Candle Wicks: The Complete Guide

The history and complexity of candle making can make some people skeptical. Learn the basics in this complete guide to candle wicks!


Candles are one of the oldest and most widely used sources of light out there. For centuries, people used candles in their homes as a way to light dark spaces, help them navigate their homes, or even read and write after nightfall. However, over the centuries, the use and design of candles has changed greatly, leaving some people asking if the candles we have today can even be considered the same thing as the candles of ancient times.

However, one part of the candle has barely changed, as it is one of the most essential parts of the candle itself. No matter where you look in history, candles have always had a wick in the middle. And although the material has changed, the design and function have remained almost entirely the same. Let’s explore what a candle wick is, learn exactly what its function is, and cover some fun facts about candle wicks in this complete guide from Wicksly!


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What Is A Candle Wick?

The candle wick may just be the most important part of the candle because it is what allows the candle to burn, give off light, and smell good without the wax completely liquefying instantly. When candles were first used thousands of years ago, the wick was usually made from materials such as flax, hemp, or cotton. The flame consumed these fibers while still allowing the wax (in that time, usually animal tallow or beeswax) to slowly melt down.

Early on, candle wicks weren’t always made out of the best materials, so they burned quickly and sometimes emitted more smoke due to impurities in the fibers.

Thankfully, over time, candles have improved, different methods of wax have been used, and the candles of today smell good, burn slowly, and don’t emit much smoke at all. More on that later!

Why Do Candles Need Wicks, Anyway?

Although we touched on this already, it’s important to dive into this subject a little further. Especially if you’re looking into making your own candles at home, it’s important to understand exactly how and why candle wicks work.

The wax used in modern candles is extremely simple to melt down and use, and it’s also incredibly soft, meaning it will become liquid under very low-heat conditions. If you were to directly light modern candle wax with a flame, it would liquefy instantly and begin to spill everywhere, making it incredibly difficult for the flame to remain lit. What little flame did remain would continue burning through the wax very quickly, meaning the candles that you spent money on would disappear almost instantly!

The wick functions as a way for the energy created by the fire to disperse into something else. In addition, the wick holds the flame just above the surface of the wax, meaning that the burn time is increased, and the wax disappears more slowly.

What Is The History Of Candle Wicks?

Over time, candle wicks have been made from a wide variety of materials, but they are generally fiber-based. Some of the earliest candle wicks were made from loosely spun cotton.

It’s also interesting to note that the wick served another function for many centuries during the candle creation process. Up until the fifteenth century, candles were created by a dipping process. The wick would be dipped into the liquid wax and then slowly drawn out, creating a thin layer of wax on the wick. At that point, the wick would be placed aside for a few seconds to allow the wax to cool, creating a hardened layer of wax on the wick From there, the process would be repeated hundreds of times until the desired thickness has been reached around the wick.

How Do Modern Candle Wicks Work?

Modern candle wicks follow a slightly more complicated process than historical wicks. For example, most modern candles today are wicked with a combination of materials such as cotton, paper, zinc, or tin. Wicksly candles are 100% cotton. The extra materials in the wick slow the burning process and reduce the heat as they draw energy into the wick rather than dispersing it into the body of the candle.

Most candles today are not created by dipping. Modern candles are usually either poured or molded, with the most expensive and elegant candles created using a hand-pouring process that has a gorgeous artisanal touch.

Creating Your Own Candle: The Steps

Creating your own candle may seem complicated, but it doesn’t have to be (although you may not get the elegant results that you’re hoping for). The first step in deciding to create your own candle is to determine the method you’re going to use.

While candle dipping may be the most hands-on and exciting approach, it is also the most time-consuming and messiest way to create a candle. Instead, consider either pouring your candles or molding them. If you’re looking for the fastest, easiest, and most cost-effective way to create candles at home, pouring your own is the way to go.

  • Once you’ve selected the pouring process, the next step is to measure out the container you’re using to create the candle and then set aside the right amount of wax. Melting too much will result in waste, and melting too little will leave you with a candle that isn’t even full!
  • Then, melt the wax. If you need a simple way to melt the wax, use a cooking pot over a stove on low heat, and make sure you stir regularly.
  • Then, if you’re making scented candles, you’ll need to add your fragrance while the wax is still in its liquid form. Scented candles are an amazing way to create the perfect relaxing space in your home. That said, making them yourself takes a lot of trial and error to actually get the right balance of scents, so you’re probably better off purchasing a candle that you know will be high quality and smell delicious.
  • The next step is to attach the wick to the bottom of the container you’re going to be using. This can be done in several ways, but the most common is to use a wick sticker or tabbed wick sticker.
  • Then, take the wax and pour it into the container. Typically, you should be aiming for a temperature of about 140 degrees when you pour. Make sure you hold the wick in place but don’t pull on it so hard that it detaches from the bottom of the container.
  • Secure the wick above the surface of the candle and let the wax sit! It will usually take around 3-5 hours at room temperature for the wax to set completely. At that point, you can enjoy your candle!
  • Cover your candle for at least 24 hours to cure.

In Summary

Candles are such a staple item when it comes to home decor that you may not even consider how they work, at first. Luckily, it isn’t complicated—the wick allows the flame to safely burn over the wax to provide you with light (and a delicious scent, if you’re lucky). A wick is what allows your candles to function seamlessly, so it’s worth knowing about them when you’re enjoying your candles. Best of luck!


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