The modern history of soy candles began in the early 1980s when DuPont and Corning created a revolutionary candlewick for paraffin candles, leading to the wicks' use in soy candles. These particular wicks were successful because they could be used with waxes other than paraffin, such as soybean oil, palm oil, and coconut oils (all vegetable-based waxes). Thus, soy became one of the first alternative vegan waxes adopted by candle makers.
Soy candles can trace their roots back to 9th century Japan where Buddhist monks would massage and bathe themselves in a solution of pure natural soy oil before prayer.
In the 16th century, European explorers introduced the idea of candles made out of beeswax and spermaceti (whale wax) to Japan. During this time, the Japanese were still using oil lamps as their primary source of light, and lighting alternatives such as these new wax candles became popular among the wealthy population.
Soy candle-making also existed in Japan but was primarily used for special occasions like Shinto weddings. These early soy candles were created by mixing fine-quality naturally refined oil with clay and water and then boiling them together. The mixture would be applied to small pieces of bamboo or wood that served as wicks and then hardened. Once hardened, the bamboo would be lit, and the wax of the candle would drip slowly down while leaving behind an ash residue on the wick.
One of the earliest known soy candle recipes was discovered in Japan during the 18th century by a priest named Tetsugen Doko, who became famous for writing "The Iron Flute," a Buddhist book containing parables that he created. This recipe had clay, sesame oil cake, sawdust, and water. The mixture was then allowed to boil before it was applied to plant fibers as wicks used to create candles.
Although soy candles were first made around 9th century Japan, they started to become popular in the United States until at least 200 years later during 18th century Europe. Beeswax was the most desired wax at this time (and for centuries later) due to its natural consistency and lack of scent, which allowed it to be used in combination with various fragrances and essential oils without having any competing or overwhelming odors.
The earliest known commercial soy candle company that sold both candles made out of pure soy wax and blended candles made from a mixture of paraffin wax, stearic acid, and soybean oil named "The Purely Soy Candles Company" dates back to 1912. This company continued selling candles until 1916, when it went bankrupt during World War I because people started hoarding candles instead of buying them due to wartime rationing.
During the 1930s, soy candles once again appeared in the United States when alternative waxes were prized for their ability to burn cleanly with little or no soot. At this time, candle makers started using stearic acid during the candle-making process, then added coloring and fragrance oils.
During World War II, paraffin wax was favored over other alternative waxes since it could be easily obtained through petroleum production. In contrast, most other alternatives required farming similar crops needed for the war effort (such as cotton). Although soy candles remained popular throughout Europe during this period due to their mild scent, which allowed them to remain pleasant even when not scented, they were rarely used in America until around 1980.
Soy candles were made in America as early as the 1930s, but it wasn't until the 1980s that they gained popularity. At this time, soy wax was used to make blended candles with paraffin wax which allowed candle makers to experiment more freely with scents and additives than had been possible when using soy alone. During this period, candle companies started including wicks made out of zinc instead of paper or wood since these new wicks did not burn down like paper or wood ones. These zinc wicks are still standard among modern-day paraffin candles, while pure soy candles typically use cotton wicks similar to those used by vegetable oil manufacturers.
In the 1990’s there was a spike in soy candle popularity, and a shift in the way candles were made. Many old-fashioned candle makers who relied heavily on paraffin wax either went out of business or discontinued selling soy candles entirely, thus leaving room for smaller producers to take their place by making 100% soy candles without blending them with any other waxes.
Today, pure soy wax is used by many chandlers and have become really versatile! Soy wax has a low melting point, and thus have a much longer burn time than their paraffin counterpart. Our Zuzu Candles are made with a higher percentage of fragrance which creates for a more aromatic scented candle. Our soy candles are made to meet IFRA standards of safety, which are free of carcinogens and non-toxic. You can find the perfect scent and a variety of sizes and vessels on our website.