Our neighborhood lit luminaries at dusk for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. As I looked down the glowing that lined the path to our home, while most of the candles had a dull light, one of the luminaries shone much brighter and warmer--and was still going long after all the other candles had finished burning.
A surprising discovery
I discovered it was a beeswax candle, plucked from a random box of candles we've collected over the years.
Could there really be such a big difference between candles? Was this just a coincidence? I decided to experiment. I’m going to burn candles side by side and observe which one glows brighter.
The perfect burn
Back when I was in grad school, childless and independent, my friend Esther and I used to sip tea in her candle-lit room for hours on end until the candles finished burning and the teapot was empty, but finding four hours to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the perfect edge-to-edge candle burn with a family, a garden, and half a million bees to manage is hard.
We had a power outage, and the conditions for the long-delayed experiment presented themselves. This was the best "lemonade situation" I could think of. If life gives you a power outage, run your candle experiment.
I lit a bunch of candles, got a couple of paper bags to make the luminaries, and was ready to show how beeswax candles can easily outshine non-beeswax candles, even if they are more than twice as wide, and have 3 times as many wicks.
Watch this video:
Why do beeswax candles burn brighter?
The short answer is because beeswax is a better fuel.
Did you ever notice that cooking food on a wood fire comes out crispier than on a gas burner? Or pizza at home vs pizza in a wood-burning oven. That's because wood burns hotter than gas, and the extra heat makes that mouthwatering crunchy crust.
Wood and gas are both fuels, but wood needs more heat to burn than gas.
The same thing happens with candles. Wax is the fuel. The wax needs to melt before it can climb up the wick and be consumed in the flame.
Wax needs to melt to burn, and since paraffin melts at 99ºF, soy wax melts at 120ºF, and beeswax melts at 140ºF, beeswax needs more heat. The heat of the feeble flame of a paraffin candle, won't melt the beeswax.
That also means that beeswax will burn longer than paraffin and soy wax candles.
So why do beeswax candles burn brighter than any other candle? Because beeswax needs more heat to burn than any other candle wax.
Try this experiment
I challenge you to try it! It's a fun experiment. Have members of your family take guesses as to which candle will shine brighter.
- Never leave a candle unattended
- Keep away from things that can catch fire
- Keep away from unsupervised children
All you need is:
- a beeswax candle,
- a non-beeswax candle, it can be soy wax, paraffin, or Shrek’s earwax, and
- a few paper bags. You need one for each candle in your experiment. I used white ones, but you can use brown ones too.
- a lighter or matches
Your lab notes:
- What did you learn from this experiment?
- Compare what you saw with what you predicted would happen.
- Did you take bets? Who won?
Becoming an informed customer
After your experiment, you’ll know that not all candles are created equal. Remember that before you get your next candle. Buy smart. Choose beeswax candles.
Trust the bees. They know better.