Difference Between Microcrystalline and Paraffin Wax
Difference Between Microcrystalline and Paraffin Wax
Microcrystalline wax and paraffin wax are two of the most common types of petroleum-derived waxes available. While both of these materials come from petroleum, the processes to extract them differ slightly, and subtle differences in their molecular makeup mean they’re ideal for different uses and industries.
A surprising number of various applications can use these waxes. But it is important to understand the difference between the two to know which type may be best for your needs. Let’s take a closer look at the differences between microcrystalline and paraffin waxes.
Microcrystalline Wax Properties and Common Uses
Microcrystalline wax is a specific type of petroleum-based wax originally derived from crude oil. During the petroleum refining process, the crude oil is de-oiled and leaves behind this unique type of wax. Microcrystalline wax has a smaller crystal structure than other types of wax, making it more viscous and flexible. The main microcrystalline properties can vary slightly depending on how refined it is. The color will also range from white to a more brownish hue based on the stage of the refining process.
Because of the unique properties of microcrystalline wax, it is useful for various purposes and is used in many different industries. Some of the most common uses of microcrystalline wax include:
- Health and grooming products: Many ointments, lotions, moisturizing creams, sunscreens and other products contain microcrystalline wax. The material helps give the product the right viscosity and keeps it soft.
- Cosmetic products: Microcrystalline wax helps mascara repel water, is used as a binding agent for pressed powder and gives structure to lipsticks, eyeliners and lip liners, preventing the product from crumbling.
- A grease thickener: This wax can be used in a wide variety of greases and gel products as a thickener or to make the product stronger.
- Sports equipment: Microcrystalline wax is used for skis and snowboards to reduce friction and help them glide over the snow easier. It can also give more control to the skier or snowboarder. The wax is also commonly used in hockey to protect parts of the hockey stick and give players better control of the puck.
- An additive to other waxes: A small amount of microcrystalline wax can be added to others, such as paraffin, to improve the texture, flexibility, water resistance and other properties.
- Adhesives: Microcrystalline wax is also quite sticky, and individuals can use it as an adhesive for various projects, including bookbinding and carpet backing.
Paraffin Wax Properties and Common Uses
Paraffin is another type of wax also derived from petroleum, but it can also come from coal or oil shale. Various processes, including solvent de-waxing and solvent de-oiling, refine the petroleum, resulting in the paraffin wax.
This unique type of wax is often also referred to as crystal wax and is classified as a hydrocarbon mixture. The main paraffin properties can vary a little depending on the refining process and what the paraffin will be used for. In general, paraffin is usually colorless and has a relatively low melting point. It is insoluble in water and is excellent for storing heat and using in electrical insulation.
Paraffin wax has a large variety of applications and uses across many different industries. Some of the most common uses for paraffin wax include the following:
- Candles: One of the first known uses of paraffin was to replace tallow as the main ingredient in candles. Paraffin provides a much cleaner, brighter burn.
- Crayons: Paraffin is the main ingredient in a childhood craft staple — crayons. The paraffin gives crayons their distinctive waxy texture and can be dyed in an endless selection of colors.
- Waterproofing products: Paraffin wax is used as a waterproofing agent, added to a plethora of different products, including matches, wood, bottles and all sorts of protective packaging.
- Sports equipment: Skiers, snowboarders and surfers also use paraffin wax to help reduce friction and glide easier across the snow or water.
- Spa treatments: Paraffin wax is often used in spas and salons and is applied to hands, feet and other areas of the body as an emollient, providing moisturizing treatments for dry skin.
- Protection for produce: Many types of fresh fruits and vegetables are coated with a thin layer of paraffin wax to extend their shelf life, retain moisture and make them look more appealing.
- Candy coatings: A small amount of paraffin is sometimes added to the coating layer of chocolates and other candies. This wax layer protects the sweets and makes them shinier.
Aside from these most common uses, paraffin wax is also used for insulating electrical components and as a coating for medications. Various industries also use paraffin in cosmetic applications, wax paper, baking containers and as an additive for rubber and many other products.
Difference Between Microcrystalline Wax and Paraffin Wax
Microcrystalline and paraffin waxes are both derived from petroleum and have many similar properties and uses. But they are very distinct and have some key differences. One of the biggest differences comes in at the molecular level. The molecules’ sizes differ for each of these materials, and microcrystalline wax has a more branched molecular structure than paraffin.
This molecular makeup allows for slightly different properties for each of these types of wax. Paraffin waxes have a lower melting temperature and better burn qualities, which is why this material is ideal for candle making. These waxes are also better as moisture barriers. Microcrystalline waxes tend to be thicker and tougher but have better flexibility and elasticity. These waxes are also better for applications with adhesive products. While paraffin waxes are generally colorless or have a light bluish tint, microcrystalline waxes range from white to darker brown.
Order Custom Wax Blends to Fit Your Needs
Both microcrystalline and paraffin waxes have an amazing array of possible uses. But they can also be combined in different blends to create just the right wax for a custom purpose. A custom blend combines the best properties of both to bring you a wax that’s perfectly suited to your needs. Whether you need a certain wax or a custom blend, Blended Waxes can help.
At Blended Waxes, we get to know our customers and their needs. We’re ready to work with you to create a custom wax blend in just the right formulation solutions for your product. Contact us today to learn more about our custom blending services or to get started on your custom wax.