Which Candle Wax Decomposes? How Long Does It Take To Decompose?
With all of us trying to live more sustainably in our day to life, more of us are deciding to invest in bio-degradable products which are better for the environment, but what about candle wax, does it decompose?
Candle wax can decompose after some time if it is made from natural materials, paraffin wax candles do not compose due to their chemical makeup.
We’ve discussed in more detail below what wax candles are made from, how long they take to decompose, how to dispose of them and if the wicks are also eco-friendly.
What Are Candles Made From?
Before we get into which candles decompose and how long they take to break down, let’s first briefly go over the different types of candle wax and which wax type can decompose or be composted.
Plant Based Waxes
These natural waxes tend to be made from coconut or soy and this type of wax doesn’t emit any toxic chemicals when burned. This type of wax is also biodegradable since they are an organic candle.
Paraffin wax is derived from petroleum, not a natural source and cannot decompose or be put into compost since it has harmful chemicals which take a long time to break down.
Since paraffin wax holds scent well and is cheap to use in candle production, most commercial candles are made out of this type of wax, we, therefore, suggest double-checking the label if you want to avoid these kinds of candles.
Beeswax candles are a great natural alternative for candle lovers and this natural candle wax can break down too, making it an ideal candle wax to choose if you are looking for sustainable candles.
It is worth noting that this type of wax used is the most expensive, however.
How Long Do Candles Take To Decompose?
Now we know which candle wax can decompose and that the most common type of wax paraffin can’t, let’s discuss the breakdown time of each kind.
As a benchmark, know that natural candle waxes take under 60 days to decompose.
Paraffin Wax – 100 Years
Paraffin wax can take around 100 years to break down because of its chemical make-up, this is why it’s important to buy natural wax candles when possible since they are better for your health too.
Soy & Coconut Wax – 6 Weeks
Soy and coconut wax are the best variants of candle wax when it comes to natural decomposition. They only take 6 weeks to decompose since they don’t have any nasty chemicals.
Beeswax – One Month
Beeswax takes around a month to decompose, so a little longer than soy wax and coconut wax, this wax is made from honeycomb and therefore doesn’t contain any harsh chemicals.
How Do You Dispose Of Candle Wax?
If you’ve got some leftover candle wax in your jar and you don’t know how to get rid of it, we’ve listed some ways to dispose of candle wax below.
By taking old wax and re-using them in other ways you could make wax melts,
Re-use The Wax
If you have lots of leftover wax in your candle jar, you can simply melt down the wax inside and re-use it.
You could make wax melts, other spare candles, air fresheners or even letter seals with the wax rather than throwing it away.
Discard The Wax
An easy way to get rid of wax is to just put it in your landfill space, simply melt the wax down or freeze it then scoop it out of the jar, to be environmentally conscious it is best to only throw natural waxes away like soy, beeswax and coconut.
Compost The Wax
Soy, Beeswax and Coconut wax can be broken down by anti-microbial compost, paraffin wax cannot however and will take a long time to break down due to the chemicals inside which are derived from crude oil.
Are Candle Wicks Eco-Friendly?
Since natural candle wax is biodegradable items, you might be curious as to if candle wicks are also biodegradable, or are they as bad as paraffin wax?
Most candle wicks are environmentally friendly as long as they do not have lead or metal inside of them, you can choose from wooden, cotton or hemp candle wicks which are all biodegradable.
We have a deeper guide to woodwicks here.
Other Things To Consider When Buying Eco-Friendly Candles
The candle wick and wax are not the only important parts you need to consider when buying a candle, you should also consider the packaging and the perfume, we’ve gone into more detail below.
Candle packaging can often come in plastic types which are non-recyclable, to make your candle eco-friendly think glasses which you can reuse and paper or cardboard packaging when possible.
Just like paraffin wax, perfume in candles can also emit bad chemicals when burned, perfumes can often contain phthalates which emit harsh chemicals contributing to indoor pollution.
This can also make wax take longer to decompose. We would suggest opting for candles with essential oil fragrances instead.
Frequently Asked Questions About Candle Wax Decomposing
What happens to candle wax when it evaporates?
When candle wax evaporates it vaporizes the liquid wax which then turns the molecules of hydrogen and carbon into hydrocarbon creating water vapour and carbon dioxide.
Is it bad to burn paraffin wax candles?
Paraffin wax candles are not environmentally friendly and are harmful to burn in the air since they come from petroleum, burning these candles emits black soot into your home which can contribute to several health problems.
How do you take the leftover wax out of candle jars?
If you want to reuse the wax in a candle we suggest either freezing the candle, putting boiling water in it, using the oven or creating a double boiler if you are not sure how heat-resistant your candle jar is.
Once the wax is removed you can make wax melts or turn them into another homemade candle!
Are multi-scented candles biodegradable?
This depends on the wax the candles are made from, consider the wick, and if the candles are made from soy/coconut or beeswax. Also, give the scent a thought since this can add extra chemicals to the wax.
What is the chemical makeup of paraffin wax?
Typical paraffin wax has hydrocarbons and alkanes inside and its formula is CnH2n+2.
What is organic candle wax made of?
Organic candle wax is typically made from soy, coconut or beeswax, paraffin wax is not considered organic. You can also find wax made out of rapeseed. We’ve compared both soy and beeswax here.
To conclude, candle wax does decompose if it is made from soy wax, coconut wax or beeswax. Paraffin wax candles take much longer to break down since they are made from petroleum.
If you want to choose eco-friendly candles we suggest opting for candles which also have a wood or cotton wick, are naturally scented with essential oils and come in paper or cardboard packaging instead of plastic.
We have a guide to making your own natural candles from soy here.
Smell is one of the human senses which can flow through the whole body. I am the Founder of NeoCandle.com where we talk all about scented candles. Known as Candace the Candle Girl, I know pretty much all there is to know about scented candles. I make and sell them on Etsy and Ebay – so be sure to ask if you have any burning questions 🙂 (pun intended 😉 )