Soy Candles and Beeswax Candles
What's the best burning soy candle or beeswax candle?
There are a number of great manufacturers of soy candles. For synthetic scented jar candles I usually buy A.I. Root Candles. They also offer beeswax blend tapers and liturgical candles. Dadant and Sons, Inc. does beautiful twisted and hand rolled pure beeswax tapers. For the holidays I always buy Big Dipper beeswax tapers. Aroma Naturals makes pure essential oil scented soy candles. Each candle wax has unique burning characteristics: for example, nothing compares to a freshly made natural (not colored, deodorized, or scented) beeswax candle.
However, the natural fragrance of beeswax will compete to some extent with any other fragrance you add, so now the beeswax has to be deodorized. Likewise to add significant color you have to bleach the wax. It's a pity in a way to take something that in it's natural state smells wonderful and is a beautiful golden color and then use petrochemicals to bleach or deodorize it. But beeswax manufacturers probably needed to capture a bigger share of the market, so they have expanded their lines to attract more customers. Even with bleached beeswax candles bright colors can not be achieved. In the past, beeswax candle makers produced hand dipped and rolled beeswax tapers, and novelty shapes like Christmas trees or pine cones. We used to make Buddhas, gargoyles and angel sculptures. Beeswax is the most expensive candle wax.
What is so special about soy candles?
Five years ago, when the soy candle fad was at it's peak, many of our retail customers asked us to make soy candles. In 1997, when we decided to make a vegetable candle, we tried every wax we could find from all over the world, including soy wax. We liked palm wax because of its superior scent loading ability, melt point and firmness. But anytime a new wax blend was introduced, we would test them to compare all the vegetable based waxes. We just couldn't get the same quality candle with either 100% soy candles or the soy wax blends. Also, you can't make tapers or pillars from either pure soy wax (which is used less and less) or a "soy" wax blend containing a significant percentage of soy.
We worked with soy manufactures for five years trying to come up with a soy pillar blend that burns as well as paraffin pillars. This year we all gave up. Then our sister factory in Indonesia came up with a 100% palm wax pillar. We are still testing it with various fragrance loads of pure essential oil scents and we will likely launch it in June, 2010.
We also have issues with how soy is commercially farmed. It is a genetically modified crop. The soil is tilled annually with heavy equipment, compacting the soil. The tillage reduces the biodiversity which increases the need for pesticides and insecticides. Ten acres are required to produce the same amount of oil as one acre of palm from organically farmed tree farms. A palm tree produces for 25 years. In a palm tree plantation, a lot of work is done by hand, and the trees host a variety of birds and insects.
Are all soy candles 100% soy?
The two major soy wax producers, Cargill and Archer, Daniels & Midland, sell mostly soy wax blends that likely contain palm wax and could contain paraffin and other synthetic additives. They may contain as little as 25% soy waxes.
Why don't soy candle makers offer pillar candles made of soy wax?
No one has been able to (cost effectively) produce soy wax that can be burned by itself, without a container. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent on research, to no avail. Soy wax is just too soft and oily. If you do see "soy" pillars out there, they contain only a small percentage of soy.
What causes the white marks on my soy candles?
Occasionally, white marks may appear on soy candles due to the nature of the soy wax. The tiny, white looking crystals on the tops and sides of jars are called frosting and are very similar to the frosted look on chocolate. This is a natural characteristic of soy wax and should not be treated as a flaw. Soy candle makers claim it does not affect the quality or burn of the candle.
Why is there is wet oil on top of my soy container candle?
Since soybean wax has a lower melting point than paraffin wax, it can release excess (fragrance) oils which it cannot hold (usually due to extreme temperature changes due to shipping - i.e. going from hot trucks to an air-conditioned environment or going from cold trucks in the winter to heated stores). You can leave it or wipe it out with a tissue or paper towel. Sweat from soy candles does not affect the burn quality and generally the sweat drops will not show up again after your first burn.
For optimum performance of soy candles, please store in a cool area out of in-direct and direct sunlight. Also, it can be caused by the scent sweating or separating out of the soy candles. We have found that 100% soy wax does not mix well with high concentrations of pure essential oil. Therefore, scented soy candle jars are more likely to sweat when warmed during shipping. This is just the fragrance oils coming to the surface. Some soy candle manufacturers recommended that you blot the top with a Kleenex or paper towel to prevent spillage.
Why does my soy candle look frosty? Is it drying out?
No, your soy candle does not dry out. Frosting is a natural characteristic of soy. It is not a flaw. It is strictly unique to pure soy candles. Often times it is called the "bloom". Actually, many customers are concerned if there is no frosting on their soy candles. It is a way that a customer can tell if their candle is really made with pure, all-natural soy wax. It's part of the soy experience!
Frosting does not seem to affect the scent throw or the burning properties of the candle. You can safely burn a candle with a bloom without worry. Frosting is a particular crystal growth of vegetable oils. It will cause the candle to look dry, which is simply a characteristic of that crystal structure, but has nothing to do with the candle "drying out". To minimize frosting, try to keep your candle out of direct sunlight and florescent lighting. Even changes in the weather can cause additional frosting. It is almost impossible to stop the soy wax from blooming.
As I'm blowing out my soy candle I detect a slightly rancid smell. Why is that?
I have noticed the same thing. I like to cook and one time I tried soy oil in my skillet. I smelled a similar odor. I washed it and then used palm oil. The smell (and taste) of palm oil is very subtle, so it does not overpower delicate aroma's of fish or vegetables. Newman's Own agrees; they have switched to palm oil. I think the same holds true for burning candles: soy has a characteristic burning odor. Soy wax manufacturers deodorize the soy oil but you can still detect the smell, which tends to interfere with the fragrance oils.
Are all candle waxes natural?
Great question! Crude oil comes from Dead Sea weeds or dinosaurs, so you could say it's natural. Then you could convince yourself that paraffin, the sludge that is left over after refining diesel fuel, is natural. It got us to thinking maybe another way to ask the question. Rather than "is it natural", "is it a renewable source"? Paraffin, a petrochemical derivative, is not. Beeswax is, but some vegans won't use it. Soy wax is all from GMO and pesticide intensive commercial soy production. Annual soy crop tillage scares away fauna, and, as the biodiversity decreases, soy plantations depend more and more on chemical fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides. Large scale irrigation systems cause soil erosion. Heavy commercial tractors cause soil compaction. In our opinion soy wax is not a sustainable product. All soy candle wax comes from commercially farmed, genetically modified (GMO) seed. The two soy candle wax suppliers are Cargill and Archer, Midland & Daniels, both global conglomerates, like Monsanto, responsible for the commercialization of farming with pesticides.
Do palm wax candles burn cleaner than soy candles?
There is no simple answer to that. Also, claims that soy candles, or beeswax candles, or "food grade" paraffin candles, produce less soot than other waxes are not factual. It all depends on the quality (purity) of the wax, the type of wick used and the air flow around the wick. We have made nearly perfect and also really terrible burning candles with all kinds of waxes: soy, palm, paraffin, beeswax, candelia, carnauba, and rice wax in all kinds of glass and pottery candle containers. Once, we made a candle with a lot of orange essential oil that shot a flame a foot high into the area and rocked the candle jar almost off the table. We have made candles with wimpy wicks (cotton and hemp) that go out every couple of minutes.
But 95% of the time we engineer really great burning and attractive candles. We hand pour every level so that's why you see slightly varied colors. Candle making is an art and a science. The best made jar candles match the perfectly designed wick, with the purest burning candle fuel, with just the right proportion of scent and candle colors in a round container with a wide mouth to allow sufficient air circulation around the wick.
What we have observed is that a well designed palm wax candle burns with a brighter flame, generating minimal soot emissions. As far as (invisible) toxins released into the air by a burning candle, we would love to see some independent research done. In the absence of solid data, we feel it's safest to stay away from petrochemical waxes (paraffin) and chemically distilled waxes (soy wax).
We used to sell a lot of your beautiful beeswax sculptures. Will you ever start molding them again?
Unfortunately, it's unlikely. In business, it often comes down to what you can afford to do, not always what do you like doing. Novelty candles tend to be used as ornaments or décor and not consumed. The money that pays the rent has always been in candles that folks burn daily, like tapers and votives.
I love the smell of 100% pure beeswax tapers. We stopped making them when pure beeswax became too expensive. Also, when we started selling our candles into natural food stores we got complaints from vegans who boycott any product that kills animals. Therefore, until bee keepers figure out what is causing the colony collapse, we all need to be conservative with bee related products. So far, the best explanation seems to be that using the bees for pollinating crops that use heavy pesticides drives them to extinction.
Also, there seems to be a greater need for pollination of crops, causing a shortage in available bee colonies. California almond growers increased their acreage last year. They shipped bees from the East Coast and the transportation also killed colonies. I personally don't ever want to run out of honey sweetened Haagen Dasz ice cream. So I'll do without beeswax tapers until I'm certain bee colonies are thriving. When the colonies are healthy and the cost of beeswax is reasonable, we might consider making 100% pure beeswax tapers.
I've heard beeswax candles give off negative ions. What about palm wax candles?
This is just promotional hype ingenious marketers use to make their candles seem better. All candles give off negative ions, but we've never seen any peer reviewed articles that measure how much, or if there is any significant health benefit.
Do beeswax candles really burn longer?
Not necessarily. Beeswax is, like palm wax, a long-burning wax; however, other factors that affect burn time are these: the ambient temperature of the room the candle is burning in (colder air means longer burn time); for hand-rolled candles - how tightly the wax was rolled around the wick (it's important for the wick to have good contact with the wax; less air and a tighter roll, the better); and drafts. So to say one type of wax burns longer (or cleaner) than other types of wax is not the whole story.
How is it that you can buy both natural-colored and white beeswax? Why the difference in the color?
The natural beeswax is usually melted from the "cappings" or by-product wax of the honey extraction process. As much honey as is possible is removed. The mixture of wax and honey is then heated. The wax rises to the top and the remaining honey is drained off. The beeswax is filtered to remove foreign objects. At this point, the color may range from light lemon yellow to ochre to brown. The difference in color is primarily due to how light the wax was in the comb which the honey was extracted from. The white wax is more highly refined. The bleaching of beeswax is most often done chemically.
There is a physical discoloring method that we used when we made beeswax candles. The yellow beeswax is warmed up to 100 °C and melted. Diatomaceous earth and coal (carbon) are added. It is then filtered through a < 5 micron filter for a few times to obtain the elimination of the coal particles. The end result is a nice white wax that is still pure beeswax and chemical-free. However, you do tend to loose some of the wonderful beeswax smell.