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February 01, 2006

The Role of the Additive


The Role of the Additive.

The other day I was paging through some of our files and found copies of older editions of our catalog and could not resist reviewing the content. It was interesting experience because in some instances it looks like not much has changed in the candle industry except for color photos, more fragrances and, naturally, the prices.

However, one section that really caught my eye was the myriad of additives that we used to carry. While additives are still a big part of the candle industry, the introduction of blended waxes has diminished the need for individual candle makers to use additives. No doubt that blended waxes have been a tremendous addition to the candle industry, but for many manufacturers blending their own formulation has always and will always be the way to go.

In the beginning developing a wax formulation is a little bit of art, science and personal taste. The end result in most instances is something slightly different than what blended waxes can offer and allows you to continually improve your candle.

Check out our current selection of additives at

Because we do not wish to get to “scientific,” I have broken the additives into three separate types. The first type of additive that is on the market is what generically we call Polymers. Simply put this family of additives is synthetic polyethylene (sounds scientific doesn’t it?). By far the most popular additive in this family would be the Vybars, 103, 260 and 343. These patented products developed by Baker-Hughes are without a doubt one of the best additives to use in candle making. In smaller percentages they can dramatically improve the look and performance of the candle. The vybars improve the opacity, hardness and fragrance retention and even color dispersion all by using less than 1% in most instances.

The second additive is Microcrystalline waxes. I was going to start to describe how these waxes have a higher amount of isoparaffinic hydrocarbons and naphthenic hydrocarbons but then I remembered that I was not going to get to technical. Simply stated, microcrystalline waxes are used to harden the wax and allow more fragrance to be used. In most applications when using the Micro 180 a 4-5% usage level is common to improve the performance of the wax. With the Mico LMP it can also help with the adhesion in containers when used at a level of 4-5%.

The third category is what we technically call “Everything else.” Examples of this category include Stearic Acid, Petrolatum, Fisher Trop and for the purpose of this article Beeswax, Soy and Palm could all be considered additives. Using these products at the right levels can really alter the appearance and performance of the candle. For each type of candle made the additive and percentage used will change.

For container candles, petrolatum is a common additive to assist on adhesion to the container and reduce shrinkage, usage levels vary anywhere from 10%-50%. In pillars stearic is a common additive to assist with release from the mold. Some manufacturers will use beeswax in both containers and pillars to improve the performance of the candle.
As the popularity of soy wax continues to grow using these waxes with paraffin waxes is always a popular trend.

What we have stated on many occasions one of the unique features of candle making is that there really is not a right or wrong candle formulation if the candle can be made safely and can perform properly.

While blended waxes are here to stay, I just wanted to remind everyone that there are many opportunities to develop a unique formulation that would be your very own.


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I just wanted to thank everyone who has sent me inquiries and hope that you find my responses timely and complete. For those not familiar, we also sponsor a site that has a plethora of information on candle making including marketing and selling your candles.

When I review the feature article I noticed one key additive area that was not included and one in which I get a lot of the same basic question.

Do I need to add UV’s to my candles?
The answer is a resounding yes. Ultra Violet light Absorbers (UVLA) were designed to reduce the fading of candles that are displayed in natural or artificial light. Think of them as sunscreen for your candles. Ugly fading (photo degradation) can be caused by a variety of factors, but nearly always can be avoided by the addition of UVLA. Usage levels vary greatly depending upon application, but a general rule of thumb for large batch lots is to use about 45 grams per 100 pounds of wax. Smaller batches use 1/2 teaspoon to 10 lbs of wax. Some testing will be required for different colors to maximize effectiveness. Some candle makers view UVLA as an unnecessary increase in the cost of materials while others realize the value of UVLA as an extremely simple way to increase the shelf life of their candles. On average, UVLA only costs about 4 or 5 cents per gram, which equates to less than $2.25 per 100 pounds of wax (just over 2 cents per one pound candle). You can even announce the added value protection on your label and charge an extra 50 cents per candle. That is over 2000% mark-up on investment!


February 2006

Grubby Candles

One candle that continues to be popular is commonly referred to as a grubby candle.


Before beginning this project it may be best to describe what a Grubby Candle might be. While you probably will not find an official definition for a grubby candle, many people refer to the look of the candle where it appears the surface of the candle is frosted or maybe wax may be missing a layer in sections. Unlike mottling where the finish is actually "internal" on the candle, the finish on this candle will actually impact the surface of the candle.

This candle is always a favorite of candle makers since it is relatively easy to make. The level of the “grubbiness” can be controlled.

Any size aluminum mold can be used for this candle. The most popular we find is the 3 x 4½ (check out our super sales section for some great prices.) You begin this project by chilling the mold for about 10-15 minutes. You then take the 4144 wax and add about 10% stearic acid to the formulation. Melt your wax to around 150-155 degrees Fahrenheit and pour into the chilled mold as any standard pillar. Top off where needed and remove when the candle has completely hardened. Due to the peeling of the wax the candle may have to be placed in the freezer for removal.

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