Many people assume wax melts are more sustainable than candles. But is this really the case?
Wax melts are not terrible for the environment; they leave little waste once they have been used. They are often made from renewable ingredients, but some wax melts are not.
We’ll guide you through everything you need to know about using wax melts sustainably.
1. What Are Wax Melts Made Of?
Unlike candles, there is no wick, and they do not come in a disposable plastic or metal cup.
Many candle makers add fragrances and dyes to their wax melts.
2. Are Wax Melts Made Sustainably?
How sustainable wax melts are made depends on the kind of wax used. Paraffin wax melts are not sustainable.
Paraffin wax comes from petroleum, which means it is non-renewable. Mining for oil can have negative environmental impacts and affect human health.
Research found oil workers had a higher risk of developing cancer. Animals living near mines were found to have short-life spans.
Oil extraction can lead to air pollution as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as benzene, butadiene, ethylbenzene, formaldehyde, n-hexane, hydrogen sulfide, toluene, and xylenes are released into the environment.
Exposure to these substances may increase the risk of cancer.
Soil can also become contaminated in these areas due to heavy metals, radioactive substances, and spills from drilling fluids and wastewater pipes.
This can negatively impact crop growth. Drinking water can also become contaminated.
Although soy wax is not particularly eco-friendly, it is a greener choice than paraffin. It is a renewable source since it’s made from soybeans.
However, growing soy for commercial use has been linked with deforestation and soil erosion. Harvesting soy can also release emissions.
3. Are Wax Melts Bad for the Environment?
Wax melts made from petroleum-based wax are bad for the environment.
The more demand for paraffin wax melts, the more oil is mined for commercial use.
Soy wax melts have a reduced environmental impact in comparison, but synthetic dyes and fragrances can still be harmful.
With that said, although wax melts do not have a long life span, they produce little waste.
4. Are Wax Melts Toxic?
Wax melts are generally not toxic, but this is not always the case.
As mentioned earlier, wax melts are often scented with synthetic fragrances or essential oils. Essential oils are non-toxic.
Synthetic fragrances used in wax melts and candles may emit chemicals, but the amount they release is negligible.
Research has also found that any chemicals emitted by soy wax and paraffin wax are not released in substantial amounts.
Unlike candles, wax melts do not burn. They melt, so they may not release these substances or could emit them in reduced amounts.
Read more about eco-friendly and safe candle alternatives here.
Candles and wax melts are usually colored with synthetic dyes, typically aniline dyes.
Mild exposure to aniline from inhalation does not seem to have any adverse effects. In large amounts, it was linked with pain, tremor, headaches, cardiac arrhythmia, and even death.
Keep in mind, these studies were conducted on animals, so humans may not have the exact same response. However, the EPA considers aniline a probable human carcinogen.
In the environment, aquatic life can be harmed if synthetic dyes enter water supplies.
These substances inhibit photosynthesis and decrease the amount of sunlight penetrating the water, which means marine plants are unable to grow. This can harm fish who rely on these plants to maintain their habitat and for food.
5. Are Wax Melts More Eco-Friendly Than Candles?
Wax melts don’t always eliminate candles, so they’re not much greener. Wax melts are usually heated above a tea light or by a wax warmer.
Using a wax warmer for wax melts also requires electricity or batteries. While it may not take up a lot of energy, prolonged use can add up.
In 2021, only 12.2% of the energy consumption in the US and 20.1% of electricity generation were from renewable resources. Continuing to rely mostly on non-renewable electricity is not sustainable.
Most batteries for home use are alkaline batteries. When these batteries are incinerated or end up in landfills, they can leach chemicals into the surrounding environment.
Wax melts may save on waste since they do not come in individual metal, plastic, or glass cups and do not have a wick, but they still need something to heat them.
So, simply burning a scented candle is arguably the greener choice since it saves on energy or resources.
6. Are Wax Melts Reusable?
Wax melts are usually reusable for a period of time. If there is still enough wax and fragrance left after burning, they can be used again.
Although they are reusable, they cannot be reused indefinitely. Sooner or later, there will not be enough wax or fragrance left.
You can save leftover wax to make a new wax melt or candle if you’re crafty.
7. How Long Do Wax Melts Last?
How long wax melts last depends on how long you burn them.
Generally, a wax melt seems to last a week before you need to replace it.
Unopened wax melts can last up to two years. After that point, the fragrance may have faded too much.
8. Are Wax Melts Biodegradable?
Whether wax melts are biodegradable depends on the ingredients. Soy wax is biodegradable.
Paraffin wax is not since it can take a very long time to break down and comes from crude oil.
Some wax melt brands add glitter or even top them with charms and accessories. These items are typically made from plastic, so they are not biodegradable.
However, wax melts topped with the likes of flower petals or coffee beans are biodegradable.
9. Are Wax Melts Compostable?
Wax melts are almost always scented, which can impact if they are compostable.
Paraffin wax is not compostable because it comes from petroleum, but pure soy wax is.
However, for a product to be compostable, it needs to break down into organic matter, which is why fragrances and dyes can pose an issue.
Synthetic fragrances are not compostable, but essential oils are since they are extracted from plants.
Some brands will dye their wax melts or even add glitter and charms. This means they are not compostable as glitter is made from plastic.
If they are topped with natural items like coffee beans or flower petals, they are still compostable.
10. Are Wax Melts Recyclable?
Wax is not recyclable. So, by extension, wax melts are not recyclable.
11. Are Wax Melts Sustainable?
Wax melts are not the most sustainable item.
Paraffin wax melts are non-renewable, non-recyclable, and non-biodegradable. Mining for petroleum is also harmful for the environment.
Meanwhile, although soy wax is renewable and biodegradable, the use of synthetic fragrances and dyes can have negative environmental impacts.
Wax melts do not have a long life span and require the use of a tea light or a wax warmer which have their own environmental impacts.
12. How to Dispose of Wax Melts?
Leftover wax should be placed in the general waste bin once it has cooled down. Hot wax can burn a hole in the bin bag and is a fire risk.
Wax melts can go in a home compost bin if they are made from pure soy wax with no synthetic dyes or fragrances. Again, ensure it has fully cooled down first.
3 Eco-Friendly Wax Melts Brands
1. Happy Wax
Happy Wax products are made from soy wax and are scented with essential oils. Their products are biodegradable.
2. Green Koala
Green Koala wax melts are made from coconut wax, which is renewable and compostable. They are scented with essential oils and do not contain any dyes.
3. Sleep Easy Candle Company
Wax melts from the Sleep Easy Candle Company are made from un-dyed soy wax. These wax melts are non-toxic.