How to Trim Your Candle Wicks to Ensure an Even Burn Every Time

Plus, how to fix a too-short wick.

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.

candle burning on table

Cut the Wick

The first step is to keep your wick trimmed. Alicia Reisinger, the owner and creative director of Wax Buffalo Pure Soy Wax Candle Co., recommends using wick trimmers to cut your wick down to a 1/4-inch length before lighting each time. If you don't have any handy, use a pair of sharp scissors and trim vertically. "Approaching the wick from the top, try to cut the wick even across, not at an angle, for a cleaner burn," she says.

While keeping the wick at 1/4 inch is a good rule of thumb, it also depends on the individual candle, as some can be made with different kinds of wick and wax. "The burn is also significantly affected by the individual fragrance," say Charlotte Semler and Arabella Preston, the co-founders of VERDEN. "Look at how your candle burns, if it's smoking visibly, you need to trim the wick."

Trim Before You Light

Cordelia Smith, the founder and creative director at Formulary 55, says trimming your candle's wick before lighting will contribute to its health. "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 style, pillar, or taper—simply won't burn properly, regardless of its wick type.

Mind Candles With Fragrances

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.

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 relighting 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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