Staying Healthy with Cedarwood

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Cedarwood has been used throughout history in the Middle East. The ancient Egyptians utilized Cedar for embalming, building water-crafts to sail the Nile and for intricately carved temple doors. Cedars are incredibly hearty trees and grow up to one thousand years old! They are a symbol of resilience and regenerative life force.

Amidst flu season, we turn to these wise trees to stay healthy. Cedar has powerful astringent properties and respiratory inhalation is the most effective means of absorption. We’re illuminating these dark nights with Northern Forest candles to enjoy the natural healing powers of cedar, spruce and fir. Our candles are handcrafted with 100% pure essential oils and GMO-free soy wax— to keep you connected to nature’s healing powers!

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Charlie and The Candle Factory

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The other day, a business associate (Charlie) happened to be in our neck of the woods (which is definitely a neck of the woods!).  Naturally, I invited him to stop by the candle factory.  “Well, I have some bad news…” he replied.  “My wife and I actually have a ‘fragrance-free household.’ We are so sensitive to scents that we only receive magazines that offer a fragrance-free version, we only use certain fragrance-free skincare products, and so on.  Scented products give us migraines (or worse) and if we go into a store that sells Brand X candles, we instantly have to leave.”

Me too, Charlie! Me too!  The claims that are so often repeated by other brands (‘naturally scented’ or ‘pure aromatherapy’) end up leaving sensitive people wary of ALL scents, and understandably so.

So rather than talk about it, I said “Charlie, we’re different. But all I’m asking is that you come to the factory. If you can’t come in the door or if at any point find that you’re experiencing any irritation/sensitization, the tour will be over.”

Charlie tentatively got out of his car. We came through the entrance and he trailed behind, slowly waiting for the assault on his senses that occurs while flipping through magazines in the waiting room at the dentist’s office, or walking down the cleaning products aisle at the grocery store.  After a minute or two, I asked him how he was doing. “Fine?” he answered incredulously.  “I can smell a fragrant aroma, but it’s not like I expected…”

I could tell he was having a hard time processing the fact that he was surrounded by thousands of candles, drums of essential oils and indeed, a present and very real aroma; yet he couldn’t identify any of the usual negative effects.  Headache? No. Watery eyes? No.  Respiratory irritation? No.  And then, a smile of enlightenment appeared.  These candles are unlike any others he’d experienced.  And then he started having fun!  Charlie eagerly smelled each of our 30+ candle aromas and happily exclaimed things like “These are so clean!” and “It really smells like the plant!”.

For the next hour, we had the pleasure of explaining the differences between synthetic fragrances and unadulterated and completely intact pure botanical essences.  I showed him our small essential oil distilling apparatus (for fun, not for actually meeting our supply needs!). I showed him a 55-gallon drum of Lavender essential oil and explained the premium we pay for our ingredients, as opposed to synthetic fragrances.blankcandles2

We talked about “unscented” conventional products that actually contain synthetic fragrances to mask other chemical scents. We talked about “trade secrets” and the lack of labeling when it comes to mainstream personal care and cleaning products. We discussed intentionally vague words like “parfum” or “fragrance” that can mean any combination of petrochemical and phthalate-laden toxic ingredients.

We talked about health. We talked about the need for labeling requirements. We talked about how revolutionary it is to create truly authentic products in a world where chemicals are the norm. So, I’d like to take a moment to give thanks to the plant world; thanks to plant-based purity and thanks those who stick to their guns to create products with integrity.  There are some real heroes out there (Dr. Bronner’s, Urban Moonshine, Badger, Pangea, Weleda, Mountain Rose Herbs and more!)

And to all those who are chemically-sensitive, be proud of your bodies’ recognition of poison.  Just because the majority of the population is slowly becoming chemically desensitized doesn’t mean that the products on store shelves are safe.

To continue reading about this topic:

Dr. Aviva Romm recently wrote a great article about body burden and ways to reduce our exposure to toxins. (“Body burden refers to the total amount of toxic chemicals in your body at a given time, or the amount of a single chemical, for example, arsenic, lead, mercury, or PCB, to name just a few.”)  http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-7689/5-tips-to-reduce-your-exposure-to-toxins-and-lose-a-few-pounds-in-the-process.html

http://www.safecosmetics.org/downloads/NotTooPretty_report.pdf

February 2013 report from Women’s Voices for the Earth about how fragrance allergens harm public health: http://www.womensvoices.org/science/reports/secret-scents/

We’ve also written about our dedication to essential oils on our website:

http://www.wayoutwax.com/approach/why_essential_oils.html

http://www.wayoutwax.com/approach/aromatherapy.html

Identifying a Clean Candle: Part 2- Wax

This blog is part 2 in a series.  Click here to read part 1 and here to read part 3.

There are many different options and variations in quality when it comes to the type of wax candles are made out of.  Beeswax candles have been used for thousands of years, have a lovely sweet smell and are known to burn very clean and ionize the air (as long as there isn’t lead in the wick!).  The downfall is that beeswax candles can be quite expensive.  Lower cost waxes are now readily available.  Examples such as paraffin and vegetable waxes (palm and soy) have become quite popular.

Paraffin wax is a naturally occurring by-product and gets a bad rap in the candle world.  It’s true that burning low quality (i.e., unrefined) paraffin wax candles emits soot, particulates and other potential toxins but some paraffin waxes are very clean burning.  If a candle is made with paraffin wax, be sure to ask the candle maker if it is highly refined food grade paraffin (the same stuff used to seal home made jam jars and in hand dips at spas), where all of the mineral oil, which is the primary cause of air pollution concerns from this type of candle, has been removed.

Soy and palm waxes are made through hydrogenating the vegetable oils and when candles made from these waxes are burned properly, are known to be very clean with low soot and particulates.  Here at Way Out Wax we use palm wax in our pillar candle blend.  Our container candles are all 100% soy wax and we go one step above and beyond with our soy wax, ensuring not only a clean burn, but that the soybeans used to make the wax are grown by American farmers and is pesticide and GMO-free!

Stay tuned for future parts and thanks for reading!

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!

Top 5 Candles for Summer

As a follow up on our top 5 candles for Spring, we wanted to share our personal favorites for summer time! Can’t believe it is already July, before we know it we’ll find ourselves harvesting all the veggies from our gardens and lugging in wood to prepare for winter.  In the meantime, we want you to know what the candle maker’s are burning this time of year! The following scents are our personal favorites that help to balance and refresh!

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  1. Bug Out – Keep bugs away the all-natural way! Our three blends utilize Mother Nature’s best defenses (essential oils) to effectively deter insects in a way that’s safe for you and the environment.
  2. Orange – This uplifting aroma helps to balance your spirit, I find that it smells yummy enough to eat, but we don’t recommend that.
  3. Lemongrass – Is our newest single scent, so new, it’s not landed on our website quite yet, but it is available in pillars and votives and we love it as it is a wonderful earthy, refreshing scent.  It can be ordered over the phone though… 1-888-727-1903!
  4. Lavender – Everyone loves lavender, or at least MOST people do!  This calming aroma will help relax you after a day of running around, gardening, or whatever you do!
  5. Clean Air – Our all-natural odor neutralizing candles and sprays are made with a proprietary blend of over 22 botanical essential oils!  They work hard to eat up foul smelling odors by absorbing them and leaving you with nothing but clean air!  This is our number one most sought after product; it is great to eliminate the smells of cooked fish, stinky pets and friends (no offense to them)!

Have Candles, Will Travel

Last week, Susan and myself (Linda) from the Way Out Wax sales office took a trip to the Whole Foods All Access show in Woburn, MA.  Along the way, we were able to deliver some candle orders and visit some of the wonderful stores that carry our products.  Our first stop was at the Hunger Mountain Co-op in our capital city of Montpelier, VT.  We absolutely love this co-op!  They have an amazing selection of organic produce, local goods and foods, a delicious prepared foods buffet and a fantastic bulk section!  Before we left, we loaded up on some healthy snacks for the road and picked up a few herbal remedies from their health and beauty department.  Here’s a photo of Susan posing with their selection of Way Out Wax products.   Next stop… New Hampshire!  The Lebanon Co-op was our next delivery location.  This is a beautiful, large grocery co-op with tons of variety.  We were ogling their delicious prepared foods section and loved the huge selection of bulk items they offer.  They have a modest Way Out Wax selection within their floral department, which looked and smelled lovely!

We then continued on to Concord, NH, where we visited Bona Fide Green Goods.  We absolutely fell in love with this store’s earth-friendly products for everyday living!  Susan and I oohed and ahhed over a every corner of the store.  We eventually decided to bring home a set of these, one of these, and this, although we each saw at least 10 other things that we wanted!  Of course we also loved that they had a beautiful display of both our Bug Out insect repellent candles and sprays as well as our everyday aromatherapy candles.  So we had to pose with the goods!  Eventually, we made it to our hotel in Woburn and got our booth set up that night.  We had a great 2 days at the show, met lots of friendly folks and got to chat with hundreds of people who share our passion for natural products of all kinds.  It was a great opportunity to tout our own eco-friendly ethics and our true aromatherapy candles.  Did you know that all of our container candles are made with non-GMO soy wax?!  That’s a fact that we were happy to share.  Here are a couple of shots of us in action at the show.Overall, it was a busy but fun few days.  We hope you will stop in to shop at the wonderful stores we visited on our travels (Hunger Mountain Co-op, Lebanon Co-op, Bona Fide Green Goods and Whole Foods) and grab some eco-friendly goods (including Way Out Wax!) for yourself!

Way Out Wax Candles says GO GREEN!

Step by step we can all come together to make lifestyle changes and go green to  help reduce our negative impact on the environment!  Listed below are a few things we try to do regularly.  We invite you all to like us on Facebook and post what you do to help the Earth!  At the end of May, we’ll choose a random winner who will receive a Bug Out care package to help keep the bugs away the all natural way this summer!

Here’s our list:

  1. Buy local produce that is in season (this way you’ll get the most nutrients possible and support your local farmers).
  2. Use reusable bags when you shop!
  3. Compost.
  4. Hang your laundry outside, instead of using the dryer (when it is not raining).
  5. Insulate your home.
  6. Maintain tire pressure in your car and carpool as much as possible!
  7. Use efficient light bulbs (not to mention turning lights off when they aren’t being used.)
  8. Walk or ride your bike if possible!
  9. Reuse and Recycle.
  10. Plant as many trees as you can!

I’m sure that there are many more creative ways to produce a positive outcome.  That’s why we want you to share your ideas with us! We all need to work together to reverse the damages already done so we can make this world a healthy place for our children!

Celebrate Hemp History Week: May 2-8

Ahhh, wonderful hemp.  One of the reasons we love it so much is because it’s so versatile- it can be used in over 25,000 applications including food, textile/clothing, household, cosmetic, industrial, healing/medicine and of course, CANDLES!  All of our aromatherapy pillars and votive candles contain hemp seed oil, which gives them their beautiful glossy luster and helps to extend their burn time.  Other candle companies use toxic chemicals to get this same effect, but we find that unnecessary and potentially hazardous.  We’re also the makers of the original hemp candle!

This week is Hemp History Week!  We’ve made a special, limited edition candle in support of this great event, and we figured this would be a good time to tout the benefits of hemp and educate folks about this amazing resource.  Did you know that in the 1700’s American farmers were required by law in some colonies to grow hemp?  President Thomas Jefferson even said “Hemp is of greatest importance to our nation.”  It is now illegal in America to grow this plant.  That means that all of these hemp products are being imported when we could be producing them domestically!

Here are some fun and interesting facts about hemp:

  1. Hemp is among the oldest industries on the planet, going back more than 10,000 years to the beginnings of pottery. The Columbia History of the World states that the oldest relic of human industry is a bit of hemp fabric dating back to approximately 8,000 BC.
  2. Presidents Washington, Jefferson and Adams all grew hemp!  So did Henry Ford and many other notable Americans.
  3. Hemp seed is nutritious and contains more essential fatty acids than any other source, is second only to soybeans in complete protein (but is more digestible by humans), is high in B-vitamins, and is a good source of dietary fiber. Hemp seed is not psychoactive and cannot be used as a drug (learn more at TestPledge.com).
  4. The bark of the hemp stalk contains bast fibers, which are among the Earth’s longest natural soft fibers and are also rich in cellulose.  Hemp stalk is not psychoactive. Hemp fiber is longer, stronger, more absorbent and more insulative than cotton fiber.
  5. According to the Department of Energy, hemp as a biomass fuel producer requires the least specialized growing and processing procedures of all hemp products. The hydrocarbons in hemp can be processed into a wide range of biomass energy sources, from fuel pellets to liquid fuels and gas. Development of bio-fuels could significantly reduce our consumption of fossil fuels and nuclear power.
  6. Hemp can be grown organically. Only eight, out of about one hundred known pests, cause problems, and hemp is most often grown without herbicides, fungicides or pesticides. Hemp is also a natural weed suppressor due to fast growth of the canopy.
  7. Hemp produces more pulp per acre than timber on a sustainable basis, and can be used for every quality of paper. Hemp paper manufacturing can reduce wastewater contamination. Hemp’s low lignin content reduces the need for acids used in pulping, and its creamy color lends itself to environmentally-friendly bleaching instead of harsh chlorine compounds. Less bleaching results in less dioxin and fewer chemical by-products.
  8. Hemp fiber paper resists decomposition, and does not yellow with age when an acid-free process is used. Hemp paper more than 1,500 years old has been found.  The Declaration of Independence was drafted on hemp paper.  Hemp paper can also be recycled more times than wood-based paper.
  9. Hemp fiberboard produced by Washington State University was found to be twice as strong as wood-based fiberboard. No additional resins are required due to naturally-occurring lignins.
  10. Eco-friendly hemp can replace most toxic petrochemical products. Research is being done to use hemp in manufacturing biodegradable plastic products: plant-based cellophane, recycled plastic mixed with hemp for injection-molded products, and resins made from the oil, to name a very few examples. Over two million cars on the road today have hemp composite parts for door panels, dashboards, luggage racks, etc.

These facts have been provided to us from the Hemp Industries Association.  We think they’re pretty interesting!  Visit this website to find out about hemp history week events in your area.

Jasmine, Rose, and Vanilla Scented Candles

Jasmine, rose and vanilla are all amazing and popular scents that we love, but, did you know that all three scents come in the form of absolutes rather than essential oils?  Absolutes are similar to essential oils, only their method of extraction is much more elaborate and is either done using CO2 or a solvent such as hexane.  Essential oils are made primarily by steam distillation or cold pressing (like from the rind of an orange).  Absolutes result in a very complex, highly concentrated and expensive oil.

Producing jasmine absolute is an incredibly labor intensive and delicate process.  First, the jasmine flowers must be hand picked during the night since much of the fragrance will evaporate during daylight hours.  The blossoms must be very carefully picked, packed and transported because they are fragile and if they get crushed, the quality is compromised.  Then, a solvent is used to extract the oil, and then evaporated away, leaving behind only the absolute oil.  It takes about 8000 jasmine blossoms to produce 1 gram (about 1mL) of jasmine absolute.  A single pound of pure jasmine absolute oil may cost between $1000 to $4500!  So, if we were to make one of our glass tumbler candles with pure jasmine oil, it would cost us about $40 to produce.  Check out the prices of jasmine absolute oil for yourself at Mountain Rose Herbs.

Rose is actually available in both an essential oil and an absolute.  There is very little oil contained in the rose petals, which is why it requires over 30 roses to produce 1 drop of rose absolute!  Making rose absolute is more efficient, producing a greater amount of oil from fewer petals compared to the distillation process to make the essential oil.  Compare the prices of the absolute vs. the essential oil at Mountain Rose Herbs.  If you’ve ever handled a rose before, you know that the petals containing the oil are very fragile and bruise easily, making it also a delicate operation to collect and process the petals.  There are myriad types of rose absolutes, but the top three used are Bulgarian, Maroc, and Damask-Turkey.  To scent one of our glass tumbler candles with pure rose absolute, it would cost us between $40 and $76 per candle.

Vanilla is the most popular candle scent.  Vanilla absolute oil, like jasmine and rose, is produced using the fragile flowers (not the beans!) of the vanilla plant.  The deep trumpet-shaped flower, a member of the orchid family, must be hand pollinated, except for in locations in Mexico where a native hummingbird is capable of doing the work.  The delicate flower will wilt if not pollinated within a few hours of being opened.  These factors contribute to the price of vanilla absolute oil, which you can see for yourself at Mountain Rose Herbs.  It would cost us about $26 to scent a glass tumbler candle with pure vanilla.  Visit this post to learn more about why we don’t make a vanilla candle.

So, while we love these scents, we won’t be making any aromatherapy candles at Way Out Wax with them anytime soon.  We share this information to help educate folks and encourage them to ask questions.  There are a lot of inexpensive synthetic jasmine, rose, and vanilla fragrances out there used by candle makers and perfumers alike.  Check out our website to learn more about synthetic fragrances and learn why we’ve made such a strong commitment to not using them.  Remember, if the price of a product claiming to use these “essential oils” seems like it’s too good to be true, it just may be!