Myths, propaganda, hooey,

and things that make us say "Pifflehuff!"


Aromatherapy candles

Rolled Solid vs. Solid Cast
Frozen candles last longer
"Food grade" paraffin

Aromatherapy candles:  Pure nonsense

Aromatherapy candles are more and more popular, made even by healthy candle makers. But aromatherapy candles are pure nonsense.  It's a good idea but misapplied and potentially with ill effects.

  • usually made of paraffin & toxic synthetic oils
  • burning of oils, even good oils, creates poisonous byproducts
  • oils have no aromatherapy benefit when burned

Aromatherapy, the use of fragrance for therapeutic effect, is a wonderful and healing art. But the candle industry has co-opted the concept and created “aromatherapy” candles that are bogus

If good quality natural essential oils are used (which is rarely the case), then they would yield aromatherapy effect when left unburned.  But as soon as you burn the candle, the oils are chemically converted in combustion into unhealthy byproducts that have no relation to aromatherapy and may make us ill. 

Normally, synthetic oils are used for the fragrance, and these are toxic even when unburned.

To achieve aromatherapy benefit, natural essential oils may be put on one's body or put in an evaporative diffuser.

For aromatherapy, and all fragrances for your person and space, it is highly recommended to keep to natural essential oils, and consult with a professional who will direct you in the use of these powerful healing remedies.

Natural essential oils are widely available.  In Santa Fe, local sources include Aromaland and many retailers.

Hooey: Rolled solid pillars burn better because "ultra thin layers of air" increase oxygen supply.

There are some good rolled solid pillars out there being made by a good company but falsely advertised with the ridiculous assertion that poured (cast) solid pillars "almost always have difficulty burning because the particulates in raw, unfiltered beeswax clog the wick, resulting in a weak flame and tunneling" and that rolled solid pillars "have none of these problems because of ultra thin layers of air between" the "solid beeswax sheets which lend more oxygen to the burn equation, thus creating a perfect burn." (For anyone who studied chemistry we know that this statement is logically flawed.)

First to the stink of the hooey, the charge: It is true that poor candle design, very dirty wax and/or improper burning will result in the problems claimed.  But any candle company worth knowing uses the correct wicks for diameter and wax variations, and wax sufficiently clean to burn properly.  This is not an easy thing when working in beeswax, but exactly the same problem is faced with rolled solid pillars - or any candle.

Second, to the daft: on lighting a candle a pool of molten wax begins to extend from the wick outwards, reaching the edge after a time.  This wax forever covers (and fills) the gaps between the sheets in a rolled pillar, ergo, no air supply.  Besides, why would the flame trouble to suck air all the way from the bottom of the candle (through the surface it's sitting on???) when there's ready and ample supply all around.  How not smart do you think we are?

Finally, rolled solid pillars ("the poor cousin"): can't get the wick in the very center (where it belongs); are vulnerable to dripping in the spot where the sheet ends at the outside edge; and generally don't have a burn control tab at the base so the last 1/2-inch of wax is lost.  Given all this, we wonder why our solid cast pillar line also costs about 25% less.

Myth:  putting candles in the freezer before burning makes them burn slower and last longer.

Well, true and not true.  Yes, if you lower the temperature of the candle wax then the flame has to raise the temperature further to achieve evaporation and combustion.  However, a candle flame burns at about 1800 K (3760 Fahrenheit). So the difference between the "frozen" candle and the room temperature candle (about 40 F) as compared to the difference between either and the burning temperature (about 3720 F) is negligible and certainly not worth the trip to the kitchen.


Misleading marketing:  "Food grade" paraffin.

To me, "food grade" sounds like something to eat.  Not so.  It really means that it can be in contact with food without great risk of contaminating it.  Yes, paraffin is inert (or close to it), and though I worry about that dioxin, the FDA says it's OK - for whatever that's worth these days.

However, when paraffin is burned - as one supposes a paraffin candle might be, all bets are off, and "food grade" is a totally meaningless measure.

Calling candle paraffin "food grade" is very much like telling a lie.


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