SOY VERSUS PARAFFIN? THE GREAT CONTROVERSY!
For those of you who do not care about economics, politics or chemistry, let's cut to the chase. Here is why I prefer Soy Wax:
1. Soy can hold much more fragrance than can Paraffin. The Soy Blend formulation I created holds up to 12% Fragrance Oil and has a lovely, velvety top. Paraffin will not hold more than 6% Fragrance Oil. If you are buying candles for fragrance that should be reason enough to choose Soy.
2. My Soy Blend has a soft, creamy white color and a smooth texture. Paraffin is a hard, stark white which looks very industrial. (Think about the slabs of Paraffin often used to seal homemade preserves.)
3. Soy wax is much more biodegradable than is Paraffin. Soy Wax begins to break down in about 3 years. Paraffin does not. One of the uses for Paraffin is an an insulator for electrical transformers. Paraffin is long-lasting, durable stuff. Once in a landfill it will last for a very long time ~ at least for your lifetime and probably much longer.
4. Soy wax can be cleaned up with soap and water. (Try that with a Paraffin candle spill.) I always re-use my test containers. After most of the wax has been wiped out with a paper towel and a bit of soap, I simply run the containers through my dishwasher. They come out sparkling clean.
5. Soy Wax is made from Soy Beans grown in American. I like to support American workers whenever possible. Paraffin is a by-product of petroleum refinement. While refining is done in America (yeah!) much of the oil comes from other other countries. And, of course, oil refineries can cause air pollution.
IF SOY WAX IS SO GREAT COMPARED TO PARAFFIN, WHY DOESN'T EVERYONE SHIFT TO SOY WAX?
Ah, this is where the unpleasantness of economics comes into play. Paraffin is cheaper to buy and easier for candle makers to work with. That means that candle makers can make candles faster and more cheaply with Paraffin than with Soy. Since Paraffin lasts indefinitely, (please note that I not say that fragrance lasts indefinitely), the big boys here in the US and China can make a bazillion candles which can last for years in storage.
Paraffin candles can look good for many years even after the fragrance has faded. On the other hand, Soy Wax candles start to darken or yellow after about 6 months even though the fragrance is still good. Retail stores don't like this but it is good for you as the consumer. You can tell by looking at a Soy candle if it has started to age. With a Paraffin candle, who knows? Once you buy it and take it home to burn, you have already spent your money and the retail store is happy. Even if you never buy that brand again, you will probably buy another scented candle hoping to find a really good one.
POLITICS Paraffin is a by-product of oil refinery. The refineries have to find some use for that waxy sludge left behind once all the liquid petrochemicals have been extracted. As mentioned, Paraffin is used an electrical insulator. It is also used to coat foods such as dill pickles, cheese, and apples. Heck, you have probably munched on those big, red Paraffin wax lips at some time in your life. While Soy and Beeswax are gaining ground in the cosmetics industry, Paraffin is still used in lipstick and creams. That wax mask at your local beauty salon is likely to be Paraffin. They could use Beeswax, but Paraffin is much cheaper to buy.
The candle business is a good size - over $200 billion are spent each year in the US alone. Both the oil refining industry and the big boy candle makers have active lobbies to ensure that their products continue to be used.
CHEMISTRY Many Soy Candle makers claim that a properly wicked Soy candle produces no soot. That is not true. Just look at the wick which burns black. We all know that Paraffin candles produce black soot. You can see it just above the flame and when the candle is extinguished. Paraffin candle makers claim that Soy candles produce soot (which is true) but you cannot see it because it is white (not true). Soot is caused by the incomplete combustion of the carbon in the wax. You have to wonder if the people who say Soy candles produce white soot ever took chemistry. Carbon is black. Think of coal, charcoal, lampblack (a pigment made from carbon) and gunk that builds up inside your oven. In truth, Soy candles produce soot as well. However, it is so much less than Paraffin candles that it is nearly invisible.
As part of the "Candle" experience we all expect light to be produced. Paraffin candles burn brighter and hotter than Soy. Paraffin candles are great when the lights go out! However, if you simply want the ambiance of a flickering candle, along with a pleasant fragrance, Soy candles provide plenty of light and so do without producing as much heat. This is especially nice if you like to burn candles in the summer.
OKAY, IS THERE SOMETHING GOOD ABOUT PARAFFIN CANDLES?
1. They are inexpensive and readily available
2. They last a long time. Keep some cheap ones around in your emergency supplies.
3. They take dark and intense colors very well, much better than Soy candles. This makes Paraffin candles very good when you don't care about fragrance and just want candles to match your decor.
4. Paraffin is hard and is perfect for artistic, sculptured candles.
...Last but not least, you are helping to use up the sludge left over from petroleum refining!
Smiles from French Flower Farm