In the world of candles, there's an undeniable veteran that has stood the test of time - Paraffin Wax. From its historical use in the 19th century to its modern-day applications, paraffin wax has been the backbone of the candle industry for decades. Versatile, easily accessible, and known for its superior scent-holding capabilities, paraffin wax has carved a niche for itself that's hard to contest.
This blog article aims to take you through the fascinating journey of this old standard in candle making, exploring its types, benefits, comparisons with other waxes, and much more. Whether you're a candle maker or a candle connoisseur, the enduring legacy of paraffin wax holds insights and surprises for everyone.
Introduction to Paraffin Wax
Paraffin wax is a versatile material with a fascinating history and myriad uses. It has been the backbone of the candle-making industry for centuries, but it also plays crucial roles in other areas, including food preservation, cosmetics, and even medicine. As we delve into the world of paraffin wax, we’ll explore its definition, history, and significance in candle making.
What is Paraffin Wax?
Paraffin wax is a white or colorless soft solid derived from petroleum, coal, or oil shale. It's made by refining and dewaxing light lubricating oil stocks. Composed primarily of long-chain alkane hydrocarbons, paraffin wax is renowned for its excellent burning qualities and capability to hold color and scent, making it a favorite in the candle industry. Its low melting point allows for easy crafting and handling.
Beyond candles, it’s also used in a wide range of applications including packaging, cosmetics, electrical insulation, and as a glide wax for skis and snowboards.
The History of Paraffin Wax in Candle Making
The use of paraffin wax in candle making dates back to the 1850s. Before this, most candles were made from tallow (animal fat) or beeswax, both of which had their drawbacks. Tallow candles had a disagreeable odor and smoky flame, while beeswax was expensive and not easily accessible. The introduction of paraffin wax revolutionized the industry.
Discovered as a byproduct of petroleum refining, it was plentiful, affordable, and burned cleanly and brightly. Since then, paraffin wax has continued to dominate the candle industry, loved for its versatility, affordability, and the quality of light it provides.
Types of Paraffin Wax
Paraffin wax comes in a variety of grades, each suited to different types of applications. The differences between these grades lie in the oil content and the melting point, both of which can affect the performance and application of the wax. Whether you're a seasoned candle maker or a beginner just starting your journey, understanding these different grades can help you choose the right paraffin wax for your needs.
Understanding Different Grades of Paraffin Wax
There are three main grades of paraffin wax: low melting point, medium melting point, and high melting point. Low melting point paraffin wax melts at temperatures below 130°F and is ideal for container candles.
Medium melting point paraffin wax, melting between 130°F and 150°F, is versatile and can be used in both container and mold candles.
High melting point paraffin wax, which melts at temperatures above 150°F, is perfect for mold candles as it provides excellent mold release.
Additionally, the oil content in paraffin wax also varies. Fully refined paraffin wax has an oil content of less than 0.5%, making it suitable for food packaging and cosmetics. Semi-refined paraffin wax has an oil content between 0.5% and 1.5%, typically used in candle making and crayons.
The Best Paraffin Wax for Candle Beginners
For beginners venturing into the world of candle making, fully-refined, low melting point paraffin wax is often recommended. This type of paraffin wax is easy to handle due to its lower melting point, reducing the risk of burns. It also adheres well to the sides of containers, making it perfect for creating beautiful container candles.
Furthermore, the fully refined wax ensures a clean burn, allowing beginners to achieve professional results with their first creations. As you gain more confidence and experience, you may wish to experiment with different grades of paraffin wax to explore their unique characteristics and effects.
The Benefits of Using Paraffin Candle Wax
Paraffin wax has remained a popular choice in candle making for good reason. Its unique properties offer several advantages that make it a versatile and effective material.
Why Choose Paraffin Wax?
Excellent Scent Throw: Paraffin candle wax is known for its excellent scent throw - both cold and hot. This means that the candle will disperse its fragrance well when it's not lit (cold throw) and when it is burning (hot throw).
Versatility: Paraffin wax is suitable for a variety of candle types, including container candles, pillar candles, and votive candles.
Ease of Coloring: Paraffin wax takes well to dyes, allowing you to create candles in a wide range of vibrant colors.
Affordability: Compared to some other types of wax, such as beeswax or soy wax, paraffin wax is generally more affordable, making it a good choice for hobbyists or small businesses.
The Unique Advantages of Paraffin Wax Candles
The candles made from paraffin wax also possess unique advantages that contribute to their popularity:
Good Burning Time: Paraffin wax candles burn for a descent amount of time (though not as long as many natural waxes), providing hours of light and scent.
Stronger Fragrance: Due to the excellent scent throw of paraffin wax, the candles made from it often have a stronger fragrance compared to other types of candles.
Smooth Finish: Paraffin wax candles have a beautiful smooth finish that adds to their aesthetic appeal.
Variety of Shapes and Sizes: Paraffin wax is easy to mold, which means it can be used to create candles in a wide range of shapes and sizes.
By understanding the unique benefits and advantages of paraffin wax and its candles, you can make an informed decision about whether it's the right choice for your candle needs.
Comparing Paraffin Wax to Other Waxes
When it comes to candle making, there are several types of waxes to choose from, each with its own set of characteristics and benefits. Two of the most commonly used waxes are paraffin and soy wax. Understanding the differences between these waxes can help you make an informed decision about which one is best suited to you.
Paraffin Wax vs. Soy Wax: The Differences
Paraffin wax and soy wax are fundamentally different in their origins and properties. Paraffin wax is a petroleum-based product, while soy wax is derived from soybean oil(1).
Paraffin wax is known for its excellent scent throw and ability to hold vibrant colors. It also tends to be less expensive than soy wax. However, being a byproduct of petroleum, it's not as environmentally friendly as soy wax(2).
Soy wax, on the other hand, is a natural, renewable resource. It's more environmentally friendly, but it's also denser than paraffin wax and requires more energy to melt. As a result, soy candles tend to burn slower and last longer than those made from paraffin wax. However, soy wax may not hold color or fragrance as well as paraffin wax does(1).
The Pros and Cons of Paraffin Wax Candles
Like any material, paraffin wax has its pros and cons when it comes to candle making.
Strong Scent Throw: Paraffin wax is known for its excellent scent throw, which allows for a strong fragrance dispersion(2).
Vibrant Colors: Paraffin wax holds color well, allowing for the creation of brightly colored candles(2).
Affordability: Paraffin wax is generally less expensive than other types of candle wax(2).
Environmental Impact: As a petroleum byproduct, paraffin wax is not as eco-friendly as natural alternatives like soy or beeswax.
Potential Soot Production: While high-quality, fully-refined paraffin wax burns cleanly, lower quality paraffin wax can produce soot when burned.
By weighing these pros and cons, you can determine if paraffin wax is the right choice for your candle needs.
The Safety and Environmental Impact of Paraffin Wax Candles
When it comes to the safety and environmental impact of candles, the type of wax used is a significant factor to consider. Paraffin wax, one of the most common types of candle wax, has been the subject of debate and research in recent years.
Is Paraffin Wax Toxic?
While many people consider burning paraffin wax candles to be harmless, some studies suggest otherwise. A 2009 study by South Carolina State University found that burning paraffin wax candles can emit harmful fumes such as toluene and benzene. These chemicals are known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and can contribute to indoor air pollution.
However, it's important to note that the level of these emissions can depend on the quality of the wax and the way the candle is burned. For instance, a well-made candle that's burned properly will typically emit fewer toxins than a poorly made one or a candle that's burned in a drafty area.
Paraffin Wax and Its Environmental Footprint
Paraffin wax is derived from crude oil, a non-renewable resource. This means that the production of paraffin wax contributes to the demand for crude oil, which can have various environmental impacts, including pollution and habitat degradation.
Moreover, when paraffin wax candles are burned, they can release chemicals into the air that could potentially contribute to air and water pollution.
On the other hand, alternatives like soy, beeswax, coconut, or palm candles are derived from renewable resources and are generally considered more environmentally friendly(3).
In conclusion, while paraffin wax candles have their advantages, such as excellent scent throw and vibrant colors, it's also important to consider their potential health and environmental impacts. As a candle maker or consumer, you might want to explore other wax options, especially if sustainability is a key concern for you.
Conclusion: The Enduring Legacy of Paraffin Wax in Candle Making
Paraffin wax has been a mainstay in candle making since the 1850s. With its ability to hold vibrant colors and disperse strong fragrances, it's no wonder that this versatile material continues to be used widely in the industry today.
Why Paraffin Wax Still Reigns Supreme in Candle Making
Paraffin wax's enduring popularity in candle making can be attributed to several key factors. For one, paraffin wax produces candles with a high-quality finish, lending an aesthetic appeal that makes them a favorite among consumers.
Additionally, paraffin wax's excellent scent throw means that candles made from this material can effectively fill a room with fragrance. This makes paraffin wax candles a popular choice for creating ambiance and promoting relaxation.
Finally, paraffin wax is relatively affordable and easy to work with, making it a practical choice for both hobbyists and commercial candle makers.
The Future of Paraffin Wax in the Candle Industry
The future of paraffin wax in the candle industry looks promising, despite the growing interest in more eco-friendly alternatives like soy and beeswax.
While it's true that environmental consciousness may drive some consumers towards these alternatives, the unique properties of paraffin wax - its scent throw, color vibrancy, affordability, and versatility - continue to make it a competitive choice in the market, at least for the time being.
Moreover, advancements in refining processes may further reduce the environmental impact of paraffin wax production, helping to secure its place in the future of candle making.
In conclusion, the legacy of paraffin wax in candle making is set to endure. Its unique benefits, coupled with its history and potential for innovation, ensure that paraffin wax will continue to illuminate our lives for many years to come. That being said, paraffin is loosing market share at a rapid rate to soy, coconut, and coconut soy waxes. While it may remain as a wax option, it is unlikely to regain it’s former dominance.
1. Martha Stewart 1,2
3. NY Times