There are numerous types of candle wax.  This wax guide will help you decide which wax is best for the specific type of candle you are making.
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Choose The Right Wax For Your Homemade Candles

You can’t make candles without this ingredient – the wax. Wax comes in a variety of materials that have similar properties but vary widely in chemical composition. One thing they all have in common is thermo plasticity, which means they are solid at room temperature and become liquid when heated. They also share the following traits:

  • Solid at room temperature
  • Combustible
  • Low reactivity
  • Smooth texture

Waxes come in several types

Wicks for Beeswax Candles

Beeswax is one of nature’s beautiful products. It is secreted from the glands on the abdomen of the worker honey bee. The wax is chewed by the bees and formed into a plastic state then placed into the honeycomb. Once the honeycombs are full of honey, they are collected and the honey is separated from it. The combs are then soaked in boiling water and filtered to remove solid impurities. The beeswax separates as a layer on the surface of the hot water.

Beeswax has many desirable benefits including its natural, sweet smell and its smokeless and dripless characteristics. Beeswax also has a higher melting point then other waxes, which means the candle burns more slowly. Also, melted beeswax has very little shrinkage when cooling which means that the liquid volume is close or equal to its dry weight. Because beeswax does not shrink much, extra care needs to be taken to prevent it sticking in the molds.

Soy Bean Wax

Soy wax is the latest craze in candle making. Sales have triples in the past years few years. Several factors make soy the fastest growing wax on the market today. Pure, 100% natural, soybean is made from renewable resources and produces a clean burning, non-toxic candle, with significantly less soot that is safe around children and pets. It burns longer than paraffin wax and helps the American farmer. It is very easy to work with because it comes in an opaque, creamy off-white solid in flake form rather than the slab wax of its paraffin counterpart. It also is self-releasing for molded candles (molds my need “conditioning” before use).

Larger wicks may be necessary due to the burning characteristics of soy wax. Use at least one size larger than recommended for paraffin based candles. Trim your wicks to 1/8” from candle surface for best burning results and keep trimmed as the candle burns.

Even though soy wax can be used with most types of dyes and fragrances, it doesn’t quite give the scent throw of paraffin wax. Even so, many people consider soy wax an acceptable alternative because it is a natural and cleaner burning wax. Some soy waxes are so pure you could melt them down and sauté veggies for dinner!

Choose The Right Wax For Your Homemade Candles

Crystallizing Wax

Crystallizing wax is an organic, renewable, earth friendly palm wax. This amazing wax is extremely easy to use and produces candles that have a stunning, frost-like appearance. The characteristics of crystallizing wax include:

  • Sold in granular form for easy pouring

  • Single pour resulting in a level surface with little to no shrinkage upon cooling

  • Exceptional container adhesion for container candles

  • You can use standard size wicks with almost any type of dye or fragrance.

Paraffin Wax

Paraffin is the most widely used wax in the candle making industry. It is a petroleum based wax that is available in a wide variety of melting points from 120 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Paraffin waxes are commonly identified by melt point and oil content. Typically lower melt point paraffin waxes (130 °F) work well for container candles and higher melt points (145 °F) work well for free standing candles and dipping tapers. In the middle (139 °F) is best suited for molded candles.

The second method to characterizing paraffin waxes is by their oil content. The lower the melting point of the paraffin, the more oil there is in the wax.

  • Low melting point: 3-5% oil
  • Medium melting point: 1-3% oil
  • High melting point: less than 0.5% oil

Use this guide:

  • Container candles: Low melting point
  • Molded candles: Medium melting point
  • Taper candles: Highest melting point

Gel Wax

Fairly new to the candle industry, gel wax is used to make clear, see through candles. Often, these are the candles with a theme that usually have some type of objects embedded in the clear wax. It’s one of the simplest and most enjoyable waxes to use. Merely heat it, add color, add scent and pour. That easy! You can always add objects to the gel as long as they will not burn (typically made of glass or porcelain). With a little creativity and imagination, these candles are limitless. They make great theme candles for holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, fishing, hunting, camping, baby showers, dinner parties, summer, winter, and fall themes… the list goes on.

Some Tips When Working With Gel Wax

Not every fragrance oil is compatible with gel wax. Some will cause the wax to get cloudy while others will not properly bind in the wax. In order to work properly with gel wax, the flash point of a fragrance oil must be at least 170 degrees Fahrenheit.

Most gel waxes are clear until a color is added. Some fragrance oils are tinted, so when creating a clear candle, or even a colored candle, make sure the color you are mixing with the oil will not affect it in a way you don’t want it to. You can experiment with a small amount.

You also might notice gel candles have a tendency to produce tiny air bubbles in the wax. There are a few methods to removing or controlling the amount of bubbles:

Avoid excessive stirring

High heat reduces the air bubbles

After you have added any dye and fragrance oil to your gel wax, bring the heat up to about 225°F, this will reduce the amount of air bubbles.

If you still have air bubbles after you have poured your candles, set them in the oven on about 200°F until all the bubbles disappear, or you can even set them outside in direct sunlight.

Remove the Wax from Primed Wicks

If you use a wick that has been primed (wax coated), which a good number of wicks on the market are, then you’ll want to take off the wax from the wick before placing it in the candle. If you don’t do this, your gel candles will appear cloudy throughout the candle, all around the wick. To remove the wax from the wicks, arrange them on a cookie sheet lined with several paper towels. Place them in the oven on “keep warm” for just a couple minutes. The wax will melt off the wick and now they are no longer primed. But we’re not finished yet! You’ll need to prime them again, because if you place them in the gel wax as they are they will produce air bubbles that can be trapped in the many strands of the wicking. You’ll prime them this time with the gel wax. Before you add any fragrance or color to your gel wax, dip the wicks in the wax to coat them and let dry. Now they are ready for use in your gel candles!

Get more candle information from the National Candle Association.

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