Paraffin wax is a white solid substance that is made up of a mixture of saturated hydrocarbons. Paraffin wax is also known as petroleum-based wax since paraffin is derived from crude oil. Although paraffin wax has many uses ranging from lubrication, insulation and softening, it is most commonly used for making candles and also during cosmetic treatments such as manicures.
Paraffin wax and candle making
Paraffin is a common choice of wax for candle making as paraffin is highly affordable, has a low melting point and can be produced easily. Its white, opaque colour is also one of the reasons why paraffin is the preferred choice of wax - you can easily blend any colouring and end up with a vibrant coloured candle.
Candles made from paraffin wax may look beautiful on the outside, but if you take a look at its components, paraffin contains heavy metals such as lead and when you burn paraffin wax, it produces high levels of airborne heavy metals that are toxic to children, those with weak immune system and poor respiratory function.
This toxic fumes can result in hypertension, asthma and may trigger certain allergy symptoms, some of which can have serious health effects in the long run.
Other types of waxes
Besides paraffin, there are also vegetable-based waxes such as soy wax. There's no denying that soy wax is indeed a safer choice compared to paraffin wax. Some of the key benefits of soy wax are;
- Soy wax candles generally burn longer than paraffin candles.
- Soy wax is derived from natural vegetables while paraffin is a refined petroleum by-product.
- Soy wax is 100% biodegradable while paraffin wax is not.
- Soy wax spills clean up simply with soap and water while paraffin wax spills are extremely difficult to completely clean up.
- Soy wax releases fragrance easier than paraffin candles.
That said, since soy wax is derived from the environment, the soy industry has been linked to deforestation and soil erosion. This negative environmental impact is also due to the increasing demands of soy products.
Beeswax, on the other hand, is a natural byproduct from the beekeeping industry. Honey bees’ bodies regularly produce beeswax to construct the combs in their beehives. When beekeepers are ready to collect honey, they remove the wax caps off the honeycomb cells and sell the wax to the buyers.
Comparing the benefits between beeswax and soy wax, here are the results of the comparison:
- Beeswax is naturally produced by honey bees, thus has no environmental impact
- Beeswax does not use GMOs and pesticides unlike commercial farming of soybeans.
- Beeswax need not undergo any chemical processing or treatments.
- Beeswax flames emit a more natural, warm light than white, cool-toned light.
- Beeswax is a much denser material, thus will burn for a longer amount of time than soy candles.
So, before you buy a candle, be sure to check out what type of wax is being used when producing it. This way, you'll not only keep the environment safe from harm, but also your health in check.