One of the most pressing questions to ask yourself when making scented candles is which type of wax would work best.
Unfortunately, there’s no clear cut answer to that question. There are pros and cons to using either coconut wax or soy wax for candle making. And the final decision is largely based on personal preference and the vision you have in mind for the final outcome of your candles.
In this article, I’ll point out some advantages and disadvantages of each wax type in order to help you make the right choice for your candle project.
Does It Matter What Kind of Wax I Use to Make Candles?
There are multiple reasons to choose either coconut wax, or soy wax, or even a blend of the two when making scented candles at home. But there are additional questions to consider in the process of choosing a wax type.
- Will you be using a candle mold or a container?
- Will you be using fragrance only or also dye?
- How strong do you want the fragrance to be once the candle is lit?
- Will you be adding additional ingredients?
Understanding how you would answer these questions helps narrow down your wax choices. For instance, if you plan to use a candle mold for pillar or taper candles, you wouldn’t choose coconut or soy wax because they’re both too soft to hold their shape when freestanding.
Going forward I’m going to assume that by reading this post about soft plant-based waxes, you are interested in making container candles.
Pros and Cons of Choosing Coconut Wax for Candle Making
Considered to be one of the healthiest and most sustainable candle wax options, coconut wax is the new kid on the block. While this wax hasn’t been used as long as soy wax has, it’s grown in popularity in a short time.
Makers and customers alike are drawn to this natural alternative. Because coconuts are a high-yield crop, producing a wide range of products, coconut wax is a premium plant-based option. It is at least twice as expensive as soy wax per pound.
Coconut meat is cold-pressed in order to extract coconut oil. The oil then goes through a hydrogenation process that transforms it into wax.
Melting: Coconut wax alone has a very low melting point that ranges between 100-107 degrees Fahrenheit. A low melting point is convenient when making candles but this attribute makes it difficult for coconut wax to remain in solid form at room temperature.
And if you’re thinking of selling homemade candles, you can imagine how in warmer weather, shipping 100% coconut wax candles poses a challenge. For this reason, coconut wax candles are often blended with soy, palm, and even paraffin waxes.
Fragrance: Coconut wax holds fragrance in a way that’s comparable to paraffin wax. It throws scent extremely well whether you’re using essential oils, fragrance oils, or a fragrance blend. Some coconut wax blends can hold a fragrance load of up to 12%, which is significant.
Dyes: You can more easily create your desired candle color when using coconut wax. A full range of colors is possible with coconut wax, whether bright or muted.
Wicks: Because coconut wax has such a low melting point, you will have to more carefully select the proper wick. You’ll want to avoid wicks that burn too hot because they will absorb the wax too quickly. Unfortunately, there isn’t one wick in particular that I can point you to. You’ll have to test different sizes and materials to find one that will burn slowly but still generate a full wax pool.
Shrinkage: You only have to pour coconut wax once. It won’t recede from the top of the jar as it cools.
Pour temperature: You can pour coconut wax at almost any temperature. Since splitting doesn’t occur with coconut wax, you also don’t need to warm your containers prior to pouring in the wax.
Burn time: Coconut wax candles burn longer than soy candles. For example, if a soy candle burns for 40 minutes, you can expect a coconut wax candle of the same size to burn for at least 48 minutes.
Takeaway: Coconut wax is probably one of the most sustainable wax types but it also comes with a less budget-friendly price tag. Even if you purchase 100% pure coconut wax, you will need to blend it with soy or paraffin wax to make candles.
Read more: Benefits of Coconut Wax Candles
Pros and Cons of Choosing of Soy Wax for Candle Making
Soy wax is considered a mid-range wax. This means that it’s more expensive than paraffin but less expensive than beeswax and coconut wax. After oil is extracted from soybeans, it goes through a hydrogenation process to help stabilize the oil. This helps it to remain solid at room temperature.
Melting: Soy wax has a melting point around 115-120 degrees Fahrenheit. It melts rather quickly. This is even more true when using soy wax flakes. They melt almost as soon as you add them to the warm pot.
Fragrance: The molecular structure of soy wax can cause it to trap fragrance oils. After testing out your soy wax candles, you might be tempted to add more fragrance in order to increase its fragrance throw. But you must be cautious about this because too much fragrance oil can interfere with the candle’s ability to properly set. Contact your supplier to learn of the maximum percentage of fragrance to add to your wax.
You have a better chance of creating stronger scents when adding essential oils to soy wax.
Dyes: If using dye, more is required when making soy wax candles because this wax has a higher opacity. The resulting colors will appear creamy once cooled.
Wicks: Material and diameter play a huge role in how your soy candles will perform. Is the wick square, flat, or round? Is it made of cotton, paper, or both? What will be its burn rate within your chosen container? You may even need to choose a different wick for each of the scents you use to make your candles.
Shrinkage: Very little shrinkage occurs when making soy candles. As they cool, you may not have to top them off with much more wax.
Pour temperature: You must closely follow manufacturing guidelines when pouring soy wax because it’s finicky. It’s also best to warm the jars before pouring to prevent splitting.
Burn time: Soy wax candles are known to burn more slowly than traditional paraffin wax candles. Although there are other variables to consider, like the size of the candle, generally speaking, a soy candle might burn for 60 hours and the same size candle made with paraffin wax might only burn for 30 hours.
Takeaway: Soy wax, especially in flake form, is easy to work with and is a renewable natural resource. It leaves candles looking velvety and milky, but the scent throw is not as strong.
Is Coconut Wax or Soy Wax Better for Candle Making?
This is still the question and only you can answer it. To help you figure it out, though, I’ve created the summary table below. Then I’ll cover some additional points to consider when using either wax to make candles.
|Coconut Wax||Soy Wax|
|Format Options||Flakes or wax blocks||Flakes, pellets, wax blocks|
|Wax Color||Bright white||Off white|
|Shrinkage||Doesn’t occur||Occurs minimally|
|Fragrance Load||up to 12%||up to 10%|
|Burn Time||~60% higher than paraffin||~50% higher than paraffin|
|Wick Options||Fewer options; more testing||Abundant options|
|Jar Adhesion||Better adhesion than soy wax||Separation can occur|
|Wax Surface||Smooth||Sometimes bumpy or spotty|
|Dyes||Wide range; won’t fade||Difficult to color; often pale|
|Final Appearance||Frost- and bloom-resistant||Frosting and blooming possible|
|Curation Period||up to 2 weeks||up to 2 weeks|
Please remember that due to its soft consistency, coconut wax is often a blend. Because of this, be wary of terminology like, “plant-based wax.” This can mean anything.
It might be a blend of coconut and soy wax, or coconut and palm. But it can also be describing a combination of coconut and paraffin wax or coconut, soy, and paraffin wax. Read labels carefully and contact manufacturers directly, if necessary. Wax marketed as natural, eco-friendly, or even organic, may not fully be if it’s a blend.
Candle making is a complex process that requires patience before settling on all the right ingredients and materials to use. Choosing whether to use coconut wax or soy wax is no different. There’s a lot of research and testing that needs to be done in order to make an informed choice based on your personal preferences.
If your goal is to build a business more questions arise, like shelf life, storage temperatures, fragrance quality, budget, and even packaging.
But I hope this article has armed you with the information you need to select the best wax for your candle making project.