Candles have been an integral part of human civilization for thousands of years, providing light and warmth before the advent of electricity. But what is often overlooked is the unsung hero that makes candles possible in the first place: candle wax. This vital substance not only fuels the candle flame, but its composition impacts everything from burn time to scent throw. Join us as we unravel the mysteries behind different types of candle wax and why it matters more than you might think.

What Exactly is Candle Wax?

Candle wax is simply a fuel that keeps the candle burning. It’s a waxy substance that slowly melts under the heat of the flame. The liquefied wax is then drawn up the wick before vaporizing at the flame. This wax vapor is what actually combusts to produce the candle’s glow and fragrance. Most modern candle wax is made from paraffin, a petroleum byproduct. However, other types are made from soybean, beeswax, coconut, and palm oils. The ingredients and production process result in candles with unique properties.

How Many Types of Candle Wax Are There?

While paraffin may dominate today, there are actually many types of candle wax available. Beyond paraffin, here are some of the most common options:

  • Soy wax is made from hydrogenated soybean oil. Soy wax burns slower and cleaner than paraffin.
  • Beeswax is derived from honeycombs. Beeswax has a sweet honey aroma and burns brighter than other waxes.
  • Coconut wax is extracted from coconut oil. Coconut wax makes excellent container candles.
  • Palm wax is derived from palm oil. Palm wax is hard like paraffin but burns longer.
  • Gel wax is a mineral oil blended with polymer resins. Gel wax allows vivid colors and embeds.

There are also many wax blends combining the properties of different waxes. So whether you want an all-natural beeswax pillar or a colorful soy container candle, there’s wax out there for you.

How is Candle Wax Made?

The production process varies based on wax type but generally involves extracting and refining oils or fats into a solid wax suitable for candle making.

Paraffin wax is made from petroleum crude oil. Crude oil is distilled into lighter hydrocarbons used for fuels and lubricants, with a fraction of it being refined into paraffin wax for use in candles. The heavier residues left over are further separated into paraffin wax used for candles and paraffin for waxes and coatings.

Soy wax Soy wax is made by hydrogenating and refining soybean oil to alter its chemical composition until it becomes a pliable, solid wax suitable for crafting scented candles. This process allows the adjustment of properties like melting point, hardness, and burn time.

Beeswax is produced by honey bees to build the walls of their honeycomb. To collect beeswax, beekeepers first melt the honeycomb and strain out impurities like propolis and pollen. Further processing and filtering result in pure beeswax ready for candlemaking or cosmetics.

Why Use Soy Wax Candles?

Soy wax entered the candle market during the late 1990s as a renewable and environmentally friendly alternative to petroleum-based paraffin wax. Soy wax candles remain a staple today thanks to these key advantages:

  • Longer burn times: soy wax’s natural texture allows it to melt slowly as the candle burns. This leads to a candle that lasts up to 50% longer compared to paraffin.
  • Clean burn: Soy wax produces almost no visible soot as it burns, keeping your candles and surroundings cleaner.
  • Natural ingredients: As a plant-based wax, soybean oil is biodegradable, renewable, and has a lower melting point, making it a popular choice for candle use.
  • Custom blending: Soy wax can be blended with beeswax or other oils to achieve a wide range of melt points, textures, and burning characteristics.

So, if you want an environmentally friendly, long-lasting candle, soy wax is the way to go. The only downside is that soy wax doesn’t hold fragrances as well as paraffin, so soy candles tend to have lighter scents.

How Does Wax Type Impact Candle Burn Time?

The type of wax used plays a significant role in determining your candle’s burn time. Here are some wax characteristics that influence burn time:

  • Melting point: wax with a higher melting temperature, like paraffin, liquefies slower, preserving the candle’s shape for longer. Slow-melting wax burns longer, making it ideal for scented candles that emit fragrance over a prolonged period of time.
  • Oil content: waxes high in oil, like coconut or beeswax, burn quicker as the oils vaporize rapidly when heated.
  • Wick compatibility: Pairing the proper wick size with the wax ensures even burning and maximum wax consumption.

Among the major candle waxes, beeswax and soy wax generally burn for 8–10 hours per ounce, while paraffin can provide 15-20 hours per ounce. However, blending waxes lets you balance attributes like burning rate and scent throw to create your ideal candle. Test burning different wax blends to discover what works best for your needs.

What’s the Difference Between Paraffin and Soy Wax?

Paraffin wax and soy wax candles dominate today’s candle options. But they have markedly different properties in terms of sustainability, burning performance, and customization potential.

Paraffin wax is a petroleum byproduct, while soy wax comes from renewable soybeans. In terms of burn performance, paraffin wax is excellent at retaining fragrance oils but produces more soot. Soy wax has a lower melting point for a warmer wax pool but doesn’t hold scent as strongly. Soy wax is also better for coloring since it accepts dye more easily.

Blending the two waxes balances these pros and cons. A paraffin-soy blend captures paraffin’s excellent fragrance properties and soy’s clean burn and dye receptiveness. So whether you choose straight paraffin, natural soy, or a blend, each offers distinct advantages depending on your candle-making needs.

Key Things to Remember About Candle Wax

  • Candle wax is the fuel for the candle flame, slowly melting and vaporizing to emit energy and fragrance.
  • Many waxes are available, like paraffin, soy, coconut, beeswax, and palm, each with unique properties.
  • Factors like wax melting temperature, oil content, and wick pairings impact how quickly a candle burns.
  • Soy wax remains popular thanks to its renewable source, long burn times, and clean burn.
  • Blending waxes combines advantageous properties from multiple sources into one superior candle.

So next time you light a candle, take a moment to appreciate the science behind crafting the perfect wax to carry that cozy glow and signature scent. Transforming wax into ambiance requires a delicate balance of alchemy and artistry.

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