Between coconut wax, beeswax and the core of this article, paraffin wax, it’s been established that candlemaking doesn’t just depend on one type of wax. Different waxes have their advantages and disadvantages but you know it’s bad when the disadvantages are harmful to the health of humans, and the environment.
Surprisingly, not many know that it’s not just one wax type being used to make all the candles we see in the stores. This read has everything you need to know about paraffin wax. Well, it definitely has everything you didn’t know before so, pay attention and try to get the most out of it!
WHAT IS PARAFFIN WAX?
Paraffin is a product of petroleum. It is a tasteless, flammable, waxy solid and it consists of a mixture of saturated hydrocarbons. Hydrocarbons are compounds that contain only Carbon and Hydrogen. This whitish solid is used in the making of candles, polishes, cosmetics, a range of products, really. It can also be used for lubrication, insulation in electricals, in spa treatments for skin softening and to relieve muscle and joint pain.
Disadvantages are often accompanied by advantages and this means that paraffin wax has its benefits. It is very useful in therapeutic and cosmetic scenes. Paraffin wax’s therapeutic benefits include increased blood flow, relaxed muscles and joints, body pain alleviation(especially in cases of arthritis and other disease-induced mobility problems). Its cosmetic benefits include its emollient activity, its ability to act as a moisturizer and help make the skin soft.
Before paraffin can be made into usable wax, it has to be bleached and deodorized to make it suitable. But, how suitable does all of that really make it?
WHY IS PARAFFIN WAX BAD?
As we’ve seen from the section before this, paraffin wax does have its good sides but, with the toxins in it, the bad definitely outweighs the good. Most of it stems from the fact that paraffin has toxins in it and some of the reasons this wax type is bad, include:
- The Fumes: Paraffin wax is made up of hydrocarbons so, when it’s burned, it releases benzene and toluene which are carcinogens. Carcinogens are cancer-causing agents. Since paraffin is originally a constituent of petroleum, the fumes from its burning have the same toxic strength as the fumes from burning diesel or any other constituent of petroleum. That’s bad, like really bad because once these fumes get into the lungs of humans, it’s downhill from there. This is a problem, especially in the case of children, since their lungs are not so strong yet. Paraffin poisoning is actually a real issue and it can occur through inhalation of smoke and fumes.
- Environmental Impact: This is important too. Petroleum is a non-renewable source of energy and it is the source of paraffin wax. What does this mean for the environment? It means that it will have to give more and more until it has nothing left. So, by harvesting paraffin, the environment is being harmed and by benign paraffin wax, the same is happening. Let’s not forget that all petroleum-related emissions contribute to the ever-growing greenhouse problem too. When it comes to paraffin wax, the bad really does outshine the good.
- Flammability: Also, the components of paraffin make it highly flammable, another cause for worry. If you’re wondering if a paraffin wax candle can really just light up, wick, wax body and all, the answer is yes. It can Paraffin has a flashpoint of 199°C when there are no additives in it. With additives like the fragrances used in candlemaking in it, it has a flashpoint of 249°C. The flashpoint is the temperature at which the wax will ignite and is generally influenced by the additives in the wax(hardeners inclusive). The flammability of paraffin poses a real problem, especially in the manufacturing process. No matter how careful you are while melting it, you never know what’ll trigger the wax and start a fire. If this does happen, don’t try to put out the fire by pouring water over it. It’ll just increase the burn rate. Try covering the pot with a lid and try using a more natural wax next time.
ALTERNATIVES TO PARAFFIN WAX
The good news is, there are alternatives, options. If you want to be an earth-friendly, health-loving person and stay away from paraffin wax, here are some options for you.
- Soy Wax: This is a plant-based wax made from the oil of soybeans. The beans are harvested, cleaned and cracked. The husks are removed and the product is rolled into flakes. The soy wax flakes are used in the making of candles by melting them into the oil that is the candle base. The oil is also hydrogenated to turn unsaturated fatty acids saturated and harden it. The husks are used to feed some animals so, nothing is wasted. Why exactly is soy wax better than paraffin wax? Unlike its highly flammable counterpart, soy wax is renewable, biodegradable and burns cleaner. Unfortunately, it does have its bad sides too. It contributes to deforestation, another act that harms the environment. Deforestation can lead to erosion, pollution and a bunch of problems for terrestrial, arboreal and aquatic life. The good thing, as long as more soybeans are being planted as they’re being harvested, there should be no problem.
- Beeswax: This is a friendlier option. Beeswax is made from the honeycomb of the bees. It has a yellow-brown colour due to the presence of pollen oils in it. This wax is 100% natural and is harvested alongside honey. It is a renewable source. The best place to get beeswax from is the local beekeeper who pays attention to the care of the bees. This ensures the sustainability of the source. Beeswax candles burn clean, involving no smoke or soot. They are the most healthy type of candles to burn in your home as they’re super safe for your lungs and those of kids. Burning these candles can even improve the quality of the air in your home!