Whether you are deciding what type of candle wax to burn in your home or you’re venturing into candle making, there are a lot of options to sort through. You may be asking yourself some of these questions.
- Is candle wax natural?
- What type of wax burns the cleanest?
- Which wax is the easiest to work with?
- Which candle wax burns for the longest time?
- Are candle waxes non-toxic?
- What type of wax is the cheapest?
- Which waxes are eco-friendly?
I had a lot of these questions when I first started making candles. I wanted to know what wax would produce the best quality candle at a reasonable price. And the answer is…it’s complicated.
So let’s dive into the pros and cons of the main types of wax used in candle making. We will look at these types of candle waxes: paraffin wax, soy wax, coconut wax, beeswax, and palm wax.
We’ll start here because paraffin wax is the most commonly used type of candle wax. There are a few advantages to paraffin wax that make it a popular choice. Most notably, it produces the strongest scent throw and can fill large rooms with fragrance. It is also the cheapest of the wax types, allowing for more affordable candles.
From a candle making perspective, it is also very versatile and easy to work with. There are several different grades of paraffin wax for different purposes. Paraffin can be used to make both container and pillar candles or easily molded into different shapes. It is a stable and consistent wax that doesn’t require long curing times like some other waxes. It also holds dye well for a variety of bright candle colors.
However, the primary disadvantage of paraffin wax is that it is a by-product of petroleum production and has been shown to release toxic fumes into the air. The toxins from burning paraffin wax can trigger respiratory issues like asthma, and many people report headaches from using paraffin candles. They also produce a lot of soot which can build up on your walls, curtains, or ceilings.
If you are trying to avoid paraffin wax candles as a consumer, it’s important to know that labeling requirements on candles are very lax, and companies are not legally required to list all of their ingredients. Many companies use the term “soy blend” or “coconut blend” on their candle labels, and that could mean they use a blend of soy or coconut and paraffin wax. If you’re not sure, it’s best to research the company to find out if their products are paraffin-free.
As many consumers have moved towards cleaner, more eco-friendly products, soy has become a very popular candle wax. Soy wax is a natural wax made from the oil of soybeans. This vegetable wax is a non-toxic option that is both renewable and biodegradable. Soy is denser than paraffin so it burns slower and also produces minimal soot when burning. Soy wax candles are long-lasting and do not release harmful toxins into the air.
Soy wax does have a few pesky characteristics. It is polymorphic which means that the wax can crystallize due to changes in temperature. You may notice some discoloration, roughness, or a grainy appearance on the top or sides of your soy candles due to this trait. This is only a cosmetic issue and has no effect on the quality of the burn. If you are used to burning paraffin wax candles, you may also find that soy candles don’t smell quite as strong or fill a large space with fragrance as easily. It is also more expensive that paraffin wax.
As a candle maker, soy wax can be a bit finicky to work with. It can be very sensitive to a number of small variables such as pour temperature, ambient temperature, the airflow in the room, and the temperature of the jars when pouring, to name a few. It does not hold dye as well as some other waxes so it can be difficult to achieve vivid colors. Soy wax candles also require a curing time of about two weeks in order to get the best scent throw.
Coconut wax has also entered the market as another natural wax option. Coconut wax is odorless and has a bright white color that can be easily dyed. It is a soft, creamy wax that burns slowly, produces very little soot, and has a strong scent throw.
Coconut wax is eco-friendly due to its sustainability as a high-yield renewable crop. It is considered one of the healthiest wax options but is more expensive than paraffin and soy.
However, coconut wax has a very low melt point (around 90 degrees) so it is not practical to make candles with 100% coconut wax as they will be melting on a hot summer day. Coconut wax is typically blended with other harder waxes including paraffin, soy, and beeswax in order to increase the melting point.
Beeswax is harvested from honeybee hives and has a yellow-gold color. (It can also be turned white through pressure-filtration and natural bleaching from sunlight and air.) You may have seen these golden candles formed into pillars and different shapes like beehives. It is a great wax used on its own but has a characteristic scent of honey so it doesn’t blend well with fragrances to create scented candles. It is also very expensive (about 4x the cost of soy) due to its low yield. It can be used in small amounts to fortify softer waxes like coconut wax.
Palm wax is a hard wax that is great for making pillar candles. It was once thought to be a great natural alternative to paraffin as it burns clean and has strong scent throw. However, the palm wax/oil industry was exposed for its deforestation practices that have endangered wildlife and led to the destruction of local communities and ecosystems. A sustainable palm wax product is no longer possible to find, so we steer clear of any wax blends or candles that include this type of wax.
So Which Wax Do We Use at Flickering Fern Candle?
Deciding what type of candle wax to use or burn is a personal decision, and each wax has its own advantages and disadvantages. For our products at Flickering Fern Candle, we were looking for a "greener" choice. We knew right off the bat that we wanted to use a wax that is natural and sustainable, so we quickly eliminated paraffin and palm as options.
After many months of candle testing, we developed our own custom blend of soy and coconut with a small amount of beeswax. For our candles, we found that this combination gives us the best qualities of each type of wax. The addition of coconut wax improves the scent throw of our candles, and beeswax helps to fortify the added softness and create smoother tops.
For making our wax melts, we decided on 100% soy wax because the addition of coconut wax would make them too soft to easily pop out of their packaging.
At Flickering Fern Candle, all of our waxes are natural, renewable, and biodegradable to produce non-toxic candles and melts that burn slow and clean.