Trimming Candle Wicks | Why and When?!
Updated: Aug 29, 2019
One of the unspoken secrets of Candle Care is the important and thankless task of Wick Trimming. Your family won't know you're doing it, but you'll know! The air and walls around you will be cleaner, your candles will burn longer and they'll continue to fill your home with lovely fragrance.
Through normal use, most cotton and wood wicks will begin to 'mushroom' or split, leaving burnt debris that should be removed. Large, untrimmed wicks make hotter and larger flames, which means your candle is burning up faster and turning your dollars into soot and smoke. We recommend trimming your candle wicks before each burn to 1/4 inch to maintain a healthy candle.
You may notice the flame is too high in your candle while burning. If your candle flame is larger than 1/2 inch and it's been putting off a good deal of smoke and pillars of soot, it's definitely time to check that wick height. Extinguish your candle immediately, as this will not only pour unwanted soot into your home, but it's tall flame should be tamed for safety reasons.
Best Practice would be to trim your wick back down to 1/4" before every burn, while the wax is solid and the candle is cooled.
Avoid burning candles longer that 4 hours at time, most candle makers recommend burning candles at least 1 hour but not more than 4 hours at a time to ensure the best life of the candle is maintained. Burning a candle longer than 4 hours at a time will result in excessive height and carbon buildup in the wick. Fuel will be drawn up into the wick at a quicker pace and your candle will begin smoking as its wick attempts to consume more fuel than it was designed to. Larger wicks will eat up wax and scent vigorously, you may even notice that what wax is left has less scent and on subsequent burns your candle will be less fragrant as the ratio of wax to candle fragrance has changed. Trimming your candle wick regularly will help immensely.
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Candle wicks that have been left for long periods without maintenance will begin to form a clump of carbon buildup at the very topmost part of your wick. This is called 'mushrooming' and it does sort of look like a little mushroom growing out of your candle. This buildup of carbon will cause your candle flame to burn higher and your candle will soot and smoke. It's a great marker to know when to trim your wicks!
Trimming your candle wick is super simple, but can be a little messy. We have a couple tricks up our sleeves and a few options for you to consider as you trim your wicks.
First, it must be said, there is an actual utensil called a Wick Trimmer, yes these totally exist. These are great for keeping your fingers and sometimes arms out of your candle containers and clean of soot and wax. They work wonderfully, but unless you have one in every room of the house that you also burn candles, you may end up using your fingers in a pinch. We sell this sleek Matte Black Wick Trimmer that's our go-to trimming method for tall containers like our Apothecary Jar candles.
Because we have candles in pretty much every nook and cranny of our home, I use my fingers to reach in and pinch the wick debris out of my candles... although a holster or fanny pack for my wick trimmer is a fantastic idea.
For harder wicks, like wood or for difficult to reach candle wicks, we also employ the use of toenail clippers.. yes toenail, they seem to be the perfect wide width, they're less flimsy, and don't have the curvature of fingernail clippers.
A good sharp pair of scissors can be fantastic when trimming wicks, just be sure to remove the clipped wick debris from the candle wax. Scissors work best for simple cotton wicks and less so for wood wicks.
Trimming candle wicks is super simple. Using one of the above tools will make these steps a breeze. Consider having a waste basket and a paper towel handy for disposing of wick debris and cleaning your hands and utensils. Never trim a wick that's warm/on fire or dispose of any smoking or hot wick debris in waste baskets.
Cotton wicks are quite simple to trim. In a cooled/solid candle and by using your fingers, scissors or a wick trimmer gently pinch or cut the candle wick down to a height of 1/4" being careful to avoid trimming too much. Remove the debris from the container and dispose of in a wast basket.
Easily remove excess and mushrooming wicks by pinching the upper most part of the wick.
Wood wicks are just as easy but require the tiniest bit more force to get them trimmed to that 1/4" mark. If you don't have clippers handy you can use your fingers to pinch the blackened and split part of the wood wick to remove it from the candle. Ideally, use a nice sturdy set of Nail Clippers to cut your wick back down to fresh wood, still to about 1/4" above the wax of the candle.
Trimming wood wicks also makes a world of difference when attempting to relight these candles.
In addition to proper wick care, it should be noted that we've found that simply snuffing or blowing out candles can be a cumbersome effort that fills your home with the smell of smoke, which is the very opposite reason for burning candles. The solution is to Dip your lit wick into it's melted wax to extinguish its flame and then draw it back out. Not only does this provide a smokeless way to extinguish your flame, but also adds stability to a brittle wick. After performing this ritual and upon the next time you trim your wick, you'll find that it's less brittle providing you a much easier time when trying to avoid breaking off too much.