The Chemistry of Candles


My project is done on candles. Candles can be just for a light, or they can be to make your home smell good. I use candles to make my room smell good, most people do, but back in the day they used it just for light. I choose candles because I love them, so I wanted to know how they are made. My life is affected by candles because if they weren't there then I wouldn’t be able to relax.

Composition of ...

    • Wax
      • Paraffin- C31H64, petroleum byproduct
      • Stearin- C57H110O6, palm wax
      • Beeswax-C15H31CO2C30H61
      • Gel- mineral oil and resins
      • Plant- soybean, carnauba, and palm wax
      • Tallow- is not used very often, it is expensive
    • Wick
      • Non-Cored- usually is cotton, either twisted plant fiber or braided
    • Cored- cotton around a metal core: zinc, lead, or tin

Main Chemicals, Compounds, Components

The two main components are Beeswax and Cotton wicks

    • Beeswax: Honey bees are the only bees to make beeswax. Once it is made into the cakes, it is indestructible. It started back in the middle ages. It was made just like the Romans made their candles with tallow. It was very limited so it was expensive. They used the candles to light their houses or hold ceremonies. Beeswax is the more safer of waxes to use and more popular one used today.
  • Cotton wicks: They are usually braided because this made the wick curl over and be completely consumed. It started to become used in the 19th century. People used cotton with no core wicks because they burned better.

Chemistry's Role

Chemistry is played in making candles, as it is in everything. Candles are made of all kinds of waxes, but the one I focused on is beeswax candles with cotton wicks. The beeswax is naturally made from honey bees, but then when it is sent to a factory to be put into cakes it becomes man made.When it is sent to the factory it is mixed with many other compounds. The cotton is also the same way. It is grown on a plant naturally, then picked and taken to a factory to be braided which the final product is man made.

Background Research

Beeswax came around in the middle ages, and that is when it was used to make the first candles. Cotton first came around in the 19th century. In 3,000 B.C. is when the Egyptians tried to make a beeswax candle with a cotton wick, but it was as successful till the middle ages.



paraffin wax- hydrocarbon(C31H64) heat of combustion 42kJ/g

Stearin- (C57H110O6) used as the hardening agent



ammonium nitrate

ammonium sulfate

stearin wax- stearic acid extracted from the fatty acids of animals popular in europe

paraffin wax- the natural waxy substance in the process of refining petroleum or crude oil popular in the U.S. (C25H52)straight chain of hydrocarbons, melting point 120 to 160 degrees F

beeswax candles- most common candle type today

history of the candles and wicks-middle ages and 19th century

history of beeswax-made by honey bees

history of candles

60 percent paraffin candles 35 percent stearic acid 5 percent beeswax

candelilla or carnauba waxes-regulate melting point

cotton wicks-intense burning

wire core wicks-burn hotter than cotton wick

candle history

About the Author

Monique Riley is a junior at Senior High school. She has an older sibling and two younger ones. She loves to travel and try new things. She is planning on graduating then attending Montana State University. She plans on being a pediatrician.