Are Soy Candles Safe For Your Home?

By: Cara Smusiak, Planet Green  | 
A group of seven lit soy candles surrounded by a greenery wreath with pinecones.
A holiday dinner table isn't complete without a candle or two.
Janis Christie/Getty Images

Holiday dinners are usually centered around family, great food, and a gorgeous table glowing with candlelight. Many people set the table with paraffin candles, although soy candles are quickly overtaking them as the scented candles of choice. Are soy candles safe, and what's so great about them anyways?

If you love to burn candles, you're in luck. Today, we break down what happens when you burn paraffin wax. From there, we'll explore the many benefits of choosing soy wax candles.


A Brief History of Candle Wax

The evolution of candle wax is a fascinating journey through history, intertwining with the development of human civilization. Ancient civilizations, such as the Egyptians and Romans, initially used candles made from tallow, a rendered form of animal fat, which was abundant but produced a smoky flame and an unpleasant odor. Around 500 BC, the Chinese created candles using whale fat, while in India, they were made from boiling cinnamon.

The Middle Ages saw the advent of beeswax candles, a significant advancement due to their cleaner burn and less offensive smell, though they remained a luxury item for the church and the wealthy due to their high cost. The 18th century ushered in a pivotal change with the introduction of spermaceti wax, derived from whale oil, which burned brightly and without a significant odor.


However, the true revolution in candle making came with the industrial era's development of paraffin wax in the 1850s. Extracted from petroleum, paraffin was an inexpensive, odorless, and abundantly available wax that democratized candle usage. Today, the quest for sustainability and health consciousness has led to the popularity of natural options like palm or soy wax candles, reflecting society's growing environmental awareness and the enduring legacy of candles in human culture.

Think Twice About That Paraffin Candle

Paraffin is made from the residue left over from oil refining. While it is good use of a waste product (and can be utilized as a skin treatment), it isn't good for your health or the environment. Burning paraffin wax results in soot, which includes probable carcinogens toluene and benzene, as well as other toxic chemicals including methyl ethyl ketone and naphthalene. Some even contain lead in the candle wick.

The environmental footprint of manufacturing paraffin wax, a non-renewable resource, adds to the ecological concerns. This process not only contributes to the depletion of natural resources but also adds to the carbon emissions associated with fossil fuel extraction and processing. Therefore, the seemingly harmless act of lighting a paraffin wax candle entails a complex web of environmental and health ramifications.


Are Soy Candles Safe?

Soy wax candles have gained popularity as a safer and more environmentally friendly alternative to traditional paraffin wax candles. Derived from soybeans, a renewable resource, soy wax is a natural, biodegradable material. When burned, soy wax candles emit significantly less soot and harmful chemicals like toluene and benzene. This reduction in indoor air pollutants makes soy wax candles a healthier choice, especially for those with allergies, asthma, or sensitivities to air quality.

Additionally, soy wax burns at a lower temperature, resulting in a slower and more even burn, which not only enhances the longevity of the candle but also ensures a more consistent release of fragrance. This feature makes them more cost-effective in the long run. Furthermore, soy wax's natural composition makes it easier to clean up spills with soap and water, adding to its user-friendly attributes.


Thus, soy wax candles offer a safer, cleaner, and more sustainable option for those seeking the ambiance and comfort of candles without the environmental and health repercussions associated with paraffin wax. Still on the fence? Consider scented wax cubes instead!

Top 10 Reasons Soy Candles Are Better

1. Soy burns longer

While soy candles seem to be more expensive, when you factor in the longer burning time, they're pretty comparable to paraffin.

2. Soy doesn't interfere with the aromas of the meal

Paraffin candles release chemicals that can overpower the scent of foods, which is a big part of enjoying food!


3. Soy is sustainable

Unlike paraffin, which is derived from oil, soy is a renewable resource. Try to look for local brands made with soy that has been grown sustainably.

4. Soy is better for your health

Soy burns cleaner and produces as much as 90 percent less soot than paraffin, reducing the amount of indoor air pollution produced over the course of your meal.

5. Soy won't ruin your walls

The emissions from paraffin candles build up on walls, staining the paint in your home. They also build up in upholstery fabrics and in carpets, affecting the air quality in your home.

6. Soy doesn't produce as much heat

When you've had the oven on all day and a bunch of people over, the last thing you need is more heat.

7. Spilled soy is easier to clean up

Soy is biodegradable so if it spills on your tablecloth or clothing, it's a lot easier to clean than paraffin.

8. Soy helps U.S. farmers

The United States is the number one producer of soy in the world, so when you buy soy products, you're supporting American farmers.

9. Soy candles are safer

Soy is a soft wax so tapers are nearly impossible to find. But tapers can tip over easily, so avoid the fire hazard altogether with soy pillar candles.

10. Soy is better than beeswax at a mealtime

While beeswax a great option, the honey scent can interfere with your meal. Plus, soy is cheaper to produce, so you'll save some money.

This article was updated in conjunction with AI technology, then fact-checked and edited by a HowStuffWorks editor.


Soy Candles FAQ

Are soy candles better?
Yes, soy candles are better than regular paraffin candles in many ways. Not only is soy a renewable resource, but it’s also safer, burns longer and supports American farmers.
Why is soy wax better?
There are many reasons why soy wax is the best for candles. Soy produces 90 percent less soot than paraffin, its scent isn’t overpowering, it burns longer and doesn't ruin your walls. In contrast, the soot from paraffin candles contains carcinogens and other toxic chemicals.
Do soy candles smell better?
Soy candles smell better than regular paraffin candles, but they aren’t as overpowering. They mix well and release the scent from the essential oils that are added to them. Paraffin candles are scented with chemicals and so they tend to have a harsher smell.