Isn’t soy wax supposed to be better, cleaner, more environmentally sound? 

The wax I use is 100% USA grown, so it’s better for the US economy. It’s also better for my customers because I don’t have to pay for a slow boat from somewhere.

As to the other benefits of soy wax vs beeswax or paraffin, that’s up for debate. Some people claim because the paraffin wax is made from oil refinery by products, that it’s no more unsound than soy wax. Others claim paraffin wax smokes more or has more toxins. I’ve yet to find an actual scientific study comparing the toxins in one over the other, so for now it’s up to individual consumer preference.

Part of that preference has to do with appearance. 100% soy wax tends to have a lower melt point than paraffin wax, which I find makes it burn more predictably — some say longer — but also means it doesn’t stand up well on its own without additives. In other words, it needs to be in a container. People who prefer taper or pillar candles are going to prefer soy-blends, paraffin, or beeswax, all of which are self-supporting.

Soy wax is vegan and all of our candles are cruelty-free. Well, intentionally cruelty free. The one not-too-bright cat burned a couple of whiskers once but considering he has managed to accidentally poison himself licking shoes, fallen off a table through a jumping-fail, and insists he be fed with a bowl placed directly under his chin, I have to insist he’s done very well to only have one minor mishap. (The rest of the cats are all fine and smart enough to leave open flame alone.)

What’s in your wicks? Any metal? I heard all wicks have lead and will kill everyone.

Most wicks in the US are lead free. The few that do have lead — and I mean VERY few — are mega-cheap imports from countries with super-lax standards and found in off-brand dollar stores where some things aren’t even a dollar.

Most wicks on quality candles are metal free. You can find wicks with metal in some craft supply stores (mine don’t come from there) because for beginners without wick bars, it’s how the keep the wick from flopping or falling when the wax gets poured. Some super-cheap candles found in drugstores and high-end dollar stores have metal in the wicks. The most common is zinc, not lead.

I use a cotton-paper blend with a woven core that provides stability and long life.

What about wooden wicks? They’re trendy. 

I’ve had limited luck with the wooden wicks I’ve bought from other candle sellers over the years. When they work, they work pretty well. When they don’t? Total fail.

The cotton-paper blend I use will typically burn all the way down to the last vestiges of wax, if allowed to burn itself out once the wick reaches the metal wick holder. I haven’t seen that kind of burn time with wood.

Some people like the wood. To each their own.

Well, I heard that burning candles of any kind, especially scented, will cause health problems. Didn’t the FDA or EPA do a study?

Some sites mention a report released by the EPA in  2001 and extrapolate that the “organic compounds…detected in candle emissions” are dangerous. And they can be at certain levels. Certain levels are not normal conditions, though. The study found unsafe levels of some compounds when burning 30 candles — yes, 30 — in a normally ventilated room, roughly the size of the average American room, for 3-4 hours. (Specifically, a 1997 study concerning a “worst case scenario” burned 30 candles for 3 hours in a room slightly smaller than the average American room and a 1994 study used a “worst-case scenario” of 30 candles for 4 hours in a room slightly larger than the American average. In both cases, they found some compounds at rates above recommended and some at or below. In some cases they were above the excess cancer risk standard but still below OSHA or EPA inhalation reference concentration levels.)

In other words, unless you’re filming an indie horror movie in your living room all day and you’re burning 30 or more candles to set the scene, you’ll be fine.

What about soot?

All candles produce some amount of soot. Anyone who tells you his or her candles don’t produce soot is either intentionally leading you astray or is unfamiliar with how the burning of organic compounds (like soy wax, cotton, scent oils, but also wood or even the marshmallows everyone sticks in the campfire for S’mores) works. Specifically, the higher the concentration of scent (the ones that “fill a room”) produce the most soot — and this is across ALL brands. Most of the time it isn’t noticeable, but if candles are regularly burned near a wall, the soot may lead to discoloration. A Mr. Clean Magic Eraser cleans soot pretty easily off nearly every surface.

(If you have art hanging directly over your favorite candle-burning spot, I’d recommend picking something in a frame vs exposed canvas. Soot is actually one of the primary discolorants in old paintings since candles used to be used for light, not just cozy moods and hiding the fishy smell from dinner.)

Keeping candles away from vents or drafts, keeping wicks trimmed to the minimum, and extinguishing candles by wick trimming instead of blowing will decrease soot. If wicks become “uncentered” as the candle burns down (usually if a surface is slightly uneven when the melt pool reaches the bottom), it can be recentered by sticking a pencil, screwdriver, bamboo skewer stick, or pretty much anything that’s not a finger into the pool and pushing the wick holder back to the center.

Do you use essential oils? 

Yes. And no. The troubles with essential oils are that A) the number of scents is limiting (there is no “caramel popcorn” essential oil); B) they can be expensive (which can make pricing challenging if the oils for one candle run $40 an ounce and another $2); and C) some essential oils have such a low flash point that they would disappear/burn off when added to the melted wax.

There’s also a stance in the aromatherapy and New Age communities that essential oils are only effective if applied to the skin or used in their pure form (i.e. not mixed with candle wax, etc.). Whether this is “true” or not depends on the person and the practitioner. For people who want a great-smelling candle with a clean, calming scent, I have more than a few options.

 

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