Paraffin candles release soot and other dangers, such as chemicals, into the air. Beeswax candles provide clean-burning benefits and are soot and smoke free.
Smooth, silky, almost velvety—when you light a beeswax candle, it burns with a golden bright light and releases a warm, cozy honey scent. Lighting a beeswax candle instantly adds ambiance, calmness, and serenity to your home—and is a clean-burning, healthy alternative to paraffin candles.
Beeswax is produced by honeybees from nectar they collect from flowers. Bees transform this nectar into honey and beeswax. There are definite health advantages to using natural beeswax candles rather than paraffin candles.
Paraffin wax is part of the organic material in petroleum sludge left over from oil and gas production. This sludge is treated, bleached, and processed into a solid and used to make a variety of things, including candles.
Unfortunately, the residues from the sludge and the refinement processes contain a lot of nasty stuff. When paraffin candles are burned, chemical pollutants such as acrolein, formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, toluene, benzene, acetone, and many other dangerous chemicals are released into the air.
A 2009 study confirmed that even unscented, nonpigmented paraffin candles that used no dyes release dangerous pollutants into the air. Researchers warn that frequent exposure to paraffin candles may lead to health risks such as allergies, asthma, and even cancer.
Other studies have found that scented candles release even more chemical pollutants into the air than unscented candles.
Paraffin candles produce smoke and soot, which can blacken walls and coat surfaces in the home. Soot is a product of the incomplete combustion of carbon-containing fuels such as petroleum-based paraffin wax. Complete combustion produces practically no soot. Not all candles are created equal—a research project found that some paraffin candles produce 100 times more soot than others. Compare paraffin candles to the clean alternative, beeswax.
Beeswax allows for complete combustion of the wax and the wick for an even burn. This is due to the higher melting point and hotter flame of beeswax, which produces a slow, clean burn that is virtually smoke- and soot-free. Slow, evenly burning beeswax candles will not drip wax.
To ensure even burning, keep the wick trimmed and sheltered from drafts. To prevent smoke when extinguishing a candle, use a snuffer or, with a toothpick, bend the wick slightly into the wax until the flame is out, then bring it upright.
Beeswax is natural, sustainable, and renewable. Earth Hour and the World Wildlife Fund recommend choosing beeswax candles, as they are gentler to our planet and are carbon neutral. The CO2 they emit has already been sequestered from the atmosphere to produce the wax.
Another positive attribute of beeswax candles is that they are believed to produce negative ions when they burn. Negative ions purify the air of odours, allergens, and pollutants. Research on negative ions suggests they improve our mood and physical health.
For those with chemical sensitivities and allergies, burning unscented 100 percent beeswax candles is a natural choice.
Clean-burning soy candles are another healthy alternative to paraffin wax candles. Like beeswax, soy is a non-petroleum-based wax that burns much cleaner than paraffin and doesn’t increase CO2 levels in the air.
- Allow soy candles to cool and harden before relighting them.
- Trim wicks before lighting to lower the burning rate of the candles by as much as 30 percent.
- Avoid placing candles in direct sunlight, as it may fade their colours.
Natural fibre wicks are the safest choice. Health Canada advises against using any wick that has a metal core, as they may contain lead. When the wick burns, lead vapours and dust are emitted into the air.
8 candle safety tips
- Never leave a burning candle unattended.
- Always place lighted candles in a safe place away from children and pets.
- Don’t place candles on a windowsill, as drafts can blow candles over, causing curtains or blinds to ignite.
- Don’t place burning candles near flammable liquids or combustible materials.
- Keep the wick trimmed to prevent a high flame.
- Use a safe, suitable, sturdy candle holder.
- Avoid candles with multiple wicks that are close together. 8. Avoid candles with lead core wicks; they can lead to dangerous concentrations of lead in the air.
Test candle wicks in your home by removing wax from the tip of the wick and separating the fibre strands to see if the wick has a metal core. Rub the metallic core on white paper. If it leaves a grey mark on the paper, it probably contains lead. Do not use this candle—even low levels of lead are harmful to your health.