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Natural Soy Candles - Good Enough To Eat?

May 30, 2008
Ok so why would you even contemplate eating a natural soy candle?; Well you probably wouldn't, but it was a question put to me by a rather inquisitive 6 year old during the breakfast rush as he was handling one of the apple green decorative candles that we have lying around in droves. "Don't be silly, its a candle, it'll make you sick" I replied, without giving it too much thought, and left it at that.

Later I got to thinking about that question and picking up that particular candle I spotted a sticker upon it stating 100% Natural Soy Candle - Now I see why the question arose and maybe it was not such a silly question after all. Right then, in order to satisfy my child's curiosity, and now mine, it was time to find out all I could on soy candles - "Natural soy candles".

Traditional candles are mainly manufactured from paraffin wax, a distillation by-product of the petroleum processing industry. These candles are losing favor to modern green party ethics due to their fossil fuel ingredients and the possibility that when burning, they release similar carcinogenic compounds as that of burning diesel fuel.

Maybe you really don't want to be burning too many of them around the home, although from what I could establish, most of the nasties are actually contained within the wick itself and have very little to do with the paraffin wax itself. Poor quality wicks are also responsible for sooting and the faint chemical smell that occurs during burning.

Soy wax candles are the "environmentally friendly" successor to the paraffin wax candles, and business is booming, especially when you take into consideration the global consumption we have for candle products. Whilst you and I probably use candles for a little mood lighting or the odd "aromatherapy" session, candles are used throughout the religious sector on a phenomenal scale.

So, what goes into a soy candle and maybe more importantly, what comes out of soy candles? - Back in the early 1990's, a certain Michael Richards developed a process to refine soy bean oil into a suitable and economic candle fuel replacement. Soy bean products and derivatives are a natural factof life today - Take a look through your kitchen cupboard and refrigerator and see just how many products contain Soy derivatives.

The beauty about soy beans is that they are a wholesome natural product which can be produced very economically, on a huge scale and on hometurf, thereby supporting the US agricultural sector. The crop is sustainable and scalable to meet future demand and I for one will support that trend.

So, natural soy candles are indeed a 100% natural product and 100% biodegradable, but what else goes into them? Soy wax has a lower melting point than paraffin wax which makes it a little too soft at room temperatures, especially for the thinner soy pillar candles. To get around this soy wax candles generally contain a few other ingredients such as palm oil and beeswax which raises the melting point slightly and gives a firmer candle.

Another way around the problem has been the trend towards chunkier candles and container based candles, e.g. jar candles, votives and tea lights to name a few.(A votive candle is a small, typically white or yellow candle, originally intended to be burnt as a votive offering in a religious ceremony. It also refers to a standard size of candle 2 inches high by 1.5 inches diameter, of any color or scent.)

Soy chunk candles are currently all the rage and are one of my particular favorites. Basically they consist of coarse soy wax chunks or shapes placed into a mold or container which are then overfilled with melted soy wax, which seeps through the air pockets between the soy chunks and holds everything together. Using a soy wax of a different color produces some interesting design effects. I don't know about you, but I tend to use a lot of these soy chunk candles as purely decorative items - they're far too nice to burn!

Scented soy candles also contain natural fragrances "essential Oils" to add to their appeal. Natural soy wax candles burn at a lower temperature than traditional candles, which has the benefit of releasing the scent more slowly and less intensely, giving a more natural background fragrance. I can live with scented soy candles, the same can't be said for traditional scented ones though - Their fragrance can be so overpowering as to cause one's lungs to go into asthmatic collapse, well mine anyway, and I'm sure I'm not alone in this respect.

So in answer to the title of this article, "are natural soy candles good enough eat?", well yes I guess they probably are - they contain 100% natural products, they're good for the environment, sustain the US agricultural industry and burn very cleanly - but for heaven's sake, please don't! - Traditional food tastes a whole better and offers greater nutritional value - the question was hypothetical, enjoy your natural soy candles as an environment friendly mood light source or to add a delicate natural fragrance to your home, whilst at the same time, doing your bit to save the planet.
About the Author
Rob Lee is a freelance content author and web graphics entrepreneur. You can find some further examples of
Natural Soy Candles and Scented Soy Candle at http://candlebits.com
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