Candles are not all born equal. Plant-based candles are better for you and for the environment too. Here we’re going to outline what plant-based candles are, the benefits of using them and how they compare to paraffin and beeswax candles. We’ll also discuss what other properties you want to look for in a high-quality natural candle for your home or work.
In the dim distant past, candles made from animal fat were in widespread use, and after that paraffin candles became the norm. However, as the trend for purchasing non-toxic and renewable products grew in the 1990s, soy, coconut and rapeseed candles started to be produced and sold in increasing numbers. Although in the high street paraffin candles are still the norm, plant-based candles are now prevalent and are becoming the preferred choice of many households and businesses.
Before we jump into discussing plant-based candles, a brief note about beeswax candles. We all know that bees are in decline and we need to take better care of them. We also know that there are some amazing properties associated with products produced by bees such as honey and beeswax. I would suggest not buying beeswax candles at this time, because surely there are far better uses for this incredibly powerful natural product than burning it?
If you do decide to buy beeswax candles, know that they are not good for use in scented candles, because they have their own honey-like smell. If you’re going to buy a candle that is mixed with a % of beeswax make sure that the beeswax is ethically sourced. We recommend you look for the beeswax to be ‘certified organic’ by the Soil Association.
Paraffin candles are cheap because they are a by-product of the petroleum industry. That is pretty much all we have to say that is positive about paraffin wax.
Not only does paraffin emit soot, but also researchers in USA say paraffin candles can even be harmful to your health. South Carolina State University experts analysed the fumes released by burning candles in lab tests. They found paraffin wax candles gave off low levels of harmful fumes linked to lung cancer and asthma.
Essential oils only mix properly with plant-based waxes, so if you are buying paraffin wax candles then they are using synthetic fragrance oils, which is also not great for your health or wellbeing.
Paraffin candles also give off black soot and burn so hot that they can burn the skin if spilt. All in all, best to leave them alone.
Unlike paraffin candles, plant-based candles don’t release toxic carcinogens into the air. Also unlike paraffin, they are made from a renewable source and are biodegradable. Did we also mention that they are vegan?
Soy wax is a vegetable, plant-based wax made from soybean oil. Hydrogenation turns some of the unsaturated fatty acids in the oil into saturated fat. This process alters the melting point, making it a solid at room temperature. Because it’s a soft wax, it is currently mainly used for container candles.
One of the reasons why plant-based candles give such a good aroma is because the melting point is low. This means it burns longer and a larger pool of liquid wax forms around the wick, allowing for more fragrance to be spread around the room.
Coconut wax is a vegetable, plant-based wax made from coconut oil. As a wax, it has a much higher melting point than the oil which is ideal as an ingredient for making container candles and massage wax products.
Coconut wax is distinctive in its lower melting point and viscosity compared with other natural waxes, making it ideal for container candles. Coconut wax also offers a high degree of whiteness and colour stability, combined with small crystal size and excellent burn quality.
Rapeseed or canola is a yellow flowering plant from the mustard family. Is a sustainable, renewable, and eco-friendly alternative to soy wax or palm wax that is produced through intensive farming techniques.
Rapeseed/Canola wax is great for fragrance retention, scent throw and extended burn time.
Natural waxes such as soy, rapeseed and coconut are the best choice for those wanting candles that burn cleanly. Soy wax is often blended with other waxes to capitalise on the best of both waxes. In the UK rapeseed is gaining popularity since it can be locally sourced from non-intensive farming sources.
All ILLUMINE candles are made with a Soy and Coconut wax blend and they are CLP compliant.