What is a candle made of?
Essentially, a candle consists of two elements: the wick and the candle body. The candle body is composed of at least one burning mass or a mixture of burning masses (composition candles). Depending on the kind of candle, further ingredients, like colours, lacquers or fragrances, may be added.
The task of the wick, that is usually woven of several cotton strands, is to transport the liquid fuel into the combustion zone. Woven wicks differ in terms of suction capacity, yarn type and yarn strength as well as in their chemical preparation. As an alternative to cotton, other natural or synthetic fibres or paper can be used for weaving wicks, or wooden wicks can be used.
The wick needs to be attuned to candle type, candle diameter, manufacturing process and fuel. Optimal performance of the candle largely depends on the selection of an adequate wick.
The burning mass is often referred to as wax. Nowadays, the following materials are mainly used as burning masses:
Paraffin is the most widely used raw material for candles by far. It is a mixture of hydrocarbons, which can be defined as oil paraffin, soft coal paraffin or synthetical paraffin, depending on the origin. The basic material is white and somewhat transparent. Most candles for daily use are made of paraffin and/or paraffin compositions because of technical processing advantages.
In the case of ceresin candles, the burning mass consists of fully refined paraffin with added, higher-grade components (e.g. harder paraffin with a higher melting point).
Stearin is another raw material for the production of candles. The basic materials for stearin are fats and oils, both animal- and plant-based. Candles made of pure stearin are very robust. They cannot be bent easily and are very durable with regard to temperature, slant and draft.
However, stearin candles can only be produced using casting methods.
Bees wax is produced by the honey bee as a metabolic product. It is unique in its opaque, shiny appearance, which makes it look like a living material. It is used for the candle body as well as for outer decoration. The finished candles show a pleasant beeswax colour and a slight honey smell.
Bees wax is a rare and precious natural raw material. For this reason, candles made of bees wax represent only a small share of the European candle production.
For some years now, the use of hardened vegetable oils and fats, like the socalled palm wax, increases, also for candles that are intended for the indoor use. Because of a soft consistency and a comparatively low melting point, these natural raw materials can almost only be used for container candles, however.
Nowadays, there are a lot of possibilities to create a colour impression. Liquid or solid colours allow both, the colouration of the whole candle as well as the application of a merely thin layer of coloured dipping wax.
Very beautiful effects can be obtained with candle lacquers. They are applied together with solvents, which is often water today. After the solvent evaporated, only a very thin layer of lacquer remains on the candle surface.