How to Make an Emergency Candle With Household Objects

Don't get caught in the dark. Try one of these easy DIY candle hacks.

hero shot lit match with hand

Treehugger / Jordan Provost

Don't get caught in the dark when the power goes out. Try one of these six easy candle hacks with how-to videos.

The problem with power outages is that we don't always know when they're coming. Even with a proper warning of an incoming storm, we can find ourselves unprepared if the power goes out. Now that we're in the season of icy winter storms, it's good to know what you can do to make some light if you can't locate a flashlight or candle or if you need extra sources of heat on a cold night. Many of the following could also be helpful on a camping trip.

Below are six ideas for emergency candles that use common household items found in most people's pantries, along with videos that show you how to make them. It's very likely that you have at least one of these things in your house right now, if not all of them. These candles rely on two simple components—a wick and fat or wax to place it in.

Remember always to keep an eye on burning candles and do not leave them unattended in any room.


For each of these options, use a fire-resistant surface (such as glass or metal) as a base to support the candle.

How to Make a Homemade Wick

For homemade wicks, you can use tightly rolled-up newspapers, twisted toilet paper or paper towels, cardboard, twine, 100% cotton string or embroidery floss, cotton balls, toothpicks, popsicle sticks, or any cotton fabric like strips from an old t-shirt or strings from an old cotton mop. Even tampons can work in a pinch.

If you're working with cotton string, consider braiding three strings together to make a heftier wick. To create stiffness, you can dip it in wax or soak it in a salted water solution and then dry. This will help it to burn more slowly and cleanly as well. Wooden wicks do not need to be soaked in oil or dipped in wax before burning; they will burn just as they are.

For some of the following candles, the item itself acts as a wick. Make sure you always have matches or a lighter on hand.

How to Make an Emergency Candle

Go Orange

diy candle made out of orange
Treehugger / Jordan Provost 

One emergency candle hack that you may have seen before is using an orange and a little cooking oil like canola or olive oil. Slicing the orange to remove just the top part of the peel and the center pith makes an instant candle that just needs a little oil poured in. You'll get a longer-burning candle if you use a larger orange, but clementines are easier to peel and work just as well, though the burning time will be shorter. The light is dim, more like a tea light, but you can add more oil while it's being used to extend the burning time.

Make a Simple Butter Candle

hand lights butter candle
Treehugger / Jordan Provost

There couldn't be a simpler candle. Cut off a rectangle of butter or half a stick of butter, insert a wick, light it, and you're done. Make sure to place the butter on a glass or metal surface and you should get about one hour of light per tablespoon. Make a wick using a square of toilet paper cut into quarters; one of those quarters can be twisted into a tiny rope and folded over on itself to make a fishhook shape. Poke a hole in the butter and put the paper fishhook into it. Make sure the wick stands about 1/4" above the butter.

Note: You can do exactly the same thing with Vaseline, but make sure it's in a fire-proof container (not the plastic one it's usually sold in).

Use a Tuna Can

If you're out of fresh oranges or butter, check your pantry for a can of tuna, salmon, anchovies or any fish packed in oil. Poke a hole in the top of the can with a screwdriver and insert a wick, making sure to spread the oil up through the top, then light and enjoy.

Create a Crayon Candle

emergency candle crayon
Treehugger / Jordan Provost

They may not be the first thing to come to mind, but a crayon is a self-contained candle: All you have to do is light it. The paper wrapper acts as an external wick and the wax keeps the flame going. Make sure to melt the bottom of the crayon lightly so that it will stick to a fire-safe surface, such as an Altoids tin or a glass plate.

Cut the wax crayon off at the top of the wrapper so you have a stick of wax contained in paper. Hold a match over the candle and wait for the paper to catch. It should burn for about 15 minutes. More than one crayon can be wrapped together with foil to make a larger candle or an effective fire starter.

Use Cheese Wax

closeup cheese wax candle lit
Treehugger / Jordan Provost 

Cheese wax may be a nuisance when you're trying to slice some cheese to eat, but in addition to keeping cheese fresh, it is a great material for making an emergency candle. Any waxed cheese will do if you can slice the wax off and mold it into a cylinder shape and then insert a wick. The more wax you have, the bigger and longer-lasting the candle, but even the little Babybel cheeses are great for this purpose. Slice open a few of them and make many small candles or one larger one. Again, make sure you have a flame-resistant base to hold your candle.

Use Cooking Oil for Lamp Oil

jar of olive oil emergency candle
Treehugger / Jordan Provost

If you find yourself without any of the above, you can fashion an emergency candle out of any type of cooking oil—fresh or used—and a flame-resistant container. Small glass cups or jars like mason or jam jars work well, as will aluminum cans and even a cup made out of aluminum foil, perhaps contained within a metal muffin tin. If you don't have a lid to thread the wick through, a paper clip can be used to hold the wick in place.


These other items will also work as emergency candles—lip balm tins, shoe polish, or vegetable shortening like Crisco. All you have to do is insert a wick in the middle and light. With Crisco, you can pack it into a Mason jar and insert a taper candle into the center. Make sure there aren't any air bubbles and keep the level of the shortening about an inch below the taper. Once lit, it will burn for a very long time—perhaps even as much as 100 hours.