Candles, the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

I’ve burned a variety of candles over the years. I’ve bought them, received them and enjoyed them. I’m a big fan. I cut the wicks down when they get too long, I remove any paper labeling before I light them, I fold the melted wax down, I light them with matches, not lighters. It’s a wonderful ritual. Over the years, I’ve watched the industry change and grow and I’ve noticed that expensive doesn’t mean better. Often it’s just the packaging that increases perceived value and the candle really isn’t that good or it makes my wall black from the smoke or it’s over scented and cloying and gives me headaches. Scroll down to the links below to see my sources, to read what I’ve learned to avoid and some better candle companies for you to explore:

The Not So Good
Gel – Gel candles are petroleum based or made from synthetic hydrocarbons. Think of them as petroleum turned into jelly with a few more added toxins thrown in such as butylated hydroxyl toluene.

Soy – Soy candles are made from hydrogenated soy, palm and coconut oils. They burn slower and last about 50% longer than paraffin candles and they burn cooler and have very little soot. But by purchasing soy candles, you are supporting the American soy industry which farms mostly genetically manipulated soy.

Paraffin – Paraffin is an inexpensive sludge waste product of the petroleum industry that has been bleached then texturized with acrolyn, a known carcinogenic product.

Lead Wicks– Though lead has not been used since the 70’s in most of Central Europe and the USA, cheaper candles from other countries such as Asia or South America can still be seen on the market. Burning only a few with leaded wicks for 3 hours will increase levels 9 to 11 times over acceptable lead levels. “Fragrance oils soften the wax, so the manufacturers use lead to make the wicks firmer. A candle with a lead-core wick releases five times the amount of lead considered hazardous for children and exceeds EPA pollution standards for outdoor air, says the CPSC, which is why they banned lead wicks in 2003. Exposure to high amounts of lead has been linked to hormone disruption, behavioral problems, learning disabilities, and numerous health problems.” (http://www.greenamerica.org/livinggreen/candles.cfm)

The Better Alternatives
Beeswax – Beeswax candles smell honey sweet. Beeswax is a by-product of making honey and is made from the ‘caps’ of the honeycomb. So they are all natural. These are the most expensive candles, but are cost effective since they last up to three times longer than paraffin and twice as long as soy candles. Unlike paraffin, they are from a sustainable source – originating from flowers, fuelled by the sun and processed by bees. They burn cleanly, don’t drip (when properly used) and give off negative ions that assist concentration and help clear the air. They are also non-allergenic and can help soothe the symptoms of hay fever, asthma and allergy sufferers. Ivory coloured candles have gone through a special process to lighten them, which weakens the natural honey scent. When purchasing, be certain that the label states 100% beeswax – some countries allow as little as 10% beeswax to still be labelled ‘beeswax’. A ‘blended’ beeswax candle most assuredly has paraffin or stearin in it.

Cotton Wicks – “To reduce soot, no matter what kind of wicks are in your candles, trim wicks to 1¼4 inch, and do not burn candles near a draft.” (http://www.greenamerica.org/livinggreen/candles.cfm)

Some Candle Companies for You to Explore:
Bee Hive Candles, in Maple Falls, WA, uses 100% pure beeswax gathered from the USA. They do not mix any other waxes or fillers with their beeswax and 100% cotton wicks. To avoid strengthening their wicks with lead, they use a square braided cotton wick to double the thickness of the wick. This produces the best flame to burn ratio, plus it allows the candle to burn down almost entirely and avoid tunneling. They also only use 100% essential oils to scent their candles/ For 20 years we’ve been hand-crafting high quality candles in the Green Mountains of Northern Vermont and have set ourselves apart not only through our love affair with essential oils, but also by our aversion to all the chemical additives, fragrances and dyes that are so prevalent in the candle industry. http://www.beehivecandles.com/pages/help/beeswax-candle-faq.html

Big Dipper Wax Works, in Seattle, WA, are hand-crafted beeswax, filtered via natural clay process that cleans the wax of impurities and allows the wax to retain its inherent color and aroma, produced by hand in small batches. The wicks are 100% cotton and have been primed with beeswax. The candles are scented with the natural beeswax aroma and essential oils, no fragrance oils or synthetic oils. Check out their skull candle below! http://www.bigdipperwaxworks.com

Beeswax Sugar Skull - Seconds 30% OFF!

Beeswax Candle Company, in Lynchburg, VA, makes hand-poured candles in small batches with 100% pure domestic beeswax and cotton or natural plant fiber wicks. Their beeswax is never bleached, it is carefully filtered. http://www.beeswaxcandleco.com/

Beeswax Candle Works, uses 100% Pure USA Beeswax and has a variety of candles including those used for Hanukah, Shabat and braided ones for Havdalah! http://beeswaxcandleworks.com

Sources: 
http://www.epicureantable.com/articles/acandles.htm
http://www.greenamerica.org/livinggreen/candles.cfm

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