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How to Get Candle Wax Off Walls

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How do you remove candle wax off of a painted wall?


This is another great question.  Just like glue varies, so do walls.  You could have sheetrock, or lath and plaster.  The walls could be textured or smooth.  The paint could be an easy to clean semi-gloss or a harder to clean flat paint. My favorite method for removing wax from fabric using an iron and a paper bag could possibly be adapted to get the candle wax off your wall, but it could also discolor the wall so I would definitely test it on an inconspicuous part of the wall first (maybe behind a picture already hanging on the wall even if there’s no wax there just to see how the wall responds).

For background, to remove wax from fabric, you would first scrape away any excess wax gently with a plastic spoon.  Next you cut open a brown paper bag and place it over the wax, and then press the bag with an iron on the lowest heat setting, constantly moving the iron so it doesn’t rest in one place.  You will see the bag darken where the wax melts and absorbs onto the paper bag.  If the fabric can handle it, you can increase the temperature of the iron and get more wax off.  Irons usually include a temperature dial that helps you select the right setting for synthetics (cooler) to cotton (hotter) and other fibers in between.  Either sheetrock or lath and plaster should be able to handle an iron on low, but it’s hard to know if the paint on your wall actually can so again, test first if you decide to try this.

First, if your wall is plaster, then you should be able to scrape away excess wax with a plastic spoon without damaging the wall surface.  If however your wall is sheetrock, then you should probably skip scraping the wall unless there is a ton of candle wax.  It always amazes me how little it takes to dent sheetrock so proceed with caution!

Next, cut open a brown paper bag and plug in your iron, selecting the lowest temperature setting.  Consider using an extension cord so you can easily work with the iron.  Also, make sure you have a place to safely set the iron while you are working so you don’t damage a table top or your floor.  When the iron is hot, hold the brown bag over the wax and gently press in a circular motion.  You don’t want the iron to rest in one place for more than a few seconds because you want to avoid scorching the wall just as you would want to avoid scorching fabric.  Dark spots will appear on the bag where the wax is melting and absorbing onto the paper.

Reposition the bag so you can absorb more wax.  This may get it all, or a little wax may remain on the wall.  If that’s the case, while the wax is still warm you can again try gently scraping it away with a plastic spoon.  This is much much easier to do safely on a plaster wall than on sheetrock.  With so many variables affecting the outcome, I would expect that at a minimum you should be able to remove enough of the wax so that it won’t show through a touch-up coat of paint.  One thing about paint–it doesn’t hide imperfections on the wall.  The only way to do that is with meticulous prep.

Please let me know if you have any other questions.  Also, feel free to send more detail about the candle wax.  Pictures also can be helpful.  Good luck and let me know how it goes.

–Dr. Laundry