3 Surprising Ways to Upcycle Your Empty Candle Cups (That You Haven’t Thought of Yet)

published Nov 13, 2021
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

If you’re anything like me, then you probably burn candles frequently, and in turn, are left with a bevy of empty candle containers. Yet rather than tossing your leftover candles into the recycling — where they would no doubt meet many of their candle friends — you can upcycle these cups into aesthetically-pleasing decor accents. 

Once your candle cannot sustain a flame, you should remove the leftover wax before reusing the container or recycling it. I like to remove the leftover wax by placing the candle in a freezer overnight and popping the wax out the next day. If this method does not work, you can boil water and pour it into the container, leaving an inch of space at the top. The boiling water will melt the leftover wax, causing it to float to the surface. Then, allow the fluid to cool before straining it into the sink and collecting the leftover wax. Make sure to stop your drain to prevent wax from clogging it! If you have any wax residue, you can clean the container with warm water, soap, and a sponge.

Now, the fun begins! You can repurpose your empty candles in many ways, but here are three ideas I love and cannot stop thinking about.

Turn your candle cups into cute planters.

Candle containers come in such adorable, stylish, and gorgeous colorways and designs, and so many sizes, too, making them perfect planters. Swap out your understated terracotta pots with your repurposed jars, or repot a stand-out succulent in a candle container for a lovely sustainable, conversation-starting gift. Just be sure to line the bottom of any candle cup with a small layer of rocks before filling it with soil, so you can better promote drainage.

Use the lids as coasters. 

Don’t know what to do with your leftover candle lids? I like to use mine as coasters for my workday beverages. Depending on the material, you can draw, paint, or even collage the lids to create the coaster collection of your dreams.

Create DIY fruit-fly traps that match your decor.

If fruit flies and gnats regularly find their way into your home — and it happens! — you can make a DIY mixture to catch them and stash it in a candle jar. (Apartment Therapy’s lifestyle editor, Ella, does this regularly.) Simply mix apple cider vinegar and dish soap, and store the candle cup somewhere on your counter near where the flies seem to hang out.

And if you really need to recycle your candles…

If you own more empty candles than you can repurpose, you can likely recycle your containers. According to RecycleBank, you can recycle standard “container” or “soda-lime” glass, but not other types of glass, such as borosilicate. They advise researching what kind of glass each candle company uses, and perhaps even asking their customer service if they accept used jars for recycling or reuse. For example, Yankee Candle (which includes sister brands WoodWick and Chesapeake Bay Candle) partnered with Terracycle to collect and reuse their candle jars. All you have to do is send your empty candle to Terracycle using a free, printable shipping label