Eco-friendly Candles for Healthy Home Ambiance
Don't Burn Toxic Candles!
If you're like me, you probably love the atmosphere of a room with burning candles. The soft glow, warm light and even enticing fragrances can be relaxing and soothing. But also toxic!
Most commercial candles are made with paraffin wax (petroleum and crude oil-based) and may include lead in their wicks. Carcinogenic chemicals released when these candles are burned include acetone and benzene. When candles with lead-based wicks are burned just once a week, children that are exposed to the smoke may have blood levels of lead above federally accepted levels.
Fortunately, you can breathe easier! Eco-friendly candles are widely available, if you know the ingredients to look for. Improve your indoor air quality by burning environmentally-sensitive candles which emit less soot and no chemicals into the atmosphere.
You can also save money and the environment by making your own homemade candles with natural-based materials. Children can even help, with adult assistance. It's a fun craft project on a rainy day, or for a group of scouts! And, DIY candles make a great holiday gift.
So, let's clear the smoke and find out more about eco-friendly candles!
Eco-Friendly Candles Help You Breathe Easier
Candles made with natural ingredients - soy, vegetable oil or beeswax - will burn cleaner than other alternatives. And you have to consider wick ingredients, as well. As noted above, lead-based wicks can significantly elevate your lead levels in children and other members of your family.
Even though candles manufactured in the United States have not been allowed to have lead in candle wicks since 2003, cheap candles imported from China or other markets may still include the substance.
Today's eco-friendly candles include the following:
- Unscented beeswax, soy, or recycled wax
- Pure and additive-free
- Cotton or paper-core candlewicks
- Scented with 100% essential oils (although unscented is your cleanest, greenest choice)
Burning natural-based candles will result in less toxic air, headaches and lung irritation than with their ubiquitous paraffin cousins. Plus, no black soot on your walls or tables when you enjoy eco-friendly candles!
Soy vs. Paraffin Candles
What Makes a Candle Eco-Friendly?
When you choose a 100% natural candle instead of a petroleum-based option, your personal health, as well as the environment, may improve.
But not all eco-friendly candles are created equal. Choose among the following:
- Beeswax candles have a fresh, natural fragrance. They burn cleanly, without soot or toxic fumes, and are 100% non-allergenic. Beeswax candles are fairly easy to find in retail outlets and online, and they are biodegradable. If you aren't convinced by their eco-friendly features, beeswax is a real value because they last longer than paraffin wax candles.
- Soy candles are made with soybean-based wax. Like beeswax, soybean-based wax is biodegradable. Candles burn soot-free, and are vegan and renewable. Although soy candles also last longer than paraffin, they cannot be molded into tapers because the wax is too soft. Be sure to choose certified organic ingredients that are GMO-free (genetically modified seeds) for the greenest soy candles.
- Palm oil wax candles. The wax for these candles comes from coconuts. Like other alternatives above, they burn cleanly and last longer than paraffin candles.
These primary ingredients are superior to paraffin for long-lasting, clean-burning candles. However, you'll still need to be a wise consumer and check the labels for these less eco-friendly formulations:
- Paraffin mixed in with natural candle ingredients
- Stearic acid - an animal derived fat - may be added to natural-based candles. Do not purchase if you are vegan, or avoid animal-based products
- Fragrances - often synthetic and potentially resulting in VOC emissions
Why Use Eco-Friendly Candles?
Think that a few candles can't make a difference when it comes to the environment? Think again!
Did you know that about 1 billion (with a "b") pounds of wax are used every year to manufacture candles in the United States. Most of the wax is comprised of hydrocarbons - from petroleum or animal sources. Not exactly "green"! In addition to ingredient sourcing issues, burning candles that are not eco-friendly will not only pollute indoor air with carcinogenic substances, but can also blacken walls, ceilings and furniture over time.
People with allergies and/or headaches should definitely avoid burning most commercial candles in their homes. If you have a compromised immune system, your only choice should be eco-friendly candles!
Healthier candle alternatives have been commercially available since the 1990s and, today, the compromise about 10% of the candle market in the United States. Since they are made with renewable resources, they are gentler on the Earth, as well.
How to Make Eco-Friendly Candles
Making your own eco-friendly candles is easy and rewarding. You can decide what ingredients to use, and homemade candles make a wonderful gift!
Candle-making is a craft that does not require much equipment, or even skill. All you need is:
- Material for a wick
- Candle mold(s) or containers (Mason Jars, etc.)
- Decorations (if desired): flowers, leaves, holly branches, beads, etc.
- Wax melter
- Candle making thermometer
- Natural dyes
- Putty for molds
There are a number of websites and videos with helpful instructions for the fun hobby of candle-making. Check out Candle Tech, Candle Help, Pioneer Thinking, and About.com's article on How to Make Candles.
How to Make Your Own Soy Candles
Enjoy Candles Safely
Don't forget these safety tips when you are enjoying your candles:
- Do not leave lit candles unattended
- Keep burning candles away from children and pets
- Candles should be kept away from drafts and flammable materials
- Keep wicks no longer than 1/4 inch to control the flame and emit less smoke
- Place candles on heat resistant surfaces – use a tile on wood tabletops
© 2010 Stephanie Hicks
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