The Difference Between Soy Wax and Paraffin Wax Candles

There's quite a few choices when it comes to the type of wax used to make the beautiful scented candles we love to burn at home. A bulk of the debate boils down to the differences between soy wax vs. paraffin wax — which wax is better? Which type of candle should you buy?

Soy Wax vs. Paraffin Wax

It would be a bold statement to say one type of wax is “better” than the other. Soy wax and paraffin wax have different physical properties that make them useful for different types of candle making. At the end of the day, both types of candle are safe to burn when properly manufactured. 

Paraffin wax is derived from petroleum or crude oil, as a byproduct of the oil purification process. Traditionally, this type of wax is been used in candles, food products (such as the coating of apples), and home goods (such as drywall, wax paper, and crayons). 

Soy wax, on the other hand, is made of hydrogenated soybean oil. Soybeans go through a refinement process in order to become oil, and eventually, wax. 

Both paraffin wax and soy wax are considered non-toxic. In terms of being sustainable and "all natural," soy wax is plant-based certainly holds an advantage over paraffin wax, which is synthetic. 

Soy wax candles also have other big advantages, including:

  • Longer scent retention
  • Longer burn time
  • Less soot 

Soy Wax Retains Scent Longer Than Paraffin

In most cases, the fragrance oils that produce your favorite scents will last longer in a soy wax candle than in a paraffin wax candle. 

Soy wax has a higher molecular density than paraffin wax. 

Molecularly-dense waxes have been shown to have better scent retention over longer periods of time compared to lighter waxes. That's because it’s harder for the fragrance molecules to escape from heavier waxes. 

In other words, the scent throw from a paraffin candle may fade noticeably over time, while a soy candle will continue to produce wonderful fragrances for much longer. 

Soy Wax Candles Have A Longer Burn Time

Since soy wax is more dense than paraffin, it requires more energy to melt. 

As a result, soy candles tend to burn at a slower rate than paraffin candles, meaning you'll be able to savor the enjoyment of burning them over a longer period of time. 

That said, there are many other factors involved in how fast or slow your candle burns, such as the height, width, wick length, and additives used in the wax. 

But assuming everything else is equal, soy wax candles burn around 30% to 50% longer than paraffin candles.

Soy Wax Produces Less Soot

All candles inevitably produce a small amount of soot when they're burned. Over time, this soot might stain your beautiful candle jar with a blackish tint. In extreme cases, soot can discolor curtains, and walls as well. 

But if a soy candle and a paraffin candle were placed in the same house under the same conditions, the paraffin candle is likely to produce much more soot than the soy candle.

In fact, a 2002 study on the combustion characteristics of soy wax candles found that paraffin produces significantly soot than soy wax. 

In addition, the soot from soy wax candles tends to be lighter in color and less noticeable than the soot from paraffin wax candles. 

About the Harlem Candle Co.

At the Harlem Candle Company, we make elegant, handcrafted soy wax candles with award-winning fragrances inspired by the richness and history of the Harlem Renaissance.