Much of what we do as preppers revolves around stockpiling the necessary goods and gear to see us through any situation. For most of us, we’ll get ready for blackouts and the loss of electric infrastructure by keeping candles on hand.
This old school lighting solution has been used for ages, but is it possible that your candles might be a bigger fire hazard than they are worth?
Specifically, might the wax in a stash of candles mean more fuel for a small fire? Is wax flammable in the first place?
Yes, wax is flammable, but it doesn’t ignite easily. Most types of wax have flashpoints of between 400°F and 500°F. However, they have relatively high ignition temperatures, and only sustain the burning of a candle by steadily releasing flammable gas.
So it turns out that the wax of a candle is, of course, flammable in the practical sense, although the ignition temperature of the wax itself is quite a bit higher than you might be thinking…
Don’t worry about it, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about the flammability of various waxes in the rest of this article.
Is Wax Combustible?
Some are. Some waxes, like paraffin, meet definitions for combustible liquids or solids, but all generally have a modestly high flashpoint of around 400°F.
This would qualify them for OSHA standards for combustible liquids.
Does Wax Ignite at Any Temperature?
Yes, wax can directly ignite if it is hot enough. While it may not ignite at room temperature, not like you think, wax is definitely flammable: this ignition point usually falls somewhere between 400 and 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
The exact temperature at which wax ignites can vary depending on the specific type of wax in question.
Does Wax React with High Temperatures?
Yes, wax does react with high temps, primarily by transitioning from a solid to a liquid state- melting! That’s why you get a runny pool of wax when you burn a candle.
But it’s the melting process which makes a candle function, in a way: As the wax melts, it starts to release flammable gas. This gas sustains the burning of a candle’s wick.
But do know that beyond the melting point, if the temperature continues to rise and reaches the ignition point, the wax can ignite and burn directly. While wax doesn’t violently react due to high temperature, it certainly can catch fire itself.
Is Melted Wax Flammable?
Yes, all types of melted wax are flammable. Wax melts as it heats up, and that means melted wax is much closer to its ignition point than solid wax is.
Is Beeswax Flammable?
Yes, beeswax is flammable. This natural wax made by honey bees has been used for millennia for candles due to its renewable nature and pleasant aroma.
The flammability of beeswax makes it an excellent choice for candle making, and a good fuel for a fire!
Is Soy Wax Flammable?
Yes it is. Soy wax is flammable. Made from the oil of soybeans, this type of wax is a popular choice for candles because it burns cleaner and longer than many other types of wax.
Its flammability properties contribute to a consistent, long-lasting flame making it ideal for candles, and it can contribute to a long burning fire in an accident…
Is Paraffin Wax Flammable?
Yes. Paraffin wax is a petroleum-based product and is commonly used in the production of cheap candles.
It has a high melting point and its high flammability ensures a bright yellow flame, perfect for illuminating spaces. If ignited, the wax will burn quite hot, so be cautious!
Is Palm Wax Flammable?
Yes it is, palm wax is also flammable. This palm oil wax is highly prized for its radiant flame, making it a favorite among candle enthusiasts.
Is Candelilla Wax Flammable?
Yes, candelilla wax is flammable. This wax is derived from the leaves of the Candelilla bush. Also highly flammable, it’s a natural choice for candles as the name suggests. It produces a stable, even burn.
Is Gel Wax Flammable?
Yes, gel wax is also flammable just like all other common candle waxes. This type of wax is a mix of mineral oil and polymer resin, giving it a translucent, gelatinous appearance. Often used in decorative and novelty candles.
Is Stearin Wax Flammable?
Yes. Another older type of wax, stearin is made with animal and/or vegetable fats. One of the oldest materials used for making candles, pretty flammable and slow-burning.
A traditional choice for candle making less-commonly found in the US today, though it remains popular in Europe.
Will Wax Make a Fire Worse?
Yes, wax can worsen a fire. The reason for this is that wax serves as a fuel source for the fire.
The vapors released by the wax are flammable and can easily feed a fire; that’s what it is designed to do! This will cause it to grow and become more intense, and in enclosed spaces, these vapors can accumulate and pose a combustion hazard.
This is why it’s essential to never leave a burning candle unattended or in a place where it could potentially tip over, and protect stored candles from any potential source of ignition since they will turn a small fire into a major one.
Is Wax Reactive with Other Substances?
As far as I was able to find, common candle waxes aren’t known to react negatively with other household substances.
Items typically found in and around your home should not interact with wax in a directly harmful way or in a manner that increases their already significant fire risk.
This means that, while wax can be a fuel source for fires, it’s not a reaction hazard. However, it’s still always a good idea to store wax products in such a way that they won’t mingle with other substances, just in case.
How Should You Deal with Wax Exposed to Fire?
When dealing with a fire that involves wax, or any fire encroaching on a large quantity of stored wax, act quickly but safely.
As wax serves as fuel for the fire, it can potentially prolong and worsen the flames. Luckily, wax-based fires can be extinguished by many different means.
You can use water from any source, and smothering the fire is another viable technique, depriving it of oxygen which it needs to burn.
Smothering can be achieved using a fire blanket or a non-flammable lid if the fire is contained, such as in a candle jar. Lastly, common fire extinguishing agents like foam, dry chemical, or CO2 can also be used effectively to put out a wax fire.
But do remember, prudence and safety first: if a fire becomes too large or unmanageable, evacuate and call 911 immediately. Let the pros handle it, since nothing in your home is worth your life!
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.