Is Wax Flammable: Can Candle Wax, Paraffin & Beeswax Burn?

From candles to cosmetics to paint, wax is a staple ingredient in many products we use in our daily lives.

But is wax flammable or combustible? Can wax catch fire and burn, causing a fire hazard?

This guide will answer those questions about all types of wax, including candle wax, paraffin wax, beeswax, soy wax, car wax, floor wax, and more.

Let’s dive in and find out the flammability of wax and how to use it safely to prevent a fire.

Is Wax Flammable?

Most wax is flammable. Wax is a combustible solid that melts and turns into a liquid when heated above room temperature. When wax is lit with a flame, the wax melts, vaporizes, and combusts, producing light and heat.

Flash Point of Wax

The flash point of wax is approximately 140-400°F (77-204°C), which is the lowest temperature at which a wax’s vapors ignite momentarily when exposed to a flame. The specific flash point will vary depending on the type of wax and its properties.

Wax in a jar for flammable overview section

Are All Waxes Flammable?

All waxes are flammable as defined by OSHA standards 29 CFR 1926 and 29 CFR 1910 and NFPA 30 Flammable and Combustible Liquids Code. However, not all waxes are combustible according to those standards.

All waxes are composed of long chains of hydrocarbons that can burn when heated to their flash point and mixed with oxygen. However, the flash point, flammability, and combustion of waxes vary depending on the type and composition of the wax.

The next section of this guide will cover the most common types of wax, including candle wax, paraffin, beeswax, soy wax, car wax, floor wax, and body wax.

But first, here is an overview of the OSHA standards and NFPA code for flammability and combustion:

OSHA Standards 29 CFR 1926 and 29 CFR 1910

Flammable Liquids:

  • General Industry: Any liquid having a flashpoint below 100°F (37.8°C), except any mixture having components with flashpoints of 100°F (37.8°C) or higher, the total of which make up 99% or more of the total volume of the mixture.
  • Construction: Any liquid having a flash point below 140°F (60°C). and having a vapor pressure not exceeding 40 pounds per square inch (absolute) at 100°F (37.8°C).

Combustible Liquids:

  • General Industry: Any liquid having a flashpoint at or above 100°F (37.8°C).
  • Construction: Any liquid having a flash point at or above 140°F (60°C) and below 200°F (93.4°C).

NFPA 30 Flammable and Combustible Liquids Code:

  • Class I: Flammable liquids with a flash point below 73°F (22.8°C) and a boiling point below 100°F (37.8°C). 
  • Class II: Combustible liquids that have a flash point at or above 100°F (37.8°C) and below 140°F (60°C).
  • Class III: Combustible liquids with a flash point of 140°F (60°C) or higher.
  • Class IIIB: Combustible liquids that have a flash point at or above 200°F (93°C).
Flammable candle wax

Is Candle Wax Flammable?

Yes, candle wax is flammable. Most candles are made of petroleum-based wax that has a high flash point, and candle wax also contains additives, such as fragrance, color, and stabilizers, that can affect its flammability.

Flash Point of Candle Wax

The flash point of candle wax can range from 390-480°F (199-249°C), depending on the type and composition of the candle wax, and is a Class IIIB combustible liquid.

Is Paraffin Wax Flammable?

Yes, paraffin wax is flammable and burns readily. Paraffin wax is a petroleum-based wax that has a high flash point.

Flash Point of Paraffin Wax

The flash point of paraffin wax can range from 390-480°F (199-249°C), depending on the purity and composition of the paraffin wax, and is a Class IIIB combustible liquid

Is Beeswax Flammable?

Yes, beeswax is flammable and melts easily, but it is not combustible. Beeswax is a natural wax that is produced by honeybees and contains a mixture of various chemicals, such as hydrocarbons, fatty acids, alcohols, and esters, that are flammable.

Flash Point of Beeswax

The flash point of beeswax is approximately 212°F (100°C), which is the lowest among the common types of wax for it to ignite and burn, and is a Class IIIB combustible liquid.

Is Soy Wax Flammable?

Yes, soy wax is flammable and has a melting point of 113-127°F (45-54°C), which is lower than most waxes. Soy wax is a natural wax that is derived from soybean oil, which is a hydrogenated vegetable oil that has a high flash point.

Flash Point of Soy Wax

The flash point of soy wax is approximately 450°F (232°C), which is the highest among all waxes, and is a Class IIIB combustible liquid.

Is Car Wax Flammable?

Yes, car wax is flammable and has a high flash point. Car wax can be made of various types of wax, such as natural wax and synthetic wax, and can also contain additives, such as silicone, polymers, or solvents, that can affect its flammability.

Flash Point of Car Wax

The flash point of car wax can range from 390-480°F (199-249°C), depending on the type and composition of the car wax, and is a Class IIIB liquid.

Is Floor Wax Flammable

Yes, floor wax is flammable, but not easily. Floor wax can be made of various types of wax, such as natural wax, synthetic wax, or a blend of both, and also contains additives, such as resin, plastic, or solvents, that can affect its flammability.

Flash Point of Floor Wax

The flash point of floor wax can range from 200-480°F (93-249°C), depending on the type and composition of the floor wax, and is a Class IIIB combustible liquid.

Is Body Wax Flammable

Yes, body wax is flammable but the ignition temperature and combustion vary on the properties of the wax. Body wax is made of various types of wax, such as natural wax and synthetic wax, and can also contain additives, such as fragrance, color, or oil, that affect its flammability.

Flash Point of Body Wax

The flash point of body wax can range from 140-520°F (76°C to 270°C), depending on the type and composition of the body wax. Body wax can be classified as either a Class II or Class IIIB combustible liquid.

Lit match for wax flammability factors

Factors Affecting Wax Flammability

There are many categories of factors that affect the flammability of wax. Understanding these elements can help you handle and use waxes responsibly and prioritize safety when working with any flammable material.

Chemical Composition

  • Hydrocarbon Chain Length: Longer hydrocarbon chains generally have higher flash points and are less flammable. For example, paraffin wax, with longer chains, is less flammable than shorter-chain vegetable waxes like soy.
  • Presence of Additives: Additives like stearates, colorants, or fragrances can affect flammability depending on their own properties. Some might increase flammability, while others might act as flame retardants.

Physical Properties

  • Melting Point: Waxes with higher melting points typically have lower flammability as they require more heat to reach a vaporizable state. Beeswax, with a higher melting point, is less flammable than soy wax.
  • Moisture Content: Water content can reduce flammability by absorbing heat and hindering vaporization. Dry waxes are generally more flammable than those with higher moisture content.
  • Crystallization: The way wax crystallizes can affect flammability. Smaller, more uniform crystals can release flammable vapors more readily than larger, irregularly shaped crystals.

External Factors

  • Heating Rate: Rapid heating can increase flammability by quickly vaporizing wax components. Slower, controlled heating allows for heat dissipation and potentially lowers flammability.
  • Oxygen Availability: Sufficient oxygen is crucial for sustained combustion. Limited oxygen can raise the flash point and hinder burning.
  • Presence of an Ignition Source: An open flame, spark, or hot ember can ignite wax at a lower temperature compared to spontaneous combustion.

Important Note:

Even “less flammable” waxes can still burn under certain conditions. Always handle all waxes with caution and follow safety guidelines. Check the specific product information for detailed flammability data on any particular wax type you’re using.

Hands lighting flammable paraffin wax

Safety Tips for Handling Wax to Prevent It Catching Fire

General Handling

  • Store wax in cool, dry locations away from heat sources and direct sunlight. High temperatures can soften wax and increase its flammability.
  • Keep wax away from open flames, sparks, and other ignition sources. This includes matches, lighters, electrical appliances, and even pilot lights.
  • Never leave burning candles unattended. Extinguish candles before leaving the room or going to sleep.
  • Use proper containers for storing and melting wax. Metal containers are sturdier and less likely to break than plastic.
  • Never melt wax directly on a stovetop. Use a double boiler or a dedicated wax melter for safe heating.
  • Avoid overheating wax. Overheating can cause it to ignite or release flammable fumes. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for melting temperatures and times.
  • Wear appropriate clothing and personal protective equipment (PPE) when working with hot wax. Long sleeves, gloves, and safety glasses can help protect from burns and splashes.

Candle Safety

  • Trim candle wicks to ¼ inch before each use. A long wick can create a larger flame and increase the risk of fire.
  • Place candles on stable, heat-resistant surfaces. Never leave candles burning on furniture, fabric, or near flammable materials.
  • Keep candles out of reach of children and pets.
  • Burn candles in well-ventilated areas. Never burn candles in a closed room or where airflow is restricted.
  • Extinguish candles properly. Use a candle snuffer or dip the wick in melted wax to avoid hot wax splatters.
  • Dispose of used wax and candlewicks carefully. Let the wax cool completely before discarding it in a metal trash can.

Additional Tips

  • Read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for any specific wax product you are using. Different types of wax may have specific safety considerations.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and potential fire hazards before working with wax.
  • Have a fire extinguisher readily available in case of emergencies.
  • Teach children and family members about fire safety and wax handling precautions.

Wrapping Up On the Flammability of Wax

While wax brings beauty and utility to our lives, its fiery potential demands respect. As you discovered, all wax is flammable and many types of wax are combustible, like candle wax, paraffin wax, beeswax, soy wax, etc.

By understanding the flammability nuances of different waxes, such as the flash point temperature, and adhering to safety best practices, you can help prevent fires and enjoy the benefits of wax products responsibly.

Don't Risk It! Discover how often your fire extinguisher should be checked to avoid catastrophe.

X