Plus, learn why doing so is step one towards a better, more even burn.
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candle burning on table

A burning candle can make a cozy addition to your home; it can bring a touch of romantic lighting and fill your space with your favorite fragrance. And while it's arguably the simplest piece of décor to add to a room, it does need a little care of its own from time to time—and that starts with trimming the wick, which ensures the cleanest, longest, and most fragrant burn from each of your candles.

Always trim before you light.

Your candle's wick should be a-quarter-of-an-inch long before you light it, says Cordelia Smith, the founder and creative director at Formulary 55. "This will help to prolong the life of your candle and allow for the cleanest burn possible," she says. If you don't trim your wick, you run the risk of tunneling, "which happens when your wick is too long and the flame gets too hot, causing excess wax to burn," she adds. And when there is too much melted wax? Your candle—whether it's a jarred iteration or a column or taper—simply won't burn properly, regardless of its wick type.

This is even more important if your candles are fragranced.

If you're burning a scented candle, you may find that it needs more frequent attention to maintain a consistent level of fragrance output, which is known as its throw. "Letting the wicks get too long can really affect the fragrance and scent throw," says Smith. "Without trimming, you will get a 'bloom' on top of the wick which causes soot to fall back into the wax." Pay close attention to your wicks to prevent this: "I keep a pretty gold wick trimmer next to my favorite candles to remind me before lighting," she adds.

You can fix a too-short wick.

And if you accidentally cut your wick too short? Don't fret, says Aisha Cort, the founder of VELA NEGRA Candles—there are a few things you can do to salvage your candle. "First, you can light the candle and let it burn for about 30 minutes to melt the wax pool," she says. "Once the wax pool is melted, you can extinguish the flame and dispose of the melted wax either in a paper cup or by soaking it up with a paper towel." You'll need to allow your candle to fully cool before re-lighting it, though. If that doesn't do the trick, and your flame is burning weakly or keeps extinguishing, you can use a heat gun to create a full wax pool before pouring out the melted wax; then, use a knife to scrape away any access wax around the wick. You can repeat this several times if you need to remove more.

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