A Buyer's Guide to Understanding Candle Wax Types

Lisa Robbin
 


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The earliest forms of candles were made from animal fats. While considered a natural wax, these candles burn poorly and have a foul stench associated with them. Over time, other natural sources of wax have been found that are cleaner and longer burning, as well as sweeter smelling.

Palm wax is likely the longest burning type of natural wax. It is also one of the most difficult to work with, and as such, can be expensive. It is virtually smokeless, and when combined with a cotton wick, leaves virtually no soot in the air when burned. Soy wax, is also longer burning, with less soot, but the inconsistencies and beanish aroma found in most waxes leave soy as a fair, not superior choice.

Beeswax, highly prized for it's long, clean burning, dripless design, is also a costly wax, making these types of candles more of a luxury item. The honey scented candles, while lovely, can taint any scent added to it. Beeswax candles are typically made with no additional fragrances.

Bayberry, like beeswax, is an expensive wax, and best suited to tarts or tapers, as larger diameter candles do not burn as well. Authentic bayberry has an olive to dark olive appearance, may have a white “bloom" on the exterior and is generally blended with another wax (usually beeswax) to eliminate the brittleness of pure bayberry. The scent is that of new mown hay, and does not blend well with other fragrances.

Paraffin is one of the oldest man-made types of candle wax, and is traditionally the least expensive. It comes in various melt points, and can be modified using additives that effect hardness, burn rate, clarity, and lustre of a candle. Very few candles today are made with pure paraffin, as burn times are very short, and the candles do not hold up under warmer weather. Generally, pure paraffin candles are used as disposable tealights for warming other items (like tart warmers). The most common additive for paraffin candles is vybar, which is designed to strengthen the candle, increase burn time, and help the candle hold up under warmer weather. Most major manufacturers, including PartyLite have used vybar in their paraffin wax recipes. Paraffin also is an allergen, and some people may have allergic reactions to it. Mineral Oil based candles are a great alternative for the paraffin allergic.

Mineral-oil based candles consist of container type gel candles and free-standing clear wax candles. Heavenly Gem pillar candles made by the giving candle are based on a mineral oil/resin compound, much like the retired and still popular PartyLite Auroraglow candles. Unlike “traditional" gel candles, these candles are not poured into glass containers, but are free standing, like any paraffin pillar candle. They burn cleanly, evenly, you can see straight through them with no bubbles, and can hold more fragrance than a paraffin candle, and burn significantly hotter than paraffin, resulting in virtually no soot or allergic reactions.

Gel candles are also a mineral-oil based product, but are full of bubbles, and earned quite a bad reputation. Gel candles have been known to “explode" and cause fires or thermal burns. In fact, most of the problem is directly related to the container, not the gel itself. INSIST on glass containers designed to withstand the heat of a burning candle . Generally champagne glasses, while very attractive, were never meant to tolerate that kind of heat. As a result, the glass heat fractures, then shatters, and sends bits of molten gel and glass shrapnel in every direction. If you insist on buying thin glass gel candles, DO NOT LIGHT THEM! You're only asking for trouble.

By understanding the differences in candle waxes, you can make an educated decision about the kinds of candles to buy for your needs. Gel candles are great for decorations, but unless you take specific precautions, can be dangerous. Natural wax candles are a more expensive, but healthier alternative to the traditional paraffin candle. Traditional paraffin candles continue to be the number one choice of candle buyers around the globe as an economical source of home decor and fragrance. Clear wax candles offer a healthier alternative to paraffin, the elegant look of a gel candle and the functionality and scent load of a traditional candle.

Shop with smarts and know your candles!

Lisa Robbin is the Director of Product Development for the giving candle , the maker of Heavenly Gems resin-based clear candles. Lisa writes articles on all things candle related in an effort to educate consumers about making the most out of their candle purchases.

You can email her directly at lisa@thegivingcandle.com

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