THE TRUTH ABOUT PARAFFIN AND WHY SOY WAX IS SUPERIOR
There are many reasons why soy wax makes the best candles: it’s eco-friendly, clean-burning, longer-lasting and provides a better fragrance throw than other types of wax. We’ve spent a lot of time researching this; here’s what we’ve found.
Soy wax is a hydrogenated form of soybean oil which is extracted from soybean plants, a natural, renewable and sustainable resource. Paraffin wax is made by removing the waxy substance from crude oil, a byproduct of gasoline refinement; it comes from a fossil fuel, a non-renewal resource. Therefore, using soy wax supports American farmers instead of big oil companies.
When burning candles, wax spills can happen. And if they do, soy wax is biodegradable and easily cleaned with basic soap and water; however, paraffin wax is not biodegradable or water soluble which makes clean-up much more time consuming and difficult, if not impossible.
In the 1990’s, palm wax grew in popularity as a cleaner, longer-burning alternative to paraffin wax. Palm wax is derived from palm oil, which comes from palm trees; however, out of desperation to improve their economic conditions, governments of Indonesia and Malaysia have allowed palm producers to clear out some of the oldest, most diverse rain forests which has contributed to mass deforestation and huge growth in CO2 emissions. Because of the questionable ethics and environmental impact surrounding this, many suppliers have stopped carrying palm wax due to the negative environmental impact it’s causing.
While beeswax is an environmentally safe alternative to paraffin wax, there are some questionable ethics regarding the treatment of bees used to produce the wax, including: removal of wings and legs due to haphazard handling, intentional removal of the queen bee’s wings so she cannot leave the colony, and even killing bees.
Soy wax produces zero, zip, zilch, nada petrol-carbon soot, which means no black residue on walls, drapes and home furnishings. Because soy wax is non-toxic and burns clean, it is safe for people with asthma and allergies.
Paraffin candles release a Petro-Carbon soot that stains your walls, furniture and circulates through your air ducts. According to the American Lung Association, paraffin wax contains 11 documented toxins, two of which are known carcinogens: toluene and benzene. Back in 2009 researchers at South Carolina State University also presented comparable findings to the American Chemical Society (source: CNN.com).
Frequently burning paraffin candles can also aggravate asthma, cause allergy-like symptoms and irritate the respiratory tract.
Soy wax burns up to 50% longer than paraffin wax because soy wax has a lower melting point than paraffin wax, which means it melts at a cooler temperature and doesn’t burn as fast.
BETTER FRAGRANCE THROW
“Throw” refers to the release of fragrance from a candle: the “cold throw” is the scent released when a candle is unlit at room temperature, the “hot throw” is the scent released when the candle is burning.
There are a handful of factors that contribute to fragrance throw in candle making:
Due to the petroleum base of paraffin wax, it tends to emit a chemical-smelling fragrance.
Because soy wax comes from a natural source, it emits a more pure, true expression of the same fragrance than paraffin wax.
While paraffin wax has been around for centuries, soy wax has only been around for a couple decades; soy wax manufacturers continuously refine their formulas to improve fragrance throw.
According to Nature's Garden: "The molecular structure of soy wax contains various types of chemical bonds that make it harder to break down than paraffin wax. Its structure is more prone to trapping scent, than allowing it to evaporate freely. It takes more heat to break down these chemical bonds, therefore, you will need to use hotter burning wicks when making soy candles."
The flashpoint is the highest temperature a fragrance oil can reach before breaking down, and it can differ from fragrance to fragrance.
If you add the fragrance oil at too high a temperature, it’ll “burnoff;” however, you want to make sure the wax temperature is hot enough for the fragrance oil to properly bond with the wax. If the temperature is too low, the fragrance will not bond properly.
The FDA regulates how much fragrance oil can safely be used in bath and body products including soaps, body wash, etc. When candlemakers use fragrance oil that’s safe for bath and body, it comes diluted.
If candlemakers use fragrance oil that’s only rated for candles, it’ll throw a stronger fragrance because it’s not diluted.
Not all fragrances are rated to throw a strong fragrance with soy wax so it’s important to work with fragrances that are highly rated to work well with soy wax.
Ratio of wax to fragrance oil
Each type of wax is rated to hold a different amount of fragrance oil. While the recommended ratio is generally 1 oz. fragrance oil per 1 lb. wax, waxes are rated to hold more fragrance; therefore, adding more fragrance helps improve the throw.
After weighing out all these factors, I intentionally choose to use soy wax in all of my candles; not only does it support sustainability, it also helps me create a high quality product.
Thanks for reading.
Head Bottle Washer