Paraffin candle wax is made from petroleum by-products and has received a bad rap for that reason. If you think about it though, there are a lot of common every day items that are made from petroleum products. Paraffin is found in cosmetics and there is food-grade paraffin. That in itself isn’t a good reason to avoid candles made from paraffin wax.
I will make paraffin candles if that’s what my customers want. I explain about the different types of wax like soy or beeswax but ultimately it’s their choice. Some of my most beautiful candles are made from paraffin wax. It does, however, have its drawbacks.
Unless you’re pretty careful when burning candles made from paraffin candle wax, you could end up with a sticky layer of black soot on your walls, furniture and appliances.
Since I test burn candles on a regular basis, I’ve found this black film on my refrigerator, kitchen cabinets and even on my television screen. But keep in mind the fact that I probably have more candles burning at one time than most people. And I have different combinations of waxes, scents and wicks burning at the same time. It’s not surprising that I have an occasional soot problem because my goal is to figure out how to reduce soot and smoke. When I find excessive soot and smoke, I know that the particular combination didn’t work.
But there are features that I like about paraffin wax. It’s very easy to work with, and I can get a wider range of deep, vibrant colors with paraffin. It holds fragrance well so I can get a highly scented candle. If I want to make a pretty, artistic candle with lots of colors, layers, swirls, blocks, I can achieve those looks fairly easily with paraffin.
If you really like paraffin candles, I’ve discovered some tips to help reduce the smoke and soot. For example, keep the wick trimmed to 1/4″. Some of my customers don’t like to trim their wicks, but it’s better to trim the wick then to have smoke and soot floating around your home.
I’ve also discovered that sometimes having a highly scented candle increases the amount of smoke and soot. When you burn a candle there’s a lot going on. The wax, fragrance, wick and any additives all play a part and the wrong combination adds up to a smoky, poorly burning candle.
Many candle makers mix paraffin candle wax with other types of candle wax to improve the overall quality of the candle. Paraffin combined with soy or beeswax tends to combine the best qualities of each.
If you are concerned about air quality and the environment though, you’re probably going to prefer candles made from one of the natural candle waxes. There are differing opinions about the dangers of burning candles made from paraffin wax, ranging from “there is no health hazard” to “the by-products that produce paraffin candle wax cause cancer”. I’ve burned paraffin candles, and I have allergies. Other than some failed experiments that led to dirty appliances, I haven’t noticed any ill effects.
Be wary of articles bashing candles made from paraffin wax that are written by those who market other types of candles. Look for independent sources, like the EPA or American Lung Association.