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What wax do we use and why?

At Coast Candle Co., we use a couple of different waxes in our handmade products, and we thought we’d share our reasons why.

We used to use soy wax up until a few years ago, when we discovered through trials and tribulations that soy wax is not as natural as we believed it to be, and its performance could often be very unpredictable.

What is soy wax?

The soybean is predominantly grown in South America and is used in many different products (not just wax). For example, soy is used in processed (human) foods, animal foods and even products like foams which are produced for engineering.

The demand for soy is therefore huge and farmers have a lot to keep up with, which then leads to over farming and deforestation (clearing the land for more farming) and even has links to habitat loss in countries such as Brazil. Soy is renewable, but at what cost?

One of the main ‘selling points’ of soy wax, which appeals to consumers, is that soy wax (also known as plant wax) is seen as the natural alternative to paraffin (mineral) wax (which we are led to believe is harmful, see our thoughts below). However, if you delve deeper into the production of the soybean and the conversion to wax, you realise it’s not as natural as you first think.

The soybean first has to be processed using hexane (instead of squeezing which would take a lifetime) to separate the matter from the oil, which is then refined and bleached. Then the oil has to go through a process called hydrogenation (where the liquid fat is turned into a solid fat by adding hydrogen). Additionally, due to the processes of soy farming, the majority of soy crops grown today are classed as genetically modified (GMO).  

Consistency between batches can also vary, even when the wax falls within the specified ranges since the origin is a farmed crop. Plant health, farming technique, seed quality, and transportation conditions of the crop all affect the wax. These factors cause frequent variances in wax, even wax of the same type, which then affects the quality of the candles we make.

And last but not least, there is transportation of the soy wax, mainly from South America through various distribution channels, before it reaches our workshop, which in turn affects our carbon footprint as a small business.

These are the reasons why we decided to change our ways.

Please note: although soy wax cannot claim to be ‘100% natural’, we are not suggesting that any other wax can make the same claim. We always recommend that you do your research, ask questions and make choices according to what works best for you.

We are proud to use 2 different waxes, both of which consist of rapeseed wax. We use only rapeseed wax for our melts, and for our candles we use a bespoke blend of coconut, rapeseed and mineral wax.

What is rapeseed wax?

Rapeseed is derived from the rape plant (the fields of bright yellow flowers you often see!), or more specifically, the oil that is harvested from it. It’s produced from UK and EU GM-free (genetically modified) crops. Rapeseed is both sustainable and renewable and has a reduced carbon footprint because we can get it closer to home. There are no issues of intensive farming or GMO presence. Rapeseed wax candles smell fantastic, thanks to the wax’s excellent fragrance retention and they also have an excellent burn time.

What are the benefits of rapeseed wax?

One of the benefits of rapeseed wax is that it is sustainably sourced. There’s no danger of over-farming in the production process, with no intensive processes used. The plant is native to the UK and Europe and continues to flourish even though rapeseed oil and wax are incredibly popular. No GMOs are used in the farming process either, it’s 100% vegan and it has a low carbon footprint.

What is coconut wax?

Although coconut wax also goes through the hydrogenation process, it’s a renewable and high yield crop, which means a little goes a long way. Farmers grow coconuts on their land without the use of pesticides and/or herbicides and the farmers harvest by hand (no industrial machinery required). Coconut wax burns clean and really slowly and also has great scent retention. It is one of the few remaining products that are non-GMO, due to the (natural) hard protective exterior of the coconut shell.

What is mineral wax?

Mineral (also referred to as paraffin) wax is petroleum based and is a by-product of crude oil (also known as fossil fuel) which is extracted from the earth. On a molecular level, crude oil is a mixture of hydrocarbons that were created from the decomposition of plants and animals that lived under water many years ago. Once extracted, crude oil is sent to refineries where it is then turned into finished products like lubricating oil (ref. Lonestar Candle Supply). It is from the lubricating oil refining process, that fully refined or semi-refined (generally an indication of how much oil is left in the wax) paraffin waxes are created by chemists. Some of the confusion with paraffin wax lies in the fact that there is no scientific source to define fully or semi refined waxes, however, it’s accepted that fully refined waxes have an oil + moisture content of less than 0.5%. Fully refined usually means the wax has the desired chemical properties for candle making (melting temperature, moisture content, etc.). In general, the majority of candle makers use paraffin wax that meets food grade standards.

Paraffin wax is synonymous with sooting issues. However, this is not strictly true. Sooting problems can happen with ANY candle wax and is an issue that largely comes down to external factors, such as correct wicking, fragrance load (how much is added to the wax) and user conditions (e.g. placing candles where there is a draught). Soot occurs as a result of incomplete combustion (with any candle).

Paraffin (mineral) wax is therefore a natural product which is non-toxic and it is a clean-burning fuel source; we choose to add a small amount of mineral wax to our blend because of the excellent scent throw qualities.

I hope I have helped to explain why we use the waxes we do and that I can help you to make informed choices, regardless of where you purchase your candles. It’s important to us that we produce sustainable products and reduce our carbon footprint where possible.

with love janis