What Are Wax Melts Made From?
We often get asked what wax do we use and whilst I'm happy to share this, it isn't really giving you a full explanation of what it is that goes into making wax melts. There has been a huge increase in the use of melts during the past few years and I wanted to provide a bit of a breakdown into what goes into these new wickless home fragrances.
How did you get here?
So.......you want a nice smelling home? You want to banish all those whiffs of pets, children, cooking and everything else that is causing your house to be just not as fresh as you’d like it to be. Or, you simply want your house to smell exactly how you want it. It could be your favourite perfume, a sweet treat, a childhood memory or even just something to help lighten the mood or bring the outdoors in.
You’ve bought a candle, lit it and urgh the scent is not to your taste and now your stuck with a great big jar of something that isn’t to your liking. Great, your house now smells like something you don’t like and you’ve got to use the rest of the whole candle. It cost a lot and you don't want to be wasteful. You can't re-gift it like a horrible scarf as you've already used it. So, what do you do?
Well, the latest trend has solved this dilemma for you. Wax melts are taking over the world! Or so it may seem. You see them advertised everywhere, every man and his dog are trying to make them and they are for sale on every social media page you browse.
Well the truth is, they are great! They are super easy to use, convenient, quick to change and prices to suit all budgets. When made correctly they can last just as long as a large candle and cost only a fraction of the price. This all sounds great and your mate Fred is making them at home as is Fred’s friend Pam and her next door neighbour Scentsy Sally has even got soy ones that she says are non toxic and edible if you fancied a munch. So your spoilt for choice. But!!! Wait a minute, you don’t really know what they’re made from and your melting them in your home, around your children, around your pets so what do you need to know and what's to consider before you splash out your hard earned cash.
What do you want to know?
Let me try and break it down for you. The raw ingredients are pretty simple: Wax, Fragrance Oil, Colour (can be in the form of Dye or what is known as mica. Mica is a whole other post which I’ll share another day). Some people will add crystals, dried flowers, bits of fruit and the kitchen sink and these can be potentially dangerous in some cases. Please be wary of a wax melt that has only 10% wax and 90% garden foliage. Jokes aside additions to wax are purely decorational and not needed and can take away from the important stuff which are the main ingredients.
The ingredients aren’t the only things to consider. You will also want to think about the environment in which they are made. Is it clean? Has you wax just been melted in someone’s microwave after they’ve reheated last nights biryani? Is it hygienic? Has Pam’s cat just swished his tail fur right into your sherbet lemon snap bar? Is it safe? Fragrance oils can contain very toxic chemicals and as such must be handled with care and measured accurately. It may sound lovely when someone says their wax is the “strongest” as they use the most oils but in reality there is a safe level to use and this must be accurately weighed out with good quality scales.
There are also legal documents required to be produced and provided to customers to ensure they don’t have an allergic reaction. All waxes should come with a unique warning label, detailing each type of potential allergen in them and you need to have this information on the packaging when you purchase your waxes. This is known as CLP labelling. This is because if you do find yourself in A&E after a reaction, you can provide this information to medical professionals. In a less drastic situation it is also good to have the allergen information as some people find they get headaches or bad chests from certain allergens and want to rule out using any products with these in. Anyhow I digress, back to the main point of this blog. What ingredients are in wax melts so here goes:
Ingredient 1: Wax
There are many different types of wax and the easiest way to explain them is to think of it like a tin of beans, there are many types of beans e.g kidney beans, baked beans etc. Wax is similar in that you have different variations, Soy, Paraffin, Coconut etc. Then in terms of quality very much like your own brand white label beans to your branded Heinz top shelf, waxes are made by different manufacturers and come in different qualities. I wont name and shame different types here as everyone has their own opinion but there is definitely a quality divide.
Wax is also typically designed for different purposes. For example, pillar wax is harder and designed to retain its shape and make pillar candles whereas container wax is softer and as its name suggests, better suited to use in jars pots etc. Newer to the market is wax melt wax specifically designed for melts.
The type of wax used makes the making process different, however as an end customer this element of the wax difference shouldn't really be something that matters too much to you. It's the quality and the raw base ingredient of the wax that most people want to know about and what type it is.
Most businesses are happy to share the type of wax used e.g Soy, Paraffin etc but wont give out their exact wax as what is used is what makes each business differ slightly. Here at Rainbows we use 4 different waxes in our own unique ratio. We have developed this mix over the past 10 years and I am confident it is completely unique to us.
Types of wax
There are lots out there but i'll cover 4 main ones here. I won't get into a debate over which wax type is best as there is the Soy brigade who will tell you paraffin will kill you (it won't) and then there's the Paraffin police who will tell you Soy is pants and devastating the planet. Each person has their own preference so please do some research online and form your own balanced opinion. Never listen to just one side and definitely not Scentsy Susan, she hasn't got a clue, she says to eat wax for gods sake, never listen to her.
Soy Wax: This is a natural wax derived from the vegetable soybeans. Soybeans are one of the major agriculture crops grown in the United States and this is primarily where this is harvested from. The beans are cleaned, cracked, de-hulled and rolled into flakes. Soybean oil is extracted from the flakes and the leftover flakes are often used for animal feed. Don't be fooled into thinking this makes these eco friendly however as they are often made using farmed crops that are grown with chemicals and then hydrogenated and flown around the world to get to its making destination. Soy wax melts are what you will see advertised the most online by homemakers as 100% natural. This isn't the case as any wax melts that have a scent in them cannot be natural as fragrance oil isn't natural. Again, do some research, ask questions and don't be fooled into believing some of the false claims people make.
Paraffin Wax: This is a by product of petroleum production. A mixture of oil and wax is formed readily from the refining of lubricating oil. Paraffin wax is made by removing the oil (de-oiling or de-waxing) from the slack wax. The oil is separated by crystallisation. Most commonly, the slack wax is heated, mixed with one or more solvents and as it cools, wax crystallises out of the solution, leaving only oil. This mixture is filtered into two streams: solid (wax plus some solvent) and liquid (oil and solvent). The wax may be further processed to remove colours and odours. You will know Paraffin wax from candle usage however it is also regularly used in salon and spa treatments and sometimes to provide pain relief to sore joints and muscles. Check out pack ingredients on your toiletries and you will sometimes see it.
Beeswax: As it's name suggests, is produced by Bees. It is formed by worker bees who secrete it from glands on their abdominal segments. Interesting fact, the size of the glands depends on the age of the worker and the amount of daily flights they do. Just like us, after a while they go a bit saggy/old after too much use. The wax is initially clear and colourless and becomes yellow by incorporation of pollen oils. Bees use the wax to build honeycomb cells. When beekeepers extract the honey, they cut off the wax caps from each honeycomb cell with an uncapping knife or machine. Beeswax may arise from such cappings, or from an old comb that is scrapped, or from the beekeeper removing unwanted combs. The colour varies dependant on the region, the type of flowers gathered by the bees and its purity.
Coconut Wax: This is produced from coconuts and the oil held within a coconut's inner flesh. Very much like soy wax it is naturally produced however needs to be farmed and it is the farming process that can make it not so eco friendly. In it's defence coconut farming is often done by small scale farmers and as such it is deemed one of the more sustainable of the newer waxes. It is often harvested using one of 5 methods;
- The coconut is run through a centrifuge which separates the oil from the meat.
- The coconut is dried and a solvent called hexane is applied to extract the oil.
- The coconut is distilled using harsh chemicals like lye to remove the oil.
- The coconut milk is fermented and pressed using an expeller to extract the milk. The milk is left to sit for a day, where It will separate and form separate layers of cream, oil, and water. The oil layer is then filtered to remove impurities.
To form coconut wax, the coconut oil then goes through a process known as hydrogenation where hydrogen is added to liquids to turn them into solids.
Each type of wax has it's pro's and con's and like all products it's price varies hugely from one type to another. The scent throw the wax produces, how easy it is to work with and how the finished product looks all play it's part in determining which wax a maker opts to use.
Ingredient 2: Fragrance
Fragrance oils are specifically created for use in products. These are chemicals and synthetic fragrances mixed to form scents that smell like widely known things. When someone says they have a wax that smells like Fabulosa or Unstoppables scented wax beads this is not them using those well known laundry items to make home fragrance (some people do advocate doing this, please don't) it is simply using a fragrance that is made to smell like this. You will also see wax melts made using essential oils and these are created using natural formulated oils however please be wary of essential oil melts as some of these are toxic to pets. Eucalyptus, tea tree and peppermint are all essential oils commonly used that can cause great harm to animals. All common essential oils like this are readily available in man made versions so don't be alarmed if you see a peppermint melt, this isn't necessarily dangerous, it will depend on what type of oil has been used so always ask the retailer if you aren't sure.
Like wax, fragrance oils vary greatly in price and quality. Top quality oils are true to scent description, great to work with and produce excellent results. Being "strong" is not always the deciding factor on if an oil is good. Some scents by their nature are not meant to be in your face and are designed for a background ambience. If you ever want to know how we would rate the strength of one of our own melts please feel free to ask, either us directly or use our online Facebook group, Scented Rainbows Chatter to get lots of opinions from other customers.
Ingredient 3: Dye/Colour
Wax can be colourless/left in it's natural form or most often it is coloured. There are multiple colouring options including dye chips, liquid dye and mica powder. Each works to change the colour of the base wax and create designs chosen by the maker. Some colourants such as Mica are often not fully appreciated until the wax is melted and the liquid "pool" formed truly shows off the product. Here, we are all about colour and brightening up your day so we often use a mix of different colours to create our own unique shades and designs but each maker will have their own preference to colour or not to colour.
What makes brands different?
What makes a wax maker different to another is their unique combination of the main ingredients discussed above as well as the methods they use to make. A maker with the lowest quality oil will inevitably have a different product to that of one who chooses the top quality oil. However the raw ingredients aren't everything. You can have 2 makers using exactly the same ingredients and much like a chef in the kitchen you can get 2 completely different products dependant on the makers skill and recipe. My coq au vin won’t taste anything like Gordon’s even if you gave me the exact same ingredients as there’s a lot down to technique so when someone says they use the “best” wax and oils this is just a small part.
Before purchasing from a company you may want to know what wax they use but you may also want to consider; what are their brand values? Do they ring true with your own values? Is the maker legitimate? Are they registered with Companies House/HMRC? Are they insured? Making hygienically? Never be afraid to ask a business these questions as you are buying a product to use in your home, around your family and any respectable maker will happily answer you.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this and I hope you found it useful. We are always happy to answer any questions you may have and hope that our brand values, openness, honesty and positivity resonate with you and I hope our great colourful products bring you as much joy as they do to us when making them.