Vol.2, No.1

Choosing the right wick for different types of candle making

Learn how to choose the correct wick for your next candle making project.

Large pillar candles
Photo Credit: Eve Hodgson
Choosing the right wick is an integral part of the candle making process. The appropriate wick is essential in order for the candle to burn correctly--slowly, evenly, and without smoking. Higher quality wicks are typically braided, whereas lower quality or throwaway candles such as those used for birthdays, are usually twisted.

The wick controls the speed at which a candle burns as well as how clean it burns. If a wick is too small for the candle, the flame will be smaller and subsequently melt a smaller portion of wax. This in turn will cause the candle to snuff itself out. A wick that is too large for a candle will cause too much wax to melt and overpower the flame.

The choice of wick is determined by a number of factors such as the diameter of the candle, the type of wax used (beeswax, soy, gel, paraffin), additives such as fragrance or dyes, and whether a container is used to house the candle. Depending on the type of wax, the same diameter candle might need a different type of wick. For example, beeswax candles require a thicker, sturdier wick than paraffin candles of the same diameter.

Although there are more than 100 different types of wicks, they fall into three broad categories: Flat, square, and cored. Most flat and square wicks are made of cotton or a combination of cotton and paper and are soaked in a brine solution to minimize the amount of smoking. Cored wicks are made with a zinc or tin center surrounded by paper or cotton.

The most common type of wick is a flat braided wick composed of three multi-ply strands of cotton. Flat wicks are mainly used for tapered, smaller diameter pillar candles, and votives. These wicks are self-trimming. In other words, they burn themselves out and don�t need to be trimmed by hand when the candle is burning.

Square wicks, which are braided to form a square, are sturdier. They are nearly always used for beeswax sheet and tapered candles, as well as novelty candles, other kinds of tapers, and larger diameter pillar candles. They are the wicks of choice for larger diameter candles because they produce a larger flame ensuring that the candle will not melt faster on one side than the other. Beeswax candles burn and melt more slowly than paraffin candles, which is why a sturdier and larger wick (with a larger flame) is the best choice.

Cored wicks used to be made with a lead core. Lead core wicks have been banned in the United States, but are still being manufactured in some countries. Cored wicks are now designed with a zinc or tin core surrounded by paper or cotton, which is braided to form a round wick. Cored wicks are the most rigid of the three groups.

Cored wicks are not self-trimming and remain standing upright when the candle is burning. They are primarily used for votives, pillars, floating candles, tea lights, and candles in jars or other containers. Metal core wicks burn hotter and are a good choice for gel candles, which burn slower than paraffin candles and require higher temperatures to melt.