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Paraffin, Benzene, and Toluene - Oh My!

In honor of our new candle and home line, Mer Home, it seems only fitting to go over the problems with paraffin-based candles and how to properly care for your soy and beeswax candles.

Many candles contain things like acetone, phenol, butane and other respiratory irritants – many of which have been connected to cancer and reproductive issues.

Yikes! And here’s what’s even scarier: candle makers aren't required to list their ingredients. WHAT?! How is that ok?

As Wellness Mama says: “Most candles are made of paraffin wax, which creates highly toxic benzene and toluene when burned (both are known carcinogens). In fact, the toxins released from paraffin candles are the same as those found in diesel fuel fumes.” Uh...yeah. I think I'll pass on the next candle I see that doesn't have ingredients listed.

I have always loved great fragrances and have been a bit of a candle-holic. I also have asthma. So basically, my love of delightful fragrances has also been an irritant to my lungs. My solution? Make my own candles! I’ve created a blend of soy, beeswax, various natural oils like grapeseed or almond, and essential oils to make my Mer home candles, and modified our already rich body balm to create natural massage oil candles. We’re using natural wood wicks that burn cleanly for our regular candles and braided natural wicks for our massage oil candles . No benzene, no toluene, no acetone (and no BS!). Just a blend of essential oils that freshen up a room (without giving you cancer – what a concept, right?).

There are plenty of other folks making natural candles now that information about the harmful effects of most mass-produced candles is spreading. I haven’t been particularly satisfied with the natural or organic brands that I’ve tried. Some contain “natural” paraffin (oil is natural but that doesn’t mean it’s good for you to inhale!) and others just smell weird or burn poorly.

That being said, there are some key points to keep in mind to get the best possible use out of a natural candle:

  • The first time you burn the candle, make sure to burn at least an hour or so – enough to create an even pool of wax that spreads to the edges of the candle tin or jar.

  • Keep wicks trimmed to around ¼” after burning at least once (but careful not to over-trim the wick, as that can prevent the candle from burning evenly).

  • Center the wick after each burn if it shifts - natural candles have softer wax, meaning wicks can occasionally shift to the side!

  • Keep candles out of direct sunlight and store at temperatures below 76° F.

My opinion: don’t buy a candle if you don’t know what’s in it. Definitely don’t buy a candle made with paraffin, and just because it says “natural” doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Double check before you buy! We’re always happy to answer questions you may have about ingredients as well.

Happy healthy breathing!

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