If like me, you are interested in sustainability and replacements for traditional products, you will certainly be interested not only in just sustainability but also in the impact on our bodies. When I wanted to switch from using regular candles I decided to research how different candles burnt to understand their effect on the environment and of course our health.
Like all candles soy candles do not burn clean however when compared to candles made from other materials such as paraffin wax, soy candles do burn cleaner. Soy candles are not derived from petroleum and therefore there is no petrocarbon soot emitted which is generally considered to be more harmful
Usually, sustainable alternatives are also healthier, so let’s find out if that’s the case with various types of candles including those made from soy.
Why are Traditional Candles Considered ‘not so healthy’?
The majority of candles are made of paraffin (the same wax used to manufacture crayons), soy, or beeswax.
Over the years there have been several news articles that have discussed the dangers of paraffin wax, and numerous amounts of research have attempted to understand whether burning those candles is particularly harmful. The majority of these studies have been inconclusive or have not demonstrated that candle fumes are dangerous to humans.
Furthermore, all components used to make candles are approved by global associations such as the International Fragrance Association (IFRA).
When looking for risks of burning candles most of us focus on the wax itself but for years it was the wicks that were the concern.
Candles made before the 1970s contained lead wicks. Wicks made from lead helped to keep the wicks upright however burning lead is poisonous. Fortunately for us, the Environmental Protection Agency prohibited all lead candle wicks in 2003, and no candle has had a dangerous wick since.
Based on the research I did, none of the candle types can do significant harm to humans or the environment at this time, but certain candle types can emit more soot than others.
Let’s take a look at three examples.
1. Paraffin Candles
Paraffin wax was discovered in the 1800s and has since been a mainstay of the candle industry. Most candles sold today are comprised of paraffin wax, which is not the safest substance to inhale as it burns.
Paraffin wax is petroleum-based and is produced using crude oil, a fossil fuel. Crude oil is called a ‘natural’ product because, at its molecular level, it is a mixture of hydrocarbons generated from decomposing plants and animals.
Important to note though that It is also categorized as a clean-burning fuel source because it meets the various regulatory standards in this regard.
However, many people believe that, while paraffin wax is extensively used in candle making, it is not the best option, especially when compared to soy wax.
One of the main disadvantages of paraffin wax is that it leaves a sooty residue. Emissions from paraffin candles can accumulate on walls, ruining room decor including the discolouring of ceilings.
These are vital indicators that paraffin wax candles do not produce a clean burn.
Furthermore, there are claims that carcinogenic substances are contained in paraffin candles, which is obviously concerning.
2. Beeswax Candles
While not as popular as scented candles, beeswax candles are natural and considered clean-burning. Beeswax has been used to make candles since ancient times and is even said to purify the air.
Beeswax emits negative ions, which bind to positive ions (such as those found in most contaminants) in the air, neutralizing them and purifying the air you breathe.
Beeswax candles may assist to purify the air and prevent problems such as allergies. Beeswax candles help remove odours from the air rather than simply masking them with a beautiful perfume.
Beeswax candles have a clean, wonderful honey aroma, despite the fact that they do not come in a variety of flavours. Furthermore, most candles of this type emit very low amounts of smoke or soot.
Of course from a vegan perspective or simply caring for nature, we know that the wax to make the candles is produced as a consequence of bees pollinating millions of flowers, consuming several pounds of honey, and constructing a hive.
With bees being under threat anyway, making these types of candles may endanger some bee colonies depending on how the beeswax is gathered.
3. Soy Candles
One of the primary benefits of soy wax is that it produces much less soot when burned than paraffin, allowing you to enjoy a cleaner burn.
Furthermore, soy candles do not leave the sooty residues associated with paraffin candles, which are typically left on the sides of the candle holder.
Soot is produced by the incomplete burning of carbon-containing fuels, and in the case of paraffin candles, this is caused by petroleum. Because soy wax candles are not derived from petroleum, there is no petrocarbon soot to be concerned about.
This is an important note because some recent studies have shown that the petrocarbon soot from paraffin candles should be considered a harmful airborne agent and this is now one of the many reasons why people are switching out their paraffin candles for soy wax candles.
These studies have not seen much traction and so today, both paraffin and soy wax candles must pass several tests and meet specific consumer criteria to be sold on the retail market which provides at least some kind of comfort.
One last point about soy candles, avoid candles made from a soy blend. Sometimes candle makers produce candles made from a blend of materials and these types of candles can burn very differently than those made from 100% soy.
If you’re not sure how to tell if a candle is made from soy then it’s worth reading my other article “How to Tell if a Candle is Soy – It’s Simple When You Know How” after this.
So, in summary, all candles no matter what they are made from will always produce a certain level of soot and therefore if having a candle that has a cleaner burn is important to you (which it should be!) then you really need to swap out paraffin candles for soy.
And of course, soy candles come with all kinds of other benefits, one of the most important being some good eco-friendly credentials.
If you’ve not made the switch yet then I would recommend it. Be aware that soy candles can be slightly more expensive but so worth it – enjoy!