Everything You Need To Know About Candle Wax

Candle wax is the most crucial part of a candle. Learn all about where it comes from and how to choose the best type from Wicksly.

If you love candles like us, you probably already know that wax is a candle’s defining feature. You can’t make a good candle without quality ingredients, and this certainly includes wax. We’re here to tell you everything there is to know about candle wax and why it matters so much. Let’s start with some of the basics first.

What Is Candle Wax?

Candle wax has been developed from fats, oils, and other substances like insects and plants. The name “wax” is actually a generic term that’s used to classify any material that you burn like a candle.

The defining characteristics for something to be “wax” are being solid at room temperature, liquid at higher temperatures, water repellent, smooth in texture, and it has low reactivity. People use wax all over the world for a variety of purposes, including coatings, cosmetics, crayons, and packaging.

All waxes are mostly made of hydrocarbons, even if it comes from a vegetable. The reason most candles burn in a similar manner is that they all have similar chemical compositions. Waxes burn with a yellow-tinted flame because of the carbon present in the wax.

So, where did candles come from, and how did they evolve into what they are today?

Candle Wax History

One of the earliest uses of candles was by the Ancient Egyptians. They used animal fat to make torches which were essentially candles without the wick. The Ancient Romans used papyrus dipped in tallow to create wicked candles. These were used to provide light in people’s houses and in religious rituals.

Ancient Chinese civilizations used plants and insects to create candle wax. They used rice paper for wicks and a combination of seeds, tree nuts, and fruit for wax. Back in 165 B.C, candles were used for ceremonies such as Easter or the Festival of Lights.

During the Middle Ages, beeswax became a more popular type of candle wax. It was able to burn without creating a lot of smoke and had a semi-sweet aroma to it. However, this type of wax was expensive and only used by wealthy people in their homes.

In the 1850s, paraffin wax was commonly used. It was the economical choice during this time, but it has a low melting point which was inconvenient in many scenarios. By the 1980s, candles gained a lot of popularity for decorative purposes and gifts. This was when candles started to become available to buy in lots of shapes and sizes.

Candle Wax Today

In today’s world, candles are still as popular as ever. People love the aromas and feelings that they get from a candle, which is why they’ll probably never go out of style. They’re used to spark romance, celebrate with friends, and honor those that we’ve lost.

The most popular types of candle wax today are soy wax, beeswax, and paraffin wax. Each type of wax has its own properties and burn time. Some waxes are better as scent throws than others, and some don’t burn as cleanly. Many candles on the market are made with a blend of waxes to provide the ultimate experience. Let’s talk about the different types of waxes you’ll see in the industry today.

Soy Wax

Soy wax is usually considered to burn the longest. How long your candle lasts will also depend on where you place it and the temperature of the room. Wicksly’s candles are able to burn for up to 40 hours.

Soy wax, in particular, is considered to be one of the most environmentally friendly types of wax out there. It produces less soot when it's burned and is also fairly cheap to obtain. This type of wax is fairly new, and it's derived from soybean oil.

To harvest a soybean for its oil, it has to be cleaned, dehulled, and rolled into small flakes. The oil is taken out of the flakes and processed through hydrogenation. This is how the melting point of the soybean oil is changed to make it solid when it's at room temperature.

Paraffin Wax

On the other hand, paraffin wax is still commonly used, but it presents certain ethical concerns. It’s a by-product of the oil industry and generally holds scent very well. Although it is not considered toxic, paraffin is a leftover from the production of crude oil.

Paraffin wax is often used in skin-softening treatments because it doesn’t have an odor on its own. Paraffin wax isn’t just used for candles; it’s used in crayons and insulation too. This wax is usually bleached by adding dioxin and an animal-based stearic acid to harden it. It can be irritating to the eyes and also aggravate your lungs.

Beeswax

Beeswax is an older type of wax that is still used today because it's considered a healthy option. It’s mostly smokeless and is naturally sourced from bees. A lot of candles are created using a mixture of beeswax and some other type of wax.

It’s non-toxic and renewable, plus it’s hypoallergenic! It doesn’t contain any harmful chemicals that other waxes do, and it has a longer burn time than paraffin. Beeswax also burns brightly, producing a brilliant flame.

How To Make A Candle With Any Wax

If you’re looking to create your own candle with the wax of your choice, here’s how. You’ll need a vessel for your candle, a wick, and some wax. You’ll also need some fragrance oils to add to your candle, as well as a double boiler and a thermometer.

When you start this process, you’ll want to have a clean work area. It can get pretty messy making candles, and you don’t want to have to clean up wax from the floor. Melt your wax in your double boiler for about 10-15 minutes. This is when you’ll add your fragrance.

Place your wick in your container and once the wax has cooled a little bit, pour it in. Make sure your wick stays in place as the wax hardens. Once it has hardened, you’ll need to trim your wick down to size. That’s it! Now you have your very own homemade candle.

Don’t let the simplicity of this procedure fool you. Candle-making is a skill that takes years to master. You might find yourself becoming frustrated that your candle doesn’t smell strong enough or that your wax pour has made the candle burn unevenly.

Try Wicksly Instead

If you don’t feel like spending all your time and energy perfecting candles, try Wicksly instead. We’re a monthly candle subscription service that delivers handmade candles to your doorstep. For just $20 a month, you’ll receive a newly scented candle at the beginning of each month to enjoy.

Every one of our candles is made with 100% soy wax and is completely lead-free. This saves you the hassle of making your own candle or going to the store and searching for hours to find the best-smelling one.

In Summary

Candle wax has certainly come a long way from its humble origins. People have made great strides in producing wax for the candles that we enjoy every day. If you’re trying to decide which candle wax is the best option, we suggest soy wax.

This is the type of wax that Wicksly uses, and it burns longer than most other waxes. All of our candles are clean-burning and are the healthiest option when it comes to candle burning.

Sources:

Elements of a Candle: Wax | Candles.org

Paraffin Wax: Uses, Benefits, Risks, How to, and More | Healthline

How Candles Work - Illinois Science Council