As candles made with paraffin wax gain notoriety for being terribly unhealthy and non-environmentally safe, we turn to more natural alternatives. Soy and beeswax are the most common at this time. (As I mentioned in Part I – there are others, but I am covering the big 3 – paraffin, soy, beeswax.) These waxes are both environmentally-friendly and much better in quality.
Let’s start with soy.
As the name suggests, soy wax is made from soy beans. Since beeswax can be very expensive, candle makers looked for a cheaper alternative to beeswax. It was in 1992 that Michael Richards invented soy wax as an alternative to paraffin and a cheaper substitute to beeswax. The biggest advantage of soy is that is a renewable resource. But by being classified as a renewable resource, that leads to some misconceptions. The biggest is that soy wax is good for the environment. But is it?
The truth of the matter is that all soy candles contain at least a small amount of paraffin. It’s just a part of how soy wax is processed and made. And considering that there are no regulations on labeling the paraffin content of soy candles – it’s very possible that any candle with the vague labeling of a ‘soy candle’ could actually contain quite a lot of paraffin. It is the candle manufacturers responsibility to be transparent to their customers, as well as do their research as to the actual paraffin content of the soy wax that they purchase. Speaking from experience, I can tell you it’s not easy to find a soy wax with minimal paraffin content. Inexplicable Things has managed to find one wax where the paraffin content is exceptionally low. For this reason, our soy candles must be poured into glass – the more the actual clean soy content, the less the candles will hold a shape. So for those selling soy candles that are molded – they are indeed soy candles – but their paraffin content is much higher than many would lead you to believe and as a result, much less environmentally friendly and not great for the environment. (osmology.co/blog/which-wax, 2021)
Another thing to consider is that like paraffin candles, soy candles do have a lower melting point, so they do not burn nearly as strong as beeswax candles. To extend the burn time, as well as preserve the candle itself, soy wax often has preservatives, bleach and even hardeners add to the wax. Did you know that soy wax will actually spoil without preservatives? It’s a plant-based product, so it makes sense.
Soy wax also is such big business now that many soy crops are genetically modified and often sprayed heavily with toxic pesticides and weed killers to quicken the crops maturity in order to harvest them quicker. Not to mention that soybean farming is now linked to clear cutting/deforestation of the Amazon rainforest. This, in turn, leads to destroyed habitats, soil erosion and displaced small local farms. They are clearing away rainforest for new soy farms, which are enormous in acreage. (news.mongabay.com, 2019)
So just how environmentally friendly are those soy candles you are purchasing? All the hemp and natural wicking in the world can’t make them sustainable or good for the environment. Don’t let cute promises of ‘all-natural soy candles’ give you a warm fuzzy – do your research and ask questions. And figure out what’s important to you.
Next up: Beeswax