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Frequently Asked Questions

Welcome to the Candle Shack FAQ page.  We are here to help, but we do expect aspiring candle makers to help themselves by investing the time required to learn candle making.  There are no shortcuts to making quality candles and like all creative pursuits, it takes time and a willingness to make mistakes.  In this spirit, we offer the following advice to help get you started and to dispel some common myths.

CLP Legislation

We have received a large number of requests for clarification on CLP legislation.  Unfortunately, we do not have the resources to answer every question.  Instead, we have created a newsletter which can be found at the following link...

http://us7.campaign-archive1.com/?u=22201aef71cebf4646d145aa3&id=f9a93b1917&e=[UNIQID]

This newsletter includes videos, guides and information that should answer most of your questions.  Further guidance can be found in the ECHA guide or on the UK HSE website.

1.  What is the best wax for making candles?

There is not a 'best' wax, as all waxes have their own strengths and weaknesses.  Waxes are generally split into two categories: Pillar waxes and Container waxes and can be either vegetable based or mineral wax based.

Pillar blends cool very hard and are used for making free-standing candles that do not require a container.  Container waxes - as the name suggests - are softer waxes designed for use in a container of some form; be it a metal tin, glass jar, coconut shell or anything else you care to fill :)

In terms of mineral vs. vegetable wax, this is a debate that is only really had amongst candle makers as the vast majority of customers are apathetic to the wax used.  Customers generally want a candle that looks and smells nice; it is us candle makers that tend to get hung up on the exact details of the wax.

As a general rule, paraffin (mineral) waxes make better scented candles, insofar as they will smell stronger, colour better and are easier to wick.  This is why most luxury brands still use paraffin wax - they have not missed a gap in the market; they choose to use paraffin wax because it makes great smelling candles.

Vegetable waxes, such as soy, rapeseed and coconut waxes are relatively new compared to paraffin waxes, but are growing in popularity as they have good Eco credentials which can offer some marketing benefit.  Whilst predominantly used by skincare/spa brands, they are also used by other brand owners wishing to create a more 'natural' candle.  These waxes are very soft and have a beatiful texture, but generally generate much less scent throw than paraffin equivalents.  They can also be more difficult to work with as the waxes are much denser and do not transfer heat too well.

In summary, many waxes are suitable as candle bases and each have their own strengths and weaknesses.  Paraffin wax is the most widely used and is easy to work with.  Vegetable waxes offer a more natural alternative, but are slightly harder to work with.  Both can produce beatiful clean-burning candles if correctly made.

2.  How do I choose the correct wick for my candle?

Candle Making is both an art and a science and choosing the correct wick for your candle is probably the most important (and often most difficult) aspect of the whole process.  

We recommend that you source as many different wick types and sizes as you can find and learn how each performs in your chosen wax.  This takes time and effort (and a little money), but should be the first step you take in learning candle making.  Skipping this step and trying to over-simplify the craft, will result in a great deal of frustration later.  You are not going to make perfect candles without spending some time practicing and making mistakes.  Learn how the different wicks work with different oils and then (and only then) start making candles for selling or gifts.
 

The wick can be considered as the 'engine' of your candle and the type and size of wick required will depend on the fuel used.  In this system, the fuel is the 'stuff' in the jar; usually a mixture of wax and perfume, but can also include colour dye.

Whilst dye is pretty and perfume is pleasant, they are effectively impurities; i.e. they are not fuels.  Paraffin wax and to a lesser extent hydrogenated vegetable oils (soy, rapeseed etc) are good fuels.  If we made candles with no perfume or dye - juast wax - we could use the same wicks in every candle of a particular size and they would burn nicely. Candle making would be easy!

However, life is much less simple when we add fragrances and dyes (impurities).  When we add perfume, we change the fuel mixture.  The resultant 'impure fuel' will have different characteristics to the raw wax.  It may be more viscous, less viscous, burn hotter, burn cooler or may not burn at all. 

A wick works using capillary action (it sucks fuel up to the flame).  The size and type of wick required depends on what you are trying to draw up the wick.  This brings us onto an important point:

"Every blend of wax and oil should be burn tested to ascertain the correct wick type and size"

This means that every time you change something, you will need to burn-test the candle to identify the correct (or best) wick.  This applies to different fragrances as well as different concentrations of the same fragrance.  I.e. the following candles may all require different wicks:

1.  75mm tin, paraffin wax, 8% Lime fragrance
2.  75mm tin, paraffin wax, 10% Lime fragrance
3.  75mm tin, paraffin wax, 8% Coconut fragrance

You may get lucky and a single wick will work in all three, but this is not usually the case. 

Top Tip:  Try to stick to a single wax and once you find a wick that works (or one that does not) for a particular fragrance and container - write it down somewhere!

Do not despair!  We do offer some recommendations on where to start with wicking.  Once you have chosen a wax, take a look at the 'product description' for the chosen wax and you will see a table of recommended wicks for various diameters of container.  This is usually a good start point and will usually produce a good burn, but you may need to adjust size and/or type for some perfumes.

Even better, conduct a slab test by following this guide.

3.  How Do I Get Perfect Glass Adhesion and/or Eliminate Wet Spots?

Wet spots are common in clear glass container candles.  They are caused by wax pulling away from the inside of the glass ever so slightly, resulting in a less than perfect finish.
 
It is not usually possible to eliminate wet spots (at least not consistently), when using off-the-shelf waxes and equipment, as wet spots are simply a result of the wax shrinking and expanding with changes in temperature.  All materials expand on contract with temperature.
 
There are specialist waxes available that are extremely sticky with low shrinkage, such as SASOLWAX 6222, but these are supplied in liquid form (molten) direct from the manufacturer or in large (200kg) drums, as they are too sticky to be supplied as beads or slabs.  As such, they are only ever used by large manufacturing companies and are not readily available to smaller users.  These types of waxes adhere to glass well, but can be much more difficult to work with technically.
 
Some waxes shrink more than others, but as a general rule, if the wax can be delivered in flakes, beads or slabs, you are unlikely to achieve consistent adhesion.  This is a constant frustration amongst candle makers and is not easily overcome.  Some people add 'sticky' substances such as vaseline to improve adhesion, but this takes a lot of practise.  Warming the glasses and pouring the wax very cool, then cooling the candles very slowly can help with adhesion, but this will not work all of the time. 
 
An alternative option is to deliberately make the wax pull away from the container, leaving a uniformal finish.  This eliminates wet spots, but in the opposite way; i.e. no wax sticks to the glass.  Some waxes are designed to do this, such as CB-Advanced.  It can look very nice if done well.  To achieve this, the candles should be cooled more rapidly and perhaps poured a little hotter than usual (~65C).  The glass should still be at least ambient temperature.  
 
Rather than having a prescribed temperature chart, we recommend that you practise and learn with your specific wax.  Try pouring into cold glasses and warm glasses.  Use pour temperatures of 50C, 60C and 70C.  Cool the candles at room temperature and in a cold place (i.e. garage).  Here is a test list for you...
 
Warm Glass - 50C Pour - Cold Room
Warm Glass - 50C Pour - Warm Room
Cool Glass - 50C Pour - Cold Room 
Cool Glass - 50C Pour - Warm Room
 
Warm Glass - 60C Pour - Cold Room
Warm Glass - 60C Pour - Warm Room
Cool Glass - 60C Pour - Cold Room
Cool Glass - 60C Pour - Warm Room
 
Warm Glass - 70C Pour - Cold Room
Warm Glass - 70C Pour - Warm Room
Cool Glass - 70C Pour - Cold Room
Cool Glass - 70C Pour - Warm Room
 
Record what happens in each case.  No wastage occurs by doing this, as the wax can be removed and reused.  Invest some time learning how temperature affects your wax and you will be a better candle maker as a result.
 

4.  Are Your Oils Synthetic or Essential Oil Based?

We supply professionally produced perfumes that have been designed specifically for use in candles by leading fragrance houses.  Whilst many of the blends contain some essential oils, none are 100% essential oil based.  Our stock oils are tried and tested and many are used by leading candle brands in the UK and Europe.

Essential oils (EO) can be used in candles, but we do not stock them as they can be extremely tricky to use for novice candle makers; particularly in terms of achieving hot scent throw.  In addition, they are often very expensive.  

Notwithstanding the challenges in using EO in candles, they are much easier to blend than perfume oils, so creating blends at home is relatively simple and can be fun.  

Our perfume oils are produced in France and the UK to IFRA standards, meaning they are compliant with all EU regulations.

5.  Why Don't I Get Hot Scent Throw from my Soy Candle?

The scent throw you get from a candle depends on two things.  Firstly, the volatility of the oil (i.e. how readily it evaporates) and secondly, the temperature of the base/carrier (wax in the case of a candle).  It really is that simple.  Everything else is much less important.

Paraffin wax candles typically have a hotter melt pool than soy candles, so less volatile oils will evaporate with the extra heat.  In a soy candle, the wax is very thick (viscous) and heat does not transfer through the wax so easily.  This is why large wicks are required in soy candles and the resulting melt pool is less hot.  The cooler melt pool of the soy candle, results in less evaporation of the perfume, as there is less heat.  It is this that results in the relatively poor scent throw of a soy candle (compared to paraffin and other less viscous waxes).

A simple experiment proves this.  If you were to make a soy candle, with 8%-10% scent loading and got little or no hot throw, the same wax/oil mixture when used in a wax melter or oil burner would most probably fill the room with scent within minutes.  Why?  Because the wax is heated by an external source and gets hot enough to evaporate the perfume.  Achieving the same amount of heat using a wick is very difficult if not impossible in some cases.  This simple test proves that the oil is fine.  It just isn't getting enough heat from the candle system.  This is also why multi-wick candles tend to generate greater scent throw, as the melt pool tends to be hotter (multiple points of heat) and of course bigger.

So, to recap......you need a warm/hot melt pool (the temperature of which will vary depending on your wax and how well wicked it is) and an oil that is sufficiently volatile to evaporate in the molten wax.  This is shown below...

  Low Volatility High Volatility
Hot Melt Pool MODERATE STRONG
Cool Melt Pool POOR MODERATE

Table 1 - Scent throw based on melt pool temperature and oil volatility

So....what can be done?

The secret to making soy wax candles succesfully is to find a wax that you can work with technically (surface, wicking etc) and then search high and low for oils that are suitably volatile for your chosen wax.  Then you need to wick them correctly to get as hot a melt pool as possible whilst achieving a safe/clean burn.  This can take time and a lot of testing, and all soy waxes (and peoples expectations) are different. 

You must also accept the fact that not all oils work well in soy wax and be prepared to spend a lot of time and effort (and some money) testing new oils and wicks.  Getting high qualiy (retail ready) soy candles is not something that should be underestimated.  It takes time, resolve and effort; but the results can be wonderful.  A different mindset is required than for paraffin candles where everything just seems to work.

This is an extremely complex area and there are other chemical factors that make using natural waxes problematic (compared to paraffin waxes), but having the correct mindset and a willingness to experiment and fail are essential.

6.  Are Your Wicks coated with Soy Wax or Paraffin Wax?

All of our wicks are coated with a specialist wick wax which is predominantly paraffin wax.  We recommend that you use pre-waxed wick wherever possible, even if making vegetable wax candles, as the wicks are waxed at the correct tension for optimal burning.  If you wax wicks at home, the results will be less effective.  We sometimes get asked if our wicks are coated in soy wax.  This (in our opinion) is pointless, as the amount of wax involved in negligable and coating a wick in a low melt-point soy wax defeats the purpose of coating it in the first place.

7.  What are your wicks made from?  Do they contain Lead?

Our wicks are made from cotton, although many of them contain other components to assist with stability or burning; usually linen, paper, nylon or metal threads.  In addition, wicks are usually 'solutioned' with a chemical specially formulated to assist burning, reduce carbonisation and reduce smouldering when the wick is extinguished.  There are several different solutions available and different wicks often use different types.  I.e. our TB series and CL series wicks use a different chemical, which makes them more suited to some wax/oil mixtures than others.  The CL has a more robust solution, allowing it to cope with more aggressive oils.

None of our wicks contain lead, as this has been banned for many years.  In fact, you will struggle to find any wicks at all containing lead in Europe, if not the world.

Many beginners believe that an 'all cotton' wick is the best or most natural wick.  This is not the case and you should choose the wick that creates the best burn for your candle.  If that requires additives like paper, linen or zinc, then that is fine.  So long as the candle burns cleanly, you have chosen the best wick.  Pure cotton wicks tend to burn very hot, so are not always a good choice for many candles.  There is a description for each of our wicks on the product page.

8.  How much wax do I need to make 'X' candles.

As an approximation, you can treat wax a bit like water.  So, if you want to know how much wax will fill your tea-cups or jars, simply fill them with water to the level of wax you would use and weigh the water.  So, if each cup held 150g of water, you will need approximately 150g of wax and oil to fill it to the same level.  

If you feel like doing the maths, wax is about 10% lighter than water, so you can get a closer figure by multiplying the water weight by 0.9.  This would give us 135g of scented wax.

9.  How much fragrance should I add to my candles?

We recommend adding between 6% and 10% by weight.  So, if you have 1kg of wax, you should add between 60g and 100g of oil to it depending on your preference and test results.  

If you do not get strong scent throw at 10%, with a correctly wicked candle, you are unlikely to improve this by adding more oil.  You will need to choose a different oil, or try a different wax.  Not all perfumes perform equally well in all waxes.  Testing is recommended. 

 

 

 

I hope this helps.  Duncan