Each candle consists of one or more wicks and a solid fuel - the wax. The word wax is a collective term for various raw materials. Candle wax can be mineral, animal or vegetable. The most common raw materials used in candle production today are paraffin, beeswax and stearin. They are all components of nature and are processed by means of elaborate processes in such a way that they offer the required properties.
The different raw materials of candle production
Paraffin, beeswax and stearin can be used both in pure form and in mixtures for candles. The price and availability of the raw materials, their processability on the existing candle making machines and later product properties (e.g. during combustion) ultimately determine the use of the raw materials in modern candle production. Due to its good processing properties and availability, paraffin is by far used most often in candle production.
Environmental compatibility and the processing of renewable raw materials are also becoming increasingly important in the production of candles. Among other things, vegetable or animal fats are increasingly being used for candle production.
In high-quality candles, naturally occurring pollutants are kept so low that they pose no danger to people or the environment. The purity of the raw materials and products is constantly checked with the help of the most modern analytical procedures. The decisive factor for consumer safety is therefore not which raw material was used, but the quality of this raw material.
Paraffin wax is a complex mixture of (at room temperature) solid hydrocarbons of waxy consistency. The paraffins used for candle production are mainly extracted from the fossil raw material crude oil. Paraffin wax is a by-product of oil refining. With the help of complex downstream process steps - filtration, de-oiling, hydro-refining - the processing to high-purity paraffins takes place. These refined paraffins are subject to constant quality control and are harmless from a toxicological point of view. Paraffin is also used, for example, in the food industry and for cosmetic products. Pure paraffin is biodegradable.
The solidification points of paraffins commonly used for candle production are between 45°C and 70°C. Other important differentiating criteria are hardness, oil content and viscosity. Due to their chemical-physical properties, paraffins are suitable for all candle production processes. Through close cooperation between Balthasar and the paraffin producers, the right paraffin can be used in candle production, depending on the end product.
Beeswax - the oldest raw material for candles, is a metabolic product of the honeybee. The wax is excreted on the belly side of the building bees and used to build honeycombs. The beeswax gets its colour and pleasant smell over time through contact with honey and pollen. Its colour varies from yellow to light and dark green to red yellow and dark brown. It has a blunt, fine-grained fracture, easy kneadability, great plasticity and is clearly sticky when heated. Naturally, this raw material is only available to a limited extent.
Natural beeswax contains a number of impurities that are removed by various cleaning processes. It is often then bleached with bleaching earth or hydrogen peroxide. However, because the colour and odour are also lost as a result, high-purity beeswax is sometimes subsequently used again for consumer reasons as an admixture for wax mixtures and because of its suppleness for the production of wax plates, such as those used for candle decorations, e.g. flowers, ribbons and Ornaments.
Stearin (Greek stear - tallow) is a solid, crystalline mixture of various fatty acids, which essentially consists of palmitic and stearic acid. Although it has wax-like properties, it is usually not assigned to the waxes.
The starting materials for the production of stearin are animal or vegetable fats and oils. Palm oil is the primary vegetable raw material. The animal raw materials are mainly beef and pork oil, rarely fish oil or fish fat. Today, candle manufacturers mainly use vegetable Stearins.
The solidification point of stearin is in the range of 52°C to 60°C. A special feature of stearins is that the softening and melting points are almost identical (for paraffins both points are about 15°C apart). One of the reasons for this is the very good temperature stability of stearic candles.
Natural fats and oils consist of mixtures of triglycerides with different fatty acids. These are solid, semi-solid or oily substances. Tallow was used very early for the production of candles. The processes used at that time to produce tallow led to poor quality candles (sooting, dripping, odour nuisance). For this reason, tallow was very quickly replaced by paraffin or stearic acid in the middle of the 19th century. Winning with the technological development of reprocessing processes. First and foremost the hardened palm oil is to be mentioned, which can be processed to white, partly very hard candles by pressing out, removing the mucilage and subsequent hydrogenation (fat hardening).
Additionally to the use in churches (grave lights, oil composition lights), hardened vegetable fats are increasingly also being used in candles for burning indoors. Hardened fats are used in highly perfumed glass candles in particular because of their high scent binding capacity.