They say, “variety is the spice of life.” There are certainly a wide variety of candles available in the marketplace with very distinctive characteristics, due to the type of wax used. Tallow and animal fats were the main ingredients in many of the first candles used in human history, but they had an unpleasant smell and did not burn well. Today, we have much more choice available and each type has their own pros and cons to keep in mind when deciding what might be the perfect candle for you and your household or for a specific purpose.
- Made from natural material and renewable resources.
- Naturally smells like freshly mown grass.
- Traditionally popular around Christmas and New Years.
- Associations with money and abundance since colonial times in America, when the process of boiling the berries for wax was first developed.
- Expensive because it is very time consuming to make, and it takes a lot of berries.
- Candles break easily because the wax is naturally brittle, but beeswax or other plant-based waxes are commonly blended into it, solving that problem.
- Not suitable for big, bulky candles.
- Made from naturally renewable materials.
- Solid candles have a longer burn time than many other wax varieties, so it is particularly ideal for tea-lights.
- Brighter white flame, instead of the more common yellow of other wax varieties.
- Beautiful, natural scent, but essential oils are also sometimes added.
- Commonly blended with plant waxes as a hardening agent.
- Available in yellow, brown or white.
- Commonly used for hand sculpted candles, or rolled, for a natural look.
- Performs similarly to paraffin wax.
- Burns very cleanly and is almost drip-free.
- Sticky if spilled.
- Requires strong dyes if unbleached, but it is commonly left a natural brown or yellow colour too.
- Wick of 1 to 2 sizes larger are needed, compared to other waxes.
Cream & Gel Waxes
- Designed for jar and container candles.
- Gel can provide an interesting designer effect that is similar to water with bubbles.
- Cream candles are easy to make and scent.
- Good choice for banquets and special occasions.
- Gel candles, made from mineral oil and hydrocarbon base stock, are gelled with copolymers to give it a clear rubbery texture with different densities, depending on the amount of fragrance added.
- Clean and consistent burning with a higher melting point that means less soot and a smaller possibility for allergic reactions.
- Can carry more scent than paraffin.
- Not all fragrances are gel-safe.
- Gel burns hot and the heat can explode poorly made, thin glass containers.
- Extra safety precautions are necessary when working with gel.
- Harder than some other varieties, so it is frequently used in blends with soy and is excellent in hot weather.
- Has environmental advantages similar to vegetable waxes.
- Longest burning natural, vegetable-derived wax.
- Brighter flame than many other varieties.
- Virtually smoke and soot free with a cotton wick.
- Long lasting.
- More expensive than soy, and somewhat difficult to work with.
- Easily scented.
- Easy to work with.
- Perfect for beginning candle makers.
- Easy to dye and scent.
- Additives can create special effects like snowflake and crystal patterns.
- Good for a large number of candles and for decorative candles, not intended for burning.
- Comes in different melting points, for different purposes and types of candle making.
- Uses crude oil extraction by-products that might otherwise be discarded.
- Also comes in pelleted form, for easy melting.
- Most widely used type of candle worldwide.
- Additives can improve burn rate, clarity, and hardness for hot weather use.
- Made from petroleum, a nonrenewable resource.
- Not environmental.
- Not biodegradable.
- Special cleaners needed for spills or stains on carpets and fabrics.
- Can be an allergy hazard.
- Produces air pollutants and black soot.
- Easily scented, although essential oils may obviously raise the price.
- Moderate to inexpensive price that is closer to paraffin.
- Created from hydrogenated soybean oil, which is extremely renewable.
- Popularly grown in North America, so it supports our farmers and economy.
- Easier cleanup if spilled accidentally.
- A good choice for large numbers.
- Sometimes mixed with other plant waxes to make scent tarts.
- Produces very little soot and is toxin free in its pure form.
- Lower burn time, without artificial additives like stearic acid.
- Not as easy to scent or dye as paraffin, but pastels can be very pretty.
- Can be frustrating to candle making beginners.
- Can be an allergen hazard.
The most important factor when choosing what kind of wax or candle to buy is the quality of the ingredients. The scents and/or dyes used also have to be taken into consideration. Even the type of wick is an issue, because cotton burns more cleanly than lead, and they are safer as well. There are also many high quality blends too, formulated for specific purposes and finishes, that produce consistent results for candle making. Generally, the higher the quality, the smaller the amount of toxins, and there will be a better burn rate. Other than that, there are some reasons to wax lyrical about every type of wax!