A Beginner's Guide to Candle Wax
Every autumn, summer nights give way to cool, crisp evenings. If you're anything like us, you pull out the cozy blanket and most likely light a few candles; there's nothing like a warm, comforting light to take the chill out of the air! Candle making is a great way to expand your soap and/or cosmetic line and extend your favorite fragrance formulations to the home as well as the body. In this article, we will be discussing different waxes and additives that are available to today's candle makers, and the specific uses for each.
Before you get started on your candle making adventure, decide what kind of candle you are looking to make. Will it be a container candle (a candle that is poured into a receptacle of some kind)? Will it be a votive, or a pillar? Once you've decided which type to make, there are a few simple guidelines to follow for each kind.
Container candles are the most popular type of candle. For this kind, you'll want to look for a single-pour or one-pour wax. These waxes are easy to use and will typically result in a smooth result, due to decreased shrinkage (which is why they are called single or one pour). Heat the wax to its recommended melting point, add a fragrance if you'd like, and you're ready to pour! Usually, wax intended for container candles will be a bit softer to prevent shrinkage, which can have an undesirable effect on the aesthetic of your finished product. There are different options for container candle waxes; paraffin, palm, soy and beeswax are among them. Before pouring your candle, it is imperative that you have chosen a proper container; sticking with glass is usually the best bet to prevent unwanted container melting or burns.
Votive candles are also very popular. These candles are made in a mold; because of this, shrinkage is desirable to make them easier to remove. Depending on the wax you choose, you may be able to achieve the desired result with one pour, or you may need to pour multiple times depending on the amount of shrinkage. Popular votive candle waxes include paraffin, soy, beeswax, palm, and blends of each.
Pillar candles are designed to burn free-standing. Because of this, you will need a harder wax in order to produce a sturdy candle. Like votive candles, pillar candles are poured into molds and require some wax shrinkage to be removed after pouring. Most pillar candles will require multiple pours before they are completed. Popular waxes for pillar candles are paraffin, beeswax and palm; like votives, blends are also available. (It is difficult to achieve an even-burning pillar candle with soy wax because of its soft quality. However, soy wax can be blended with other much harder waxes, such as paraffin or beeswax.)
Choosing Your Wax
Much of your wax decision will be based on preference; what are you looking for as a final result? Although soy wax has vastly improved over the years, paraffin wax is still regarded as superior when it comes to the scent throw of a candle. Soy wax is held in high regard for its natural qualities and multiple uses. Let's take a look at the most popular waxes on the market today.
Paraffin wax is the by-product of the crude oil refinery process. It is refined through the hydrogenation process and is currently the most popular candle making wax. Paraffin wax is a budget-friendly option and offers a long range scent throw as well as easy dyeing that makes it very appealing to candle makers. Paraffin is a great wax to start out with because of its lower cost and ease of use.
Soy wax is made out of soy beans, specifically the oil of soybeans. This oil is extracted from the soybeans and then hydrogenated, which results in the conversion of some fatty acids in the oil from unsaturated to saturated. Soy is a renewable resource, and is very appealing to candle makers for its ability to be marketed as an eco-friendly option. Soy candles also burn longer and cleaner, making them appealing to consumers, too. It is a bit more expensive, and can be more challenging to scent; however, the benefits of a biodegradable and environmentally responsible product are worth the cost for a seasoned candlemaker.
Beeswax is on the pricier side of the wax price range, but has its own benefits for use. For example, beeswax candles have a noticeably longer burn time, and are one of the most natural waxes you can buy. Beeswax is also nontoxic and many candle makers claim that beeswax candles act as a sort of natural air cleaner. There are very few drawbacks to making and burning beeswax candles; typically, the expense of the wax is what drives candlemakers and buyers to less pricey options.
There are many conflicting opinions about palm wax and its usage. While many agree that palm wax has marketable benefits, such as its increased hardness and smoothness, others stay away from palm wax due to unfair trade practices associated with its production. Whatever your opinion may be, your buyers will expect a responsibly sourced product that has been fairy produced; be sure to do your research on the company you intend to buy it from to make sure that the product you purchase fits this criteria!
There are several additives that can help distinguish your candles from your competitor's, while giving your buyers additional benefits and a quality product. Although not required, these additives can increase hardness or even promote the longevity of the finished product.
Rarely do we hear the word "acid" without automatically thinking "caustic", but this is not the case with stearic acid. Stearic acid is made by saponifying the triglycerides in fats and oils using hot water and distillation. Stearic acid can be made from either animal or vegetable fats.
Stearic Acid is often used in candle making to make candles harder in order to prevent slumping; because of this, it is often used in votives and pillars. It is also used to make translucent wax more opaque, increase burn time and retain fragrance.
Vybar is a polymerized olefin, and is used to replace stearic acid in candlemaking. Vybar has the ability to increase the harness of a candle without contributing to brittleness, and has the same quality of providing increased opacity and fragrance retention as stearic.
UV Stabilizers are used to stop candles from losing their color when exposed to sunlight (UV rays) or lighting such as fluorescent lights. Although a UV stabilizer won't completely prevent color fade, it will significantly reduce it. These additives are also called UV Absorbent, UV Protectant and UV Inhibitors.
Candle colorants come in a variety of forms; pigments, liquid candle dye and color blocks are the most popular. Be careful when coloring your candles, it is important to make sure that you are using a candle-approved colorant.
Candle making can be a great source of additional income and also a great project to do with your family and friends. Make sure to ask yourself some basic questions before you get started on your candle project:
- What is my vision for the final product?
- Are sustainability and environmental friendliness important for this project?
- Who is my target customer?
- Have I properly researched my ingredients and additives to make sure they are safe for use in candles?
Be sure to keep in mind when choosing your container and wax that this item, unlike your soap or cosmetics, will be on fire in your customer's home. Follow proper guidelines for labeling candles with precautionary stickers to avoid any avoidable issues in the future; some examples of precautions commonly used would be:
- Do not leave candle unattended
- Keep out of reach of small children and pets
- Trim wicks to prevent smoking and soot buildup
A well made, properly marketed candle will keep your customers coming back time and again!
Ready to take the first steps in your candlemaking journey? Check out our instructional video, My First Soy Candle-Intro to Candle Making featuring Julie Koenig of Kreative Kraftwerks!