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Wax On, Wax Off: How to Fix Up After a Candle Spill

  • Caitlin Ganswindt

Wax spills

Here at Kempt HQ, we often receive letters from our readers—most of it adoring fan mail, but every so often we get a nude photo. Also every so often we get an inquiry from a wayward soul who we feel compelled to answer...

Thanks in part to your advice over the years, I was able to find and get a very handsome suit that was at the top level of my budget. And then, in its debut outing (at a wedding), some knucklehead knocked over a candle near me, which (of course!) managed to spill hot wax all over my trousers and shoes (not new, but still). Now what? Is the cost sunk? Can I at least write it off on my taxes?

Great to hear our words have guided you to the perfect suit; quite tragic that such a sartorial victory was followed by a real-life verse on irony. But this doesn’t necessarily mean a total loss. There are a few things you can try.

Starting with...

The Suit. Depending on where you procured it, you may be able to speak with them directly about best practices for fabric care—in some cases you may even be able to exchange your damaged trousers for a new pair. Assuming that’s not a viable avenue, let’s talk about home remedies.

Option One: The Brown Bag and Iron. You’ll need, yes, a brown paper bag and an iron. First, cut a brown paper bag down to the size of the wax stain, then heat up your iron. It’s important to be mindful of your fabric here. Merino/wool blends are more sensitive than a lightweight linen. In either case, be sure to keep your heat very, very low or you’ll run the risk of creating a sheen on the affected area. Place the brown paper on the wax, and press the warm iron onto the paper gently, for about five seconds at a time. The iron will re-melt the wax onto the bag, lifting it from the thread. Repeat as necessary, checking the status of the paper bag regularly. You’ll see what looks like grease coming through the bag—that means it’s working. It also means you may need to replace the paper with a fresh swatch, to ensure that you don’t re-stain the area.

Option Two: The Clothing Brush and Freezer. If the suit is too fragile to approach with an iron, or there’s still a bit of residual funk after option one, this is a good second course of action. First, place your trousers in a plastic bag and into the freezer for about an hour, until the wax is frozen. If there are any big pieces of wax, you’ll be able to peel them away easily, but the thread will likely still be compromised. Then, grab your brush. (If you don’t already have one, the Kent Pure Bristle Wooden Clothes Brush is a strong choice.) Move your wrist in strong, quick strokes against the nap (the grain of the fabric). Be sure not to swipe back and forth, or the whole thing will become a chalky mess. You’ll be able to dust off any debris, and repeat until the fabric is clean.

The Shoes. If they’re any kind of cloth or suede, both aforementioned remedies will work here as well. For leather shoes, you were probably able to peel off the wax and were left with a dull/discolored stain. In that case, a traditional leather cream is the best course of action. We’d recommend something along the lines of Venetian Shoe Cream—it’s very affordable and you can pick it up at most leather shops. Apply a small amount to a soft cloth and rub in small circles, starting with the stain and moving outward over the entire shoe.

Hopefully, some or all of these tips can help salvage your natty new duds. Of course, nothing is a guarantee. In which case, we can’t speak for certain on a tax write-off, but if Drake can deduct “making it rain” at a strip club, we’d say you’ve got a sporting chance. [Ed. Note: We are not, nor have ever been, licensed accountants.]