Soy wax is a candle-making staple. It is being used by candle makers the world over. It is one of the most popular types of wax in container candles and scented candles. The great thing about soy wax is that it is natural, clean and the soybeans are usually domestically grown.
How is soy wax made? Soy wax is made from soybeans. Soybeans are harvested, processed, and mechanically pressed to extract soybean oil. The soybean oil is refined and then hydrogenated which increases the melting point and helps create the wax.
Soy wax is not the only wax made in this way, a much similar process is used for coconut wax and palm wax. Let’s take a closer look at the soybean refining process that produces the soy wax that we all love.
Soy Wax Making Process
Growing and Harvest
In the United States, 83.4 million acres of soybeans are grown per year. This produces a harvest total of 4.31 billion bushels of soybeans. These soybeans have various uses, but some end up making the wax in our candles.
Once harvested, the soybeans are processed which includes cleaning, cracking, dehulling, and rolling into flakes.
The soybeans flakes are then mechanically pressed to separate the oil from the beans, producing raw soybean oil.
Raw Soybean Oil is Refined
The raw soybean oil is then further refined.
Refined Oil Is Hydrogenated
The refined soybean oil is then hydrogenated.
Hydrogenation is a reaction between molecular hydrogen and an element or compound, typically in the presence of a catalyst such as nickel.
This process creates saturated fat which is usually hard at room temperature. Which helps soybean oil become soybean wax.
This pure soy wax is fine to be used in container candles, but because it melts so easily you can not use it in pillars.
If you wish to use soy wax to make pillar candles then you will need to blend it with paraffin or beeswax to raise its melt point.
Without blending it any pillar candle that you make will end up as a puddle on your desk.
Reasons to Use Soy Wax For Candles
Here are some of the best reasons that you should be using soy wax in your candles.
When you buy domestically grown soy wax you are supporting American businesses and farmers that produce the soybeans and the companies that process it in to wax.
Soy wax is an all-natural product with no harsh chemicals or additives. In contrast, paraffin wax is produced as a petroleum byproduct.
Unlike paraffin wax, soy wax is a renewable resource that can be derived from soybean harvests every year. It is also more sustainable than some other natural forms of wax such as palm oil wax and beeswax.
Little waste is produced from the processing of soybeans in to wax. When soybean oil is extracted from the soybeans the remaining solids can be used as livestock feed.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can soy wax be made simply by adding a nickel catalyst to heated oil without high pressure?
It is not possible without hydrogen and pressure so I can not endorse trying to do this at home.
Are there any other uses for soy wax other then candles?
Soy wax is also a popular choice for wax melts. Wax melts scented and wickless pieces of wax that are melted in a warmer for their fragrance. They are also called wax tarts and cubes.
Is palm wax better than soy wax?
Simply in terms of candle making palm is an equal if not superior product to soy wax. However, palm wax comes with a lot of negatives that soy wax is not associated with.
While it is a renewable resource, some countries are allowing this resource to be wiped out due to their poor economic conditions and lack of environmental regulations. The Associated Press has also reported conditions akin to slavery in the production of palm oil.
For those reasons I choose to avoid palm oil and palm oil wax.
In conclusion, soy wax is made in a way that is all-natural, renewable, and with minimal waste. What is not to love? Soy wax is my wax of choice when making candles and you should also consider trying to make soy wax candles.
If we can get a great natural and renewable product while supporting American farmers and American businesses, then why not?
Regardless of what type of wax you use when you begin making candles just try to choose a wax that is responsibility sourced and created using sustainable practices.
If you want to learn more about wax and candle making check out my article titled How Much Wax Do I Need.