Although electricity has been the primary means of interior illumination for a century or more, the chances are great that youd find a candle (or twenty) somewhere in nearly every modern American home. Why is that? Some homeowners, with a practical bent, stock a box or two just in case of a power outage. People who enjoy having dinner parties often employ candlesticks and tapers as a part of their table decoration. Still others enjoy the wide variety of aromas available candle scent oil, and use such candles to sweetly scent their homes, or to create a particular ambiance. Even within candles intended for a particular purpose, there are variations in color, scent and also, wax.
Many people, comfortable with choosing a style, color or scent, are uncertain as to the properties of the various waxes employed in candle production. A frequently heard question is, "what is the best wax to use for scented candles?" There is no "one size fits all" response, as the purpose for which the candle is intended sometimes affects the choice of wax base. It can be worthwhile to take some time and learn about the different types of wax commonly employed in candle making.
Beeswax is perhaps the candle wax with the longest history of use, having been employed since the Middle Ages. Unlike the tallow-based candles that preceded them, beeswax candles burn without smoke and soot and, in fact, purify interior air with a clean, natural fragrance. Beeswax candles can be made by dipping or via molds, and can be used for both tapers, pillars and in jars. Beeswax candles are considered the most elegant of all candles, and are prized for their longevity. Because beeswax is a renewable resource, many today favor it as a "green" alternative.
The most wax used as a base for candles is paraffin wax. It came into widespread use in the mid 1800s, and is still used in mass candle production today. Paraffin wax is a non-renewable petroleum by-product. Its use puts fine microparticles into the air that some experts say are dangerous to breathe. Greener alternatives include soy, coconut and palm wax. Of these, soy is the most popular, as it takes color and scent well, and produces little soot. Soy candles burn evenly and for longer periods of time than do paraffin candles. Palm and soy waxes are often used in combination. Together, they burn as well as beeswax, but are more economical in cost.