When it comes to choosing the best candle for your space, there are several factors to consider. Scent can transform a room and set the mood, whether you’re preparing for a cozy night in with our Orange + Clove candle or winding down for bed with Eucalyptus + Lavender wafting through the air. When investing in the perfect candle, you may consider things like burn time or even aesthetic appeal. But serious candle connoisseurs know that the wax makes all the difference - after all, it’s what’s on the inside that counts!
Most candles are made with paraffin wax, a nonrenewable petroleum byproduct that can decrease the air quality of our homes when burned. Sadly, many candle makers hide behind deceivingly positive marketing terms like “non-toxic,” “green,” and “soy-based.” To find a clean-burning, paraffin-free candle, look for candles that are made with 100% soy wax and come with a transparent list of ingredients.
Why Are Soy Candles Better?
Soy wax is a natural, biodegradable vegetable wax made from the oil of soybeans. If you’ve ever used soy sauce or snacked on edamame, you’ve experienced a soybean at different stages of ripeness! After mature soybeans are harvested, they’re cleaned, cracked, de-hulled, and rolled into flakes. Oil is then extracted from the flakes and hydrogenated, creating wax, and the leftover flakes are often used for animal feed. While the chemical change that transforms soybean oil to a solid wax makes it ineligible for an “organic” certification, soy wax is a renewable resource that’s free from animal byproducts, unlike other natural candles that include beeswax.
Paraffin wax, on the other hand, is the byproduct of the oil purification process of petroleum, coal, or oil shale. Not only is paraffin wax a nonrenewable resource, but it also emits volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other harmful toxins when burned, impacting indoor air quality and health over time. Even the best-smelling candle isn’t worth that kind of sacrifice! In addition to being free from VOCs, soy wax is slow-burning and a great fragrance carrier that doesn’t require chemical amplifiers.
In addition to being paraffin-free, there are a few other factors that make up a great natural candle. Responsible and transparent candle makers like Slow North will use soy or vegetable wax, wicks made of natural ingredients (like paper, cotton, hemp, or wood), essential oils, and no artificial dyes or fragrances. Burning natural candles will help you avoid bringing VOCs and endocrine-disrupting chemicals like phthalates or parabens into your home.
Adjusting To Soy Wax Candles
If you’ve been using artificially-scented candles, you might have to adjust to a natural candle. While soy wax candles are longer-burning, they’re not as highly scented. (If you often get headaches from the overwhelming scent of artificial candles, this can be an added benefit!) However, paraffin-free candles are still capable of filling large spaces with fragrance and provide incredible aromatherapy. Knowledgeable candle makers also understand how to work with the flash point of essential oils to maximize a soy wax candle’s scent throw (i.e. how strong that candle’s scent is).
Since soy wax is a natural product, you might notice slight variations in the appearance of your candle. Many factors can affect the appearance of the wax, such as seasonal variations in the soybean harvest, essential oils used for scent, and ambient air temperature throughout the year. Even within the same batch, some candles may look perfect while others are less uniform in appearance. The good news is that all of these issues are purely cosmetic and will not affect the safety, burn time, or scent throw of your candle.
Photo courtesy of The Olive Branch
There are a few tricks you can implement to get the best burn and extend the life of your soy wax candle. Before you light your new candle, you’ll want to trim the wick a good 3 millimeters (about ⅛ inches) to prevent the flame from burning too high. On the first burn, it’s important to keep your candle lit long enough to liquefy the entire top layer of wax, which can take between three and four hours. This prevents your candle from tunneling, since soy wax has a "memory" and will only burn as wide as the last time you burned it. And when you’re finally ready to put out the flame, using a candle snuffer will keep the room fragrant and smoke-free. Properly lighting and taking care of your paraffin-free candles will help you protect the integrity of the scent, reduce emissions of smoke, and get the most out of your purchase.
Slow North candles are proudly made from 100% soy wax and natural essential oils, which can help you keep your home free of toxic ingredients. Want to learn more about Slow North’s candle making process? Curious about the benefits of natural paraffin-free wax and essential oils? Check out our weekly Soy Candle Making Workshops, where you’ll have a chance to create your very own 8 oz soy wax candle with the all-natural, custom scent of your choice!