A white waxy substance, resembling spermaceti, tasteless and odorless, and obtained from coal tar, wood tar, petroleum, etc., by distillation. It is used in candles, as a sealing agent (such as in canning of preserves), as a waterproofing agent, as an illuminant and as a lubricant. It is very inert, not being acted upon by most of the strong chemical reagents. It was formerly regarded as a definite compound, but is now known to be a complex mixture of several higher hydrocarbons of the methane or marsh-gas series
Paraffin derived from petroleum, colorless, odourless, unexpensive, widely available (the straight kind, anyway), easy to manipulate, to proportion and to use, can be used with or without additives to create different kind of candles.
When you buy paraffin wax to make candles, most of the time it is sold by weight and conditionned as wax pellets. Such a conditioning is ideal as it makes it easy for you to store, manipulate and proportion.
If you live in the United States, chances are you’ll never use basic paraffin because there’s a wide range of pre-blends available, specially formulated for a specific type of candle. But if you’re a beginner, you can learn a lot by playing around with pure paraffin and additives as most european candle makers have to, due to the unavailability of pre-blends in these countries.
Straight paraffin usually comes with a melting point (MP) of 140°F, which limits its use for “hard” candles like Pillars or Votives.
It comes free of any additive so the odds are great you’ll need to add one or several additives, depending upon the type of candle you’re planning to make.
But let’s start with the beginning: straight paraffin wax is great for the beginner candlemaker and will allow you to familiarise yourself with the different additives, their effect when used in different quantities and also with the ideal pouring temperature in such or such case.
Paraffin wax, colourless or white, somewhat translucent, hard wax consisting of a mixture of solid straight-chain hydrocarbons ranging in melting point from about 48° to 66° C (120° to 150° F). Paraffin wax is obtained from petroleum by dewaxing light lubricating oil stocks. It is used in candles, wax paper, polishes, cosmetics, and electrical insulators. It assists in extracting perfumes from flowers, forms a base for medical ointments, and supplies a waterproof coating for wood. In wood and paper matches, it helps to ignite the matchstick by supplying an easily vaporized hydrocarbon fuel.
Paraffin wax was first produced commercially in 1867, less than 10 years after the first petroleum well was drilled. Paraffin wax precipitates readily from petroleum on chilling. Technical progress has served only to make the separations and filtration more efficient and economical. Purification methods consist of chemical treatment, decolorization by adsorbents, and fractionation of the separated waxes into grades by distillation, recrystallization, or both. Crude oils differ widely in wax content.
Synthetic paraffin wax was introduced commercially after World War II as one of the products obtained in the Fischer–Tropsch reaction, which converts coal gas to hydrocarbons. Snow-white and harder than petroleum paraffin wax, the synthetic product has a unique character and high purity that make it a suitable replacement for certain vegetable waxes and as a modifier for petroleum waxes and for some plastics, such as polyethylene. Synthetic paraffin waxes may be oxidized to yield pale-yellow, hard waxes of high molecular weight that can be saponified with aqueous solutions of organic or inorganic alkalies, such as borax, sodium hydroxide, triethanolamine, and morpholine. These wax dispersions serve as heavy-duty floor wax, as waterproofing for textiles and paper, as tanning agents for leather, as metal-drawing lubricants, as rust preventives, and for masonry and concrete treatment.
- Paraffin waxes have a distinctive crystalline structure, are pale yellow to white (or colorless) and have a melting point range between 122 and 140°F (50 and 60°C).
- Microcrystalline waxes have a poorly defined crystalline structure, darker color, higher viscosity, and higher melting points — ranging from 140 and 199°F (63 and 93°C)