The Cleanest Candles to Burn at Home
Scented candles are a popular way of fragrancing and lighting your home throughout the year, but did you know that not all candles are equal when it comes to how clean they burn, their burn time and where they are from? In this blog I wanted to find out more about candles, and which type are the best to buy in the run up to Christmas especially.
Most commercially available candles are made out of paraffin, soy, palm oil, coconut wax, or vegetable wax. Beeswax candles tend to be made on a smaller scale and are not as widely available. So let’s take a look at each of these types of wax.
Paraffin Wax Candles
When paraffin wax was first used to make candles in the 1830’s, it was revolutionary. Up until then mass produced candles were made from tallow – rendered animal fat. This was messy and produced candles that had to be constantly trimmed and monitored to prevent guttering (when the wick burns to quickly) and smoking. So paraffin candles became the most common type of candle, cheap to make (paraffin is a by-product of the oil industry) and ubiquitous. But we now know that when burned, paraffin releases a cocktail of chemicals including acetaldehyde, formaldehyde, toluene, benzene and acrolein. If you burn a lot of candles in your home, you may want to think twice about using too many paraffin candles, particularly if you or your family have asthma. Cheaper imported candles also can include wicks which contain lead, so when combined with burning paraffin wax and cheap synthetic fragrances these candles must release some toxins into the atmosphere. Scientific research is inconclusive about the exact amounts of toxins released by paraffin candles, and to what extent they are harmful to health, but commonsense suggests that burning paraffin candles for a long period of time indoors could mean that potentially toxic chemicals are released into the air.
Soy Wax Candles
Soy is grown primarily in the USA and South America. Soy wax is cleaner than paraffin in terms of the chemicals it releases when burned, but soy should be sourced responsibly to make it more environmentally friendly. According to the WWF, soy is second only to beef in terms of agricultural drivers of global deforestation. Soy grown in the USA will almost certainly be genetically modified (GM) and treated with pesticides – we haven’t been able to find any research that demonstrates whether or not this has any effect on human health when burned as wax.
Palm Oil Wax Candles
Palm oil is in the headlines at the moment thanks to Iceland’s famous banned advert. Because of the controversy surrounding palm oil and the lack of confidence in “responsibly sourced” oil, smaller producers of candles are steering clear of this destructive raw material. Be wary of candles in supermarkets or high street retailers labelled as “natural” or with no clear indication as to what the wax is made of, as they could well be made of palm oil.
Coconut Wax Candles
Coconut wax is a great option for candles. It burns cleanly, doesn’t have a significant negative impact on the environment where the coconuts are grown, and holds scent well. It is however more expensive than paraffin, soy or palm wax and it does need to be carefully combined with other waxes to create stable candles that burn more slowly.
Beeswax candles are older, rarer and more expensive than any other type. This is because little bees have to travel around 150,000 miles to produce enough honey to create just 1 or 2 pounds of wax. They burn very cleanly as there are no synthetic chemicals in the wax, and no oils. Beeswax burns more slowly than other kinds of wax, so the candles last longer although they are more expensive. The one issue with beeswax is that you can’t add perfumes to it, so you can’t make scented candles using beeswax. Beeswax candles do have a lovely natural honey scent of their own.
Note on Wicks
UK and EU candle makers (or chandlers as they used to be known) no longer use lead in candle wicks. A small (but unspecified) number of imported candles may have wicks containing lead, and so should be avoided. Another good reason to buy from artisan makers and manufacturers based in the UK!
Cleaner Candle Suppliers in the North of England
All of the suppliers below are small artisan makers or manufacturers specialising in cleaner, non-paraffin candles based in the North of England.