Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Did You Know? You Don't Have To Be Afraid Of Wax

I've been making candles for a long time now. One thing I've learned being a chandler for over a decade is that all candles have emissions. That bears repeating: all candles have emissions.

At a craft show a couple of years ago my booth was placed across the isle from a booth selling reed diffusers. For two straight days I kept hearing the vendor telling her prospective customers how much better the diffuser was than burning candles, what with the soot and toxins emitted from candles. I've also heard and read claims by numerous candle makers that one wax is better than another because it "burns cleanly" or "doesn't smoke."

Let me set the record straight. Whether you burn a high-grade paraffin, soy wax, palm wax, or beeswax, pillar candle or container candle, there will be emissions simply for the fact that there is a flame. However, emissions aren't necessarily in the form of black smoke, soot, or toxins.

Here is a paragraph explaining the chemistry of a candle, taken from About.com:

The wax oxidizes (burns) in the flame to yield water and carbon dioxide, which dissipate in the air around the candle, in a reaction which also yields light and heat. Candle wax is composed of chains of connected carbon atoms surrounded by hydrogen atoms. These hydrocarbon molecules can burn completely. First the heat of the flame vaporizes the wax molecules and then they react with the oxygen in the air. As long as the wax doesn't melt away from the flame, the flame will consume it completely and leave no ash or wax residue.

The most important factor in a smoking candle is the ratio between wick size and candle diameter. It is up to the chandler to determine the perfect wick size for the candle she is making. It is up to the customer to follow all instructions regarding keeping the wick trimmed while burning the candle.

Fragrance oil is also a big factor in whether a candle smokes or emits an undesirable byproduct. "Triple-scented" or "highly-scented" candles may have an overload of fragrance oil, which can affect the burn of the candle and may produce smoke.

As far as wax is concerned, one is not necessarily better than another other than what your personal value system may be. Many people prefer waxes such as soy, palm, and beeswax because they are not petroleum-based products. Natural waxes come from renewable resources, while petroleum-based wax (paraffin) contains a non-renewable resource. This doesn't mean paraffin candles are bad for you or the environment when they are burned. It simply means when there is no petroleum left, paraffin candles will be a thing of the past.

Choose your chandlers with care. Chances are very good you get what you pay for. You don't want a candle made from canning wax that has been colored with bits of crayon. You also don't want any kind of candle that is overloaded with fragrance oil. A great aroma can come from a moderate amount of oil.

I use high-grade paraffin wax, palm wax, and beeswax in my candle making. I love the versatility of paraffin, the surface designs that result with palm wax, and the natural scent and long-lasting burn of beeswax. All of these waxes produce beautiful candles, and all of them have natural chemical emissions when they are lit.

Beware of salespeople claiming one wax is more healthy than another. It's simply a sales pitch. Also beware of your purchases. Buy from sources you trust and have been happy with in the past. Pay attention to your candles as they burn. Badly made candles come in all wax types, as do candles that are well made.

Candles are one way to add wonderful ambiance and aroma throughout your home. Their "emissions" are certainly nothing to be afraid of if they're made well, no matter what type of wax.

If you have any questions, please leave them in the comment section of this post. I'll be happy to answer them the best I can.

7 comments:

Gabriella said...

That's great info. Thank you!

SouthPacificBody said...

Thanks for the info! I always thought that one was superior than the other... although I don't know why I think that. Thanks! Great read!

Glorious Hats said...

Really enjoyed this article. Now know much more about candles and appreciate being a more informed consumer. Thanks.

BeadedBaubles said...

That was a very interesting article. I've always thought that pure beeswax was less toxic than paraffin. Are there some scents that are better for people with allergies?

Sara said...

Everyone,

I'm glad you liked this post.

The purpose of the post was to point out that all candles "emit." However, it should be noted that according to personal preferences, one wax my be deemed "better" than another.

I work with three types of waxes and I would say beeswax candles are my favorite, but not because they are less toxic. Beeswax burns much longer, has a wonderful natural aroma, and gives a brighter flame. There are no additives in my beeswax candles - no fragrance oil and no dyes. It is the most pure of all the candles that I make.

Don't take that as meaning other waxes/candles are harmful. They all have different attributes.

BeadedBaubles: I don't know about connections between fragrance oils and allergies. I think this varies from person to person. Sorry I couldn't be of more help in that regard.

Sara said...
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Akinol said...
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