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Make Water Balloon Candle Holders

11 February 2009 508,804 views 52 Comments

by heather

has instructions for the coolest candle-making project I have EVER seen! Using balloons filled with lukewarm water, you can make these amazing candle luminaries by dipping balloons in wax. I love the organic shape of the luminaries, and this project looks so fun! They are so elegant, and nobody would ever guess you used dollar store materials for this project! These would be great table decorations for a wedding or other formal occasion, or just pretty to scatter around your home. [click here for full instructions from candletech]

The comments section of the tutorial also provides a lot of valuable insight for making this project. Commenters had better luck with 7" or 9" balloons (instead of the water balloons used in the tutorial). Use battery-operated tea lights to avoid melting through the luminaries (the metal-cupped tea lights can possibly get warm enough to melt through), or add sand in the bottom of the luminary to keep the tea light from melting through.

Other commenters suggested adhering something to the outside of the wax to add additional interest (although I just LOVE them as they are!), or using multiple colors of wax in several dips and then carving away to allow different colors to show through.

The project recommends high-melt paraffin wax to avoid the melting issue when used with tea lights. If you use battery-operated tea lights, you will avoid this issue and can use other kinds of wax to
make your luminaries. Melt down candles from the dollar store, perhaps? Get beeswax from your local beekeeper or farmer's market?

Project Estimate:

  • Paraffin Wax*, $1 (find at the grocery store in the canning section)
  • Balloons, $1
  • Double boiler, on hand
  • Cookie sheet, on hand
  • Battery operated tea lights, 2 for $1

Total cost: $3

*one commenter said s/he made 15 luminaries out of about 8 lbs of paraffin, so figure about half a pound of wax per luminary. You will likely need multiple blocks of wax from the grocery store to get started.

Photo montage by I-Do-It-Yourself.

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  • CDub said:

    I did this once at summer camp, but instead of making them hollow (to hold another candle) we filled them with a low-heat wax (to make them a candle in themselves). The outside part was thicker than these appear to be, and we dyed the wax for the outside, but the basics are more or less the same.

    Great find!

  • Vone said:

    They look so neat – I’ve save the idea in my favorites :) For some day.

  • Sarah said:

    Fabulous idea.

  • Rebecca of the R&W Gals said:

    AMAZING! I love the thought of layers of colors so that you could etch into those layers. That would be sooo much fun for my kids!
    Thanks, as always, for the inspiration!
    Rebecca of the R&W Gals

  • Sylvia said:

    I did this as research for the summer camp I work for. This works best using a thicker latex balloon rather than the water balloons. I also did a cool water dunk inbetween wax dips. They turned out very well. In fact, the one I made is still alive after 2 years :D

  • Jenn/Rook No. 17 said:

    What an awesome blast from the past — I’m nearly teary, for this post has totally awakened a childhood memory of making these when I was very little. I had completely forgotten about it, and am so, so excited to see this beautifully done tutorial! I can’t wait to share it with my own children!

    Thanks a mil!

  • DIY : bougie fabuleuse grâce à un ballon | Le Meilleur du DIY said:

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  • Kate Kappel said:

    After you’ve got the first few layers of wax, add pressed flowers or sprigs of Fir Boughs (tiny) to wax, then layer a few more dips and you’ll have imbedded luminaries!!!

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  • Amber Pulley said:

    I wonder if using the same principle only greasing the balloon and using plaster a paris would work, creating a more durable candle holder.

  • Kristin said:

    I am concerned here about the luminaries MELTING when placing a candle inside of them . . .

  • heather (author) said:

    Hi Kristin, You have several options: Use battery-operated tea lights to avoid melting through the luminaries (the metal-cupped tea lights can possibly get warm enough to melt through), or add sand in the bottom of the luminary to keep the tea light from melting through. You can also insert a small glass votive holder to protect the luminaria.

  • Haley said:

    ok so are there actual directions cause i am one of those people who need them or else i will find a way to mess this up. so if someone could tell me where they are or explain the process to me a little more in depth that would be great :)

  • Holly said:

    How many layers are necessary?

  • heather (author) said:

    @Holly, I haven’t personally tried the craft so I don’t know how many layers you need. Just experiment to see what works for you.

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  • Nancy P said:

    Haley I wondered the same thing and then realized that if you click on Candletech in the first sentence it will take you to the directions.

  • Michele said:

    Oh… My…Word…

    This is the answer to an issue!! I’ve been asked to dry the flowers from the arrangement that was on the casket of a good friend’s mother and make memorial things with them. There are memorial candles out there that are VERY expensive. So I’ll be taking some of the flowers and sticking them to the soft wax then giving them one or two more dunks!

    Thank you!!

    I’m hoping to take some of the purple flowers, crushing them, laying them flat then rolling the balloon in them.

    Check back on my blog to see the results!

  • Tiffany said:

    *~*Note to Self*~* Make sure Balloons are filled with water. I missed that part on the instructions and had 4 explode and cover me in hot wax.

  • Rachel said:

    I have an actual paraffin wax heater to dip hands, feet, elbows in etc. I’m wondering if this would still work fine? also, do you have to get colored wax or is there a way to dye the wax, i.e. food coloring?

  • amelia said:

    hi i was wondering what double boiler is and if you could just use a pot on a stove i know its a stupid ? but i had to ask

  • heather (author) said:

    @Rachel, it seems like a parrafin wax heater would work – try it and let us know how it turns out. You can use a crayon to dye the wax (just melt it in with the wax), or you can also buy wax dye chips at your local craft store – they will be in with the candle-making supplies.

  • heather (author) said:

    @amelia, a double boiler is just one pan with an inch or two of water in it, with a smaller pan sitting in the top of it – it allows the wax to heat evenly without burning/scorching it. So basically, just use two pans you already have.

    Here are some instructions for making a double boiler.

  • Sara Campbell said:

    I had so much fun making this project. I face paint at weddings but never know how to keep it safe with the candles and children.
    I love using these and keeping the children safe at the same time. I even painted the outside with fun designs to go with my face painting.

  • Deana McRobie said:

    Ok- so I’m attempting making these for my wedding centerpieces. The times that I have tried the balloons are not forming correctly, almost as though they were deformed to start, which had made it impossible to make a normal looking votive. Any suggestions ?!

  • heather (author) said:

    @Deana, hopefully someone will chime in with some helpful tips!

  • Tanya said:

    I tried this project for the first time last night. I used soy wax chips and small water balloons. Here is what went wrong: the water balloons seemed to be to pressurized, when I popped them they exploded and cracked the wax. Also, i didn’t dip them enough (make sure they are atleast 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick).

    So today I will try again. The soy wax seems to work fine but I think I will try the paraffin wax as well. I am going to use bigger balloons.

    Does anyone know if you can melt brand new candles down? I have a lot of tea lights that I want to reuse, possibly in this project.?

  • AVR said:

    Hello, it is a very nice idea. I have some doubts though regarding the instructions:

    First, I tried to make one of this some days ago, the temperature of the water was what you recommended, yet when I filled the balloons they popped inmediately, at least some of them. When I was able to fill them, I was already very scared to put in the wax, mainly I wanted to avoid any accidents. Are there any tips to REALLY avoid ballons from popping inside the hot waxed-pot so I can prevent wax from burning my skin. I have no sophisticated bowls to put the wax, actually I do it in a normal pot (where I used to make other candles before).

    Thank you very much,


  • heather (author) said:

    @AVR, I haven’t made them myself so I don’t have any insight in making them. Make sure you check the instructions at the original post: http://www.candletech.com/techniques-and-ideas/water-balloon-luminaries/

  • Billie said:

    If you go to the Candletech site it says party balloons not water balloons. I hope this helps with the popping issue.

  • Donna said:

    Made something similar with a youth group but used melted crayons.

  • Vicky said:

    Mine aren’t getting thick. The wax doesn’t seem to be clinging to the balloon much. I’ve been at this for an hour on 1 balloon!
    Any help?

  • Vicky said:

    I’m having trouble getting the wax thick enough. The wax doesn’t seem to be getting thicker. I have the water in the double boiler at the correct temp. Any help?

  • Aglaia said:

    Hi, I just finished trying these out for the first time and here’s what I noticed. The party balloons worked well I had no issues with popping. I used a very large coffee mug to melt the wax, with the mug sitting inside of a pot of water. Initially my wax was too hot so the layers were very thin and not coating well, so I transferred my coffee mug into a pot of room temperature water. As the wax started to cool it got thinker causing the layer to be thicker. After dipping the balloon about 4-5 times it was the perfect thickness. I also sat the balloon in the freezer for five minutes before I let the water out of it, to confirm the wax wouldn’t sink in after releasing. I also noticed on my first one if you are constantly dipping and allowing the water inside the balloon to heat up, the wax will not harden evenly without putting it in the freezer. I did have the issue with the deformed shaped balloons, I made about 5 different water filled balloons before choosing the perfectly shaped one, I’ve noticed adding the water on a very low stream helps keeps the circular shape. Hope this helps.

  • Cassidy said:

    I’d like to try this, and make it as a christmas gift for my mom. What I’m worried about is (1) having the balloon pop during the process and getting burned. (2) I’d like to have a REAL tea light instead of a battery operate one, though I’m afraid that it’ll melt the outside of it. (3) Is there a way to make it a colored luminary? Like, does it have to be white, or can I make it purple, or blue, or red?

    If anyone could help me, that’d be great!

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  • Caitlin said:

    These are pretty dangerous, very messy, and extremely frustrating! I was so excited to try them, they look so pretty, and I have a lot of candle making experience. Even though I followed instructions exactly it was a disaster every time I tried. The first few kept cracking when I tried to set them down to make the bottom flat. Then I decided to try making them thicker first and the balloon popped, splashing hot wax everywhere! I do NOT recommend this project and think people should be warned- it’s a very bad idea to add an unstable mold to hot wax.

  • Caitlin said:

    also @ Deana, I had the same problem. The one that I was able to make (which looks awful, btw, lumpy as anything) I sort of hand formed back to normal shape while the wax was still soft, but you have to be careful and make sure you’ve made it thick, or the wax just cracks. This is one project that I find not at all worth the effort, mess and danger.

  • Ruby Leslie said:

    Can you put water and floating candles in these? This would be a great way to keep the cost down at my wedding next year.

  • personalized memorial candles said:

    This looks really cool! Another idea is to buy those stemless wine glasses and frost them, either with paper you rub on, or spray. I’ve done sort of the same thing to make edible chocolate bowls but this has such a pretty effect and is reusable.

  • nancy said:

    we did this idea the end of summer day camp in girl scouts. we melted broken candles put a small candle in them and ceremoniously sent them out on a small lake. the girls loved layering colors and creating patterns.

  • Keepalowprofile said:

    I’m not sure about putting a candle in these because the heat could melt it. It might collapse and fall in. Seems unsafe to me.

    HOWEVER, I have done the exact same thing using chocolate or almond bark to make edible bowls. Fill with a few scoops of ice cream and toppings.
    Make tiny ones and fill with candy or nuts and set them by each place setting at parties. Yummy. Your guests will go nuts.

  • Breana said:

    I am wanting to do this as a cute family Christmas present but I was wandering if instead of using the balloons with water in them could I use a stemless wine glass? And would it have to have water or be fine without water?

  • heather (author) said:

    @breana, you could try molding the candles with stemless wine glasses, but you would not be able to get the glasses out of the wax after the wax has dried. So, if you just wanted to cover the glasses with wax and leave them that way, that could potentially work.

  • Sarah said:

    The Candle website said something about 3% fragrance. If i wanted to add fragrance how would do this and what does the 3% mean?
    Also, if I use the canning wax can I still use a real tea light? Maybe using a glass holder at the bottom?

  • heather (author) said:

    @sarah, I would just start with a small amount of fragrance – you want fragrance OIL, not water-based (like perfume). I think using a glass holder for a tea light would work well.

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  • Maggy said:

    We made these when I lived in San Francisco in the late 60’s. It was a hippy thing back then. I made one that was sea blue and after it dried, I melted some green paraffin and painted on some “continents” so it looked like a globe. So cool! I was trying to remember how to do it so I could do one now and put it in a handmade macrame hanger.

  • Carlie said:

    We are attempting to make these for an anniversary party this weekend. We are getting a fairly smooth surface, but having problems with the sides cracking when we sit them down to flatten the bottom and cool. Can anybody offer any suggestions as to how to prevent this? Thanks!

  • safa said:

    My water balloons keep popping!!!!!

  • heather (author) said:

    @safa, try using regular balloons filled up only to water balloon size.