DIY milk carton candle how-to: Easy retro craft made with ice & wax

Milk carton candle how-to

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DIY milk carton candle how-to: Homemade candles light up a gift list (1977)

Article by Judith Helmund – Intelligencer Journal (Lancaster, Pennsylvania) December 8, 1977

Since light is so much a part of both Christmas and Hanukkah, you might like to make some attractive candles to give as gifts.

DIY Milk carton candle how-to

DIY milk carton candle

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Active Time: 30 minutes
Additional Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes


  • wax (paraffin or old candles)
  • a large tin can
  • a pan of water in which it will fit without touching the sides
  • candle wicks (available in most craft shops) or a taper candle*
  • paper milk, cream, or juice cartons
  • ice


  • scissors
  • plastic bag
  • hammer
  • a pencil long enough to rest on top of the carton


  1. Wash and thoroughly dry a milk or juice carton. DIY Milk carton candle how-to
  2. Cut off the top of the milk carton(s) so you have a square-topped container.
  3. Now, cut a piece of wicking long enough to tie around the pencil and extend to the bottom of the carton when the pencil is rested across the top.
  4. Crush the ice (in a plastic bag with a hammer) into small pieces, but don't make them too tiny. Put the ice back in the freezer until the wax is melted.
  5. Put wax -- either paraffin or old candles -- in the can, and place can in the pan of water. Let the water come to a boil. You might want to add an old crayon or two for color. (Kids: Be sure to have an adult help you with the stove and the hot wax!)
  6. Fill milk cartons with crushed ice. The ice will make an interesting lacy pattern in the wax. DIY Milk carton candle how-to
  7. When the wax is melted, remove can from the water, and carefully pour the wax into the cartons on top of the ice. DIY Milk carton candle how-to
  8. Let harden completely, then pour the melted ice water off and peel away the carton. Untie the pencil and trim the wick.DIY Milk carton candle how-to


* If you'd prefer to make this craft without the candle wicks, and use a taper candle instead, please see directions later in this article.

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Here are some variations you might try:

1. Melt just a little wax at a time, add a crayon to make it a pretty color. Pour a layer of wax in that color, then make a new color and pour that over the hardened first layer. Repeat this until the carton is full. Don’t forget the wick!

2. Make a candle by simply filling the carton with colored wax, removing the candle and pinning sequins, beads, or other small decorations right to the candle.

3. Make a plain candle as above and ‘frost’ it with plain paraffin that has been melted and whipped with an egg-beater for a few seconds. As it begins to thicken, the paraffin can be spread on the outside of the candle just like frosting. When you light the candle, the color underneath shines through.

DIY Milk carton candle how-to

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How to make a Christmas ice candle: All you do is take any size easy-opening Pure-Pak carton, and drink up the milk, eggnog or fruit juice that’s in it.

Then, put a regular table candle in the center, fill with crushed ice and pour hot sealing wax until full. (The plastic coating will prevent sticking.)

When it’s cool, cut back the carton and pull out the finished candle. For extra color, decorate with rosettes or holly leaves. Now all you do is light the wick, and have a happy holiday!

DIY Milk carton candle how-to from 1965

Milk cartons make good candle molds (1973)

The Ithaca Journal (Ithaca, New York) December 11, 1973

William Webster — master candlemaker, author and instructor — has found that the very best and most versatile household mold for the amateur candlemaker is a simple empty paperboard milk carton.

“Milk cartons are, first of all, the most economical molds to use,” says Bill. “Metal molds cost at least $5 apiece. Since the family will be using milk anyway, there is no additional cost for a milk carton mold. All you have to do is rinse the milk carton with plain water, and it’s ready to be a creative tool.”

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Another advantage of using a milk carton as a mold is that the melted wax can be poured cool — below 190 degrees.

Metal and glass molds require molten wax heated to over 200 degrees. The lower melting temperature allows the beginner to use the easy double boiler method for melting wax.

Using cooler wax is safer, particularly if there are children present. Plus, the wax will reach pourable temperatures quicker and will set faster for easy handling.

Bill Webster is author of a new book entitled, “The Complete Book of Candlemaking.” From his experience in making candles, Bill cites these advantages for paperboard milk carton molds.

DIY Milk carton candle how-to Easy retro craft made with ice & wax

After the candle has cooled and hardened, the milk carton is removed by simply tearing it off. This eliminates the use of silicone release substances which must be applied to the inside of commercial molds before each pouring.

A big chore in candlemaking is cleaning the mold. A commercial mold must be cleaned thoroughly each and every time it is used, and, if any residue wax is left, it will ruin the next candle. With the milk carton, however, you just toss it away after it has been used to make a candle and bring out a new, clean one for the pouring.

A milk carton candle has a nice rustic finish, as it is taken directly from the mold. It doesn’t have that fake-looking plastic-like finish that makes some candles look as though they have been produced on an assembly line.

“There is a wide choice of size and shape available,” says Bill. “I’ve used everything from the full gallon container to the little individual half-pint cartons.”

DIY milk carton candle

Bill has amazed audiences with his demonstrations of the great variety of candles which can be made in a simple milk carton mold. He fashions delicate, lacy ice candles by setting a slim pillar candle in the center of a half-gallon carton and filing the carton to the top with ice cubes.

Then, melted candle wax is poured into the carton. When the wax sets, the result is a sculptured candle with artistic open spaces left by the melted ice cubes.

Bill makes round-bottomed floater candles in the bottom half of milk cartons. He puts a layer of sand in the bottom of the carton and shapes it to form a concave, rounded base. Then he pours in the molten wax. After the candle has cooled, he merely tears off the milk carton, scrapes the sand off the bottom of the candle, and floats it.

Stately square candles can be poured in a quart milk carton. These can be all one color or layered in several colors. For interesting effects, he props the carton at an angle while each layer is cooling so that the colors will be diagonal rather than straight.

He can also make twice-poured candles, hanging candles, hurricane candles and many other types — all in milk cartons.

In addition to being an instructor in the art of candlemaking and an author, Bill has his own candle shop in Philadelphia and teaches Philosophy at the Philadelphia College of Art.

“I believe candlemaking is an art medium that can be enjoyed by almost everyone — regardless of artistic talent,” Bill declares.

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DIY Milk carton candle how-to: Make a Merry Candle (1964)

We haven’t put wax in Pure-Pak cartons in years. You can, though. And have a Merry Candle. All you need is a Pure-Pak half-gallon carton, a 10″ table candle, 1-1/2 lbs. paraffin, and 3 trays of ice cubes.

Cut the top from the Pure-Pak carton and rinse out any milk, egg nog or fruit juice that’s left. Next, crack the ice cubes into large or medium pieces, drain off any water, and return to the freezer.

Melt the wax in a double boiler. When all the wax is hot, center the candle in the Pure-Pak carton and then surround loosely with cracked ice.

DIY Milk carton candle how-to from the '60s

More vintage Christmas crafts & creative decor!

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