Identifying a “Clean” Candle: Part I-Wicks

The candle industry is mostly unregulated with regards to claims of things being “clean,” “organic,” and “natural,” which makes life difficult as a consumer to decipher what may be a questionable claim of purity from an honest one.

Metal in candle wicks, poor quality waxes and synthetic ingredients may all contribute to indoor air quality concerns and increase soot production which can be deposited on walls and ceilings and affect the value of your home – not to mention, the potential affects on your respiratory system.  People with asthma,  COPD concerns and chemical sensitivities may be particularly affected by burning poor quality candles.

The best way to ensure that you are actually buying a clean and healthy candle is to educate yourself.  We want to help you become an informed, savvy, consumer so we put together this series of blog posts to help you understand what to look for and what questions to ask a candle maker when shopping for a high quality, clean burning candle.

At its most basic, a candle consists of wax and a wick.  Other ingredients are sometimes added to the basic candle recipe for aesthetics (such as dyes), aroma (essential oils and/or fragrance oils), and enhancement (chemicals that intensify fragrance and/or increase the burn time of the candle or make it burn brighter).  We’ll touch on each of these elements through this blog series and discuss how the type and quality of each ingredient can factor into how “clean” the final product is.

It is now illegal for candles produced in the United States to put lead in candle wicks due to the toxicity when burning, but it used to be a common practice.  The reason to put metal in wicks is to help the wick stay upright and centered as the candle burns and prevent it from going limp and create burning challenges.  In a manufacturing environment, it is time consuming to manually manipulate every wick, so having lead in the wicks made it a more efficient process.  Cost concerns overrode health concerns.

Consider this for a moment… there are thousands, maybe millions, of candles being imported into the United States everyday from places that do not have regulations about lead in candle wicks.  Is it possible that all of the candles are all being checked for lead before making it onto store shelves?  Our best advice for you is know where your candles come from!

Some candle manufacturers may use other metals such as zinc and tin in wicks, which is legal to do, but this is largely untested and their safety is unknown.  There is also a possibility that the zinc and tin used may contain traces of lead impurities.  An easy way to test for lead in a candle wick is to take an ordinary piece of white paper and rub it on the tip of an unburned wick.  If the wick leaves a gray, pencil-like mark, there is lead in it, if not, it’s lead-free.  Here at Way Out Wax, we don’t mess around with metals in our wicks.  We choose to only use unbleached cotton or hemp wicks with a paper core in our candles.  Visit this link to read the results of a 2001 EPA study on candles as potential sources of indoor air pollution.

This post is part 1 of a series on identifying a clean candle.  Click here to read part 2 and here to read part 3 and as always, thanks for reading!

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One thought on “Identifying a “Clean” Candle: Part I-Wicks

  1. Very good article about clean candles. Choosing the cleanest candles you can will greatly eliminate harmful particles added to the air via your candles.

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