Understanding the Differences Between Each Type of Candle Wax
Out of paraffin, soy, beeswax, and other options, which is the healthiest and will burn the longest?
From warm pumpkin to clean and crisp linen, there's an endless array of deliciously scented candles to choose from. But if you look closely, you'll notice that not all candles are made of the same type of wax—even if they look nearly identical. Like scents, there are a variety of different wax materials that candles can be made from, whether store-bought or handcrafted. "Wax is considered the 'fuel' of your candle," says Chrissy Fitchl, founder and CEO of Apotheke, an artisanal candle company in Brooklyn. "When melted, it evaporates, which is how scent is released into your home."
While there are a number of different types of candle wax—including blends—the most popular are paraffin (also known as mineral wax), soy, and beeswax, says Fitchl. Coconut wax—a relative newcomer—is also gaining popularity, she adds. So, which type of candle wax is better? The answer isn't entirely cut and dry, as the various types all have pros and cons.
Paraffin wax—a very inexpensive wax—is most widely used across candle brands, says Fitchl, because it can hold a high amount of fragrance and color. It also comes in various melt points, making it suitable for making many different types of candles, from containers to pillars. That said, it's not considered the most eco-friendly type of candle wax, since it's made from a byproduct of the oil industry, she explains. Another downside: If not properly cared for, a paraffin wax candle will create soot. For candle making, try ArtMinds Paraffin Wax ($4.99, michaels.com).
Soy wax is a mid-range wax with a slow burn, making it a great value. The wax is made from—what else—soy beans, and is considered more eco-friendly than paraffin wax. That said, it is a byproduct of the soybean industry, and there are growing concerns over deforestation, fertilizers, and pesticides used in the process, says Fitchl. It can also be relatively difficult to work with: "It's very temperamental with temperature and can shrink, as well as 'frost' with white spots," says Fritchl. The wax doesn't hold quite as much fragrance either, though this can be a pro or a con, depending on how heavy of a scent you like. For candle making, try American Soy Organics Wax ($16, amazon.com).
Beeswax is one of the oldest forms of candle wax and is another eco-friendly option, since it's derived from bees during the honey-making process. Because of this, beeswax has a very subtle naturally sweet aroma that helps purify the air. Beeswax is also a harder, more solid wax that's often used in blends for container candles or to make unscented pillars, says Fritchl. For candle making, try Sky Organics Organic White Beeswax Pellets ($14.95, amazon.com).
This newer type of wax is harvested from coconuts—a high-yield and sustainable crop, says Fritchl. Coconut wax is popular for this reason, but also because it holds fragrance and color very well, plus has a clean burn that produces very little soot. Unfortunately, it tends to be most expensive candle wax of the bunch. For candle making, try ArtMinds Simple Serenity Coconut Wax Block ($12.99, michaels.com).
When shopping for candles, you'll often see blends. "Many brands blend different waxes together to form a more eco-friendly option that burns strong," says Fritchl.
What type of candle wax should you use?
The type of wax you choose is ultimately a matter of personal preference, depending on what type of candle you're making, how much you want to spend, what strength of fragrance you prefer, and how eco-conscious you are. At the end of the day, these popular types of candle wax all have their own draws and drawbacks.
And remember: No matter what you choose, the combination of wax, grade of fragrance, wick, and vessel are all extremely important to the overall marker of quality and the resulting experience you'll have, says Fitchl.