When I first heard that our school field trip would be to a scented candle factory, I’ll admit I wasn’t very excited. As a 12-year old boy, visiting a candle factory sounded boring compared to other field trip options like the zoo or a sporting event. However, I was pleasantly surprised by how fascinating and engaging the candle-making process turned out to be.
Our tour guide first explained that scented candles are made from wax, fragrant oils, and the wicks that you light to create the flame. Paraffin wax is the most common type used for candles. It comes from petroleum and is odorless, so different scents need to be added. The fragrance oils are mixed into the hot wax to give each candle its signature smell. Popular scents include fruits, flowers, baked goods, and seasonal blends like pumpkin spice.
We walked through the massive warehouse-like building and saw the huge vats where wax is melted and mixed with oils. The wax starts out in solid pellets before being loaded into the vats and heated to about 180°F to melt it down into liquid form. Our guide let us smell some of the concentrated fragrance oils and explained how just a few drops are needed to scent a whole batch of wax. The smell of vanilla was so strong it made my eyes water!
Next, we watched the candle making assembly line. The liquid wax is carefully poured into each candle mold or jar by an automated machine. Wicks are placed into each candle before the wax hardens. The wicks are made of stringed cotton that have been treated so they burn slowly and evenly. Once the wax cools and the candles take shape, they are popped out of the molds and inspected for any defects.
The final steps are decorative finishing touches. Many candles receive a second layer of colored wax on top to create a two-toned effect. We saw people hand-dipping candles to coat them in the secondary color. Other candles have labels wrapped around them or designs etched into the sides. Before being packaged up, each candle is given a final check that the wick is centered and the right amount of wax was used.
What surprised me most was seeing how many variables there are in candle making. The factory produces candles in various shapes, sizes, colors and scents. Custom orders for retail stores or individual buyers also require tweaking the process. Some luxury candles even have dried flower petals or small trinkets embedded in the wax. The workers have to adjust the production based on each candle design and order.
At the end of the tour, we visited the factory store where all the candles are displayed and sold. We were given time to browse the many options and allowed to pick a mini candle to take home. It was hard to choose from the vast selection, but I settled on one that smelled like fresh cut grass and summer.
The tour gave me an appreciation for the art and science behind candle making. I learned how wax needs the right properties to hold its shape as it burns, and that wicks are designed to curl over as they melt to prevent smoking. Choosing theperfect fragrance combination is also an intricate craft. I never realized how much time, talent and technique goes into producing the candles that I see in stores and homes.
Our scented candle field trip turned out to be an eye-opening experience. I went in with low expectations, but the factory was full of interesting sights, smells and equipment. The tour guide brought the candle-making process to life. I’m glad I had the chance to explore this unique industry that I previously knew very little about. It was a day full of illuminating information about how candles are made and the science behind these everyday objects. I now have a newfound respect for the humble candle and its creation process.