What Is Paraffin?


Paraffin is defined by Merriam-Webster as "a waxy crystalline flammable substance obtained especially from distillates of wood, coal, petroleum, or shale oil that is a complex mixture of hydrocarbons and is used chiefly in coating and sealing, in candles, in rubber compounding, and in pharmaceuticals and cosmetics." The many uses of paraffin, which is white, odorless and tasteless, make it an important and valuable substance used in everyday applications.

Paraffin in Candle Making

  • Candle making is the most commonly known use for paraffin wax. Paraffin wax for candle making can come in pellet or brick form. The paraffin is melted in a double boiler and poured into a mold or container and left to harden. Since paraffin has no color or odor, candle dye and scented oils made especially for candle making can easily be added to the paraffin.

Paraffin Dip

  • A paraffin dip, also called a wax dip, is a treatment used help to relieve the pain and stiffness of joint and muscle conditions, such as arthritis. It consists of melted, warm paraffin, which is applied to the affected area of the body, such as the hands. The hands are repeatedly dipped into the paraffin, allowed to cool and harden, then easily peeled off.

Paraffin as Coating Material

  • Paraffin often is used as a substance for coating. Paraffin is used to make waxed paper, as well as to coat different kinds of cheese. Cheeses such as Edam and Gouda have a thick red coating that is made of paraffin wax to prevent mold growth and hardening of the cheese.

Paraffin Used in Sealing

  • Paraffin wax used to seal envelopes usually comes in stick form and is red in color. The paraffin is melted using a heat source, such as a lighter, and the wax is allowed to drip on the envelope's cover. The wax is then typically stamped with a seal with an impression such as an image or a monogram. Paraffin also is used to seal jars, cans and bottles to prevent moisture from getting in.

Other Uses

  • Other uses of paraffin include glide wax applied to the surface of skis and snowboards, surf wax for surfboards, a food additive, a glazing agent and in tests conducted in forensic laboratories. Paraffin is also used in liquids such as fuel, paint, dye and ink, as well as in manufacturing some medicines and cosmetics.


  • Photo Credit "Candle 6" is Copyrighted by Flickr user: ~Brenda-Starr~ (Brenda Clarke) under the Creative Commons Attribution license.
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