Choosing a candle that is non toxic and healthier for you can be a bit tricky to navigate. Especially since so many things are simply labelled "natural" when they may not be. Here are my best tips from my knowledge of candle making to help you choose the best non toxic candle.
To choose a non toxic candle look for natural waxes such as beeswax, palm, soy or coconut. Avoid all paraffin waxes and paraffin blended wax candles. Make sure the wick is cotton, hemp or wooden. Choose an unscented or a candle made with natural fragrance oils or essential oils.
This is a very brief overview of what is involved when choosing a non toxic candle, now I will go into the specifics and give you more detail into the different aspects of what makes a candle toxic and how to choose better options.
Choosing a Wax
Choosing a wax is actually very straight forward. Natural waxes are healthier than synthetic waxes.
Natural waxes are made from natural materials such as beeswax, soy beans, coconut and palm trees. When they burn they do not release toxins into the air. Yes the wax evaporates but it is less dangerous than synthetic material wax.
Synthetic material wax is paraffin and gel wax. Both are synthetic which means they are processed from oil and created in a laboratory and become the wax. Both are not very healthy when burnt and evaporate into the air.
Choosing a natural wax is the only way to ensure that your candle is eco friendly. Natural waxes are made from renewable resources and are not trashing the planet during their manufacture. Even palm wax is made from regenerative palm farms and is not endangering orangutan habitats.
To find out what wax your candle is made from, ask the maker or check the label on the candle. If it is a cheaper candle and the wax type is not listed, it is best to assume that the wax is a paraffin or paraffin blend and is best to be avoided if you are concerned about it being healthy and eco friendly.
Everything About Wicks
Wicks, wicks, wicks. They can make or break a candle. Too small of a wick and the candle will not burn and too large and it becomes a dangerous fire hazard.
Most wicks purchased in first world countries are safe to use in candle making. When I mention safe what I mean specifically is that they do not contain a lead core. This is a piece of lead that is in the middle of the wick in which cotton is wrapped around it. The lead then keeps the wick standing upright in the candle. Most countries have banned lead core wicks because of the known air pollution dangers that they cause. Remember back to lead paint and the health concerns, this is similar.
How do you know if you are getting a candle that has a lead wick or not? Generally, handmade candles avoid using these wicks because one cannot buy the wicks to begin with. But if you purchase a cheap bunch of candles that are clearly made in China, you are best to assume that they are not the healthiest for you. If you do purchase candles like this, watch for black smoke coming off of the wick and a nasty smell. Although this is not a guarantee of a lead wick, its a good rule of thumb to follow. A good quality wick will not burn black smoke when burning.
Cheaper candles are not better and this is especially true if you are looking at the eco friendly side of things.
Healthy Home Scents
Candle fragrances are quite the controversial topic. In general candle fragrances are synthetically made. There are some candle fragrances that are manufactured naturally which means that they are created with natural components similar to essential oils but are safe to use in candles. This is the best kind of fragrance to find and use in eco friendly candles.
The problem with using essential oils in candles is that they are naturally components of plants. Which means that they are volatile compounds that can change with fluctuations in temperature. When heated they can become toxic, depending on the essential oil because all of them are different. To choose a candle that is scented with essential oils it is best to check to see with the maker what their knowledge of essential oils is.
If you still love the glow and ambiance of candles and are worried about the health risks of fragrance, choosing an unscented candle made of natural waxes is the best way to go.
This is an interesting topic and one that you might not think that you have to be concerned about. It is very easy to get sucked into the "repurposed containers" trap as we are people who enjoy eco friendly products. This can actually be very dangerous if the candle maker does not test their jars properly. Let me explain further with examples.
You might have seen candles being made in repurposed wine and beer bottles. These types of containers have had the top removed off of the glass bottle and then have been washed out and used as a vessel to hold the candle in. If the maker does not test these for heat safety, as in they heat them up and ensure that they are not going to explode when they have a candle in them, then the bottles are dangerous.
Another note is regardless if you are a candle maker or consumer, most insurances will not cover containers that are not approved for candle making. That is if the container was not designed and manufactured specifically for candle making, it will not be covered by insurance if something goes wrong. This puts both the consumer and artisan at an unnecessary risk.
It is best to avoid repurposed containers unless the maker has stated that the vessels have been heat tested and are covered under insurance.
I make a selection of different natural eco friendly non toxic candles and have them for sale on my website. I have some made from natural fragrance oils and essential oils which are heat safe. I use a blend of soy and beeswax and wooden wicks that do not contain lead. The jars are heat safe and approved for candle making and are also reusable or recyclable. The labels are made of hemp and paper and are completely compostable. You can view these candles here.
Choosing a scented candle that is healthy may seem tricky but now you know what to watch out for and how to make a better purchase decision for yourself. Enjoy your non toxic candles and have a happy home!
<3 Jes xo