What is the Best Wax for Candle Making?
We are often asked, “what is the best wax for candles?”, and the short answer is, “whichever wax YOU like the best!”. If you are somewhat new to candle making, you may feel overwhelmed by the number of waxes to choose from. You may be unclear on which wax type you should use and what the properties of each wax are. If you don’t have experience with waxes, it really is an impossible choice! Let’s clear that up today.
Soy Wax vs. Coconut Wax:
Soy is the most commonly used wax in candle making. The advantages of soy are that it’s readily available and generally inexpensive. Soy wax is also easier to wick than many other waxes. The disadvantage is that it tends to be challenging to work with. Soy is known for rough tops, sink holes, and ugly resets. Additionally, some makers struggle with fragrance oils not binding well with soy wax. This can cause fragrance oil seepage and inconsistent hot throw. Soy is an off-white, yellowish color, rather than a pure white, which is nether good nor bad. One exception to the problems related to soy wax is our ‘Soy Bliss’ luxury candle wax. ‘Soy Bliss’ is a complex blend of soy waxes and a small amount of food grade paraffin. This wax behaves like a coconut wax and you can read more about it here: https://sixteenseventeen.com/collections/our-waxes/products/soy-bliss
Coconut wax and coconut wax blends are gaining in popularity. The advantages of coconut wax are that it is incredibly easy to work with, and gives smooth tops with every pour, (sink holes and rough resets are never a problem with coconut wax). Coconut wax has excellent jar adhesion and is a slow burning wax, meaning that your candle will last longer. Perhaps most importantly, coconut wax provides an excellent hot throw, which makes it one of the best waxes to use if making a candle with the best scent throw, (hot throw), is your objective.
The disadvantages of coconut wax are that it is expensive and it can be difficult to wick. Coconut waxes require much smaller wicks than soy wax, and coconut wax users often follow wick guides for paraffin wax, as these waxes wick similarly.
Pure coconut wax, (called Coconut 1 and manufactured by Cargill), is too soft to use on its own. This wax is fantastic but needs to be blended with harder waxes to make a great candle. The coconut waxes you will see on the market today are blends of primarily coconut wax with some harder waxes added. If you want to work with a coconut wax, make sure you are purchasing a blend that is predominately coconut wax. You will want to avoid waxes like C 6, as this is 90% soy and 10% coconut, making this wax behave like a soy wax, not a coconut wax.
Anyone who is familiar with Sixteen Seventeen likely knows about our affinity for coconut waxes, however, we know many successful candle makers who love soy wax. Many soy users have a variety of tricks and tips for pouring soy candles that allow them smooth tops, such as using a heat gun, doing a pour-over, or wrapping candles to slow the cooling process. Although we prefer coconut wax, (and this is why we sell it!), we absolutely encourage all makers to try soy wax to see what works best for you.
Paraffin Wax vs. Soy Wax
Soy wax and paraffin wax are truly polar opposites. Food-grade paraffin wax is composed of vegetable oils, palm oil derivatives, synthetic resins and other materials. Food-grade, by definition, means that it can pass through the body undigested and contains no nutritional value. This does not suggest that you should grab a fork and eat your wax, (especially if it is fragranced!), but it is a comment on the “cleaner” versions of paraffin that are available today.
Paraffin is known for its excellent hot throw. Paraffin is often blended with other waxes to increase hot throw and to harden a soft wax, or soften a hard wax. Sounds contradictory, right? Paraffin, when added to coconut wax blends, will slightly harden the wax, giving the ultra-soft coconut wax more structure. When blended with soy, paraffin can provide a smoothness that is attractive. Paraffin is a bit translucent and has a glossy finish, making it a beautiful addition to many blends. Please make sure that you are working with a paraffin container blend, not a paraffin pillar blend.
Paraffin does have a few drawbacks, and those include shrinkage, faster burn times, and a generally bad rap. Paraffin will shrink more than other waxes, especially in cold temperatures. This can cause it to pull away from the jar, which is fine. It is certainly not going to affect the performance of the candle. Paraffin does burn faster than soy and coconut waxes. Some reports claim that paraffin burns between 30% and 50% faster than soy wax. Lastly, paraffin gets a bad rap because it is a petroleum by-product. Whether you feel comfortable working with paraffin is a personal decision that only you can make. At Sixteen Seventeen, we have no issue with paraffin and find it a welcome addition in small amounts to many wax blends. It’s important to note that if your wax contains paraffin, it is best not to call your blend a “natural wax”, (although we can make a strong argument that paraffin is natural, doing so is in violation of the common understanding of the word). You may, however, claim that your wax is vegan!
A word about Beeswax…
Beeswax is made from the honeycomb of bees. The melt point of beeswax is between 143F and 150F, making it a great wax to blend with. Beeswax can raise the overall melt point of your wax, harden the wax, and make wicking easier. When blending with beeswax, a little can go a long way. You might find that 5% to 10% is plenty. If you are working with very soft waxes, such as Coconut 1 or CCN 1, you may want to add up to 20% beeswax. Although beeswax is an all-natural wax, it cannot be called vegan.
So which wax is right for you?
It really depends on your candle making goals. If you want to become a true artisan, you will need to have familiarity with many waxes and understand their properties. If you just want to make some beautiful candles and get on with it, a pre-blended coconut wax is going to be your best friend. All of the waxes sold by Sixteen Seventeen are pre-blended luxury waxes and are one-pour. This means that you will get beautiful, smooth tops with little to no effort each time.
Which waxes are eco-friendly?
An argument can be made for and against every kind of wax out there regarding which is eco-friendliest. Regardless of which wax you use, someone, at some point, is going to tell you that your wax is the most horrible wax in the world and that you should not use it. When it comes to environmental concerns, we suggest that you do your own research and make the decision that best fits your ethics.
Whichever wax you choose, you will learn something from each one you work with. We suggest ordering small amounts of waxes to play with. Even if you absolutely hate the wax, you will still learn something about its properties and how it effects your candle. Intimate familiarity with waxes is one of the most important gifts you can give yourself as a candle maker. While it does take time and effort, testing waxes and learning their individual properties will make you a better, and more knowledgeable candle maker. In a market that is flush with sub-par candles, learning about waxes will allow you and your product to stand above the crowd!