Candles occupy a special place in people’s lives. We turn to candles to set the mood for some of our most precious experiences – during the holidays, when we’re feeling romantic, when we want to relax, and even during our religious ceremonies. A good candle reliably provides an even burn for just the right light, a soft aroma to match the occasion, and it looks beautiful on its own – lit or unlit.
When people experience a beautiful candle, however, they often don’t realize the work that it took to craft the product. When candles are created, the care, love and dedication to craftsmanship combined with the marriage of just the right ingredients is what brings the candle to life.
How Soy Candles Are Made
Soy candle making has three basic steps. Whether you’re at home making candles to hand out as gifts to a few of your closest friends, or you’re a major factory producing hundreds of candles each day, the basic steps are the same. Factory automation just adds efficiency to the process, increases precision, and helps speed things up.
Soy Wax Preparation
Raw soy wax that’s ready for candle making takes the form of pure, white flakes. To get the wax to this state, the harvested soybeans are shucked and the husks are set aside. Soy oil is then expelled from the husk. The derived oil is then further processed to separate the oil from the wax.
The resulting raw wax is treated to remove any residual soy scent and neutralize the color. At this stage, the wax is still not able to remain solid at room temperature, and is unsuitable for candle wax. Wax becomes ready for candles through a process called hydrogenation, where hydrogen is introduced to the wax to convert it to a state that will remain firm at room temperature.
Using kettles, the soy wax is melted down into a clear, near liquid state. The melting point of soy is 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Throughout the soy candle production process, temperature is a critical factor.
When the temperature is off at any stage, it can cause serious problems with the candle like frosting or poor adhesion. “Frosting,” results when the wax is poured either above or below the optimum temperature range, causing an affect that looks like crystals on the top or sides of the wax. Frosting ruins the beautiful, uniform look of the candle. Another temperature-related production challenge with soy wax is “poor adhesion,” in which the wax cools too quickly and separates from its container. The way to prevent these kinds of issues is to maintain strict temperature controls throughout the process.
When the soy wax has been melted to the ideal temperature, dye and essential oils are added to the batch to give the candle its unique scent and specific color.
All modern candles require a wick, which is essentially a strand of cotton or linen string that has been braided and treated so that it will suspend the flame above the candle and control the rate at which the wax burns. As the flame burns, the heat melts the very top layer of wax on the candle, and the wick absorbs the liquid wax. In this way, the wick provides a steady supply of fuel to the flame, keeping it lit.
For candles in jars, a precut wick is set at the bottom of the jar, anchored in the center point by a small metal tab. Once the wick is set, the wax can be poured in. In other types of candles, the wick can be spooled into a machine, or it can be dipped directly into the wax.
At Milkhouse, we take the wick seriously. It may seem like an insignificant part of the candle anatomy, but even the wick can be optimized to make a healthier candle. Other manufacturers use wicks treated with zinc or lead. These elements can release unwanted carcinogens into the air as the candle burns. We’re committed to using only natural cotton wicks in our candles to ensure the healthiest burn.
Pouring or Molding the Candle
Once the wax is prepared, and the wick is ready, it’s time to get to the fun part: pouring the candle. There are a variety of candle styles, and each one has its own unique method of production. Below are the most common types:
Taper candles, those tall, narrow, elegant candles, can be developed by repeatedly dipping the wick into a bath of molten wax. With each dip, a new thin layer of wax is evenly added to the candle. The more the candle is dipped, the thicker the candle becomes.
Container candles make use of a container as the candle mold. The container can be any nonflammable item, like a metal bucket, or clay pot, but most often, the container is made from glass jars. The jars we use at Milkhouse are produced from 40% recycled glassware and are 100% recyclable. This means that your Milkhouse Candle jars or earthenware crocks will continue giving back long after your candle is finished!
Pillar candles are stand-alone cylindrical candles. They can be made in a few different ways. One common method is to use a molding machine that spools a wick line through the center of the mold. Wax is poured into the mold, and the wax is cooled. When the candle has cooled enough, the candles move down the line out of the mold, drawing the next section of wick into place in the mold for the next batch of candles. The wicks are then trimmed on the new candles, and the process continues.
Alternatively, a process known as extrusion produces pillar candles by pressing wax through a heated steel die at an extreme pressure. A wick is fed through the center of the wax line. The candle slides through the machine, cooling along the way. When it reaches the end of the line, it emerges as a long continuous wax cylinder that can then be cut into sections to the desired length. A trimming apparatus cuts the tip of the candle to expose the wick and shape the end of the candle.
Where Are Our Soy Candles Made?
Milkhouse is located right in the heart of America’s farm country, situated next door to the same soy producers from whom our soy wax is derived. From our team on the factory floor, to the soy farmers we glean from, and the families in Northern Iowa they all support, we see ourselves truly as a community operation.
In 2014, through a kind of miracle, we acquired a major production facility in New Hampton, IA, just 40 miles down the road from our headquarters in Osage. This state-of-the-art facility introduced computerized equipment to our operation that has significantly increased production, like conveyors to move product, heated bulk tanks that can hold a truckload of wax at once, and label applicators that speedily affix labels to our candles.
Our new facility makes it possible for us to provide our candles to more people while still maintaining our high quality standard right here in the same country we started in.
Why Do We Use Soy?