If you are making candles, one of your first decisions will be which wax to use. There used to be only two options: dip a reed in some grease or stick a piece into a lump of butter to make a rushlight. But today there are many choices.
There are many kinds of wax for candle making that can be used to make candles today. Some are natural and some are synthetic. Each has its own unique qualities. Some candle makers are very particular about which wax they use. Others use different waxes for different purposes.
Paraffin wax is the most widely used wax today. Paraffin wax, a by-product of crude oil refinement, is often avoided by green-minded individuals.
Paraffin is the main ingredient in most candles that you can buy today. Paraffin wax isn’t universally accepted these days.
Soy wax, a relatively new wax in candle-making, has established a firm foothold. Soy wax was created in response to the growing demand for natural candles. It is an alternative to petroleum-derived parabens and the natural, but more expensive, beeswax. Soy wax can be mixed with paraffin to create a variety of melting points. However, container candles are the most popular.
Soy waxes made of 100% soybean oil are common. Others can be blended with vegetable oils (such as coconut) or waxes (such as palm and beeswax). Paraffin/soy mixtures are available that combine both waxes. It is considered a soy wax mixture if the blend contains at least 51% soybeans.
Candle gel wax does not contain wax. It is a mixture of mineral oil and resin. Penreco holds the patent on gel wax. This means that if you make gel candles, it is likely that your wax was made by them. It melts and burns like other waxes, and it retains scent and colour. Its transparency allows for completely new types of candles to be made from it. Gel wax is often used to imitate water and other liquids, such as beer and wine, in novelty candles.
Most commonly, gel wax is used to make containers or votive candles. However, it is possible to also use firmer gel wax for making pillar candles.
Beeswax is the oldest wax used in candle-making. Many would argue that it’s also the most effective wax. Beeswax candles can even be found in the pyramids. As a by-product of honey-making, bees produce beeswax. The bees use the wax to make “combs” that incubate their larvae. It is naturally sweet because it contains honey. The scent varies depending on what flowers or plants it is being infused with.
After beeswax has been harvested from the beehive, it is melted and filtered many times. You can buy beeswax blocks and slabs in various sizes, such as paraffin. Or you can get it pre-rolled in sheets that can be used to make candles.
Palm wax is very similar to soy wax because it is made from natural oils, in this case, palm oil. Palm wax is a hard wax that can be used to make votives and pillars. The candles will often have a crystallized or “feathered effect”, which is very beautiful. Palm wax is often mixed with soy wax.