Have you discovered soy candles yet? Many people love scented soy candles because they smell great and are long-lasting. The soft warm glow of a gently flickering flame is soothing. But did you know that a soy candle from US-grown soybeans is a smart eco-friendly and sustainable candle choice? Soy wax candles are also cruelty-free. Soy wax candles make a perfect sustainable candle choice for your next purchase.
Keep reading for 5 reasons to choose a soy wax candle.
1. Soy Wax is Natural, Renewable, and Biodegradable.
The renewable nature of the soybean plant makes it an easy choice over a nonrenewable wax like paraffin for our natural soy wax candles.
Candle wax is produced from several sources, including vegetable (e.g., soy, coconut, palm wax), animal (e.g., beeswax), or petrochemical (e.g., paraffin). Some candles are a blend of soy and another wax, usually paraffin or sometimes beeswax. Manufacturers can label their candles as “soy” if the candle contains at least 51 percent soy wax. Check with the manufacturer if you are unsure about the soy content in your candle.
Soy is considered a natural wax because it comes from a natural source, the soybean plant. However, the process to convert soybeans into wax is not a natural one; soy wax is produced through a chemical process called hydrogenation that converts a plant into wax.
Sunset View and Rose’s soy wax candles are made from wax produced from US-grown soybeans.
2. US-grown Soybeans are Produced with Sustainable Agricultural Practices.
Although there are several large suppliers of soy candle wax to choose from, we choose soy wax made from US-grown soybeans because of producer commitments to sustainable farming practices. This is why we consider our soy candles to be sustainable candles.
Most US soybean producers have partnered with the US Department of Agriculture to create and carry out farm-specific conservation measures for sustainable soy production. Sustainable farming practices include reduced tillage, use of cover crops, retaining buffer strips between fields, and allowing some production acreage to revert back to a wetland state. These measures are based on US conservation requirements, best practices, and laws protecting worker rights. Producers sign up annually and are subject to 3rd party audits that verify sustainability. (source).
Soy wax is also derived from soybeans produced in other countries. In 2020, Brazil became the largest producer of soy, followed by the US, Argentine, China, and India. Why is this important? Soy and palm oil farming are responsible for nearly 10 percent of global deforestation, driven by the need for animal feed, biofuels, and vegetable oils. Some of this farming is done on illegally deforested lands. It is an oversimplification to say that this is a complex topic that merits its own discussion in another forum, and I encourage you to do your own research into the subject matter.
3. Soy Wax Candles are Vegan and Cruelty-free.
If cruelty-free and vegan candles are ideals you value, then you will enjoy soy wax candles. 100 percent vegetable wax and paraffin candles are usually vegan; however, some makers add stearin to candle wax to improve the burn and for stability. Stearin can be made from either animal or vegetable fats, so if you are unsure, check with the candle manufacturer to see if the wax blend is vegan.
4. As a Byproduct of the Soy Agricultural Industry, Soy Wax is Readily Available.
As part of the Reduce-Reuse-Recycle framework, making use of byproducts is a sensible practice. Soy production in the US is the second largest produced crop behind corn. The process of hydrogenating soybean oil to form wax is cleaner and more environmentally friendly compared to the production of paraffin from petroleum.
5. Soy Candles are Safe to Burn.
Soy candles are safe to burn in your house, yoga studio, office, and all your living spaces. Independent studies have demonstrated that emissions produced from the burning of soy candles are below recommended indoor air quality thresholds.
So there you are, 5 reasons to choose a soy candle.
Why Didn’t I Include The Usual “Cleaner-Burning, Non-Toxic Candle” Statements As Reasons To Love Soy Candles?
Many articles that include these statements are using discussion points that are no longer relevant to well-made candles today. Although fully refined food-grade paraffin is a petroleum-based synthetic wax, studies have shown it is not inherently worse than other waxes.
Let’s discuss more about soy versus paraffin waxes.
Do Soy Candles Burn Cleaner Than Other Widely Available Candles?
No. According to the National Candle Association, all well-made candles today behave more or less the same regarding emissions and soot. In an independent study of four candle waxes and five common fragrance families, researchers concluded that candle emissions from all candles tested were below the safe limits for all products of combustion (source). As documented in many studies, scented candles do emit more soot and combustion products than unscented candles, but again, scented candle emissions are within safe use limits.
Many articles that lean on the “clean” burning argument are rooted in emissions studies from the early 2000s, with the actual research and referring studies taking place months to years before the publish date. Most of these studies compared soy and paraffin, or looked only at the emissions of paraffin candles. Not surprisingly, these older studies found that paraffin candles emitted toxic chemicals. Some issues with these studies are the lack of discussion regarding composition of the wax being tested - many just state “candles”; also, many of these studies did not compare the exposure level with allowable indoor air quality standards or guidance. Several studies of paraffin candle emissions published within the last 10 years tested candles that contain slack wax - a wax that has a higher crude oil content than fully refined food-grade paraffin wax used in candles today. Candles made with slack wax do have larger emissions than candles made with other types of wax. My personal takeaway is that paraffin candles from 20-plus years ago are not made from the same paraffin wax used today.
Today’s candle paraffin is fully refined (food grade), meaning that the oil content of the wax is reduced to 0.5% or less. The US Food and Drug Administration approves the use of food-grade wax in such applications as preserving fruits with a waxy coating to retain moisture and give them a longer shelf life, and in chocolates and other foods (e.g., M&Ms, skittles) to give a glossy appearance. The inclusion of food-grade wax is what allows the chocolate to remain solid even when you hold it in your hand. According to Blended Waxes, Inc, food-grade paraffin wax is made from vegetable oils, palm oil derivatives, synthetic resins, and other materials. While oilier paraffin waxes are still used in other industries, they have gone by the wayside in the production of candle wax.
Do Paraffin Candles Produce More Soot than Soy Candles?
No. Well-made paraffin and soy candles produce similar amounts of soot, and the amount of soot is considered safe. The amount of soot released during a 4-hour candle session is similar to that from cooking.
Soot is a form of particulate matter that results when the candle flame gets too little or too much fuel or air. Regardless of candle wax type, studies have shown that more soot particles are released when the candle wick is long, causing the flame to elongate and/or flicker. A candle that is exposed to a draft will produce more soot because too much oxygen is feeding the flame. Debris left on the surface of the candle wax could also increase the amount of soot a candle emits.
The amount of soot produced by a well-made candle is not considered a health concern. This is similar to the soot given off by cooking oils and kitchen toasters. It is chemically different from the soot formed by burning coal, gasoline, and diesel fuel.
Although emissions from the normal use of a well-made candle are below safe limits for emissions from burning candles, following basic candle care can reduce your exposure to potentially harmful substances. Basic care includes:
- Burning the candle for up to 4 hours at a time
- Allowing the candle to cool for at least 4 hours before re-lighting
- Trimming the wick to ¼-inch for soy or ⅛-inch for coconut apricot wax each time before lighting
- Removing debris that has fallen into the candle from matches or wick trimming
Is Soy Wax Better Than Paraffin From An Environmental Standpoint?
This is a difficult question to answer and one that you will have to consider for yourself. Both waxes are derived from byproducts of other primary industries, food for people and livestock in the former, and petrochemical industries in the latter. Each industry has environmental downsides - petrochemicals are used in agriculture and petrochemicals are non-renewable. The hydrogenation process used to create soy wax relies on the chemical refinement of soybean oil. Paraffin production relies on obtaining and refining crude oil. Neither soybean farming nor petrochemical use is going away anytime soon, so it makes sense to make use of the byproducts as part of the Reduce-Reuse-Recyle framework.
At Sunset View and Rose, we carefully evaluate the materials we use in our candle and home fragrance lines. For our soy wax candles, we purchase from suppliers that provide soy wax from soybeans only grown in the US for ethical and sustainability reasons. We know lands aren’t being converted from forested to agriculture or pasture to produce more soybeans and workers' rights are protected. We appreciate the sustainability commitments US soybean producers follow that use less water, less fertilizer, and less land than was needed 30 years ago to produce comparable yields. We also appreciate that fewer emissions are released during the process used to hydrogenate soybean oil into wax. For our business, soy wax candles make the most sense.
Does Sunset View And Rose Use Paraffin?
Yes. Some of our candles, like Mount Desert and In The Stacks, are made with wax composed mostly of coconut and apricot waxes supplemented with a very small amount of fully refined food-grade paraffin. The paraffin helps to stabilize the wax, making it harder and reducing the viscosity for a better burn. We use this wax type when a particular scent we are developing doesn’t work well in soy wax.