What are the Different Types of Candle Wicks?

Making candles on your own can be an exciting yet complicated task. When it comes to DIY-ing candles, you'll likely get caught up in the endless variety of scents, vibrant colors, and types of candles.

One integral aspect of producing your own candles, that beginners often overlook, is the wick. Consequently, most people will choose their wick without considering some very important aspects. This is a big mistake because it can mean that your beautifully created candle won’t burn properly, or even worse, not at all.

Here, we discuss what kinds of candle wicks are best and why it's so important to choose the right one:

What are Candle Wicks?

Candle wicks are the most crucial element of a candle. Without the ideal wick, your candle would be useless as the flame will fail to burn properly.

Wicks are the heart of a candle, and their purpose is to deliver fuel (wax) to the flame. When a candle’s wick is lit, the heat from the flame melts the wax around the wick. Acting like a fuel pump, the wick then draws the liquefied wax up into the flame to burn. This is known as capillary action. Different wick sizes allow for different amounts of fuel to be drawn into the flame. Too much fuel and the flame will flare and soot; too little fuel and the flame will sputter out.

Different wick sizes allow different levels of heat. Larger wicks allow more fuel to be drawn into the flame and will create more heat. These wicks are better for larger candles or candles made with harder waxes like beeswax. Smaller wicks that don’t burn as hot because they don’t deliver as much fuel to the flame are ideal for thinner candles like tapers or candles made with softer waxes like soy.

How to Choose the Perfect Candle Wick

There are infinite possibilities when it comes to colors, fragrances, vessels, molds, and wicks. You must consider all of these elements when choosing the right wick for your candle.

The type of candle wick you choose impacts the manner and mechanics of your candle's flame, including heat, duration, scent throw and combustion. Here are a couple of factors you should consider when deciding what kind of wick is best for your candle:

The Diameter of the Candle

The first thing you need to know before choosing your wick is the diameter of the candle. The diameter plays a significant role in determining the size and duration of the flame. For instance, a wider diameter will require more heat in order for your melt pool to reach all the way to the edge of your candle. Therefore, you will either need to choose a larger wick or multiple smaller wicks so that there is enough heat to melt the entire surface of the candle.

To determine your candle's diameter, use a ruler to measure from one side to the other of the widest part of your candle. Use this information when searching for the right wick.

The Type of Candle Wax

The recommended candle wick type will also vary based on the type of wax you use. Different waxes have different densities and melting points and will in turn require a different level of heat from your wick to allow your candle to burn well.

For instance, due to the hard and sticky consistency of beeswax, Cotton Braid wicking is ideal for candles made from this wax. The unique construction of the Cotton Braid wicks combined with the treatment processes, make it an excellent choice for waxes that are highly viscous when molten. It is engineered to curl while burning, which minimizes carbon build-up. 

Fragrance and Color

You will also need to consider the type of fragrance oil and/or dye you are using as well as how much you are using when choosing a wick. 

Using scents and dyes that are not made specifically for candle making can alter how well your candle burns. Only oil based scents and dyes should be used. Alcohol based perfumes, food colouring, crayons, mica and even some essential oils can interfere with your candles capillary action and combustion.

Adding too much scent and/or dye can also change the way your candle burns. It is very important to complete a test burn for every different candle recipe you make to ensure optimal burning. You may find that the perfect wick for one recipe doesn’t work as well in a candle made with a different one.

Securing and Centering Your Wick

When you wick your candle, you will need to make sure that your wick is secured in place and centred in order to achieve the best burn. 

We recommend using a wick stickum which was created specifically for attaching the base of your wick to the middle of the bottom of your vessel. This tool will keep your wick from floating around in liquid wax. A dangerous and messy consequence of not securing your wick would be having it float to the side of a glass vessel resulting in it shattering and spilling hot wax everywhere.

Another tool we recommend using when making a candle is a wick centring tool. They will keep your wick running straight up the centre of your candle while the wax is setting. When not used, your wick could end up leaning off to one side which would result in a melt pool that doesn’t reach the edge around the entire candle.

Types of Wicks for Candles

A variety of materials and techniques are used to create quality candle wicks, with each type being designed to meet a different combustion criteria.

Here we discuss the major types of wicks for candles:

Cored Wicks

Cored wicks consist of an outer layer of braided or knitted fibres around a core material that provides varying levels of rigidity to help the wick stand upright in a molten wax pool.

The most common types of core materials include:

Cored wicks may be used in pillars, votives and jar candles.

Flat Braid Wicks

Flat braided or knitted wicks are typically manufactured from high performance fibres. These wicks result in a cleaner burning, self-trimming wick with additional structural strength, controlled curling and a hotter, more efficient flame. 

An example of a flat braided wick is the high tensile paper wicks (HTP). They are an excellent choice for paraffin, beeswax, vegetable, and gel candle systems. 

Square Wicks

Square Wicking is engineered to curl while burning, which minimizes carbon build-up. Originally designed to beeswax candles, this type of wick is now being used in all types of candle systems.

Their design helps to prevent them from clogging. This makes them ideal for beeswax due to the naturally occurring sediments found in the wax that can interfere in the burning process. 

Wooden Wicks

Over the past couple of years, wooden wicks have been gaining popularity. It is mainly because they offer an incredible visual aesthetic and a soft crackling sound when burning.

These wicks come in single-ply, multi-ply, decorative, and shaped, 100% wood wicks, semi-wood, and cotton and wood combinations.

One concern associated with using wood wicks is the possibility for it to create a spark which could be dangerous should it land on something combustible.

Reasons to Choose the Right Candle Wick

Your candle's wick is the simplest yet most crucial part of your candle. Basically, it's the engine of your candle and helps determine how long your candle will burn.

Therefore, you should choose the right type of wick for your candle. A lack of test burning and miseducation may lead you to select the wrong wick.

The fact is that every wick has its pair for candle wax. The wrong wick can inhibit your scent throw, cause improper combustion and make your candle burn too slowly or too fast.

How to Know if You're Using the Wrong Candle Wick?

Using the wrong type of wick can cause numerous candle problems. Here, we've discussed some signs that indicate you're using the wrong candle wick:

  • If your candle wick self-extinguishes, chances are that your candle suffers from one of the following potential errors. You may have chosen a candle wick that is not large enough. In this case, you would need to find a wick that will produce a stronger, hotter flame. Something in your wax could be clogging your wick. For example, if you used crayon or mica to color your candle or you used beeswax that hasn’t been filtered enough. Finally, you may have added too much fragrance oil. Try to stick to the recommended fragrance load indicated on the wax label.
  • “Mushrooming” happens when the wax does not burn fast enough to keep up with the wick. The overabundance of the wax causes carbon to build up creating a black “mushroom cap” on the wick. This generally occurs when the wick is not the right size for the candle, often it’s too large.  To fix a mushroom wick, trim the black “cap” off and bend or “curl” the tip of the wick.  Using the correct wick, wax, and fragrances when creating a candle is vital to prevent mushrooming in the future.
  • Flickering wicks can result in soot and smoke. Things that may cause your candle to flicker include a wick that is too large, too much air flow from sources like an open window or ceiling fan, and wax impurities that get drawn into the wick and interfere with proper combustion.
  • If your candle fails to melt all the way to the edge, it will create a tunnel and can be a challenge to correct. Tunnels usually result from one of two reasons. First, the wick is too small for the diameter of your candle. This would mean that you need to use a larger wick. The other possibility is that the candle wasn’t burned long enough to reach the edge. This can result in your wick drowning during subsequent burns. It is very important that every time you burn a candle, you don’t extinguish it until it has melted the entire surface area of the candle. 

A general rule of thumb is that you want your wick to burn out one inch in diameter every hour and should reach the edge after burning no longer than 4 hours. Therefore, if your candle has a diameter larger than 4”, we recommend using multiple wicks. For example, for a 5 inch diameter candle, you could use 2 wicks that are known to create a melt pool of 2.5 inches each.

The Bottom Line

Many factors come into play when choosing the best wick for your candle, but it is by far the most vital element in your candle system.

Most importantly, your wick will determine the duration your candle will last, the strength of your scent throw and how cleanly your candle will burn. For even more information on creating the perfect candle, read the American Chemical Society’s article “Shining a Light on Candles.” 

Venture onto Village Craft & Candle to find everything you need to begin your candle making journey.