Sunday, October 13, 2013

Soy -vs- Paraffin Wax (Facts & Fiction)

*All credits for this article come from

You may have heard stories about the benefits of soy wax or about how paraffin wax is unhealthy or not good for you. Actually, I have been wanting to touch upon this subject for a few months now, but it was a customer of mine who inspired me to write about the topic sooner than later. In this story, we will examine the myths and rumors and give you the straight facts on both soy and paraffin wax candles and allow you to see what the truth and the fuss is all about. 

  • Paraffin wax was discovered in 1850 and is a derivative of crude oil. It is made by removing the waxy substance from oil during the refining process. Paraffin wax is odorless, tasteless and white in color. Most candles are composed of paraffin because of its a steady burn. Paraffin is also found in a number of products, from drywall, waxed paper, glide wax (for snowboards and skis), crayons and cosmetics. Some Paraffin waxes are also edible. Food-grade paraffin is used to coat candy, preserve food, and seal canning jars.

  • Soy wax is a form of soybean oil that was discovered in 1991. Soy wax, on the other hand is made from vegetable matter. The wax-making process involves harvesting the soybeans and or vegetable matter, and rolling them into flakes. The oil is withdrawn from the flakes where it is then hydrogenated (mixed with hydrogen gas). This process allows the oil to be solid at room temperature. Soy wax is white in color and comes in pellet and flake forms. This wax is mainly used in container candles as it has a lower melting temperature than other waxes such as paraffin and beeswax. However, soy candles can be made from a mixture of soy, paraffin, and beeswax to avoid this problem. Soys application is best used in container candles. It is extremely difficult to make good pillar candles and votives out of 100% pure soy wax. Since soys consistency is much softer, the use of soy wax in pillars can only be obtained by the use of additives to harden the wax. Additives include animal and poly~based (plastic) hardeners that are best used for pillar applications. Paraffin wax is still a much better solution for pillar candle applications.
  • There are many myths associated with paraffin vs. soy candles. Soy candle manufacturers created many of these myths in an attempt to sell more candles. Unfortunately, many people have bought into these lies which have little to no truth to them. These claims include:
  • --Paraffin wax is hazardous to your health.
    --Soy wax is made with all natural ingredients causing it to be safer than paraffin.
    --Soy wax produces no soot.
    --Paraffin is not biodegradable.
    --Soy wax burns cleaner.
The Facts
  • All candle waxes are non-toxic. Food-grade paraffin is approved by the FDA and is used in food and cosmetics. Many manufacturers use food-grade paraffin to make their candles. Crude oil (used to make paraffin) is a naturally occurring substance that is found underneath the Earth's surface. It is a decomposition of lost civilizations, plants and animals. Both soy wax and paraffin wax are derived from natural substances. These natural substances go through a refining process to create the wax product. Paraffins association to petroleum is false, as it is simply a derivative of crude oil which is a natural resource. Petroleum is also a derivative of crude oil, but paraffin and petroleum are two separate compositions. Soy wax is not any more natural than paraffin wax.
  • Many soy candles are not 100 percent natural. Since soy wax is softer than other waxes, chemical hardeners are added to make the wax more durable. In addition, many of the dyes and fragrances used in soy candles are not 100 percent natural. Even if a soy candle contains only 100 percent natural ingredients, it does not mean it is safer or healthier. Many naturally occurring plants and substances have been proven toxic to humans and animals, even in small amounts.
  • All burning organic materials emit soot. Soot free candles do not exist. Paraffin candles will emit a black colored soot when burned. Soy candles can emit black soot and a white colored soot that cannot be seen. The amount of soot emitted by a burning candle will mainly depend on the length of the wick and flame disturbance. The myth regarding a candle producing soot will depend upon the length of the wick and the flame disturbance. The longer the wick, the more soot will be emitted. Trimming candle wicks to the recommended length can eliminate this problem.
  • Paraffin, beeswax, and vegetable waxes are all biodegradable.
  • All types of waxes are primarily composed of hydrocarbons causing them to burn similarly. Soy wax and paraffin wax are both hydrocarbons. They both burn safely and cleanly.
  • There is no better wax out there in regards to health hazards. Paraffin wax candles and soy wax candles are equally safe to burn and enjoy. In the end, both paraffin wax and soy wax are both good choices for candle wax. Neither is more "environmentally friendly" than the other, as there has never been scientific evidence that paraffin wax is harmful to your health in any way at all. It is a personal choice of which type you prefer to use. In my personal experience in candle making, I prefer paraffin wax as opposed to soy wax. I believe that soy wax burns faster or perhaps at the same rate as paraffin wax does, and it also burns hotter I have found, contrary to the soy wax industry claims. Which is why when burning soy candles, you can't burn them for long periods of time. Glass containers become hot and can shatter and crack. Paraffin wax, on the other hand, can burn for several hours at a time and are good for container and pillar applications.  Always remember to keep wicks trimmed to keep the flame burning evenly.
Reference: National Candle Association