Candles are made up of three basic things such as; wax, wick, and flame. A candle works simply by lighting the wick creating a heat source that melts the wax near the wick. The melted wax is then vaporized and moved up the wick and eventually broken down into Hydrogen and Carbon molecules that is then released into the air, creating more heat and light causing the cycle to continue. Therefore, in scented candles the fragrance is also released, so adding anything extra to the wax such as; scent, dye, or additives can change how the candle burns. Wax being the fuel of the candle has an important role, just like the wick will affect how your candle performs. The wax and wick work together to create that perfect burn, if your wick is too small the wick will drown in the wax or tunnel and if your wick is too large for your vessel or pillar the wick may cause the flame to be dangerously high, smoke, and may cause a risk of fire. This is why it is imperative when making candles to get the right balance between the wick and wax which is often determined by the type of wax used and diameter of the container or pillar mold.
Speaking of waxes, not all waxes are same each have there pros and cons depending on what you want to use them for and what type of candles you are planning to make. Historically candles were thought to have originated in early Egypt, where torches were made with oil and papyrus or a type of paper used like a wick to create light. Over the years candles were developed and used for early lighting using various types of waxes, everything from Tallow or animal fat, beeswax, bay berries, whale blubber, and to eventually waxes we are familiar with today such as, Paraffin wax; which is made from petroleum by products, and most recently natural waxes like soy and coconut.
According to the International Candle Association there are over hundreds of types of waxes used to make candles. Choosing a wax for the first time candle maker can be a bit overwhelming but, ICA has long supported that if the candle has the right balance of wick, wax, and the proper amount of any additional additives or scent will mostly determine how a candle performs. Most recently there has been some debate between candle makers who use paraffin wax vs candle makers who use natural waxes. Often there have been claims by makers who prefer natural wax believe that paraffin wax or paraffin blends can be toxic and emit soot, however the International Candle Association found found no conclusive evidence of paraffin wax being unsafe or more toxic than natural wax. Base upon the ICA states on there page that all waxes are safe to use if used properly.
In the last ten years due to the rise environmental consciousness and the rise in consumers wanting to go carbon neutral many candle makers have turned to natural wax to make their candles. Also in the last ten years or so with high demand in the market for natural products and health conscious customers the large influx of natural wax and vegan candles has grown. More candle companies that focus upon natural candles are popping up each day allowing customers more to choose from.
Natural wax such as, soy, apricot, or coconut wax was originated in the 1990s. Natural wax being a softer creamer wax is best used in container candles and sold by many candle companies as vegan or all natural, although vegetable oils or food grade paraffin is sometimes added in some soy waxes to help enhance their ability to hold in fragrance of scented candles.
By choosing a natural wax to make candles can be a bit frustrating especially for those who are new to candle making and especially to those who wish to sell their candles. Natural wax, has a tendency to frost, which is a white powdery look to candles kind of similar to what you sometimes see on chocolate. Frost is actually a crystalline layer that naturally forms on soy and other natural waxes, which does not change how the candle performs, but customers maybe put off by the white frost on their candle. Another characteristic of natural wax is your wax discoloring due to UV light, a reaction to fragrances that have Vanillin, or combination of the two, which can cause your white or creamy colored candle to turn a yellowish color. Although, the color dose not change how your candle performs it can make it less appealing for some consumers. Finally, bumpy tops after burning is a normal trait of natural wax that could be a selling point for your Eco-friendly consumers-if marketed well.
To summarize, candle wax is a very important part of how our candles function without it the candle will not work, and the type wax you use is determined by what type of end product you would like to create. So, whether you would like to create a large pillar or wax melt you will need a more brittle harder wax or if you are making container candles a softer natural wax or oil based paraffin would be ideal. However, in the end handcrafting candles is really all about the wax.