Paraffin wax is the most popular kind of wax today. It is so popular that it is used in more than 90% of all candles. Most people do not even know that there are different types of wax. It so dominates the market and majority of candle making guides are based on its use. Paraffin wax is gotten from petroleum and has gone commercial since the 19th century. It has no odour, no taste and is white.
Also, there are types of paraffin wax, based on melt point. Low melt point paraffin wax melts at less than 130°F. They are used for making container candles. The melting point of the medium ones is between 130 and 150°F. These ones are very common and are used to make standalone pillar candles. Far less common than the other two is the high melt point paraffin wax with melt point above 150°F and is meant for special uses. In terms of packaging, it comes in flakes and block form. Some companies make it in pellet form too, like small blocks. Any of these types are easy to use but blocks of paraffin wax must be broken before heating for quicker melting.
Paraffin wax had been rejected by some who argue that it is harmful for the environment (since it is gotten from petroleum). These ones have gone for natural alternatives such as soy wax and so on. But paraffin leads still the pack among all waxes. And it is not a bad option.
Advantages of Paraffin Wax
There are several good sides to paraffin wax. Most of these benefits stem directly from its popularity.
Availability and Affordability
Paraffin wax is very easy to find and cheap. The making of paraffin wax is part of the petroleum refining process. As such, it requires almost no special equipment to be made. Unlike other types of wax, like beeswax, paraffin wax is readily available and this has made it the cheapest of all waxes. Indeed, its massive popularity can be attributed to the low cost. It is especially favoured by DIY candle makers who are working on a low budget.
Ease of Use
Paraffin wax is so easy to work with and is the perfect wax for beginners. Only few complications can arise in making candles with paraffin wax. So for beginners, beeswax is absolutely recommended.
There are lots of information concerning paraffin wax for candle making. Even online, there are more guides with specific instructions on how to work with paraffin wax than for other types of candle wax. This is as a result of its popularity and contributes to its ease of use.
Mixing with Additives
The most common additives in candle making are candle dyes and fragrance oils. Paraffin wax holds colour well and can be easily dyed. Also, not all fragrance oils work with all kinds of wax but paraffin wax works well with almost any fragrance oil. This is because there are even many fragrance oils made specifically for use with paraffin wax.
It can be used to make almost any type of candle. Paraffin wax generally has a high melt point than other types of candles and so burns at a higher temperature. This means it can be used to make container candles in jars, standalone pillar and taper candles, votive candles and so on.
Disadvantages of Paraffin Wax
Paraffin wax may be popular, and cheap but it sure has some negative sides to it also.
Claims that paraffin wax is unsafe has been spoken about over the years. Whether this is true or not has no general consensus among scientists. But remember that it is made from petroleum which is known to be harmful to the environment for the release of toxins into the air. So this may not be far from the truth. This single fact has given way to the rise of vegetable waxes such as soy wax, palm wax and so on. Even if paraffin wax is not actually as harmful as many have claimed, it is much better to use natural alternatives.
Another negative side of using paraffin wax for candle making is that it leaves black soot residue while the candle is burned. This is not very nice especially as most candles are used for decoration. This fact also is used to argue that the wax is not safe for the environment. The reality is that there is no candle that can be said to be totally soot-free. But the soot that comes with paraffin wax candles seems to be more so other wax types offer cleaner burn.
High melt point
The high melt point of paraffin wax means that it can be used to make various types of candles. But it can be a pain too because this means more precaution would have to be taken in making candles with it as there is risk of serious injuries in case it should spill on one's body. Of course, the fact that one is working with hot wax means safety precautions must be taken. But who would not want to work under lower risk of harm?
Paraffin wax is known to work well with several types of fragrance oils but it is not known to throw scent as well as some other types of wax. Soy wax beats it in this regard. This is another disadvantage that is a result of a higher melt point than others. Paraffin wax lacks the gradual, even scent throw of soy wax since the latter burns more slowly.
Paraffin is the most popular wax today, but may not be in years to come. The world is generally moving away from non-renewable sources of fuel like petroleum to renewable ones. Since paraffin gotten from petroleum, this would definitely affect its production as it means the wax would get more scarce and expensive in years to come. And besides that even, there are new, better petroleum refining techniques that leave little or no paraffin as residue.