The Ultimate Guide to Candle Wicks

Candle Wicks

Candle wicks are more than just a string that holds the flame. They play a vital role in how your candle burns, and choosing the right wick can make a significant difference in the overall performance and aesthetic of your candle. In this ultimate guide, we’ll dive into the world of candle wicks, exploring their importance, types, and how to select and maintain the perfect wick for your candle creations.

The Importance of the Right Wick

The wick is responsible for delivering the fuel (wax) to the flame, ensuring a consistent burn and proper scent throw. A well-chosen wick helps your candle:-

  • Burn evenly and efficiently
  • Produce minimal soot and smoke
  • Release fragrance optimally
  • Prevent tunneling or excessive wax residue
A Guide To Candle Wicks | How To Choose The Right Wick For Candle Making

Types of Candle Wicks

There are three main types of candle wicks: flat wicks, square wicks, and cored wicks. Each type has its unique characteristics, making it suitable for different types of candles and wax.

Flat Wicks

Flat wicks are the most common type of wick, made from braided or knitted fibres, usually cotton. They’re best for pillar candles and containers with a diameter of 2–4 inches. Flat wicks curl slightly as they burn, promoting a self-trimming effect that reduces carbon build-up (mushrooming) and smoking.

Square Wicks

Square wicks are similar to flat wicks, but have a more rigid structure that allows them to stand upright while burning. They’re ideal for larger candles, such as multi-wick candles and those made from harder waxes, like beeswax.

Cored Wicks

Cored wicks have a central core made of cotton, paper, or metal (usually zinc or tin) that provides additional support and rigidity. They’re best for candles with a larger diameter or those made from softer, high-melt-point waxes, like soy or palm wax.

Wick Sizing and Selection

Selecting the right wick size is crucial for a well-performing candle. Factors to consider when choosing a wick size include:-

  • Candle diameter
  • Wax type and hardness
  • Fragrance and colour additives

It’s essential to test different wick sizes and types to find the best match for your specific candle.

Wick Preparation

Before using your wick, it’s vital to prepare it by priming or pre-waxing. Priming helps improve the wick’s burning properties, ensuring a more even and efficient burn.

To prime your wick:-

  • Melt a small amount of wax
  • Dip the wick into the melted wax, fully submerging it
  • Remove the wick and let it cool on a non-stick surface
  • Once cooled, thread the wick through the wick holder or secure it in your candle mould

How to Trim Your Candle Wick

Proper wick trimming is essential for maintaining a clean, even burn and preventing issues like soot and smoke. Here’s how to trim your candle wick:-

  • Wait until the candle has cooled and the wax has hardened
  • Using wick trimmers or small scissors, cut the wick to about 1/4 inch (6 mm) above the wax surface
  • Dispose of the trimmed wick to prevent it from falling into the candle

The Science of Candle Burning

Understanding the science behind candle burning can help you make better candles and troubleshoot any issues that arise. Two key processes are at play when a candle burns: capillary action and combustion.

Capillary Action

Capillary action is the process by which liquid wax travels up the wick to the flame. The wick’s fibres draw the liquid wax upwards through a combination of surface tension, cohesion, and adhesion. This provides the fuel needed for combustion to occur.


Combustion is the chemical reaction between the wax vapour and oxygen in the air, resulting in a flame. The heat from the flame melts the wax surrounding the wick, which then travels up the wick via capillary action. As the wax vapour reaches the flame, it reacts with oxygen, creating heat, light, and by-products like water and carbon dioxide.

Common Wick-Related Issues

If your candle isn’t burning as expected, it could be due to a wick-related issue. Here are some common problems and their solutions:


Mushrooming occurs when carbon builds up on the wick’s tip, causing a mushroom-like shape. This can lead to excessive soot, smoke, and an uneven burn. To resolve this issue, trim the wick regularly and consider using a different wick type or size.


Tunnelling happens when the candle burns down the middle, leaving a ring of unburned wax around the edges. This can result from using a wick that’s too small for the candle’s diameter, or not allowing the candle to burn long enough for the entire surface to melt. To fix this, choose a larger wick and ensure the candle burns for at least one hour per inch of diameter.


Flickering can be caused by an unstable wick, drafts, or a wick that’s too long. Ensure your wick is properly secured, trim it to the correct length, and avoid placing your candle in drafty areas.

FAQs – Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know if my wick is too big or too small for my candle?

If your wick is too big, the flame will be too large, causing excessive soot, smoke, and melting too much wax. If it’s too small, the flame will be too weak, resulting in tunnelling and an insufficient scent throw. Test different wick sizes to find the perfect fit.

Can I use any type of string as a candle wick?Not all strings are suitable for use as a wick. It’s best to use specially designed candle wicks made from cotton, hemp, or other materials designed for candle making. Using the wrong type of string may result in poor burning performance or even a fire hazard.

How often should I trim my candle wick?

Ideally, you should trim your wick every time you light your candle. This will help prevent mushrooming, soot, and smoke, ensuring a clean and even burn.

Why is my candle wick drowning in melted wax?

This may occur if the wick is too small for the candle’s diameter, causing it to melt more wax than it can consume. Try using a larger wick or a different type of wick that’s better suited for your specific candle.

Can I reuse a candle wick from a used candle?

While it may be tempting to reuse a wick from a used candle, it’s not recommended. A used wick will have residue from the previous burn, which can affect the performance of your new candle. It’s best to use a new, clean wick for each candle you make.

In Summary

Selecting and maintaining the right candle wick is essential for creating candles that burn evenly, efficiently, and beautifully. By understanding the different types of wicks, sizing and preparation, and troubleshooting common wick-related issues, you can enjoy the warm, inviting glow of your handmade candles with confidence.