Physics Van 3-site Navigational Menu

Physics Van Navigational Menu

Q & A: evaporating wax

Learn more physics!

Most recent answer: 02/03/2013
Q:
I have an electric scented wax melting device (similar to a Scentsy). The wax is melted by a low-wattage light bulb. My hubby thinks that the melted wax is carried in the 'fumes' an can somehow become airborne. He thinks it can permeate the television it's sitting by and clog, or "coat" the electronic panels in the tv? Is this possible. I don't see how a solid at room temperature can be melted and then become airborne when it hits the air. It seems to me it if was deprived of heat, it would just become a solid again.. Please end this debate. Thank you, Robin Scott in CA.
- Robin Scott (age 48)
Coalinga, CA USA
A:
We don't know whether the wax will evaporate enough to make the sort of problem your husband is worried about, but it does definitely evaporate. All substances evaporate, more when they're hotter, but some evaporate more than others.

How do you know that wax evaporates? Think of a candle flame. Some sort of chemical reaction is going on there up in the gas. The wax is combining with oxygen. Wax molecules had to evaporate to get into that flame. Now the flame is hotter than your wax melter, so the amount of wax evaporating from your melter may not be all that big. Still, whatever does get out mostly condenses when it hits colder surfaces.

Here's how you could do a test. Take a clean glass and leave it near the device. After a few days is there a noticeable film of wax on it?

Mike W.

(published on 02/03/2013)

Follow-up on this answer.