Hello again aspiring candle aficionados! Today we tackle another important best burning practice: Keeping your candle wick appropriately trimmed. Ahhhh! Who knew candles required so much knowledge and maintenance?! It’s really a simple task, but it’s an important practice to keep your candles burning properly.
Why Do You Need to Trim Your Wick?
The primary reason to keep wicks properly trimmed is to prevent sooting. Sooting is the black smoke you may have seen billowing off of a candle whose wick is too lengthy. Sooting is NO BUENO! Over time burning a candle that is billowing black smoke can potentially cause your walls and ceiling to slowly darken and after a few years you’ll find yourselves checking out a painting blogs instead of candle blogs! I don’t want that for my readers. When I was a kid I remember my parents ceiling had turned a light shade of grey from years of improperly burning their candles. To this day they rarely burn candles because of that experience, even though it’s completely avoidable!
A secondary reason to keep wicks trimmed is that a longer wick causes a candle to burn at a faster rate than under ideal wick length conditions since the flame is bigger and burning through wax at a faster rate. However it’s not at such a speed where it’s really noticeable. The main reason is to avoid sooting. You don’t need to be breathing that dirty stuff in anyway!
Wick Trimming Tools
If you’ve got an easily accessible wick (typically occurring in the smaller and shallower jar candles) then just go ahead and use a pair of scissors. Fancy wick trimmers aren’t necessary (but as a candle nerd myself I always use my specialized wick trimmer!). For the larger jar candles that have a lot of the wax burned down and the wick is way at the bottom of a jar a specialized wick trimmer definitely comes in handy. They have a long reach and are designed with a flat cutting area that will capture the cut wick for easy trimming. A good quality wick trimmer that will last will typically run you about $10. Below is the one I use and is the highest rated and the most popular at the Amazon store:
Previously Burned Candles
So what about the wicks of candles that have already been burned? The general consensus is to keep your exposed wicks trimmed to 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch. In practice I tend to find trimming to 1/8 of an inch works best for me, but it really depends on the wick type. A thinner wick might require a trimming closer to the 1/4 of an inch range. If you still observe soot after a trimming then put out the candle, trim the wick a bit further, and immediately re-light.
You likely will not need to trim the wick first time you burn a candle even if the wick is a longer than 1/4 of an inch. Sooting occurs rarely on the first burn (unless the exposed wick is unusually log). The longer wick here is useful and will give you a big flame and heat source to help you build that ever important first wax pool (See my article on the importance of a wax pool for more details). If a first lit candle DOES soot after lighting you’ll want to go ahead and put out the candle, do some quick minimal trimming and re-light it immediately (to avoid a memory ring also discussed in my previous wax pool post). If it still soots then repeat the minimal wick trimming until you no longer observe the unwanted black smoke.
That’s all there is too it. This best practice is truly important to keep your house clean of smoke and to keep your candles burning efficiently! Happy Burning and wick trimming, friends.