So a while ago I made my own paper drinking straws. I promised to find out if soy wax would work as a substitute for the paraffin wax used to seal these beauties.
And did it work?
The short answer is: no!
The long answer is: no, it did not!!
But as I have gone to the trouble of making 30 of these semi-usable straws, I might as well go to the trouble of explaining my findings.
Some Facts about Soy Wax and Paraffin Wax
|Type||Soy Wax||Paraffin Wax|
|Derived from||Soybean oil||Crude oil/fossil fuel|
|Consistency||“Soft” wax||“Hard” wax|
|To wet or not to wet||Water soluble*||Water repellent|
|Price||approx. £5 per pound||approx. £4 per pound|
*Water soluble? But it’s a wax. Waxes are, by definition, non-soluble in water. But soy wax is. And it can be washed out very easily with hot water and soap. This does not mean that it will immediately dissolve when placed in water. It takes quite a while to disappear, but disappear it does! This is one of the reasons why paraffin wax is better than soy wax when used for batik.
Food for Thought
- Soy candles DO produce soot, contrary to popular belief. There is both black and white soot, so just because you cannot see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t produced. Anything that burns emits soot. And it is more often than not the actual wick that emits the soot. But don’t run around your house screaming and throwing all your soy candles away! The soot is about as dangerous as that produced by a smoking pan of oil or a toaster. So unless you want to stop eating steaks (or fried tofu) and chuck your toaster out too, don’t worry too much about it.
- Soy wax candles lasts twice as long as paraffin wax candles
- Because soy wax is a “soft” wax, it does not work very well for pillar candles. It works really well as a container candle.
I found this quote, from the article Guide to Waxes for Candle Making, quite amusing.
“To each their own…
There isn’t any one answer.Yes, paraffin comes from oil, and oil isn’t going to last this planet forever.However it is a by product and so I have no problem using it for that reason. Are the same people who unequivocally bash paraffin also living lives that are free of the plastics, rubber, solvents, paints, acrylic fibers etc that are also made from petroleum??I think not. Soy is another issue.Those who say it is a sustainable product don’t seem to take into account the millions of gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel needed to produce soybeans on the massive level needed for food/oil and then take into account the energy heavy process to extract the oil and additives to make the soy wax; well, then you may see things in a different way.Paraffin comes from the refining of that gasoline that is then used to grow and transport the soybeans. Add to it the natural gas that is needed to produce the fertilizers and pesticides to grow the soybeans. In the end we use what works for us individually.”
- —Guest CandleMaker
See this article for more in-depth facts about the soy/paraffin wax debate.
Now that I’ve given you the facts, lets take a look at the pros and cons of using soy wax for sealing paper drinking straws. Let’s start with the positives.
Pros of using Soy Wax for Sealing Paper Drinking Straws
- Soy wax melts faster than paraffin wax
- Melted soy wax is thinner in consistency than melted paraffin wax. This meant that the straws weren’t prone to forming a lip around the ends. But making sure that the paraffin wax is hot enough will also prevent the lip from forming when using paraffin wax.
- Soy wax is more appealing to greenies and possibly more sustainable (depending on your view regarding the above quote).
Cons of using Soy Wax for Sealing Paper Drinking Straws
- The soy wax does not dry as quickly as the paraffin wax, making the dipped straws more fragile during the dipping stage.
- Soy wax is more tricky to wipe off the straw while melted. This seems paradoxical to me, because it is easier to wipe away from the work surface than paraffin wax is. But couple this odd phenomenon with the fragility of the straws and it makes it twice as tricky to wipe the excess wax off the straw before it cools.
- The wax doesn’t seem to stick to the paper very well. Paraffin wax will stick any stray ends (of the straw) down and is absorbed by the paper better than the soy wax is. When pinching and rolling a completed (hardened) straw, the soy wax on the inide of the straw (thin though the layer may be) comes off in little shards of wax. Pinching and rolling the paraffin wax straw in the same fashion causes the wax to crack a bit, but it stays stuck to the paper. No shards. Maybe a few tiny particles if I really rough the straw up.*
- The soy wax straws were slightly softer than the paraffin wax straws (which felt like cardboard/plastic although they are only made from standard paper).
- The soy wax straws started softening even further after 30 minutes in a glass of ice cold water. After an hour and a half they were quite soft, but not soggy yet. After 2 hours they were soggy, but still working. Compare this to the 8 – 10 hours of the paraffin wax straws and there is no contest (and keep in mind also that I gave up after that amount of time because I got bored, not because the straws were soggy. They weren’t!)
You can use the soy wax for sealing your paper straws, but I wouldn’t. I will use the ones I have, because I spent an hour making them, but I won’t use soy wax for this again.
Remember to head back to my post about making your own paper straws if you want to download the FREE printables and make your own drinking straws.
*Please keep in mind that all my experiments with these straws were conducted using properly dipped straws – that means that the straw was completely covered in wax, the wax was hot enough when dipping that it didn’t form a thick crust of wax on the inside of the straw, and the straws were stuck together properly using home-made gelatin “tacky” glue.
Thanks for your informative article. Waxing bicycle chains for lubrication is popular (not attracting dirt and more slippery than oil) and I wanted to know if soy wax was comparative as paraffin. Surprisingly, there’s not much on research on the Internet but you provided enough information for me to decide No. The low melting point plus it being water soluble makes soy wax a poor choice on a hot summer day or when there’s rain.
Ursula Giles says
out of curiosity have you ever tried using beeswax, candelilla wax or carnauba wax to coat them with?
Dedri Uys says
No, I haven’t. I like the way the paraffin wax works, so thought I would just stick to that. But I would love to hear if someone else has tried any of those.
So you use paraffin wax for this? So glad found your article and Im going to make it :D
Dedri Uys says
Yes. I don’t like how the soy wax turns out at all!