25 Things to Do With Old Candle Jars

ways to upcycle candle jars edit illo

Treehugger / Julie Bang

Many people who enjoy burning candles wonder what to do with old candle jars once the wicks burn out. Recycling is an option for most jars made of clear soda-lime glass (the most commonly used type of glass), but many candles use other types of glass to increase heat resistance, or they add dyes to give the glass an attractive appearance.

Before used candle jars are thrown away, or even recycled, they can (and should!) be repurposed around the house. This article provides 25 ways to use old candle jars, keeping them out of landfills and reducing the use of plastic for storage and gift-giving.

How to Get Candle Wax Out of Jar

  • Freezing the jar or metal container for a half hour or so should harden the wax and make it easier to remove in one piece.
  • Heat the jars upside down in a low temperature oven (less than 200 degrees F) on a tray lined with parchment paper until the wax drips from the jars.
  • Removing the wax is also possible by gently heating the jars on the stove top using a double boiler.
  • To remove the sticky labels, try a mixture of oil and baking soda scrubbed onto the jar with a steel wool pad.

1. Prep and Store Food

strawberry yogurt parfait with chocolate granola in upcycled glass candle jar

Treehugger / Michaela Blaire

One popular use for glass candle jars is to meal prep recipes for the next day, like salads and overnight oats. If there's liquid in the jar, like a salad dressing, keep it on the bottom layer so the rest of the ingredients won't be soggy by the time you eat.

2. Reduce Plastic Use When You Shop

overhead shot of dried black-eyed peas in upcycled candle jar and scattered on table

Treehugger / Michaela Blaire

Most shoppers grab the nearest plastic bag to hold dry beans, grains, and other bulk items they purchase at the supermarket. Bringing a jar to the grocery store is an alternative to store dry goods, as well as other types of food—even meat and cheese.

3. Make a Window Garden

Indoor water garden
ggutarin / Getty Images

Candle jars without lids make great containers for small window gardens. Plants like green onion, celery, leafy vegetables, bean sprouts, and other food scraps can be regrown by simply placing them in a jar with water.

4. Ferment Foods

Various kimchi in jar, Korean food
Nungning20 / Getty Images

Candle jars with lids like those pictured above are ideal for fermentation, provided the glass is food safe. Various kimchis, sauerkraut, and fire cider are all great options. A larger jar without a lid could be covered with cheesecloth and used to store a kombucha scoby.

5. Freeze Stocks, Soups, and Smoothies

Frost on a glass jar
Norman Posselt / Getty Images

Probably the most important thing to remember when storing glass jars in the freezer is to allow extra space at the top for what's inside to expand as it freezes. Wide mouth jars are best, and the possibilities are basically endless.

6. Make Homemade Balm or Lip Gloss

Purple lip balm with beeswax and aroma of grosella
Aidart / Getty Images

Candle tins are great for homemade balms, typically some mixture of beeswax and/or shea butter along with essential oils. Other homemade beauty products like bath salts or dried herbs for soaking in the bath also keep well in upcycled candle containers.

7. Create a New Candle

lit white candle nestled in white blanket and sparkle lights

Treehugger / Michaela Blaire

Providing the scents don't clash too terribly, one way to reuse all the remaining wax in your candles, as well as the jars themselves, is to combine the leftover wax into new candles. One easy way to do this is to collect the wax on the baking tray after you've baked candle jars to clean them.

8. Keep Catnip Treats on Hand

High Angle View Of Catnip In Bowl Over White Background
Michelle Arnold / EyeEm / Getty Images

Cats go absolutely crazy over toys coated in catnip. Simply take one or two small cloth cat toys (little mice work well) and place them in a sealed jar with catnip. Shake well and serve to your cat.

9. Decorate the Table

A decorative glass jar of pine cones
Emilija Manevska / Getty Images

Decorative glass jars can add beauty to dining room tables, bookshelves, or side tables around the house. Try adding found items from nature like pine cones, pine needles, or dried flowers, that can also add pleasant, subtle scents.

10. Turn Jars Into Painted Votives

Christmas Nativity Scene with Saint Glass and Lights
Felix Photographer / Getty Images

Artistic types can paint cleaned candle jars and repurpose them into decorated votives. Take care to use paint that can handle high heat.

11. Make a Cake Jar

strawberry, biscuit dessert in jar
bulentumut / Getty Images

Certain types of desserts that don't normally shine when portioned individually can find new life in the fine dining spotlight when layered in individual serving jars. This works well with recipes for trifle or banana pudding, for example.

12. Organize the Bathroom

hair ties, q-tips, and cotton pads stored in upcycled glass candle jars with hairbrush nearby

Treehugger / Michaela Blaire

Another great use for old jars is storage for items typically found in the bathroom like Q-tips, cotton balls, and hair ties. Keeping jars of like items together will also help with organization.

13. Store Tinctures and Herbs

rows of glass jars filled with dried herbs and seeds and lavender
Store your herbs in glass jars for long-term use.

Cavan Images / PhotoLibrary / Getty Images

Tinctures can provide a variety of health benefits.One study in the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Dentistry, for example, found that the use of a chamomile tincture helped control the pain and burning sensation associated with ulcers. Before gifting or using any tincture for medical reasons, consult with a physician.

14. Preserve Lemons

Moroccan preserved salted lemons in glass jar on white wooden table
Lena_Zajchikova / Getty Images

All it takes to preserve lemons is a glass jar, lemons, and salt. Brine will cover the lemons as they break down over the course of a month or so, and they'll stay fresh as long as you keep the liquid level above the lemons. Add to salad dressing or seafood for a briny, citrusy zing. This is also a great way to use excess citrus when it's in season.

15. Extend the Shelf Life of Loose Teas and Spices

upcycled glass candle jar filled with loose tea on wooden table

Treehugger / Michaela Blaire

Teas, dried herbs, and spices purchased in bulk or in plastic packaging will last longer if transferred and stored in glass jars with a tight-sealing lid. Whole-leaf teas also add to the decor of any kitchen when stored in clear glass.

16. Collect a Set of Eclectic Drinkware

upcycled candle jar with fresh lemonade and bamboo straw next to whole lemons

Treehugger / Michaela Blaire

Increasingly, sustainability-minded folks are ditching plastic and turning to upcycled glass jars, especially for taking drinks on the go. An old candle jar that has a lid works great for carrying cold brew or iced tea to work, and can be kept in the fridge in the same container.

17. Make Your Own Bitters

Bartender adds bitter to summer cocktail
MaximFesenko / Getty Images

Bitters have been used in cocktails (and mocktails) for centuries, adding flavor and a unique spicy punch to beverages. Because they're typically used sparingly, it's a good idea to have a dropper to add them to drinks.

18. Grow Plants From Seed

two plants on windowsill being propagated in upcycled glass candle jars

Treehugger / Michaela Blaire

Small jars work well for hosting starter plants before the roots grow too large and they need to be transplanted. Don't let your plants grow in jars for too long unless they like wet feet — the roots could rot due to lack of drainage once the plant reaches a certain size.

19. Organize Your Desk

desk shot of upcycled candle jars holding loose coins and pens and pencils near laptop

Treehugger / Michaela Blaire

Myriad office supplies can be stored in jars, everything from pens and pencils to staples, paperclips, and small post-it notes.

20. Sustainably Give Homemade Gifts

Dried Cranberry and Oat Energy Balls
LauriPatterson / Getty Images

In contrast to purchasing new containers for homemade gifts like cookies, granola, and spiced nuts, reusing old jars is a more sustainable way to gift. Personalized labels and ribbon or string tied around the top of the jar add unique decorative touches.

21. Keep Leftover Grease

desy_sevdanova / Getty Images

No country cook worth their salt is without a jar of leftover fat from cooking things like bacon. While this isn't the healthiest fat to cook with, the occasional warm bacon vinaigrette is worth keeping some excess fat around.

22. Declutter Your Junk Drawer

Jars of Coins
GK Hart/Vikki Hart / Getty Images

Old glass candle jars are great for separating and storing things like batteries, nails, screws, and coins. Clear jars have the added advantage of making it easy to see what you're storing.

23. Make Jams and Curds

Making Raspberry Jam
RonBailey / Getty Images

Leftover jars are great for storing homemade jams, jellies, preserves, and curds. These goods should be stored in the fridge, as jars being used a second time cannot be hermetically sealed (unless its a Mason-style jar and you purchase a new ring and flat lid).

24. Build a Terrarium

Close-Up Of Tiny Mushrooms And Plants Growing In Glass Jar
Apichat Thongmalai / EyeEm / Getty Images

Closed terrariums usually consist of rocks or pebbles, moss, soil, and various decorations, and can be constructed inside of old candle jars with lids. Take care to sustainably harvest your moss and remove any bugs that may appear.

25. Steam Eggs

Gyeran Jjim Korean Steamed Eggs
Justin Ong / Getty Images

Don't have a ttukbaegi (Korean earthenware pot) at home? You can steam eggs using sealed glass jars instead, submerging them in simmering water on the stovetop.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • How should you dispose of candle wax?

    Try to use every last bit of your candle wax by melting it even after the wick is gone. When there's so little left that you must get rid of it, remove it from the jar (while hardened) and throw it in the garbage.

  • Is it okay to flush candle wax?

    Candle wax should never be flushed down the toilet or put down the drain. When it hardens, it will almost certainly create blockage. Plus, it's often made of paraffin wax and other toxic ingredients that can harm aquatic life.

  • Can candle jars be recycled?

    Candles in tin jars or standard soda-lime glass can usually be recycled curbside. Check which kind of material the jar is made of first, though, as some glass types are too heat-tolerant to be recycled normally.

View Article Sources
  1. Seyyedi Seyyed-Amir, et al. “The Therapeutic Effects of Chamomilla Tincture Mouthwash on Oral Aphthae: A Randomized Clinical Trial.” J Clin Exp Dent, vol. 6, 2014, pp. e535–e538.,  doi:10.4317/jced.51472