Paraffin wax

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Paraffin wax


Paraffin Wax on canvas (visible light left; UV light right)

A white, translucent odorless hydrocarbon wax that is chemically inert and odorless. Paraffin was first produced commercially in 1867 as a refined petroleum product composed of a mixture of saturated straight chain hydrocarbons (C22-C36). Production consists of separation by distillation followed by chemical treatment and decolorization. Synthetic paraffin wax made from coal products was introduced after World War II. The snow-white synthetic paraffin is harder and purer than petroleum-based paraffin waxes. Paraffin is used to make candles, wax paper, leather dressing, inks, lubricants, cosmetics, and sealing materials. The wax is also used for heavy-duty floor wax, waterproofing textiles and paper, tanning leather, as rust preventives, and for masonry and concrete treatment. Microcrystalline wax is a special refined grade of paraffin wax.

Synonyms and Related Terms

Paraffin (Deut.); alcano (Esp.); paraffine (Fr., Ned.); parafina (Pol.); cera de parafina (Esp.); paraffina (It); microcrystalline wax; paraffin scale




  • Combustible. Flash point = 204C (399F).
  • May contain carcinogens.
  • ThermoFisher: SDS

Physical and Chemical Properties

  • Soluble in benzene, ligroin, carbon disulfide, olive oil.
  • Insoluble in water and acids.
  • Acid value= 0
  • Iodine value=0
  • Saponification value = 0
Composition CnH2n+2
CAS 8002-74-2
Melting Point 47-75 C
Density 0.880-0.925 g/ml
Refractive Index 1.442-1.448


Properties of Natural Waxes

Resources and Citations

  • The Merck Index, Martha Windholz (ed.), Merck Research Labs, Rahway NJ, 10th edition, 1983 Comment: mp=50-57 C
  • B. Gascoigne, How to Identify Prints, Thames & Hudson, London, 2004
  • G.S.Brady, Materials Handbook, McGraw-Hill Book Co., New York, 1971 Comment: p. 581; for refined wax-melting point = 55-58C and specific gravity = 0.903
  • Richard S. Lewis, Hawley's Condensed Chemical Dictionary, Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, 10th ed., 1993 Comment: mp=47-65 C
  • Ralph Mayer, A Dictionary of Art Terms and Techniques, Harper and Row Publishers, New York, 1969 (also 1945 printing) Comment: mp=50-60 C
  • Matt Roberts, Don Etherington, Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books: a Dictionary of Descriptive Terminology, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington DC, 1982 Comment: mp=50-75 C
  • The Dictionary of Paper, American Paper Institute, New York, Fourth Edition, 1980
  • George Savage, Art and Antique Restorer's Handbook, Rockliff Publishing Corp, London, 1954
  • John S. Mills, Raymond White, The Organic Chemistry of Museum Objects, Butterworth Heineman, London, 2nd ed., 1994 Comment: mp=52-57 C
  • Encyclopedia Britannica, Comment: "Paraffin Wax." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2004. Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service. 14 Apr. 2004 .
  • CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, Robert Weast (ed.), CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida, v. 61, 1980 Comment: density=0.896-0.925; ref. index=1.442-1.448; melting point = 49-63; acid value= 0; iodine value=0, saponification value = 0

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