Hot Dump? Cold Dump? : The Best Ways To Clean Out A Melt Warmer, Tested!
Welcome to a new series in which we discuss the care of your products! We're kicking it off with melt warmers, since there are so many options for cleaning those out, and we have tried many, many methods, many warmers, many waxes, and found out what works and what doesn't. If you're looking for the best way to clean out your melt warmer, we've got your options covered!
A melt warmer is an investment and requires some care to ensure that you get the longest life out of it as possible. For the most part, you'll only need to keep it clean to ensure it remains in good condition and functions well into the future. The biggest question in keeping it clean is how do I get the wax out?
That's a great question, and it does depend on what type of warmer you have, the type of wax you use and in part, your own personal preferences.
The benefits of keeping your warmer clean are numerous. The most obvious reason is of course, you want to change your fragrance, and need to get the old wax out. However, the safety aspect shouldn't be ignored. As you clean your warmer you will notice if there is any physical damage, to the cords, the bulbs or heat plate, even the dish in which the wax sits in. A cracked dish leaking wax is a fire hazard. Replace the dish if you can or if you can't it's time to get a new warmer!
There are two main ways to get wax out of a warmer: the hot dump, where the liquid wax is dumped straight out of the dish, or the cold dump, when the solid wax is removed from the dish. Each has its pros and cons.
The Hot Dump (smokin' hot baby, smokinnnnn')
Hot dumping requires that the warmer be in active use, which means it's plugged in and turned on, or a tealight is lit and is melting the wax. If the wax dish is removable, it's simple enough to carefully grab the dish and tip the liquid wax straight into a bin or container. This method does require you to grasp what can be a very hot surface, and spilling wax is always a risk. Also, you have to be aware to mop up any drips down the side of the dish with a paper towel as the last thing you want is hot wax dripping onto a naked flame, bulb or oozing into the innards of your heat plate.
Hot dumping straight to the bin is not generally suited to a single unit where the dish is part of the warmer. The warmer is likely to be hot for starters, and for tealight warmers, you first have to remove the tealight, which also runs the risk of spilling wax. Moving warmers with hot globes in them isn't always the best idea, no one wants an exploded bulb and glass to clean up.
For small warmers like plug ins or tiny amounts of wax, you can use cotton balls or paper towel to soak up the wax. Exercise caution, as you're sticking your fingers very close to hot wax, and it does tend to drip everywhere if it's over saturated. I like to use paper towel, but that's because I buy it in industrial amounts whereas the cotton balls in this house have probably grown legs and turned into cottontails by now. If you're using a large amount of wax, you'll quickly realise that you'll go through a lot of paper towel or cotton balls, which is quite wasteful. On the bright side, they do make great fire starters.
If I am hot dumping, which is my personal preference, I turn on my electric melter for about five minutes and let it begin to warm the wax in contact with the dish. This allows the wax to melt just enough that it releases easily from the dish. It means I only have a little bit of liquid wax to soak up with paper towel and often one square is enough to sort that out.
Pros: can swap out fragrances fast while the melter is in use, suitable for most warmers.
Cons: you're working with hot liquid wax, can be wasteful regarding paper towels/cotton balls.
The Cold Dump (brrr got them winter chills)
Cold dumping is obviously gonna be a different kinda game. You'll be working with solid wax here, and this one is definitely suited to removable dish warmers over the fixed dish.
The simplest way is to remove the dish (while your wax is solid, not liquid), bag it up and chuck it in the freezer for five to ten minutes. For many natural waxes, cooler temperatures cause them to shrink. This lifts them straight out of the dish and you have minimal clean up. Just chuck the solid wax straight in the bin and you're almost good to go again.
This freezer method is not, and I repeat, not suited to plug ins or fixed dish warmers. We don't freeze our electrical appliances, ever. Just don't.
Try not to forget about your dish in the freezer, even if you did bag it up. You don't want the fragrance compounds going through your Ben and Jerry's. Patchouli steak isn't a great idea either and no one got time for lemongrass peas.
For safety reasons, don't dump your frozen dish straight back in a hot warmer. Let it come to room temperature, wipe off any condensation and then chuck it back on. The laws of thermodynamics are not escapable via impatience and wishful thinking. At best you stress the dish.
Other methods of cold dumping are to use a spoon to scoop out your wax. This is best suited to softer waxes like soy or scoopables. Forget about paraffin or beeswax. Don't use a knife. Ever. You will regret it. I don't recommend the spoon method at all. It's too easy to slip. You also run the risk of scratching your dish. Not the best idea if you know... you can't actually replace the dish if it gets damaged. Some fragrance compounds are tough on surfaces. Nick the paint on them and you might just strip it right off over time.
Your milage might vary on this one, but I have experimented with putting a piece of ribbon in the liquid wax while it sets, then yanking on it to get it out later when it's cold. Half the time I've simply ripped the ribbon out and looked stupid. Briefly turning the warmer on to break the adhesion between wax and dish helps with this one.
Cold dumping liquid wax melts is easy. Soak it up with paper towel or cotton balls. Done.
Pros: not sticking your fingers in, spilling, or otherwise dealing with hot wax, wax comes out in a solid disc using the freezer method, good for liquid melts, scoopables, softer soy.
Cons: best suited to removable dish warmers, dangerous if you use a spoon (or knife. *The Purrs Trio glare at you balefully*)
No matter which way you choose to remove your old wax, make sure you do it safely. You want to keep your warmer in good nick and keep yourself safe. Find what works for you. Since our wax melts are a harder soy, we recommend the hot dump method where most the wax is still solid. You get the best of both worlds, a hard disc of wax with minimal hot liquid to clean up.
Wax soaked paper towels or cotton balls make great fire starters if you're in a region where you'd be using such things. Beyond that, old wax doesn't have many other uses. Natural waxes will eventually degrade and return to the soil from which they grew. Fragrance compounds (and this goes for man-made synthetics and natural essential oils) are probably not the best thing to stick in your household compost, especially if you melt a lot, so I'd avoid trying to compost it. It'd take quite some time to break down, longer than what you'd want to leave your compost doing its thing. Just pop old wax in your household waste. Don't use it to wax the furniture, your mustachios or hair. Just send it to the great garbage bin in the sky and enjoy a new one.
Pictured here is our (currently out of stock, and we hope to get more soon) Paisley electric melt warmer with our Fruity Loopy wax brittle.