Soy vs Paraffin

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In this post we add to the debate of soy wax vs paraffin wax, and which is better for the candle burner or candle maker.

Hello candle lovers and fellow scent aficionados!

Welcome to the great debate. The most polarizing, debated about topic for candle manufacturers and scent enthusiasts: Soy vs Paraffin!

I remember years ago when I first started dabbling into the craft of candlemaking, and I had purchased my first set of kits. I had gotten, soy, paraffin, and beeswax kits to determine which one would suit the aims I was after. I ended up going with paraffin, and by the end of this post, you'll know why. 

Prior to this I had started my research with a simple google search and got lost in the endless debate about soy and paraffin. Those chandlers that consider themselves experts would have you believe that Soy is the new supreme! Most of their claims are backed by anecdotal evidence retrieved from 1st page Google results, to which I have some choice words for these kind of chandlers but thats a conversation for another time.

If you've watched the previous episode of LGS with Goombay Candles or read the prior blog post, you would know that I argued the point that all candles in general or safe, and I backed that up with academic research and a study.

Therefore, for this post, we won't get to deep in the technicalities, but I will address the make up of the waxes, myths about each one, and which wax is better for candle makers.

That being said, is soy wax really better than paraffin? The answer is yes, no, maybe so.

Yes, I know, it's a complicated answer. But it's an excellent answer to a complicated question.

But even before we get into that, let's get some education on these two popular waxes.

Soy Wax

Soy wax is a processed form of soybean oil, which comes from soy beans. Soy wax is created when soy bean oil undergoes complete hydrogenation. The resulting wax is one that is very soft, suitable to only container candles, and has a low melting point, typically between 120 to 180 degrees Farenheit. It typically comes in flakes and pellets.

Because of its relatively low melting point, and 90% soybean oil content, pure soy wax can be very difficult to work with. It requires careful and skillfull mixing, and is particularly finicky when working with temperatures.

It is very rare to find candle makers who use a pure blend of soy wax, as pure soy wax does not perform typically well when compared to its paraffin counterpart. Most soy waxes on the market contain majority percentage soy wax, but are also mixed with various additives to enhance or improve certain qualities of the wax; such as to increase fragrance load, enhance rigidity of the wax ( to make pillar blends), and other characteristics. Further, for the soy wax diehards, please note there is a difference between a soy blend candle and a soy wax candle.

Paraffin Wax

Paraffin wax is an odorless soft solid that is derived through the refinement of shale or pertroleum oil. It is a naturally occuring by product when shale or petroleum oil undergoes the refinement process for gasoline. In it's most crude form, paraffin is solid at room temperature and has a melting point of 99 degrees Farenheit, depending on the blend. Paraffin has many industrial applications but one of the most popular is its use in candles. Due it's chemical composition, it bonds well with essential oils, burns slower (depending on the blend you use), and generally out performs soy wax in terms of strength of scent throw.

However, just like soy wax, variations of paraffin have been created, mostly to enhance the rigidity of the wax. 

Are Either Of These Waxes Toxic? Nope! As we mentioned in our prior blog post, the combustion by products of soy and paraffin waxes are virtually identical. Neither of these waxes pose any long term risks to your health. But for posterity, let's address some of the myths.

MYTH ONE: Candle soot is toxic, soy candles do not soot, paraffin candles soot so they are more toxic than soy.

Whew! Can we say all of this is a big fat lie. Let's debunk. Firstly, ALL candles do not soot! Poorly made candles soot. Sooting is the result of the wick being too large or too small, or not trimming the wick after each burn. Are we clear? Great! Soy candles CAN soot. Because of the transluscent nature of soy wax, poorly made soy candles soot; its just the soot is more of pale smoke. In fact, due to incomplete combustion, all candles inevitably produce harmless amounts of soot, but I digress. If your candle is sooting, remove it from the draft (windy area), trim the wick appropriately, or you just have a poorly made candle.

MYTH TWO: Soy wax burns slower than paraffin wax.

The rate at which your candle burns is entirely dependent on various factors: the size of the candle wick, the size of the container, the additives in the wax, and the type of blend of wax it is, also the length of use. The maximum amount of time you should be burning a candle is around 4 hours in any single sitting. However, we've all been guilty of falling asleep while our candles are burning. If you leverage around 2 to 4 hours of burn time daily, taking into considerationg that our candle fragrances tend to linger in the air, one of our 8oz candle tins can last you around 2 weeks with daily use. Therefore my candle lovers, should you come across a candle maker advertising that their candles burn longer than others, you shouldn't be patronizing them for they still don't understand the art of candle making. All decent candle makers simply advertise the average amount of hours their candles burn for.

MYTH THREE: Soy candles give a stronger scent throw than paraffin candles.

Utter nonsense! What determines the strength of the scent throw is the size of the container and the amount of fragrance oil your blend of wax can retain. Fragrance is released from the melt pool of your candle. Therefore, the larger the diameter of your container, the more fragrance will be released in the air. Further, the higher percentage of fragance oil your wax can retain, the stronger the hot throw will be.

So why the big debate? It really comes down to personal preference. As a candle lover or candle burner, if you prioritize strong scent throw and vibrant colorful candles, then paraffin wax would be your go to. If "eco-friendly" and sustainably harvested is a priority, support of local American farmers (fun fact, soy wax is mostly isolated to the USA market - the rest of the world still uses paraffin), and low burning temperatures, then soy wax is the wax for you.

For candle makers, it all boils down to the characteristics you want to market your brand off of. At Goombay Candles, we pride ourselves on the strength of our scent throw for our candles. Our candles are so fragrant, even after the candle is burnt, you can still keep the empty tin for subtle fragrance.

And there you have it. I hope this brief discussion has helped you decide which candle wax you would like to use. I would strongly suggest you sample both soy and paraffin, and determine which is better. Make sure to share this with a candle lover or scent afficianando that you know. And as always, head on over to Goombay Labs, slide to the Goombay Candle tab and #lightyourhappiness because if you ain't happy, what are you really doing?!

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