-free cloth and the furniture polish of your choice.

Preparation and Considerations

Use enough ice to cover the affected area. Be sure to place a lint-free cloth as a buffer between the bag of ice and the wax stain so that condensation will not make the wax wet.

When wax gets cold, it becomes more brittle, which makes it easier to break or scrape off wood surfaces.

If the wax is deeply embedded in the wood grain and there are remnants left behind after using this method, consider using the Heat and Wipe method to finish the job.

Method 4: Use Wax Removing Products

Another way to remove wax from wood is to use a product specifically designed for the job.

There are several wax-removing products on the market, but these are the three I recommend. All three get are inexpensive and get extremely high ratings on Amazon: 

These products have multiple uses, so follow the instructions on the label for best results.

One major caveat—these products work well if you need to remove a minor smear of wax, but they don’t stand a chance against significant spills. If you have a considerable mess, you need to alter the composition of the wax so it detaches from the wood (as I described in Method 2).

Although some experts suggest using mineral spirits to clean up wax, I wouldn’t recommend it.

Why?

Because mineral spirits are stripping agents. Sure, they may remove the wax, but they also could remove the protective sealant on your wood surface.

So, you’ll solve one problem, but you’ll create an even bigger problem in the process—the damage it could cause may require you to sand and reseal the surface of the wood. In my opinion, it’s not worth the risk.

Speaking of repairs, if you damage a few minor areas while removing the wax, all is not lost. These simple-to-use products will help you fill in scratches and restore your wood:

(click to see each product on Amazon)

Removing Candle Wax From Unfinished Wood

Wood is innately hygroscopic, which means it absorbs and retains liquid easily, just like a sponge.

Most wood floors and furniture are sealed with a protective layer, usually polyurethane, which prevents liquids such as water and hot wax from absorbing.

But, if you spill wax on unfinished wood that’s not protected with a sealer, the wax will soak into the wood’s pores, making it extremely difficult to remove.

Even worse, if the wax has dyes or color tints, it can permanently stain the wood. Again, due to the porous nature of unfinished wood, the stain will settle deep in the layers of the wood.

If you find yourself in this situation, don’t panic.

The best way to remove wax from unfinished wood is to use the Heat and Wipe method with an iron as the heat source.

As I described earlier, here’s what you need to do:

  1. Place several layers of paper towels over the wax.
  2. Lay a washcloth over the paper towels
  3. Set the iron to the lowest temperature (no steam)
  4. Press the iron on the washcloth in five-second increments.
  5. Replace the paper towels as they absorb the wax.

The Heat and Wipe method works best on unfinished wood because the heat from the iron draws the wax into the paper towels. Other methods, such as the Settle and Scrape, may remove the top layer, but won’t remove the wax that’s embedded into the wood grains.

If you give the Heat and Wipe method a solid try, but your attempts are unsuccessful, you may need to sand the wood gently.

If you’re dealing with an expensive piece of furniture, I suggest calling a professional. You can get a free quote from sites like HomeAdvisor to get an idea of what it will cost.

Preventative Measures

While there’s nothing like the beauty and fragrance of a flickering candle, there are some safer options to try if you’re worried about ruining expensive wood furniture or floors.

These options will either give you the close-to-real glow you desire, scent, or a combination of both without the risk of creating a waxy mess.

LED Candles (see on Amazon): Many LED candles are battery-operated or solar-powered and shaped like pillar candles, votives, or tea lights, and mimic a flickering flame. Some even come in wax form with a scent, but the flames are all LED lights.

Ultrasonic Diffusers (see on Amazon): While you won’t get the candle-glow feel with these devices, many of them light up. Adding essential oils provides a pleasant scent profile without the threat of spilling candle wax.

Scented Oil Lamps and Warmers (see on Amazon): Scented oil lamps and warmers are another safe, flame-free option that smells fantastic without the waxy mess on your wood. You can use oils or scented wax melts for the fragrance.

You can also set your candles on heat-safe mats or stands to guard against spills. Options such as candle mats, heat-resistant placemats, or silicone trivets all do the trick.

Final Thoughts

When you discover a hard clump of candle wax on your beautiful wood floors or furniture, there’s no need to stress.

If you follow the steps I outlined in this article, you’ll have it cleaned up in no time.

But, before you roll up your sleeves and tackle that mess, keep these “do’s” and “don’ts” in mind.  

Do’s

  • Attend to the spill as quickly as possible (but not right away since fresh wax will be piping hot). The longer it sits, the more it can settle into the wood.
  • Take your time when scraping the wax and use a plastic spatula, plastic spoon, or credit card to limit the risk of scratching the wood.
  • Use a low heat setting on an iron or hair dryer to remove wax.
  • Use furniture polish or wax already proven to work well with your finished wood furniture to put the finishing touches on the cleanup.

Don’ts

  • Don’t allow a candle wax spill to sit for several hours or days.
  • Don’t apply an iron directly to the wood surface when using the Heat and Wipe method.
  • Don’t use metal, including knives and razor blades when scraping the wax. You can damage the wood surface.
  • Don’t use products with mineral spirits as they can strip the protective finish from the wood.
  • Don’t use abrasive materials such as steel wool, green scrub sponges, or Mr. Clean Magic Eraser or magic eraser-type products on finished wood.

What methods have you tried?

Have you tried any of these methods? If you have, let us know how they worked for you—and please share your tips in the comments below!

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