Many people are worried about keeping candles lit in their home. Not only can it be a fire hazard if you forget about them, a lot of people are afraid that lighting candles releases harmful chemicals into the air. Depending on the candle, they may be right.
There are candles out there that have the potential to release toxins into the air when they are burned. As a conscious consumer, you probably want to avoid buying candles like these, so here are a few things to look for when purchasing candles as well as a couple of tips on how to make sure the candles you burn are safe for you and your family.
Avoid Lead Wicks
Some candles are made with wicks that have a lead core: this allows them to burn slower and more evenly, but it can potentially release lead into the air, with some estimates up to five times the healthy amount. The production of lead-wicked candles was banned in the United States nearly 15 years ago, but some may still be sold in discount stores.
To see if your candle has a lead core, take a piece of paper and rub the wick against it. You can do this before or after you’ve burned it, but try to use an area that isn’t covered in soot. If the wick leaves behind a greyish mark like a pencil, it’s probably got a lead core wick. You can simply throw the used candles away and try the paper test before you buy new ones, or you can return unburned candles to the store for a refund. To be safe look for candles that are certified lead free.
Paraffin Wax Can be Trouble, Too
Another thing you may want to avoid are candles that are made with paraffin wax. Paraffin is created by using the leftovers from creating petroleum-based products — gasoline, plastic, etc. — and can emit harmful chemicals when it’s burned. The wax is bleached and treated before use in candles, but there still may be dangers when burning paraffin candles, especially if you burn them every day.
The first thing you should do is read the label of the candle. If it doesn’t say what it’s made out of, chances are that it’s paraffin (and if it does say, then you know right away!).
You can also test the candle itself. If no color is added and it’s a white color with a little translucency, then it’s probably paraffin. Also, if you press down on the wax and there’s no give at all, there’s a good chance that it’s paraffin: candles made with natural waxes will give a little when you press down.
Look for Natural Candles
The best thing to do to avoid paraffin and lead-wicked candles is to buy candles that use natural waxes and fibers. These are usually easy to find because they will say so on the candle.
Beeswax is one of the most popular waxes that companies use to produce natural candles. It is fairly easy to come by and burns with an even, pleasant smell, even when it’s unscented. Vegetable waxes, hemp wax, soy wax and even coconut wax are also very popular.
For the wicks, natural fibers like hemp and cotton are usually used. Also, look for fragrances that are derived from essential oils rather than chemical blends. Again, the candle makers will probably already have these listed for their customers.
Make Your Own Candles
If you just don’t trust anyone else, you can always make your own candles. It’s a very easy process and you can mix and match waxes and fragrances until you find a combination that you enjoy.
First, find a container. Mason jars, vases and even old candle containers are perfect. If you want to reuse a candle jar, place it in the freezer for an hour or so and the leftover wax will come right out. Use a good natural cleaning product (like these from http://www.cleanhappens.com/collections/bulk-and-multi-packs) to get the rest of the wax out.
Then, all you have to do is visit a store that sells beeswax and melt it on your stovetop. Once the wax is melted, just pour it into the container you want. Using cotton for a wick, poke a toothpick or skewer through it and let it hang into the wax. As the wax hardens, it will embed the wick and you’re ready for a nice candlelit night!
If you’re worried about dangerous chemicals in your candles, remember these tips to find candles that won’t harm your family.
Rosie Hardy writes about clean eating and how to lead a green life that is free of chemicals, or as free as you can get in today’s world.