If you love the scent of burning candles but also want the best air quality in your home, you want the top cleanest burning candles available. That is pretty much a no-brainer sort of decision, but how do you know whether a candle is a clean burning candle? What does that mean, anyway? Burning anything tends to produce carbon, so how can you keep your beautiful, scented candles from creating indoor air pollution?
The top cleanest burning candles are beeswax with cotton wicks, followed by a 50/50 mix of beeswax and carnauba, candelilla, or bayberry wax. This is followed up with an emulsion of coconut oil and vegetable waxes such as candelilla or bayberry. Soy is far down the list, and paraffin (a petroleum product) is at the absolute bottom.
Defining Cleanest Burning Candles
The top cleanest burning candles will not only avoid adding pollutants to the air in your home, but they might also help clean the air while adding an attractive, non-carcinogenic scent to your home environment.
There are three main components that need to be considered when selecting the best candles for your home.
- The type of wax.
- The wick.
- Any scent additives
Other considerations might include whether they are molded or dipped, how they are produced and by whom, candle containers, and how any leftover wax might be disposed of. If you are seeking clean-burning candles for your home, chances are you are also interested in candles that are sustainably and humanely produced with the least environmental footprint.
There are a wide variety of waxes available today. The best candle wax will not only burn cleanly, but also have a cleansing effect on your home environment. If it does not cleanse the air, it should at the very least not add pollutants to the air inside your house. Here is a list of several types of wax, their general attributes, and how they behave when burned as a candle. This list is not, by any means, exhaustive.
BeeswaxNaturally produced by nature’s own busy little pollinators, even after centuries of candle making, beeswax remains the gold standard for candles as well as for food grade wax used in candies and other edibles. Beeswax is softer and more malleable than some of the other food grade waxes, and it is usually expensive. With that said, beeswax is the one that will clean the air. As it burns it emits negatively charged ions that bond with air pollutants, making them harmless. Beeswax candles can often even be used by people who have asthma or who are sensitive to the scents often added to candles. When used alone, beeswax has a mild, sweet, clean aroma.
This is a vegetable sourced wax that has been around for quite a long while. It is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration as being safe to use in food or cosmetics. With that said, some people are allergic to it, even though it is often used as a hypoallergenic substitute for other things. It is the hardest known naturally occurring wax and has a high melting point. Therefore, it is not recommended for candles in its pure state.
It is sometimes used as a 50/50 mix with coconut oil to make molded candles that are kept in a fireproof container. One of the biggest problems with carnauba wax is that it is naturally produced by the palm tree copernica prunifera. The wax collects on the leaves and will fall off in sheets when the leaves are tapped. However, if too many leaves are harvested it will stunt or even kill the tree.
Bayberry was discovered by the early European settlers along the Northeast coast of the United States. The berries naturally develop a waxy substance. When picked and boiled, the wax can be skimmed off, allowed to cool into blocks and used similarly to beeswax. It is, however, harder than beeswax – although not as hard as carnauba. Because gathering the berries does not destroy the plant, it can be more ecologically harvested and used. It takes a lot of bayberries to produce one pound of wax, however, so they are often considered a specialty candle. However, when mixed with beeswax, genuine bayberry candles burn cleanly with a pleasant scent mildly reminiscent of fur trees. Bayberry, like carnauba, is sometimes used in cosmetics.
This plant almost looks like a cluster of candles and resembles a clump of cactus. However, it is a member of the Euphorbia family. It contains a milky, white sap that is sometimes used medicinally. During the rainy season, the stalks are covered with sap that hardens into a waxy substance during the hot, dry season. At one time, collecting this wax was an important economic endeavor. The plant is native to Mexico and to southern Texas. The wax is collected by boiling the plants and skimming off the wax. Fortunately, candelilla plants are relatively easy to grow and are an attractive plant that adds interest to low-water gardens in warm climates. They can also be cultivated indoors in pots. New Zen uses a combination of candelilla and coconut oil to make their candles because they found it to be the most ecological source of wax available.
Soy candles are made from hydrogenated soy oil. Like most solid vegetable oils, they can easily be molded around a wick and burned as a candle. Soy is grown commercially all across the United States and in other places, so you might think that it would be ideal for candle making. However, inexpensive, and readily available does not always equal good. Soy candles put off a lot of carbon, and the soy solids are frequently mixed with paraffin for greater manageability.
Paraffin is a petroleum product. Candles made from it tend to burn quickly and to emit a great deal of carbon – just like other petroleum products. It is sometimes mixed with other types of wax to create a more accessible melt-point which leads to making them easier to ignite. It is often used in products such as the camping item sometimes referred to as “canned heat.” It is a telling point that these wax-permeated coiled wick-in-a-can are not usually recommended for indoor use.
The wick is an important part of any candle. It should be sufficiently thick that it will take up the melting wax at an even rate so that it will burn at a steady rate without excessive dripping or puddling. If the wick is too large, it might create too much heat causing an excessive amount of the wax to melt at once. This can lead to puddling, which will drown the flame in a molded candle. A similar dripping action will occur in dipped candles, causing them to melt down too quickly.
Wicks are typically made of cotton, wool, reed, or wood. They are a place where a flame can be started. As the wick burns, the surrounding wax softens, creating a small puddle of flammable oil. As the oil soaks into the wick, it feeds the flame without completely burning the wick away. The burning wick is one of the sources of carbon, the stuff that gives pause to people who study the quality of indoor air.
Sometimes the wick will have a small thread of metal woven into it. Since October 2003, that metal cannot be lead. Some candles do have a small metal thread woven into them. It can help the wick stay straight and even help with burning evenly. But these metal threads are usually made of zinc, a substance that is believed to be perfectly safe.
This is where it gets fascinating. Some additives are completely safe, while others are derived from chemical compounds, and it is not easy to know the difference. Essential oils that are made from the natural plant oil are generally safe, whereas the artificial compounds (such as “blueberry” scent that has no relation to any blueberry ever) are often compounded from petroleum or coal tar derivatives. It is a good idea to read the contents of your candle carefully, because “added scent” could be creating problems with your otherwise completely naturally safe candle.
What are some good brands of candle?
“Bee Organic” puts out an excellent beeswax pillar candle. Organic scents are an extra charge. The Uma Pure Calm is another excellent candle that uses herbs as its scent source. Their candle is housed in a beautiful reusable glass. Beverly Bees and Honey candles are two more beeswax-based candles. And there is Natural Zen with its 50/50 mix of coconut oil and candelilla wax.
Are there natural wax candles that are sustainably and humanely produced?
Earthlinks gets an A+ for humane production, but the quality of the wax might be hit or miss. Their candles are made by people who are experiencing homelessness as part of their outreach program. The wax is donated, so could be of varying quality. Slow North uses soy-based candles with cotton wicks and herbal scenting. All Brooklyn Candle Studio candles are vegan and are free of harmful chemicals. The founders of Keap candles took a scientific approach to their candles. They studied perfumery and similar topics before creating their lovely container candles.
What are some ecological considerations when harvesting naturally occurring wax?
As with all naturally grown products, ecological considerations should certainly be part of selecting your candles. For example, only limited amounts of carnauba wax should be harvested from one tree.
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Meet Shawn Chun: Entrepreneur and Candle Business Fan.
I’m a happy individual who happens to be an entrepreneur. I have owned several types of businesses in my life from a coffee shop to an import and export business to an online review business plus a few more and now I create online candle business resources for those interested in starting new ventures. It’s demanding work but I love it. I do it for those passionate about their business and their goals. That’s why when I meet a candle business owner at a craft fair, farmers market, retail location or anywhere else I see myself. I know how hard the struggle is to obtain and retain clients, finding good employees all while trying to stay competitive. That’s why I created Candle Business Boss: I want to help candle business owners like you build a thriving business that brings you endless joy and supports your ideal lifestyle.