Candle making can be a fun, relaxing, and rewarding hobby. With so many different fragrances, colors, and waxes to experiment with, the possibilities are endless.
Although candles have been around for millennia, recorded as existing as early as tenth century BCE, they are no less popular today than they were then. There are plenty of brick-and-mortar and online stores devoted entirely to candles.
If you’ve thought about trying out candle making for yourself, the first step is probably the hardest: choosing which wax to use.
So, between soy wax vs beeswax vs paraffin wax for candles, which should you use? Soy wax is the best affordable wax that’s eco-friendly with a long burn. Paraffin wax is the cheapest with the best scent throw but can burn soot and chemicals into the air. Beeswax is the clean, eco-friendly, all-around winner, but is more expensive.
In this article, we’ll review the variables in candle composition that matter when choosing the right type of wax, and the details of the top three waxes in the candle industry: soy wax, beeswax, and paraffin wax.
Candle Making Components
Candles are formed from three basic components: wax, fragrance, and wicks. There are several options when it comes to types of waxes, fragrances, and wicks, but these are the main ingredients for any candle.
You can also add colors to your candles, though this isn’t always necessary. For some customers, getting a lavender scented candle that looks light purple enhances the experience. For others, they just like the smell and don’t care if it’s a plain white candle.
The candle industry, just like many others, is constantly changing. There are always new wax blends, fragrance sources, and processes being developed and invented for candle making.
Soy wax, for example, was developed in 1991 just 30 years ago. Beeswax, on the other hand, has been around since ancient Egyptians used it to coat and burn papyrus leaves.
Fragrances have developed and changed from traditional perfumes to the popular essential oils that are being mass-produced and marketed today. Plenty of candle makers still use traditional perfume fragrances, but essential oils are a cleaner alternative.
While candle wicks are normally made from braided cotton fibers, wood wicks have grown in popularity thanks to the ambient crackle sound they give off.
When it comes to choosing a wax, there are several factors to consider. There’s no right or wrong answer – it’s all about what you’re looking for in a candle. Let’s explore those below to help guide you in choosing the best wax for your candle preferences.
Variables In Candle Composition
1. Scent Throw
A candle’s scent throw is how much of the fragrance it gives off as it burns.
Some waxes, like paraffin, take and hold fragrance better than others, giving them a better scent throw. Other waxes, like soy wax, can mask the fragrance and give a more subtle scent throw.
Neither of these options is right or wrong. For people who love the scent of candles, a higher scent throw is ideal. They want to smell the candle as much as possible.
Others may enjoy the fragrance but have a smell-sensitivity and need a more subtle scent throw. Luckily, there are waxes that offer varying degrees of scent throw to please any candle lover.
2. Clean Burn
One of the most important considerations for candle wax is how clean it burns. Each of the three main waxes falls on different planes in the clean burn spectrum.
Paraffin wax is the “dirtiest” burn, though it’s still clean and meets regulation standards. Soy wax is a cleaner burn, with beeswax being the cleanest burn and even having some air purifying qualities.
The amount of soot or chemicals given off of a candle makes a big difference for people with respiratory illnesses.
Consider the needs of those who will be smelling your candles, and the type of candle you want to make. Paraffin wax does still meet regulation standards, but there are cleaner wax options that you can choose if the clean burn is important to you.
There’s nothing worse than a candle that burns down in just a few hours. If you’ve spent the money on a large container candle, you want it to last.
Certain waxes have a longer burn than others. Soy will last longer than paraffin, for example. Long burns are more desirable because it helps the customer, or even just yourself, feel like your investment was well worth the money.
Having a candle that costs $20 burn for only 5 hours feels like a waste. Spending $20 on a candle that burns for 22 hours feels like money well spent!
While this may not be a factor for some, a lot of candle makers feel very passionately about using candle products that are more eco-friendly.
This mainly comes into play with the way the wax is sourced. Paraffin wax comes from the sludge at the bottom of a crude oil, or petroleum, barrel. Beeswax is naturally harvested from bees.
Even though soy wax is a cleaner wax, some candle makers avoid it because the production of soy wax, like palm oil, is closely tied to deforestation.
Many new candle makers are learning through experience and research how the candle making industry is not environmentally friendly. To combat that, most are opting for more eco-conscious options.
Not all candle makers take this into consideration – especially larger, commercial operations. The level of eco-friendliness of your chosen candle wax is entirely up to you. There are options available to suit everyone’s preferences.
Types Of Wax For Candle Making
We’ve been discussing the three main types of wax for candle making as being soy wax, beeswax, and paraffin wax. Although there are other types of wax, these are the main three that are most commonly used.
Below, we’ll go over the details of each type of wax. If you’re on the fence between them, this will give you all the information you need to choose which wax is best for you.
1. Soy Wax
As we mentioned earlier, soy wax was invented in 1991. It’s derived from soybeans, the same source used for tofu. It’s a sustainable, renewable source since people can always grow more soybeans.
Soy wax is made from hydrogenated soybean oil. Essentially, the soybean oil is derived from the plant in flakes and the fat in the oil is hydrogenated, giving it a more liquid form and the property that allows it to harden at room temperature.
One of the best qualities of soy wax is that it gives a long burn. This keeps your candle burning longer, giving you more time to enjoy the scent.
Even though the soybean industry is tied to some deforestation, it’s still a greener and more environmentally friendly option than paraffin wax. It’s a more affordable option for those looking to use a cleaner wax as well.
If you’re someone who prefers a more subtle scent throw, then this wax is perfect for you. It’s not nearly as fragrant as paraffin wax, which can be helpful for those strong scents such as rose or vanilla.
Because it’s a cleaner wax derived from plant oil, it gives a much cleaner burn than paraffin wax. There’s very little soot and no toxic chemicals emitted from a soy candle.
A factor to consider when choosing soy wax is that it often comes in a blend. Most companies who produce soy wax mix it with other vegetable oils such as coconut or rapeseed wax. If the wax contains at least 51% soy wax, it’s considered a soy wax blend.
- Produces a longer burn
- More affordable eco-friendly option (compared to beeswax)
- Cleaner burn than paraffin wax – less soot, no chemicals
- Weaker scent throw
Compared to soy wax and paraffin wax, beeswax is the oldest wax used in candle making, dating all the way back to ancient Egyptians.
Beeswax is undoubtedly the cleanest wax available. It’s naturally sourced from bees in a way that does not harm or damage them. Bees produce the wax naturally, and beekeepers harvest it in a way that preserves the bees’ habitat in their box.
Beeswax goes one step further in the clean burn department compared to soy wax. It gives off no soot, smoke, or chemicals, and even has qualities that are said to help purify the air. So not only does it burn clean as a wax, but it helps clean your air while burning!
Due to its natural sourcing and somewhat limited availability (depending on how many bees are kept, how much wax is produced), beeswax tends to be more expensive than any other type of wax.
Many eco-conscious candle makers will mix beeswax and soy wax to create a blend that stays true to the organic and clean burn desires while cutting costs on beeswax.
One small drawback to beeswax is that because it comes from honeycombs, it still smells sweet like honey. This can be difficult when trying to create a more bitter or floral scented candle like lavender or rosemary.
However, this can be a plus if you’re working in other scents! The naturally sweet fragrance from beeswax works well with sweet scents like vanilla, baked goods, and even coffee.
- Most eco-friendly, naturally sourced option
- Burns the cleanest and purifies the air
- Works well with sweet scents
- Most expensive
- The natural sweet fragrance may conflict with certain scents
3. Paraffin Wax
Paraffin wax is the most commonly used wax to create candles in the commercial industry. It’s cheap, easy to get, and meets all candle making regulation standards. Created from crude oil, paraffin wax is not a clean wax. It gives off soot and chemicals while it burns.
The amount of soot and chemicals aren’t enough to alarm anyone for potential health hazards but could be enough to bother someone with a weaker respiratory system. It’s also a point to consider for anyone simply looking to breathe cleaner air.
Paraffin wax burns faster than some of its alternatives such as soy wax. The exact rate may not be all that different but could be the difference of several hours depending on the candle.
On the plus side of paraffin wax, it’s very readily available and affordable. It’s also the wax that gives off the strongest scent throw.
If your goal is simply to make the best smelling candles, then paraffin wax is the right choice for you. It will take any fragrance added to it and amplify it across the room. This is another reason why it’s a popular choice for commercial candle making companies.
Overall, it’s not our top choice for candle wax, simply because it’s less clean when compared to soy or beeswax. It’s still a popular and viable option though and should definitely be considered when making candles.
- Strongest scent throw
- Cheapest wax
- Releases soot and toxic chemicals into the air
- Sourced from crude oil, a toxic substance
- Doesn’t burn as long
Are There Other Types Of Wax?
Coconut wax, palm wax, and rapeseed wax are other common types of wax used in candles. These waxes are often mixed in with another type, such as soy wax.
Coconut wax is a great blend for beeswax because it helps alleviate the sweet scent of the honey from the beeswax and allows whatever added fragrance you added to the candle to breathe better.
It still burns cleanly, so the coconut wax won’t take away from the clean burn of beeswax. Coconut wax is naturally soft, so adding it with beeswax helps it solidify and form a stronger candle.
Palm wax is made from palm oil, like soy wax coming from soybean oil. It tends to have a sort of crystallizing pattern on the surface, so palm wax works great with textures and patterns on the outside of the candle. However, it is also not an eco-friendly wax, as palm oil is a huge contributor to deforestation.
Rapeseed wax is a new type of wax that comes from the canola plant, similar to canola oil but made differently. It’s an alternative to soy wax since it’s grown and produced locally, avoiding the deforestation problem that comes with soy wax.
Another benefit of rapeseed wax is that it has a strong scent throw and burns slowly. Adding this to soy wax or beeswax will enhance your scent throw, giving you the advantage of paraffin wax, while still allowing for a slow burn.
What Is The Best Type Of Wax For Candles?
The best type of wax will depend entirely on what aspects of candle making you care about. If you just want the cheapest wax available or need a strong scent throw, choose paraffin wax.
If you want an eco-friendly wax that has a cleaner burn and won’t cost you a large amount of money, soy wax is the choice for you.
If you want the most eco-friendly wax with the cleanest burn possible, invest in beeswax. To avoid paying too much for your candle wax, mix your beeswax with coconut wax or soy wax.
None of these types of wax are inherently better or worse than the other when discussing candle making. They each have strengths and weaknesses, but how much each of those matters will depend on the type of candle you want to make.
Up Next: Best Fragrance Oils For Soy Candles