How to use wax melts—a beginner's guide

If you have just discovered wax melts you’re probably wondering exactly what they are and how they work. There’s a good chance you’re already familiar with scented candles—maybe you have already tried one or two of the many fragrances that are available.

If you have then you’ll know that burning scented candles can bring a wonderful ambience to the room which can help to enhance your state of mind. Whether you need energising to tackle a tricky problem—or calming down for relaxation and meditation—scented candles can be a great way to get you in the mood.

But candles are not the only way to enjoy the benefits of natural fragrances. Wax melts are becoming a popular alternative.

What is a wax melt?

A wax melt is simply a small block of wax which, when melted, releases fragrances into the air similar to the way that scented candles do. Wax melts come in all shapes and sizes. As well as simple geometric blocks, they can be heart- or star-shaped, or cast in other complex and interesting shapes.

Wax melts can also be infused with dried herbs and spices, or even berries and flowers, making them highly decorative as well as sweet-smelling. For this reason wax melts make a charming gift for all kinds of occasions.

How do I use wax melts?

Using wax melts is really simple. You will need a wax melter or heater—which are also often caller burners (even though the wax melt does not actually get burned).

Just like wax melts, wax burners come in all shapes and sizes. Most commonly they use a tealight as the heat source, but electric wax burners are also available.

To use a wax melt, simply place it in the dish of the burner and then either place the lit tealight underneath, or if you have an electric burner, turn it on.

As the burner slowly warms up, the wax melt will turn to liquid in the dish and its fragrance is released into the air.

Don’t forget—your wax burner will get HOT. Once your burner is lit or switched on it is not advisable to move it. Even after the flame has been extinguished or it has been switched off it may take some time to cool so please handle your burner with caution.

Once the burner is cool, the wax will solidify in the dish ready to be used again. Usually a single wax melt will be enough, but this can be topped up with a second if your burner is big enough and a stronger fragrance is required. If your room is large then we recommend using two or maybe even three burners placed around the room rather than trying to overfill a single wax burner.

How do wax melts work?

Your wax melt will slowly turn to liquid wax as the wax burner warms up. The scented oils that are mixed with the wax are volatile, so as the wax is warmed, the gentle heat will cause the oils to evaporate—filling your room with a wonderful fragrance.

This process can be repeated until the wax melt eventually loses its fragrance.

How long do wax melts last?

Once the scented oils in a wax melt have evaporated then the wax melt will no longer smell as strongly. The time this takes to happen will vary on the size of the wax melt, the intensity of the heat from your burner and other factors.

As a general rule a single wax melt will continue to release its fragrance for 6-12 hours. Depending on the size of your room and the movement of the air, you may only need to use your burner for one or two hours at a time.

It really is a matter of personal taste and preference as everyone is different. However, you will be able to tell when your wax melt is losing its scent because the fragrance will become weaker and less pronounced. Just trust your nose!

What is the difference between a wax melt and a candle?

A wax melt is essentially a candle without a wick. Scented candles and wax melts both release their fragrances by heating the wax which causes the scented oils in the wax to evaporate.

The major difference between a wax melt and a candle is that with a scented candle only a relatively small amount of wax is melted at any one time while the candle is alight. With a wax melt, once your burner has warmed up, the whole wax melt is liquid.

The amount of liquid wax in a wax melt is much greater than in a similar scented candle. And so naturally a larger surface area is exposed to the air. As a result a wax melt can release more fragrance in a shorter time.

For this reason many people prefer to use wax melts over scented candles. Wax melts are capable of delivering a more intense fragrance in a shorter time.

What are the different types of wax burner?

There are basically two types of wax burner for use with wax melts. They are also known as a wax melter or wax heater.

The most common type uses the heat from a flame to melt the wax and typically the heat source for this is a tealight. These wax burners are usually made of ceramic material, are cheap to buy and are widely available. Once a burning tealight is placed inside the burner, the heat from the flame warms the burner’s dish which melts the wax. Tealights will burn for about four hours which is usually plenty of time to let the fragrance do its work.

Less commonly used are electric wax heaters. These can be cleaner to run and easier to control than the more usual tealight wax burners. Although the principle is the same, electric wax heaters take various approaches to heating and melting the wax.

Wax warmer with heating bulb

Some electric wax heaters use an incandescent bulb as the heat source for melting the wax. They come in various sizes and power ratings, and it is important to choose the right bulb for your heater. If the bulb wattage is too low, the wax melt will stay solid or take too long to melt sufficiently to release its fragrance. If the wattage is too high, the heater will get too hot and may even become a fire risk.

Hot plate wax warmers

Some electric wax warmers use a heating plate. The dish in which the wax melt is placed sits on top of the heating plate or pad, which warms up once the warmer is switched on. This type of warmer tends to be lower wattage than the bulb-based warmers so can be more economical to use.

Some hot plate wax warmers have built in LED lighting which softly glows and may even change colour over time. This can add nicely to the room’s ambience.

Plug-in wax warmers

Another type of electric wax warmer plugs directly into a wall socket. Plug-in warmers are generally smaller and more compact than other electric wax heaters, and of course they don’t require a cable.

They are less common in the UK because the power of this type of appliance is limited to 15 watts, which is quite low for something that is required to get to the temperature needed by a wax melt.

Care must also be taken when using a plug-in wax warmer. We advise against using them in sockets placed at a low height or in busy areas of the home and close to lots of activity. In these scenarios a plug-in warmer can easily be knocked—or interfered with by children or pets. Although this might not be particularly dangerous, spills can be messy and it is difficult to clean wax from fabrics, carpets and other surfaces.

Pineapple dream fragrance and scented soy wax bar

Which wax melts are the best?

There are many kinds of wax melts available and they come in many different sizes, shapes and scents. But there are two main factors that determine quality, and these are the things you should consider when choosing which wax melts to buy.

The best type of wax for wax melts

The first important consideration is the wax itself. Most commercially available wax melts are made with paraffin wax and this is especially true at the cheaper end of the market. Although paraffin wax works well as a vehicle for releasing fragrance, it does not burn cleanly and when it burns or evaporates it gives off pollutants that can include toxic chemicals.

Paraffin wax is a by-product of the oil refining process, so it is not only environmentally unfriendly, it is also an unsustainable product. The bottom line is that paraffin wax is best avoided because of the undesirable impact it can have on health and the environment.

There are plenty of environmentally friendly alternatives to paraffin wax. Beeswax is a well known example, but it is also expensive because its production process is entirely natural and produces only relatively small amounts. It is also unsuitable for vegans.

Another natural alternative is palm wax which is made from hydrogenated palm oil. Although this can be produced in a sustainable and ecologically-friendly way, this is not always the case. In fact there is a great deal of controversy over the farming of palm oil as it has been one of the main contributors to large scale deforestation.

At Rising Lotus Scented Candles we use soy wax exclusively to make our candles and wax melts. We believe that this makes the best wax melts. Soy wax is also a fully natural product which is derived from soy beans. These are grown sustainably and are harvested and processed in an environmentally-friendly way. Soy wax is also entirely plant-based, so it is suitable for vegans.

Another attribute of soy wax that makes it ideal for the best wax melts is its low melting point. Because it melts at a lower temperature, wax melts made from soy wax are suitable for use in every type of wax burner. They melt quicker and release their fragrances quicker, providing a more intense and longer lasting aroma.

The best fragrances for wax melts

The second important consideration is the quality of the fragrances used in making wax melts. Not all aromas are created equal. Cheap or low quality wax melts can contain low concentrations or synthetic fragrances.

The best wax melts are made with natural, highly concentrated fragrance oils. These can be derived from a huge variety of sources and blended to create a vast array of scents.

At Rising Lotus Scented Candles we offer a wide range of plant-based fragrances that are all safe, non-toxic and cruelty-free.

Are wax melts safe to use?

As long as you exercise caution when using wax melts then they are completely safe to use. By following simple, common sense practices, wax melts are a safe and practical way to enhance your living or workspace.

The main hazard to arise from using wax melts is that presented by a hot burner. But basic precautions like careful handling and keeping them away from children and pets will help to minimise any risk.

Making sure you use only high quality wax melts made from plant-based wax will ensure that your wax melts are environmentally safe, and following our top ten tips for candle safety will go a long way to keeping yourself, your family and your home safe.

Where can I get wax melts?

Wax melts are widely available and can easily be found for sale on the high street or from sellers on the internet. If quality is important to you and you are looking for the best wax melts then we offer a range of beautiful wax melts in our Etsy shop. Our wax melts are made entirely from ingredients that are safe to use and sustainable.