The introduction of paraffin wax as a popular candle-making material in the 19th century.

The Introduction of Paraffin Wax as a Popular Candle-Making Material in the 19th Century

Candle-making has been a part of human history for thousands of years, with different materials being used to create light and warmth. However, in the 19th century, paraffin wax emerged as a popular material for making candles. Paraffin wax is a byproduct of petroleum, and its discovery transformed the candle-making industry.

Before the introduction of paraffin wax, candles were typically made from tallow, beeswax, or spermaceti. These materials had their limitations, including high cost and unpleasant odors when burned. Paraffin wax, on the other hand, was cheap, readily available, and odorless when burned. It also burned cleanly and evenly, making it a popular choice for candle-making.

The invention of the candle-making machine in the mid-19th century further increased the popularity of paraffin wax candles. The machine allowed for mass production of candles, making them more widely available and affordable to the general public.

Today, paraffin wax is still a popular material for making candles, although it has faced some criticism for being derived from non-renewable sources. However, its introduction in the 19th century revolutionized the candle-making industry and made candles more accessible to people around the world.

candle making history

The History of Candle Making

Candles have been used for centuries as a source of light, heat, and even as a form of currency. The history of candle making dates back to ancient times, with the earliest known candles made from whale fat by the Chinese during the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BCE). The first candles were not made for decorative purposes, but rather for practical use, such as lighting homes and temples.

Middle Ages

During the Middle Ages, candle making became more widespread throughout Europe. Tallow, a byproduct of beef and mutton fat, was the most common material used to make candles. However, beeswax candles were also popular among the wealthy due to their pleasant scent and clean-burning properties. In fact, the Catholic Church used beeswax candles exclusively for religious ceremonies.

Colonial America

When Europeans settled in America, they brought their candle making techniques with them. However, due to the lack of beeswax and the abundance of tallow, colonists primarily used tallow candles for lighting. The quality of tallow candles varied greatly, with some emitting a foul odor and others producing a dim light.

In the late 18th century, a new material was introduced to the candle making industry: spermaceti wax, derived from the head of the sperm whale. Spermaceti wax burned brighter and cleaner than tallow, making it a popular choice for candle makers. However, the use of spermaceti wax declined in the early 19th century due to the high cost and the decline in the whale population.

It wasn’t until the mid-19th century that paraffin wax, a byproduct of petroleum, was introduced as a popular candle-making material. Paraffin wax was cheaper and more readily available than beeswax or spermaceti wax, and it burned brighter and longer than tallow candles. The introduction of paraffin wax revolutionized the candle making industry and paved the way for the development of scented and decorative candles.


The history of candle making is a fascinating one, with new materials and techniques being introduced throughout the centuries. From the early days of whale fat candles to the introduction of paraffin wax in the 19th century, candles have played an important role in human history and continue to be a popular and versatile source of light and decoration today.

paraffin wax

The Discovery of Paraffin Wax

Paraffin wax, a popular material used in the production of candles, was discovered in the 19th century by two scientists: Michael Faraday and James Young. Faraday, a renowned British chemist, was the first to identify paraffin wax in the early 1800s. He discovered that paraffin wax was a byproduct of the oil distillation process.

James Young, a Scottish chemist, took Faraday’s discovery a step further. He realized that paraffin wax had a wide range of uses beyond just lubricating machinery. Young began to refine the wax and developed it into a high-quality fuel for lamps and candles.

Michael Faraday’s Discovery

Michael Faraday, who is best known for his work on electromagnetic induction, discovered paraffin wax in 1830. Faraday was studying the properties of oil and noticed that when he heated it, a waxy substance would form on the surface. He later discovered that this substance was a mixture of hydrocarbons, which he named paraffin wax.

Faraday’s discovery of paraffin wax was groundbreaking. It was the first time that a solid hydrocarbon had been identified, and it opened up new avenues for research into the properties and potential uses of this material.

James Young’s Refinement

James Young, a Scottish chemist and entrepreneur, was the first person to recognize the potential of paraffin wax as a fuel for lamps and candles. Young began working with the wax in the 1840s, refining it and developing new methods for its production.

Young’s work on paraffin wax revolutionized the candle-making industry. Prior to his discovery, candles were made primarily from beeswax or tallow, which were expensive and had a limited supply. Paraffin wax, on the other hand, was abundant and inexpensive, making it an ideal material for candle-making.

Today, paraffin wax is still widely used in the production of candles, and its discovery and refinement by Faraday and Young have had a lasting impact on the industry.

paraffin wax candle benefits

The Advantages of Paraffin Wax

Paraffin wax is a cost-effective and popular material used in candle-making since the 19th century. It is a petroleum by-product that is widely available and easy to use. Here are some of the advantages of using paraffin wax:


One of the main advantages of paraffin wax is its affordability. It is cheaper compared to other candle-making materials like beeswax or soy wax. This makes it a popular choice for candle makers who are just starting out or those who want to produce candles in bulk.


Another advantage of paraffin wax is that it is odorless. Unlike other candle-making materials, paraffin wax does not have a natural scent. This makes it a great choice for those who want to add their own fragrance to their candles without any interference from the wax itself.


Paraffin wax is also known for its clean-burning properties. It produces less soot and smoke compared to other candle-making materials, making it a healthier option for those who want to enjoy the benefits of candles without compromising their indoor air quality.

Overall, paraffin wax is a versatile and cost-effective material that has many advantages for candle-making. Its affordability, odorless properties, and clean-burning characteristics make it a popular choice among candle makers and enthusiasts alike.

paraffin wax candle

The Popularity of Paraffin Wax Candles

Paraffin wax candles have become a popular household item in the modern era. However, it was not until the Industrial Revolution that paraffin wax became widely available for candle-making. The introduction of paraffin wax as a candle-making material in the 19th century led to a revolution in the industry, making candles more affordable and accessible to the general public.

Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution brought about significant changes in the candle-making industry. Before the 19th century, candles were primarily made from tallow, beeswax, or spermaceti wax. These materials were expensive and not readily available, making candles a luxury item reserved for the wealthy. However, the discovery of paraffin wax in the mid-1800s changed everything.

The development of the petroleum industry during the Industrial Revolution made paraffin wax readily available and affordable. This led to a surge in the popularity of paraffin wax candles, which quickly became the most common type of candle used in households.


Paraffin wax is derived from crude oil and is widely available in many parts of the world. This has made it a popular choice for candle manufacturers due to its low cost and ease of use. Paraffin wax is also very versatile and can be blended with other waxes or additives to create a variety of candle types, such as scented or colored candles.

The availability of paraffin wax has also made it possible for small businesses and hobbyists to start making candles at home. This has led to an increase in the popularity of handmade candles, which are often made from natural and eco-friendly materials.

Advantages of Paraffin Wax Candles
Low cost
Easy to use
Widely available
Can be blended with other waxes or additives

Overall, the popularity of paraffin wax candles can be attributed to their availability, affordability, and versatility. These factors have made paraffin wax candles a staple in households and a popular choice for candle makers of all levels.

paraffin wax candle


In conclusion, the introduction of paraffin wax revolutionized the candle-making industry in the 19th century. The discovery of this material made candles affordable and accessible to the masses, and it quickly became the go-to material for candle makers around the world.

Paraffin wax’s popularity can be attributed to its low cost, ease of use, and versatility. Its ability to hold fragrance and color made it ideal for creating scented and decorative candles, which are still popular today.

Despite its widespread use, paraffin wax has faced criticism in recent years due to its petroleum-based origin and potential harmful effects on the environment and human health. This has led to the rise of alternative candle-making materials such as soy wax, beeswax, and coconut wax.

However, paraffin wax remains a popular choice for many candle makers and consumers due to its affordability and availability. As the candle-making industry continues to evolve, it will be interesting to see how paraffin wax and other materials will be used in the creation of new and innovative candle products.

  • Overall, the introduction of paraffin wax has had a significant impact on the candle-making industry and has helped to shape the way we use candles today.
  • Whether you prefer traditional paraffin wax candles or opt for more eco-friendly alternatives, there is no denying the important role that paraffin wax has played in the history of candle-making.
Low costPetroleum-based origin
Easy to usePotential harmful effects on environment and health
Ability to hold fragrance and color

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top