Soy Candles: This Time The New Age Hippies Got It Right
December 1, 2005 11:56 AM   Subscribe

Are soy candles better than paraffin wax candles? Yes. Soy (or Soja) "healthy candles" may be all the rave among new age hippies, but this time they've really got a point. There's no shortage of vendors, but why not keep it real and make your own?
posted by analogue (21 comments total)
Next week: oil lamp or gas mantle? Which works best.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:08 PM on December 1, 2005

LED candles..
posted by furtive at 12:10 PM on December 1, 2005

"I make these really cool table candles, man." [embedded audio]
posted by terrapin at 12:18 PM on December 1, 2005

This post makes me shudder in horror, since the subject matter has such unpleasant personal associations. I used to work for a sleazy direct marketer of (primarily) soy candles, and the experience was not an enjoyable one.

Anyhow, soy candles are a lot nicer than paraffin in terms of their burn properties. They burn slowly, with a smallish flame and very little smoke if the wick is trimmed properly. We were a distributor for these soy candles, which are some of the best in the business if you're into that sort of thing. Can't speak to the health benefits of soy versus the alternatives, though.
posted by killdevil at 12:20 PM on December 1, 2005

oh, yeah, and probably NSFW language.
posted by terrapin at 12:22 PM on December 1, 2005

Soy candles are amazing. I actually started my own candle company after becoming familiar with them. The wax cleans up with soap and water if you happen to spill it, and they burn at a much lower temperature than traditional paraffin wax candles. I always tell people that they won't go back to paraffin candles once they try soy candles.

Soy wax is a lot softer, though, so they all have to be jar candles, or burned in a close-fitting container.
posted by Ostara at 12:26 PM on December 1, 2005

How do their pillar candles work? They say they "fold in as it burns", which suggests something different is going in.
posted by smackfu at 12:36 PM on December 1, 2005

Yes, so much better for the environment, because everyone knows that no petroleum is used to plant, fertilize, pesticize, weed and harvest the soy beans, much less to haul them to the processing plant or to electrify the factory and haul the candles to your non-petroleum product electrified shopping mall.

Jebus people, people could eat those beans you know, but no, they have to go to "save the environment" by making your house smell like an artificial pine forest (as the real one has been cut down to make way for a bean field to make more candles).

How about sitting in the dark?
posted by Pollomacho at 12:38 PM on December 1, 2005

I prefer beeswax.
posted by rocket88 at 12:40 PM on December 1, 2005

Thank you for these articles since, um, I'm about to build a website for someone who sells soy candles. Now I know what the hype is all about.

Terrapin: "What... is your name?" :)
posted by Modem Ovary at 12:43 PM on December 1, 2005

Funny. I couldn't find any evidence in any of the links that soy candles produce less soot. Did I miss something?
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:44 PM on December 1, 2005

Mental Wimp: this article ("really got a point", above), under "1999-2000", at least.
posted by mendel at 12:47 PM on December 1, 2005

smackfu, Root's pillar candles are (I believe) a soy wax blend that has some paraffin mixed in (around 20% or so) in order to stabilize the candle and improve burn characteristics. They burn center-first, creating a deep crater in the center of the candle. The outside edges sort of collapse inwards as the pillar burns.
posted by killdevil at 1:00 PM on December 1, 2005

So what happens to people with soy allergies when these things are burned? Is the wax made just from the oil, so that the proteins are not a problem?
posted by dilettante at 1:08 PM on December 1, 2005

You got it, Dilettante. The wax is just hydrogenated soybean oil.
posted by Ostara at 2:34 PM on December 1, 2005

but why not keep it real and make your own?

Yet, I still don't know how the soy oil is converted to a 'wax' state. That link just wants me to buy someone elses's wax.
posted by rough ashlar at 3:50 PM on December 1, 2005

But will soy candles make good rocket fuel?
posted by Chuckles at 3:53 PM on December 1, 2005


Thanks for the redirect. I missed it on the first read.

I can't seem to locate the original articles on line, but the abstracts seem anomalous, in that they contain no quantitative information on the reduction in "soot" or aldehydes. Instead, phrases like "better than" and "less than" are used. If you look at other publications by the authors (and most abstracts in the scientific literature) quantitative results are given. Really would like to know more about the measurements, how they were done, etc.

Being an environmental health scientist, I think it would be great if these candles had reduced emission of volative organic compounds (VOCx) and particulate matter (PM), but I am afraid these claims are not well supported. I couldn't find any other literature than the two cited articles in this web page and the abstracts, at least, give me no confidence. I am also suspicious of narrowing the focus to "soot", rather than PM in general, and the narrowing to only formaldehyde, rather than VOCs in general. It seems to me likely that any oil will produce particles and VOCs, but their components will be different depending upon the type of oil.

But, hey, whatever floats the boat, eh?
posted by Mental Wimp at 5:29 PM on December 1, 2005

"The wax is just hydrogenated soybean oil."

Then why not just insert a wick into a stick of margarine or can of Crisco?
posted by davy at 9:44 PM on December 1, 2005

davy -

better yet, put a wick into a stick of butter, light it, and let's make some lobster! mmm... lobster candles
posted by analogue at 10:52 AM on December 2, 2005

I prefer cheap Chinese-manufactured candles, made from the rendered fat of executed convicts.

At least, that's my theory as to where the Chinese are getting all this dirt-cheap wax.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:05 AM on December 2, 2005

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