There are many different kinds of wax used in making candles including paraffin, beeswax, soy wax, gel wax, and palm wax. The two most common waxes used today are beeswax and paraffin, but soy wax is rising in popularity. Let's compare paraffin wax and beeswax.
Paraffin wax was discovered by Carl Reichenbach in 1830 and by the late 1800s this was the most common wax used in candle making. Liquid paraffin is known as mineral oil and has many cosmetic and medical purposes. Before the discovery of paraffin, natural waxes and fats were used for candles. In North America, the two most common waxes used were bayberry wax and beeswax. Around the world people used the available natural resources for waxes, such as the wax derived from the tallow tree in China. All these waxes have different traits. They burn at different rates and some are fragrant while others are not.
Beeswax is suitably named because it is taken from the hive of the honeybee. After the honey is removed the wax is cleaned by melting and straining of all debris. Beeswax has a golden color and a sweet fragrance that has made it a favorite for centuries. Sometimes beeswax will be bleached to make it white.
It burns very slowly and does not shrink as it hardens so beeswax does not need the topping off step when making a candle. The biggest deterrent to using beeswax for candles is that it is soft and sticky so it doesn't release well from the candle mold.
Paraffin wax is a by-product created in the petroleum industry. It is a white semi-transparent hard wax and is suitable for lots of different uses in candle making. It is not sticky like beeswax and therefore releases well from most molds. It has no scent at all and burns faster than beeswax. Paraffin has different melting points so it is important to purchase the correct melting point for the type of candle you are making. For example, container candles need paraffin with a melting point of 126-131 degrees Fahrenheit while candles created by overdipping need a melting point of 154-156 degrees Fahrenheit. The melting point of a wax is the temperature at which the wax becomes liquid. The flash point, or temperature at which the wax ignites, rises as the melting point does. There are many different grades of paraffin and basically you get what you pay for.
To sum up, you should choose your wax by considering the characteristics listed above and the appropriateness to the method or type of candle you are making.
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