Life Hack: The Crisco Candle. Read This First!

How to Make a Candle from a Can of Crisco

You’ve probably all seen this. It’s one of the most popular Hacks being shared around on the Internet and Pinterest.

So does it work?

Yes, it does. You can stick a wick down into the center of a tub of Crisco and light it and it will burn—for a long time. That doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. We’ll discuss this aspect in a moment.

Why does it work?

Now this is the enlightening history behind the product called Crisco. Back in the day, the meat industry was making it expensive to purchase lard and tallow, which was used in the process of making candles and soap. Proctor & Gamble got the ingenious idea that they would make a product from plant oils that would stay in a solid form and be cheaper than lard or tallow so they could save money making candles and soap. (Yep – they weren’t even trying to make a food product!). They used a new process called hydrogenation. Without getting technical, this is done by bubbling hydrogen through the vegetable oil at high temperatures, a process that allows it to be solid at room temperature.

About that time, electricity was born & the candle business tanked.

Can of Crisco ShorteningProctor & Gamble needed another use for their Crisco product, so Vegetable Shortening was born and touted as a healthy alternative to meat-based products!

Of course it’s not really made from vegetables. It was originally made from cottonseed oil. In fact the name Crisco was derived from the term Crystalized Cottonseed Oil. And the high heat processing destroys any nutrients, like vitamin E and omega-3 essential fatty acids. The plant-based seed and grain oils they use today are highly processed and commonly genetically modified. So Crisco was quite possibly the first Imitation Food put on the market (how proud they must be)—and spurred on the invention of yet another imitation food—Margarine.

So, we’re back to the Candle from a Can of Crisco idea.

Let’s talk about those ‘cans’ for a moment. If you check it out, they aren’t metal at all. They are made from foil-lined cardboard tubes. So if you do stick a wick down into one and let it burn for hours, and the hot oil reaches the sides of the container, you’ve just created a fire hazard. Besides, who wants to burn a highly processed GMO laced product?

Candle made from a can of CriscoSo here’s the deal. If you’ve burned your last candle and the flashlight batteries have all just died…or if you find yourself lost in the woods and you come across a cabin you can shelter in and need some heat or light. Go ahead and make a candle out of that old tub of Crisco. Don’t worry—it never goes bad. Follow the usual precautions, keep an eye on it and don’t let it burn for hours at a time. Or better yet, scoop out some of the product and put it in glass or metal containers and add a wick. You should be fine. Just don’t cook with it!


Have you ever made an emergency candle from plant-based oils?


  1. mike

    very interesting and i would like to try it [in glass of course] my question is it safe to burn indoors, in other words are there toxins released by burning it indoors, or is it as safe as any other candle

    • indy

      Hi Mike, that’s a good question. I don’t remember smelling a strong odor when I burned mine as a test (unlike a crayon when used as an emergency candle). But, I’d suggest always using it with good ventilation, just to be safe. Even commercial candles sometimes come on too strong for me when in an enclosed, small space. Thanks for reading the blog and commenting- much appreciated!

      • Agatha

        New studies claim paraffin wax puts out carcinogenic gas. It’s made from petroleum. That means people burning cheap candles may as well be smoking cigarettes! Could Crisco (made from cotton seed oil and hydrogen) really be worse than the stuff almost all candles on the market (except pure beeswax ) are made from? I doubt it!

        • indy

          Good point, Agatha but even if it’s no worse than the paraffin candles I’d still advise only using it as a last ditch survival tool, especially since it’s in a cardboard tub and not a metal or glass container – for safety reasons. Like you, I prefer to use soy or beeswax candles for normal home use, but sometimes when faced with an emergency situation we may not have a choice in what we have to use and may be forced to do the best we can. If needed I’d burn the other candles and use good ventilation. Thanks for taking time to comment – much appreciated.

  2. Cathy

    I made one today and just lit it. I wanted to see how long it would burn and if it would catch fire. Well it has burned out after hour and a half.

    • indy

      Hi Cathy. Thanks for sharing your experience with using crisco as an emergency candle. Good to know a time frame for how long one might burn.

  3. Julie

    I wondered if you knew if you could add dried flowers or herbs, such as lavender to the Crisco when melted? Do you think it would burn okay. I cannot handle most scented candles. They are usually overwhelming to me. I have several raised herb and flower beds and some of the flowers and leaves dry with a nice mild scent. I wondered if they could be added after pouring the melted Crisco into a jar and giving it a swirl? Just didn’t know how it all might burn. Do you have any thoughts? Thanks for the article. I think I will give it a try.

    • indy

      Hi Julie. You bring up a good question. Although I’ve been gifted commercially made candles that had decorative flowers or leaves on the outer rim of the candle, I wouldn’t recommend doing this with homemade candles. I was once given a homemade candle made wth flowers and leaves in it. As the candle burned down, the hot wax touched the leaves and flower petals and burst into flame. If I hadn’t been right there to extinguish the flames it could have easily caused a major fire! I personally think using Crisco as a candle should be for emergency use only, when regular candles aren’t available. But, it’s good knowledge to have as a back-up plan. Thanks for taking time to comment here – much appreciated.

      • Julie Bates

        Thank you for your reply. A flurry of activity around here prevented me from reading all of my emails right away, so I am just now getting back to you. Upon further reflection, I came to the same conclusion; not to put flowers or leaves into the Crisco and only using Crisco as a backup candle. Now, I am doing a bit of research to see if I can just use my dried flowers and herbs in conjunction with a Scentsy-type set up, letting the light bulb beneath to heat up and open up the natural oils/scents. I do really appreciate your reply and advice/caution. It’s good to be able to talk with others who have traveled the path beforehand. Blessings to you.

        • indy

          It’s great to hear from you, Julie. And I think that sounds like an excellent plan. I’ve often thought about using essential oils like that, but haven’t tried it yet. I’d be interested in hearing how it goes. I appreciate your comments and questions. I love hearing what others are doing or thinking about. So many great ideas out there if we all just share, right? Blessings to you as well and Thanks again for getting back to me!

  4. 4TimesAYear

    I would not use glass; the heat can cause it to break – it’s happened to me before.
    I would recommend any candle container be placed in at least one additional sturdy metal container container (old pots/pans work well), and place on a metal surface, such as a stove-top or other fire/heat resistant surface like stone. Make sure to keep pets away.

    • Kimi W

      That’s a good piece of wisdom, xTimesAYear (and what an informative thread Julie Bates ~ thank you) ….that or transfer it to a large coffee can, remove its the label, and mark the lid identifying the contents. Pair with a large clay saucer from a planter to keep the hot tin from leaving burn circles.


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