Growing up I never considered what my candle or tart was made of, I felt reassured that it was safe for my home by being sold by companies I trusted. Unfortunately, I was wrong, even being sold as a safe product, the wax in many candles and tarts are more toxic then the companies would lead you to believe. I want to give you guys some basic information of different types of wax and link a few sources that are a great read to help you in your candle / tart loving journey!
I know many people will counter with, “I’ve been burning candles all my life and I’m fine.” But there are often things in our lives that we use or do daily that are hurting our long run and over all quality of life. We may not notice or feel the effects of these things right away or ever but they are hurting our longevity and quality. It is also commonly said, that everything is out to kill us or give us cancer. This is pretty much truth, but when we know better we do better. There are preventables and unpreventables throughout life, anything that is a preventable toxin I choose not to have in my life if possible.
Another thing to note is exposure, if you are a at major holidays in the living room candle burner your exposure is going to be much different then the weekly bath tub soaking candle burning. Being closed in with the candles verses having them in a large room will also make a difference on exposure. I personally just want to give you guys some information that I didn’t know, so please do with it as you want.
1. Paraffin Wax
Paraffin wax is the cheapest wax on the market, mainly because the ingredients to make it are easy to come by. It is the most popular wax to use because of it’s price point, so if you are buying a candle in a store, or wax to make your own it is a good bet that it is Paraffin wax.
Unfortunately, Paraffin wax is the least safe, from the list we are going to go through today. It burns at a higher temperature, so if the candle or tart were to spill it could burn whoever it landed on, and as it burns/warms up it releases the chemicals held inside into the room. Paraffin wax is also almost impossible to remove from clothes, carpets, tables, really anything it spills on. Paraffin wax is a non-renewable resource, as we lean less on non-renewable resources it will be interesting to see what happens to candles made from this wax. Let’s get to the basic ingredients.
“Paraffin wax is a white or colorless soft solid derivable from petroleum, coal or oil shale, that consists of a mixture of hydrocarbon molecules containing between twenty and forty carbon atoms.” (source)
Paraffin wax has many uses,we can *hope* that the Paraffin wax used in the candles is the Food Grade Paraffin wax. Here is a study that was done on “candles” in 2001, it doesn’t fully give a break down of specifically which candles they used but it does say “Wax candles contain petroleum wax, vegetable wax, animal wax, or insect wax as the primary fuel.” on page 21. But further down on page 28 it says “When candles are burned, they emit trace amounts of organic chemicals, including acetaldehyde, formaldehyde, acrolein, and naphthalene (Lau et al., 1997)” which is what they are looking into in the study. Over all it was a really interesting read, and I learned a lot that I didn’t know about candles, especially the metal wicks that they used to (some might still) have. They did find that trace amounts were emitted but you would have to be doing some excessive candle burning to reach the levels that are deemed “cancer causing.”
I would say that as long as you know the candles you are purchasing are made from Food Grade Paraffin wax which is used on candies and many more edible items, you are probably not going to have much to worry about. But as far as environment friendly this type of wax will be soon a dying breed. As the nation moves towards a greener and cleaner country their will be less petroleum to create this wax from and it is not renewable. Extra reading on Paraffin Wax.
2. Soy Wax
With Soy wax there are a few things right off the top that are bonuses, it is a renewable resource and it burns / melts clean! There are defiantly some down sides that we’ll get into, but over all this wax is taking over the market. It isn’t too costly but more than paraffin. (Which is questionable as oil prices rise) So let’s get down to the ingredients!
One of the great things about this wax is that it burns at a lower temperature. This has two benefits, one being that if you spill it, or a child grabs it on accident, it won’t burn. Second, this means that it burns slower, and last longer than it’s counter part. More bang for your buck right?!? But back to the clean burning part I mentioned above, I like this aspect because many times we don’t realize all that we are breathing in until their is a reason to realize it. In our house there is a reason to pay more attention to this due to my daughters terminal lung disease. Soy wax is easy to clean up even out of carpet or clothes, we all know we’ve been there scrubbing wax out of something.
One downside is that to qualify as a soy candle it doesn’t have to be 100% soy, so many times there will be paraffin mix in with the soy and it would defeat the purpose of purchasing soy candles. When soy candle shopping make sure to verify 100% soy wax on the label. Since soy wax comes from soy beans, that means it’s grown in fields. As you are probably are already aware, many plants are now genetically modified, so if GMOs are a concern for you this could be a factor in your decision to purchase soy. Which most company will pride themselves in the lack of GMO use, so many times it’s easy to find a company that uses GMO free soy wax.
As we spoke about before, soy burns at a lower temperature. This means that it will also melt if left in the heat, such as mailing it. So if you plan to purchase any soy candles online in the middle of July and having them delivered to Texas where it’s 110 degrees outside you might want to make sure the shipper is providing an ice pack if you won’t be home to pick them up. I haven’t had any of my orders melt in the middle of Texas summers but this is a concern.
Overall, I like and use soy wax candles and tarts regularly. I feel the cost will lower as the cost of paraffin wax rises. They last longer than any other tart or candle I’ve tried. Take the challenge, I was defiantly surprised when I did. You can check out Jewelry in Candles or Pink Zebra for a good Soy Candle or Melt option.
I have never used nor heard of a beewax candle until I started doing research for this post, so we are going to learn together. Let’s jump into the ingredients
“Honeybees ingest honey to make beeswax. It takes approximately 7 kg of honey to produce 1 kg of wax. Once honey is ingested, the bees hang inside the colony for 24 hours while their bodies convert the honey into wax. The wax is secreted out of eight glands on the underside of the bee’s abdomen. When the wax leaves the bee’s body and comes in contact with the air, it causes the wax to solidify into dinner-plate shaped flakes. The bees then grab these wax plates with their legs, bring them up to their mandibles, and chew them to soften the wax. Then they carefully mold the wax into the perfect honeycomb structure.” (Source)
One of the benefits of beeswax is that it cleans the air as it burns, by “produces negative ions that circulate in the room and attract pollutants, thus actually cleaning the air.”
Beeswax is expensive, and hard to work with, so all of the sites I read about it on recommend that only experienced candle makers work with. It is a renewable resource as long as the bees don’t become extinct, which sadly is a fate facing our bee population. (Save the Bees!) When purchasing beeswax candles as with soy candles you want to make sure it is 100% beewax, as with the current regulations it doesn’t have to be 100% to be labelled a beeswax candle. This means that it could be mixed with paraffin wax or soy wax as a filler to lower pricing. (Source)
4. Gel Wax
Gel wax was a little harder to find information on, after a lot of google searches I found a few sites that explained it. I’ve owned gel candles in the past and always found them more of a decorative item. Let’s jump into the ingredients.
Gel wax is made of 95% mineral oil and 5% polymer resin. It seems though that recipe varies depending on where you purchase them from. Gel candles don’t really have any negative burn effects that I can tell, and they burn super slow. They are on the pricer side but that is mostly because if you are purchasing a gel candle it is bound to have something added to it like shells or decorations. (Source) Something else to note, is that when gel wax burns it all heats up, and as gel wax is often times put into a decorative margarita glass etc, these aren’t always heat proof so they will crack and shatter from the heat of the candle if burned.
There are many candle waxes to choose from, and it’s up to you and your house hold to pick one that works best for your needs. At the end of the day it is important that regardless of what your candle is made out, you are using precautions when burning or melting it. We often forget the safety hazards that candles / warmers can be, and that most apartment buildings won’t allow you to burn them inside. I was surprised to read that “From 2007-2011, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 10,630 home structure fires that were started by candles” (Source) Here are a few tips to keep your home safe while enjoying your favorite candle or tart:
- Keep Candles at least 12 inches away from anything that can burn.
- Always blow candles out when you leave the room.
- Always make sure candles or warmers are used in an uncluttered area and won’t easily tip over.
- Trim Candle wick to 1/4 inch before each use.
- Verify that candle or warmer are free of debris, wick trimmings, dust etc. before each use.
- Keep candles away from drafts, vents, fans, and other air circulations.
- Never touch or move a burning candle or warmer, when the wax is all liquid.
- Extinguish all candles with a snuffer, never water to avoid wax splatters.
- Avoid using candles as a night light or in a power outage.
- Place candles at least 3 inches apart from each other so they don’t heat each other up or create their own draft.
What is your favorite Tart or Candle brand / scent? Let me know in the comments!
Happy Candle Burning!