The (Not So) Secret to Candle Wicks

candle wix

If there’s one thing I know about people, it’s that we generally don’t read warning signs.

When’s the last time you whipped out a user manual or flipped over a candle and read the fine print under the bold WARNING or CAUTION title?

Is there just something in our nature that laughs in the face of danger? I suppose it’s the modern version of the fatal hubris of so many tragic Greek heroes. But unlike Oedipus or Ajax, we usually walk away relatively unscathed.

However, though you probably won’t die if you ignore our warning labels, you’re still missing out on important information about improving the life of your candle. Perhaps the most important of all is the trimming of the wick.

Why should I trim a candle wick?

I know it may seem counterintuitive, making the thing that burns the candle smaller.

How will the candle continue to burn?

Won’t the flame be too small?

But trimming your wick is actually an extremely important part of burning a candle safely and ensuring it burns properly.

The wicks used in making our container candles are constructed in a way that they curl as they burn. This is intended to prevent the flame from growing so large that it sets the entire candle on fire, which, while admittedly kind of awesome looking, is totally dangerous.

However helpful the curling of the wick may be, it still leaves you with a long, curled wick after you blow it out. Relighting this sad-looking wick can cause a few problems. 

One possibility is that the curl of the wick will prevent the flame from growing past a certain point, which will melt a smaller radius of candle wax and cause what we call in the candle business "tunneling" (basically a hole around the wick much deeper than the rest of the candle’s surface).

Another more common problem is the uneven melting of the candle’s wax.

The curl of the wick will naturally fall to one side of the candle, which will then melt faster than the far side of the curled wick is lit. This causes a sort of dune to form on your candle’s surface.

This problem is much easier to correct if it’s caught early. Simply trimming the wick to ¼ inch and burning for a few hours will usually result in a full melt pool and a level surface once your candle hardens again.

How do I trim a candle wick?

Most serious candle people have at least one candle wick trimmer. This tool is similar to scissors in appearance, two-finger holes and a long metal body. But where it differs are the blades.

The wick trimming part of the candle wick trimmer is usually on a ninety-degree angle so you can hold it parallel to the surface of the candle and trim the wick to your desired length. It’s a handy tool that makes trimming candle wicks easy and painless.

However, the thrifty among us know well that there are always other (cheaper) ways to get a job done.

I’ll let you in on my own method of trimming candles without a wick trimmer: nail clippers.

A nice, old (preferably toenail-free) pair of nail clippers are perfect for trimming candle wicks.

Just slide the wick between the blades and clip it right off. Usually, the burnt trimmed part of the wick will stick to the inside of the nail clippers, but that’s nothing a few taps on the side of a trash can or a pass of a toothpick won’t fix.

This is actually another positive aspect of using nail clippers to trim your wicks, as it prevents any wick trimmings from falling into your candle wax (which you’d know is bad if you actually read the warning label).

Whether you’re using a candle wick trimmer or some old nail clippers to trim your wick, just make sure the wax is hard, cut the wick to ¼ inch, and you’re ready to burn!