How to Make Floating Candles

I’m going to show you how to make floating candles, because you never know when you’re going to find yourself in some kind of floating candle emergency situation.  Like an impromptu dinner party or shotgun wedding reception. 

DIY floating candles in a modern bowl with legs.

Making floating candles is a little project that has immense reward with very little effort.  Almost none in fact; if you can light a candle, you can make a floating candle.  If you cannot light a candle you have my condolences on account of the fact you’re just a torso.

There isn’t a single night all year long that I don’t have candles burning.  It all goes back to when I was 4 years old and my mother bought me a pillar birthday candle that had age markings on the side like this horrifyingly ugly one on Amazon ( that I LOVE ).   1 year at the top, all the way down to 13 years at the bottom.  Every birthday I got to haul the candle out of the basement, scrape the dried up centipedes off it and burn it down a full year.   To this day I remember that candle yet I do not remember a single present I got from the age of 1 – 13.

I do remember what I got for my birthday when I was 17.  It was a Royal Doulton figurine called “Sweet 17”.  I wanted red, punk bondage pants with white zippers.  You can see why I’d remember receiving a Royal Doulton instead.

So … floating candles. They aren’t exactly revolutionary but the fact that you can make them out of candles you probably already own is.

All you need are tea lights, which I’m sure 90% of you have right now, and one little tip.

How to make a floating candle out of a tea light.

 

Several tea lights set on a marble countertop.

1.  Remove your tea light candle from its aluminium cup and flip the candle over.

2. Light another candle (a taper candle is the easiest to work with) and drip some wax from it onto the underside of the tea light until the metal wick holder on the bottom is completely sealed.

Sealing the bottom of tea lights with a dripping candle.

Just line all your tea lights up on a surface you can scrape the dripped wax off of and do them in bulk. 

The underside of rows of tea lights, sealed with wax.

 

Stick your candles into a bowl, pond, toilet or bathtub and admire. You just made DIY floating candles because you are a DIY badass. And maybe a little lazy and cheap because you didn’t just go to the store to buy some floating candles. Join the club.

DIY floating tea lights in a modern bowl on a clear glass coffee table with rustic accents around.

 

When they’re prepped like this the candles will last between 45 minutes and 1½ hours depending on the size of the tea light candle.

 

How to Make Floating Candles.

How to Make Floating Candles.

Active Time: 2 minutes
Additional Time: 1 minute
Total Time: 3 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

Make some floating candles out of ordinary tea lights.

Materials

  • tea light candles
  • taper candle (optional)

Instructions

  1. Remove the tea light from its metal cup.
  2. Light a taper candle and drip it over the base of the tea light, sealing the bottom. Let the melted wax solidify.
  3. Float candles in water.

Notes

  1. Floating tea lights don't last as long. A small tea light that would normally burn for 2-3 hours will burn for 30-45 minutes in water.
  2. The bigger the candle, the longer it will last in the water.
  3. Freezing the candle doesn't make it last longer (I tested this out).
  4. For bigger floating candles, use the cheap candles you can buy in a glass holder.  Dollar stores like Dollarama or Dollar Tree have them.  Just set the glass candle holder in a bowl of hot water to loosen the candle inside and pull it out. Seal the bottoms the same way. These larger candles will burn for around 2 hours.
  5. Candles with a slightly smaller bottom than top float better than candles with straight sizes.

Want to make floating taper candles? You can do that too. Here’s my tutorial on how to do it.

TIPS

  • For bigger floating candles, use the cheap candles you can buy in a glass holder.  Dollar stores like Dollarama or Dollar Tree have them.  Just set the glass candle holder in a bowl of hot water to loosen the candle inside and pull it out. Seal the bottoms the same way. These larger candles will burn for around 2 hours.
  • Candles with a slightly smaller bottom than top float better than candles with straight sizes.
  • Freezing the candles prior to burning them will NOT make them last longer. I tested it.

Removing a candle from its glass holder by heating it in water.

These make a fast and easy centrepiece for that impromptu dinner party you might have.  Float a flower or two in a bowl with some floating candles and you’re automatically inducted into the Martha Stewart hall of fame.  Extra Martha points if you use white candles. 

I do not have impromptu dinner parties, but you might.  I’m more of an “I like to think about having dinner parties but mainly read cookbooks while watching Netflix instead ” kind of gal.

Floating tea lights in modern clear glass bowl on rustic harvest table.

That’s all there is to making floating candles out of regular candles.  Just seal up any area on the bottom where water might be able to get in, stick the candles in water, light them and wait for the compliments to come rolling in.

Of course, if you’re just a torso you will come rolling in too.

Make floating candles out of tea lights in minutes. Seconds even! No time at all is what I\'m saying. #diy #christmascrafts

88 Comments

  1. Charlee says:

    Thanks for sharing. Love this simple yet elegant DIY.

  2. Kunyi Mangalam says:

    Hi Karen, This is so SMART! Thank you. I also read your post on taper candles… The taper candles are really beautiful too, but the glass vase cracked – you were going to try this with a larger washer to see if it would keep it away from the edge of the vase. Did the larger washer idea work? (If you’ve already answered the question, sorry for asking it again.). Thanks – kunyi

    • Karen says:

      Hi Kunyi! This is awful, but I can’t remember. I plan on redoing the taper candle post though so I’ll experiment with it. And try very hard to remember the results, lol. ~ karen!

  3. Lez says:

    Was I the only one to wonder why you had a Chicken Drumstick under the glass table!?
    I then tilted my screen & realised it is a woman’s arm on a book!! HAHAHA!

    I LOVE this idea! Thank you Karen!

  4. Caryl Hodgdon says:

    Floating candles-beautiful. However I, too, am smitten with the container they are floating in. This does not bode well as I am still searching for the receptacle your table top fireplace was residing in. Destined to fail that was how many years ago??? Off to float my candles in the loo.

    • Karen says:

      LOL. Well maybe give up on the table top fireplace, to make way in your brain for the bowl. The glass bowl in my photos is originally from Structube but that was YEARS ago. The bowl on legs is more recent so you might be able to find it but I don’t know who the maker is I’m afraid. ~ karen!

  5. Christine Hamlet says:

    Just wanted to say thanks for posting this great “how to” tip. I wanted floating candles for table centerpieces for my husband’s 60th birthday party. I did a test-run with small and large tea candles. The smaller tea lights just don’t have the burn capacity of the big ones – and I wanted a long burn. My test run yield result of 4 hours for the large tea light (bought at IKEA). I wasn’t thrilled with the adhesion of the newly applied candlestick wax to the tea candle (there was a thin gap between the original and the applied layers) – so I decided to try a slight variation. I took 2 tea lights from the same bunch of candles I wanted to float. I melted the wax into a hot liquid in a pan on the stove and carefully poured the hot wax onto the bottom of all the tea lights a the same time. Note of Caution: Be careful not to overfill the backside. If the melted wax drips down the candle, it can create a mess on the wick side (the side that shows when it’s floating). Pan melted wax was MUCH faster than the candle drip approach – and the result yielded much better adhesion than my test run. Result from the party – 5.5 hour burn time (compared to my candlestick text run result of 4 hours). AMAZING. Thanks again for this awesome post. It continues to help people like me – long after you posted it.

  6. Tina Waddoups says:

    Your blog always makes me grin and snicker. Thanks

  7. Jasmine says:

    This might seem silly, but would this work to float on top of vegetable oil? Seems like a potentially very flammable situation, but I would be quite please if it works…

  8. Angelica says:

    I didn’t have tea lights but I had votives candles. They worked beautifully! Walmart had 16 for 2 bucks hard to pass that deal up. Thanks

  9. DianaW says:

    What a great idea! Simple and beautiful. And yes,the tip is to drip some wax “to cover the metal thingamabob holding the wick”. Thank you I now have many “floating candles”.

  10. Charity Coselmon says:

    Hey there! This comment is for Karen or anyone who can answer it. How long do these little makeshift floating candles burn? Wanting to use them for m wedding reception so I don’t have to buy floating candles. I’m just wondering how long theyll last?? Anyone??? Thanks!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Charity – It actually says in the post that they’ll last around 2 hours. And I imagine the bigger the tea light you use (some are bigger than others) the longer burn time you’ll have. ~ karen!

  11. Sarah -IttyBittyCelticWitch says:

    Thanks, for sharing! Super useful info 🙂

    • Karen says:

      Well if you think this is super useful, wait’ll you get to my post on how to cure a yeast infection, lol. Now *that’s* useful! 🙂 ~ karen

  12. sonia says:

    Good thing I found your article!
    I was scratching my head trying to figure out why the tealights for my wedding centerpieces were going out in a matter of minutes when they should be lasting at least 2-3 hrs.
    I thought I had to spend extra money to go and buy floating candles.
    Thank you!

  13. gary says:

    Does the wax get into the water? Sometime to “top it off” would be a beautiful bata fish in the bowl with thecandles? Do Any one else think that would be pretty

  14. wIN says:

    Hi Karen,
    after reading the first part of your tutorial, I got a tealight and put it in a wineglass of water-left the little tin thing on, and, voila! it floats!
    Yesterday I ran all over town looking for floating candles and finally found some – 6 for 7 bucks. lit it last night and it burned for about a half an hour then got water in the little well in the top and that was it. Tried it again this morning and the same thing happened. I have a gazillion tealights so now I have a gazillion floating tealights. Who knew?

  15. Kristy says:

    Oh my goodness!! This is fantastic. Thank you.

  16. Diane says:

    You, madam, are incredible. Do you know that you just saved my event planning committee a TON of money with this tip?
    We can put the savings to terrific use.

    THANK YOU 🙂

  17. Molly says:

    Just saw this and wondered, would this work as well with the long-life tealights that are a little bigger?

  18. Cat says:

    Awesome, awesome, awesome!! I just tried your tip for my wedding centerpieces – totally beats paying $12 for 6 floating candles! You rock!!

  19. Jed says:

    This is genius! Of course, I won’t be using the candles in a bowl so much as in a lake, but thanks! This is just the information I needed.

  20. Cathy says:

    Hi again,
    For getting wax out of its container, put the container with the wax in the freezer and, once frozen, the wax will slide right out. Use this all the time. Don’t really know how long to leave it though as I usually forget it until the next time I need something from the freezer. Just keep checking it if you do remember. This way there’s no chance of a glass container cracking in the heat.
    Cathy

  21. Cathy says:

    Hi,
    Have burned many tealights as floaters but never tried the sealing for the bottom. Great idea!
    You can also make floaters with the tealights in their little cups. I prefer the look of using the clear plastic cups or glass cups. Try to be gentle while setting them on the water. I usually end up getting water on the top and then can’t get them lit. Perseverance does work though!
    Cathy

  22. Amazing Great photography – these look like the Floating Candles…. wow!

  23. Kourtney says:

    I just found this on Google today. THANK YOU! I live in a small place and cannot find floating candles ANYWHERE for my wedding in 17 days! Quick question though, did you try the freezer/fridge thing, and how did it work if you did? Thanks 🙂

    • Karen says:

      Kourtney – I did try it, and in my experience it didn’t make any difference with these candles. Keep in mind for your wedding, these candles won’t last the whole night. Of course, the bigger the candle, the longer it’ll last but these which are fairly small shouldn’t be lit until the last second! Congratulations! ~ karen

  24. bex says:

    Id like to make a suggestion (if i may..)
    The other day I was in our cheapie shop and stood staring blankly at the tealight candles. I was sure I wanted them for something… that was a week ago 🙂
    Its dawned on me.. I wanted them to try this! So was wondering .. is it possible for you to make your site mobile friendly so that I can look at it for ideas whilst in the cheap cheap shop?
    ~b

    • Karen says:

      Bex – I believe so. I tried it once before but I actually didn’t like the look of it. I’ll give it another shot just for you and your Dollar Store shopping, though. 🙂 ~ karen

  25. Kelly Kline says:

    Karen, LOVE it, I and II!! Thanks so much!!

  26. Jennifer says:

    I’ve done that myself with the tea lights, but I hadn’t thought to seal the bottoms. 🙂 Thanks for a very helpful/great tip!

    • Karen says:

      No problem! You’ll find they last quite a bit longer. Not as long as they normally would, but longer than if you just plunked them in water w/out sealing the bottom. ~ k!

  27. Jessy says:

    Genius! I’m doing this right now!

  28. Bowls represent the womb y’know – a girl can’t have too many of them.

    Don’t know what the candles signify.

    • Karen says:

      Tricia – I imagine they represent setting yourself on fire when you go to the doctor and find out you have multiple wombs. ~ karen

  29. I would like to book a room at your house for the weekend please 🙂 The serenity is beckoning me! Love the tip, I’ll be playing with tea lights this weekend.

  30. Katy says:

    Love candles (and bowls of course!) but just can’t have naked flames with a couple of Newfoundland dogs frolicking about with giant flappy (and flammable) tails! Plus any bowl of water would soon end up on the floor after a good slurpy drink (the dogs again… not me.)

  31. I’ll forgive the Paddy’s Day thing, Karen, but only cos of the green soup, and this most brillant tip!
    I was wondering yesterday when I read your post f this would work, you reading my mind??
    If I’d known yesterday, I could have floated green, white and gold candles, that would be cool!! But today, just white!
    Have a fab weekend!

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Mimi! (wasn’t St. Patrick from Wales, anyway?) Seems like some sort of coverup going on. 🙂 ~ karen

      • Pam'a says:

        He was indeed from Wales, and wasn’t associated with the color green until the rest of the world got ahold of him.

  32. sharon says:

    OMG! I just thought of something else, when do you cover their bottoms with hot wax?

  33. sharon says:

    I am still trying to figure out why anyone would want to float guests in the toilet bowl. Also, at what point do you light them?

  34. I love this idea! I’ve got a ton of those little white tea lights! Immensely cheaper than buying fancified floating candles, especially for an event. Kudos.

    Oooh! What if you joined (with melted wax) three tealights together to make a triangular floating candle?? Gonna have to try it.

  35. magali says:

    I am surprised you did not even mention St. Patrick’s day yesterday. It seems very un-Karen like. You better not skip over Easter, one of my neighbors has a beautiful Easter wreath on their door already and it made me excited for what you’ll show us!

    • Karen says:

      Magali – At the risk of bringing the wrath of all things Irish down on me … I’m not very into St. Patrick’s Day. I don’t drink and I look terrible in green. 🙁 I *did* however make broccoli soup for dinner if that counts. I’m also not HUGE on Easter decorating but I’ll definitely be doing something for it! ~ karen

  36. Lesley H says:

    Now this I think I can (and will) manage for the weekend. Perhaps you have an answer to the dilemna I have with floating candles – I love them but the kitties think I’ve just given them a pretty new water dish until *sizzle* there goes a whisker! Any tips for that????

    • Jane says:

      Funny, I’ve never met a cat yet that will allow itself to get burnt.

      • CJ says:

        Feline version of a heat seeking missile lives here…turn to drain the pasta in the sink and guess who’s warming her belly over the flames from the gas stove top? Singed whiskers and human heart palpitations later and candles are only lit in very deep hurricane vases – you can float them in there too though so still pretty.

      • Leigh says:

        I’ve had a cat set his pantaloons on fire when I left pillar candles burning on the coffee table. Thankfully, I got him extinguished before he even knew he was aflame! We don’t burn candles in the house anymore 🙁

        PS – Cat’s name was Crackhead. Seriously.

  37. amyjk says:

    great tips, karen.

    if you need the candles to last even longer, pop them in the freezer for a few hours. that would extend their burn time for say, a party or something. that is, if you ever let guests into your house 🙂

    • Karen says:

      Amyjk – I’ve heard that about freezing candles, but I’ve never actually done it. Perhaps I’ll do an experiment this weekend! Thx. ~ karen

      • CJ says:

        Excellent – I’ve always wanted to know if it does actually make a difference. I’ve also heard that it can make candles crack but maybe this depends on the kind of candle?

        Oh and I’ve heard that just refriferating is as good as freezing – who knows? Hopefully you will after the weekend!

  38. Kim says:

    Awesome! What a great idea! How do you manage to think up a new idea every day? I am in awe!

  39. Liz S. says:

    For Christmas my aunt gave all of us girls two big packs of nicely scented tea lights and nothing to put them in. I’ve been dropping them down into jar candles that have burned down too low. Now I have a new use for them…. as soon as I get a pretty bowl. Yard sale anyone?

  40. Jennifer says:

    Genius, Karen — so glad to know about this! I have several of those bags of 50 votives from IKEA hanging around. Think I’ll try it today, in fact.

    This also gives me an idea for a cool, arty (expensive!) salad bowl I got for my wedding but have never used because it’s blue. As a general rule, I don’t do blue in my house — but with water and (free!) floating candles in it, just might work…

  41. Jo says:

    I like this tip. I bought some floating flower candles from Dollarama and they went out in about ten minutes – booo! I will try this instead.

    • Karen says:

      Jo – I know those candles! I saw them at Dollarama the other day and I remember thinking … Humph. Those’d go out in about 5 minutes. So actually you did twice as well as I thought you would with them! ~ karen

  42. CJ says:

    Another use for tealight candles and a tip for the people who don’t like to burn their beautiful pillar candles – burn them just enough to create a well large enough to pop in a tea light candle.

  43. Carol-Anne says:

    Your so technical — thingamabob!

  44. sandi says:

    how confused would guests be if you floated them in the toilet bowl? Just sayin’…

    • Karen says:

      Sandi – It’s *me* who would be confused if there were guests in my house. Who let them in??? ~ karen

    • Julie shinnick says:

      oh sandi, love the way you think!
      I have fake redback spiders hanging from my ceiling in the main loo, which I have sometimes ‘forgotten’ to tell visitors about…..
      yep visitors are *welcome* here too!

    • Janis says:

      I know I am about a year late on this. but wouldn’t this be a great idea for potty training a little boy!!!

      • Jan in Waterdown says:

        And I’m 3 years later . . . it cracked me up big time! OK Honey, try and put out the fire . . . good job!! From another Janice, spelled the right way, hah!

      • Jes says:

        I was actually potty trained this way with floating candles. Fireman has to put out the fire.

  45. Nicole says:

    ps: according to a dictionary of candle terms (pps: WHY does such a thing exist??) the thingamabobs are called “wick tabs.” I prefer thingamabob.

  46. Adrienne Audrey says:

    I have this fear of burning the house down by accident with an unattended candle (almost done it a few times !) Floating the candles in water would make it almost impossible to accidentally burn the house down!

  47. Rebecca says:

    Couldn’t you just smash it? Lol

  48. Pati says:

    Very pretty!..I haven’t been in a very floaty candle kind of mood lately…but thanks Karen it is a great tip and I too Love your bowl:)

  49. Paula says:

    I was thinking the same, how can I ever accomplish this without that bowl? Its a beauty for sure! Although am contemplating putting some of these in the hot tub.. now how pretty would that be!

    Thanks Karen, Have a great weekend!

  50. Shauna says:

    That bowl right there is worth the unhealthy obsession!! Man I love that bowl! Now… to float me some candles…. well after I run out and buy a new bowl of course!

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