Who doesn’t love to snuggle up under the warm glow of a scented candle?
But while candles are a cheap and cheerful way to make your home look (and smell) oh-so-cozy, it’s crucial to know that they’re not all created equal.
Some scented candles have a heavenly fragrance but may be hazardous to your health and home. And that’s why you should always opt for plant wax candles when you can.
So, what makes plant wax candles so special, you may ask?
Well, to help you understand why plant wax should be in your go-to candles whenever you want to get you glow on, read on for the low down on all the types of candles out there - and why plant wax ones are best.
You might not know, but most candles are made from paraffin wax unless otherwise stated.
These paraffin products are generally cheaper than most other candles and come in all shapes and sizes.
But before you celebrate by lighting up your 12-armed candelabra table centrepiece, here’s the deal with that: Paraffin wax is a petroleum by-product of crude oil that is bleached through a chemical process before softening into its mouldable shape.
And as we’re talking about petroleum waste here, it won’t surprise you to know that paraffin candles give off black soot as well as burning super-hot. That means it’s important to be very careful after lighting them as spilling some of this hot wax onto your skin will easily scorch it.
A further thumbs down for paraffin candles is the fact that they only use synthetic fragrance oils. Essential oils, which are concentrated extracts from natural plants and typically used in vegetable waxes, don’t mix with this cheaper type of wax.
And while synthetic fragrances may smell OK, they are known to give off VOCs, a group of chemicals emitted as gases. And while not all VOCs are bad, in paraffin candles that group includes low levels of formaldehyde and benzene.
Add to this the fact that paraffin wax is non- biodegradable and not made from a renewable source, and there’s less and less reason for you to roll out the dough for these candles.
Animal Fat (Tallow) Candles
Back in bygone days, candles were primarily made using animal fat. Paraffin and then (thankfully!) plant-based waxes began to take over, pushing tallow candles to the back of the shelf. Yet many DIY candle-makers still use it as their base product.
But while tallow candles are definitely a step up from paraffin and do not pollute the air or emit any harmful gases, the fact that they’re made from animal fat means they’re not vegetarian or vegan friendly.
Additionally, some tallow can give off a terrible odour – especially if it isn’t rendered completely or has been contaminated by moisture. And the fact that it’s a much softer wax than others, means it can be a bit on the greasy side too.
One of the big problems in the past with tallow candles is that they burned quickly – though many candle-crafters today solve this problem by mixing the animal fat wax with beeswax.
Beeswax, which is the wax that honeybees secrete to mould their honeycombs, is a hugely popular ingredient in many home and lifestyle products. And no wonder! The nutritive and healing properties of this naturally-made wax are phenomenal.
In addition, when used in candles they burn cleaner than paraffin versions and can really help in purifying the air. Being denser than veggie wax, they can also last longer than your average soy wax candle.
One of the downfalls with beeswax candles, though, is that they’re very difficult to add fragrance to, having their own honey-toned aroma - And that may be a problem for folk who favour scented candles.
But let’s get down to what the real issue at hand is here.
But is it Ethical?
It’s no secret that honeybees (the buzzers who make the wax) are in crisis. Bee populations are declining and because they play an important role as pollinators, that’s bad news for everyone reliant on natural food supplies. So, in other words, when we buy something containing beeswax we’re contributing to their overall decline.
Here’s another grey area around beeswax candles and other products – Along with the question marks over the sustainability and ethics of humans harvesting beeswax for products, the jury’s still out on whether doing this is cruelty-free.
Besides the process itself which can damage the bees and their hive, the simple fact is bees make wax to build comb (the structure of their hives) and therefore kinda need their wax a little more than we do.
So, with all that said, if you are going to buy a candle made with beeswax, please do try and look out for products that use ethically-sourced wax (which means the farmers leave plenty of wax and honey in the hive for the bees.)
Plant Wax Candles
This brings us neatly to plant wax candles. Plant wax candles are those made from natural, vegetable ingredients like coconut wax, rapeseed wax, or soy wax.
The benefits of these little flame-huggers are that they are smokeless, sootless and don’t release toxins into the air.
Being made from renewable, plant sources means that most are classed as environmentally friendly and, unlike beeswax, 100% vegan.
Superb Strong Scent
Vegetable wax candles tend to be mixed with essential oils, which is why the scent can be so strong and heady. But another reason for the full fragrance is the fact that the melting point of these candles is typically low, enabling them to burn for a much longer time than most other candle types. The large pool of liquid wax that then forms around the wick, helps to enhance the aroma as it emanates through the room.
And while they might be pricier than your average paraffin candle, the fact that they can burn between 35-50% longer than their more toxic counterparts means that you’re getting more value for your money in the long run.
Vegetable-based candles are usually made of one of the below plants:
- Blended (like our Brontë BedtimeTuberose and Jasmine candle).
By blending different plant waxes together, you’re benefitting from the best of both waxes.
One final thing to look out for when you’re buying candles for your home is what material is used for the wicks. Wick toxicity has been a big concern in the past. Many candle wicks have contained lead or metal, which of course, can led to poisoning if inhaled.
So, always check that the wick in your candle is made from a natural and clean-burning ingredient such as cotton (like our Brontë Bedtime candle, wood or hemp).
Book fans and candle lovers! Check out our environmentally Brontë Bedtime Tuberose and Jasmine candle here