How to find the right wick for my candles
Choosing the right wick for your candle can make the difference between a good or a bad candle.
Candle wicks come in three basic designs that are braided cotton. There are flat braided, square braided, or core braided. The core is usually zinc or paper. You can buy them pre-tabbed and coated or on a spool. As a beginner candle maker, buy the wicks pre-tabbed, cut, and coated. The primary differences between the three styles are the wick sizes in diameter. The diameter of the candle determines the diameter of the wick. Testing wick sizes with your vessels, wax, and fragrance are the only way to know for sure that you have the correct one.
The wick plays an important role in your candle as it is the fuel delivery system between the wax and the flame. Braiding the cotton allows for oxygen to feed the flame and the wick to bend out of the way so that it will continue to burn.
A wick that is burning faster than the wax can travel upward to feed the flame will mushroom with carbonized soot on the end. This will need to be trimmed off. This will result in a candle that will not last as long or will burn too hot. It may also produce a smokey flame and leave soot.
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Flat braided wicks are used for pillar candles or candles that are dipped. This type of wick is usually sold on a spool and you would cut it to length. A flat braided wick would need to be stretched in place and would not stand on its own. Used in a container candle this wick could fall over or move as the candle burned. I have never seen it sold as a pre-tabbed and coated wick so I doubt that you could buy it that way.
This is the most common wick beginning candle makers use. It is readily available pre-tabbed and coated. They are stiff enough to stand up with the support of a centering tool and easy to work with.
Wicks come in many sizes. The smaller used for tealights which have a diameter of about 1.5” and the largest for candle jars at about 3” in diameter. As your candles getter larger than 3” I would suggest that you use more than one wick.
I have made so many candles through the years and when you find something that works it is hard to change. I started making candles when I had to make my wicks using a cotton cord, salt, and borax. I poured paraffin wax into milk cartons. It was a mess and the candles were too!
The coating on the wick is not wax. It is a chemical film that is meant to slow down the burning. It is a flame retardant pickling. If you make your wicks from a cotton cord or yarn it will burn fast and hot.
The first commercially made wicks I bought were the CD style. These are ok, but I did not get the consistency I look for when I mass produce. I had issues off and on and switched to HTP. You need to do your testing with what you use.
I only buy from candle supply stores. They are the best resource for what they sell. I can only tell you about my experience using what I purchased. For my 8-ounce jelly jar candles, I use an HTP-105. This half-pint canning jar is about 2.5” in diameter. There is a taller version of this jar. There is a pint jelly jar that is also 2.5” in diameter and takes the same HTP-105 wick. These wicks come six inches long and work well with the diameter of a jar when using a GB 464 soy wax. The height of the jar does not matter.
Testing is key! GB 464 is a very soft container soy wax with a low melting point. A harder wax like a parasoy may need a slightly bigger wick. Fragrances respond differently as well. I have had some floral combinations that just drowned an HTP-105 and had to wick up to an HTP-125.
The type of container plays a role as well. The wax pool you get when testing a glass container and a tin container with the same diameter is very different. A 2.5” diameter tin container may need an HTP-83 because the glass is not absorbing the heat from the flame.
For my pint jars, I use an HTP-125 even though the opening is 2.5”. The lid is the same as the jelly jar candles. The body of the jar is 3” in diameter and a smaller wick is not enough.
Over the past decades, I have seen this style decline. A zinc-cored wick is not popular now. Because of this, it is harder to find. This helps to keep a candle upright. More popular now maybe a paper core to give the wick more rigidity.
This type of candle wick is better suited for candles like gel candles. Gel candles are transparent and the appearance of a straight wick makes for a better-looking candle. The downside is that if they are coated the gel around the wick sometimes becomes slightly cloudy.
You can make your wick for gel candles using cotton cord and paper. To make the paper core, roll the paper to make a solid staw around the cotton. The wick will need to be primmed. Primming the wick is done by dipping it in wax or gel to remove the air. This will allow the bubbles to be released and a more consistent burn.
Gelly Candle Accessories make good wicks for gel candles. Gel candles are not wax and have a different set of rules for wicks.
Gel wick sizes are usually one size bigger than what you would pick for a normal container using soy wax. Gel has a much higher melting point.
This is another type of wick that has become popular in the past few years. These are fun to work with and offer a different candle to your customer. They also come in a range of sizes. I have seen most commonly in widths of 3/8”, ½” and ¾”. They also are a little thicker as they get wider. Again, more testing! These are popular in the fall or with higher-end tumbler-style candles. They go well with designer fragrances as a visual appeal. I think they are fitting with a woodsy theme as well.
If your wick does not burn right
The correct burning of the wick depends largely on the melting point of your wax and the diameter of the candle. Container candles do not burn the same as pillar candles. The wick selection for them is different as well.
If the wick simply burns a craterlike hole or tunnels down into the candle and burns itself out the wick is too small for that type of wax and container.
If the wick smokes and a bead of carbon forms at the end of the wick it is too large.
Wick will not burn. The wick may be clogged with improper additives, too much fragrance, or improper colorants like crayons or paint.
The wick flame burns high and the melt pool is large. The wick is too big. The melt pool should be about ½’ high after a 3-hour burn at the most.
On a pillar candle, the wax is dripping over faster than the candle burns. The wick is too small for the diameter of the candle.
The candle sputters. There are air pocks in the wick or close to the wick interfering with the flow of fuel from the wax pool. Sometimes this works its way out. This is usually the candle making process and not the wick.
Candle Science has a great Wick Guide Here