Wax is a very broad term for a wide variety of materials that have
similar properties but vary widely in chemical composition. One characteristic
that 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 characteristics; solid at room temperature,
combustible, low reactivity, and smooth texture. Waxes can be broken
down into several categories for candle making.
By far the most widely used wax in the candlemaking industry is
paraffin wax, which is refined from crude oil. The crude oil is
filtered and put through various complex chemical processes to create
the three major petroleum waxes Paraffin, Microcrystallines and
Waxes consist mostly of straight chain hydrocarbons and
are available in a wide variety of melting points ranging from
120 to 160 degrees farenheit. Paraffin waxes are mainly identified
in the candle industry by melt point and oil content. Typically
lower melt point paraffin waxes are used for container candles
and higher melt points for free standing candles. Paraffin waxes
are characterized further by their oil content. Paraffin waxes
that have 3-5% oil contents are referred to as scale waxes, 1-3%
semi- refined, and fully refined paraffin waxes have oil contents
less than .5%.
Microcrystallines waxes consist mainly of a mixture
of saturated hydrocarbons; it has a much finer crystalline structure
than paraffin wax. It
typically has a very low oil content, high melt
point, and has different physical properties. Microcrystallines
are typically used in the candle industry as an
Petrolatum is a homogenous mixture of oil and microcrystalline
wax. Petrolatum is very soft in nature and is
typically used in container candles to help with adhesion to the container walls.
Used in larger percentages it can help minimize shrinkage
in container waxes.
is derived from the glands on the abdomen of the honey worker bee.
The wax is chewed by the bees and formed into a plastic state and
put into the honeycomb. Once the honeycombs are full of honey they
are gathered and the honey is separated. The combs are then soaked
in boiling water and filtered to remove solid impurities. The molten
crude beeswax is then allowed to separate as a layer on the surface
of the hot water.
Waxes that are derived from some
part of a plant, in some cases it is the leaves, stems
or fruit seeds. Vegetable waxes are mainly gylcerides of
fatty acids. Today’s market offers many different types
of vegetable waxes for candle making.
Palm Wax is ultimately derived from the hydrogenation of
palm oil that is taken from palm trees.
Soy Wax is produced from the hydrogenation of soybean oil
that is ultimately derived from soybean
Materials that are of “waxy” appearance and
properties manufactured by chemical synthesis. Usually used in
candle making as wax modifiers, they typically have
much higher melt points.
These are new to the candle
industry. They are similar to traditional waxes
in the fact that they are derived from hydrocarbon based stock.