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Do You Need to Trim the Candle Wick?

Updated: Oct 10, 2022

And 6 Other Common Candle Care Questions

Originally published by HOMESICK on January 13, 2020

If you’ve simply been lighting and blowing out your scented soy candles without doing any kind of maintenance, you’ve been doing yourself and your candles a disservice. Taking just a few small steps—such as trimming the wicks and protecting the wax from dust—will help your candle burn longer and more evenly. Discover why you should trim the candle wick, plus six other tips for taking care of your candle.

Why You Should Trim the Candle Wicks

Trimming a candle wick is such a small difference that it seems like it shouldn’t affect using your candle too much. After all, your candle will still burn whether or not you trim the wick, right? While this is technically true, the small action of trimming the wick can help prolong the life of your candle by as much as 25 percent and keep it looking nice.

Leaving a wick long means that you’ll have a larger flame, which will melt more wax and give the candle more fuel. This larger amount of fuel can lead to incomplete combustion, which in turn creates more soot, making your candle container black and dirty. Many long wicks also form a little curl on top as they burn, creating an uneven shape that tends to waver around, which exacerbates the soot formation.

Keeping the candle wick trimmed helps control the amount of melted wax (i.e., fuel) that the candle has access to, which helps limit the amount of soot it creates. The trimmed wick also helps the candle burn more evenly, controlling the soot and prolonging the life of the candle. (Reducing the soot also makes it easier to repurpose the candle jar when you’re done burning the candle.)

Every time you burn a candle for four hours, extinguish the flame and let the candle cool to room temperature. This usually takes about two hours for larger candles. Then, trim the candle wick down to one-eighth to one-fourth inch before relighting again. You can use scissors at the beginning, but as the candle burns down it will be easier to use nail clippers or even an official wick trimmer.

Other Candle Care Tips

Trimming a wick isn’t the only thing you can do to care for your candle and make it last longer. These six tips will help keep your soy or coconut wax candle looking as nice as the day you bought it:

Do burn the candle for roughly two hours during its first burn. This will ensure that the entire first layer of wax becomes liquid and then resolidifies. If you don’t burn the candle for long enough, only the area immediately around the wick will melt. This can lead to tunneling, in which only the center of the candle burns down, leaving a ring of hard wax about the outside of the candle.

Don’t burn the candle for more than four hours at a time. Once you get past the four-hour mark, the wax begins to super heat, which can reduce the candle’s scent. It also contributes to the creation of smoke, which marks up the candle’s container and further messes with the scent.

Do recenter the wick if it moves or bends over. If you notice the candle wick has moved during burning, blow out the flame and let the candle cool. Then, use your fingers, tweezers or tongs to move it towards the center and straighten it up. Keeping the wick trimmed short will also help stop it from falling over.

Don’t leave the candle in a drafty area. Stray breezes cause the candle to burn unevenly and can even put the flame out completely. Stay away from vents, fans, open windows, AC units and any other locations where the flame might be exposed.

Do keep the top of your candle clean and dust-free. If you’re not burning your candle often (though we don’t know why you wouldn’t!), the top will accumulate dust and other particles. Storing it in a covered cabinet or replacing the lid (if there is one) can help keep the top clear. If you do notice some dust on it, carefully wipe off the top of the wax with a damp cotton pad before lighting it again.

Don’t let soot marks accumulate on the glass—this will make them much harder to clean off eventually. Dab a little bit of soap on a damp cotton pad and wipe it over the soot until the stains come off. Let the glass dry completely before lighting the candle again.

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